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Friday, September 23, 2011

Celebrate the Freedom to Read: Use Banned Books Week to Get Them Thinking!

Are your students’ favorite books on the list?  Celebrate the freedom to read by celebrating Banned Books Week!  Have students take a look at the top 10 challenged or banned book list for 2010 list to see if they have read any of the books.  Students will see some of their favorite series – Twilight, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter- on the list of banned and challenged books.  How do they feel about banning these books from the school library? Have them go to this great google map  (found through Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog) that pinpoints banned or challenged books in their state!  Tie it all together with a guided online discussion with your class using the TregoED SCAN tool and the free lesson “Book Banning and the First Amendment.”  (Free until Oct 1, 2011) Students will use the built in problem solving strategy to increase understanding, recognize point of view and develop reasoned solutions to book banning. TregoED is offering a free webinar on September 27th to get you started. 
Extend this lesson further by discussing banned websites! There are plenty of websites that are blocked from schools.  Is this necessary?  Who should get to decide what is appropriate and what is not for our students?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Linking Literature, Bullying and Critical Thinking

Bullying has been around for a long time.  I just finished reading Lord of the Flies (published in 1954 and my first library iPOD download) and was thinking about Piggy, the poor boy, who was overweight, wore glasses and had asthma- a stereotypical character, ripe for bullying.  Despite the fact that he was the best thinker of the boys, he was ignored and belittled, and (spoiler alert) eventually killed.  As I said, bullying has been around for a long time.   Why do we now need laws to protect kids?  For one thing, bullying can go viral now; it can follow you into the bus, the playground, halls, classroom and then right into your bedroom at home.  Thanks to our communication networks, for some there is no escape.  It is too easy to “share” gossip, pictures, and comments with friends, neighbors, countrymen (and women) and in fact, the world.  We as educators are now being told that we need to develop policies and training, increase supervising and enforcement, intervene and educate.
While most school districts are taking care of the nuts and bolts at the administrative level, teachers are looking for ways to teach this in a meaningful way.   Giving students a strategy to “SCAN” a problem (See the issues, Clarify them, Ask what is important, and Name next steps) such as bullying is a great way to help them deal with complex situations when they arise in their lives. The FREE lesson – School Violence:  Jake-Victim or Threat at allows kids to look at a bullying situation from four different perspectives.  What better way to develop empathy, than to have them step into someone else’s shoes and work together to find a solution to this dilemma? 
You can use the SCAN strategy with or without technology, using the four steps to guide discussion on solving problems from different character perspectives presented in literature.  The engaging SCAN online tool can increase student participation in the lesson as they are guided through the steps in a discussion platform that they love.  This is an authentic and relevant way to teach standards of proper online discussion techniques, empathy and a critical thinking strategy.  You can even enrich lessons with links and resources to deliver increased content - all free. 
Register for a free SCAN subscription which will give you access to a wide array of lessons covering bullying topics – such as teasing, cyber-bullying, Facebook and privacy, etc (as well as current events, social studies, health issues, etc.)  You can even post your own lessons, or have students write them, directly tied to your curriculum.  Imagine the power of students writing bullying perspectives from the points of view of the characters in novels like The Outsiders or Lord of the Flies, posting them in the tool and then using the SCAN strategy to develop solutions to the problems!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Year's Resolutions-organize those links!

A friend of mine just posted a picture of new sharpies on FB with the comment “I love a fresh supply of Sharpies.”  She was unpacking her supplies for the school year and even after 10 plus years was excited about a new beginning.  Many others have posted that they have set up their classrooms and are ready to go.  Kids and adults alike all face a new school year with anticipation- new  supplies, fall clothes and new resolutions.  I always started out with a bunch of “this year, I am going to….” dreams.  I usually had visions of staying organized or at least making it look like I was organized.  I have a tendency to cover flat surfaces in my own organized fashion, but I digress.  This time around, I am trying to organize my resources.   Check out this list of eighty online tools, references and resources.  Although eighty of anything can be overwhelming, and it is nice to have these links all in one place but how could I organize them?  Or how could I consolidate them with my other resources?   I really like using Livebinders because your links are organized just like a binder with a working page embedded in the binder.   You can start different binders for different topics and give kids a URL to get there (no emails necessary!).  I have also just started my own Delicious bookmarking site and am trying to learn the fine art of tagging to keep them organized.  I would like one of those tv shows to come in and give my virtual closet of resources a makeover!  Any other suggestions?