Sunday, July 14, 2019

Social Justice With Young Learners: Using The Read Aloud To Promote Empathy

Source: ASIDE 2019

Tackling social justice with young learners is more important now than ever before; it is also a lot easier to bring into the classroom than educators might think. So many picture books published in the last few years addressing empathy issues make integrating social justice into the learning process less complicated. When we read books with children, it offers an opportunity to use the character as a vehicle to identify negative feelings or to wrestle with different points of view. It creates a safer space for deeper conversations, debates, and switching viewpoints after hearing the pros and cons for both sides. We also find that young minds can definitely handle more courageous conversations. In their innocence, they often raise issues or point out problems more easily than adults.

Source: ASIDE 2019
Children have a natural ability to feel empathy and compassion. For that reason, we decided to begin introducing ethics to our Kindergarten students through storytelling. We chose the book, “Hey, Little Ant” by Phillip and Hannah Hoose. It was a prefect tale to spur a dialog with small children about philosophical questions, such as “How does this story relate to respect” or “Who is worthy of that respect?” It provides opportunities to discuss giving and denying respect for others, as well as power and responsibility.

Source: ASIDE 2019
The story begins with a boy poised to squish an ant under his shoe, but the ant pleads with the boy to spare his life. The students were asked to think about others and whether everyone deserves respect no matter how different they are, as well as whether others should have rights when they are different. While this seems like a tall order for Kindergarteners, they actually had a lot to say, and they thoughtfully engaged in conversations to argue their points of view. Librarian Stephanie Temple made a chart of the reasons the boy gives for squishing the ant and the reasons the ant gives for not being squished. As young as these students were, they debated whether these reasons were valid.

Source: ASIDE 2019
The students were asked to consider, “Is the ant merely stealing food, or is it trying to feed and care for his family, just like humans?” With this in mind, they collaged self-portraits of their faces with their thought bubble opinions and tiny beaded ants. The head from the nose up was meant to emphasize the difference in size. Most were compassionate toward the ant after hearing all the reasons for survival. The point was not to convince them one way or another, but more to make them think about all sides before making a decision.

This story opened up opportunities to discuss giving and denying respect based on power and responsibility. We wanted students to stop and think before deciding. That was the most important lesson.

For an excellent resource see: Social Justice Books, a project from Teaching For Change: Building Social Justice Starting In The Classroom.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Black History Month: Words For A Just World

Source: Student - ASIDE 2019
It seems this year we've gravitated toward the power of words. Our main bulletin board for the middle school is all about how words change worlds. We remembered seeing a bulletin board project using quotations on social media several years ago celebrating Black History Month; so we decided to follow our "word" theme to create a display entitled "Words For A Just World."

Source: Student - ASIDE 2019
Our students chose inspirational quotations to represent a cross-section of individuals whose wisdom honors the spirit of Black Americans. Many are by individuals from the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, when there was an artistic and cultural explosion among African Americans. Other quotations are by those who struggled for freedom and civil rights.

Source: Student - ASIDE 2019
In their process of reflection, the students selected the passage that resonated with them and created their individual works by hand using only black, silver and gold. This personal approach allowed them to connect the heart and mind by carefully thinking about the words. Each one demonstrates an individual touch in bringing the quotation to life in a personalized way.

Source: Student - ASIDE 2019
They made a powerful statement as they were exhibited together side-by-side. Our hope was to draw viewers into a quiet contemplation of these words or to provoke them into a conversation about what they mean.

Source: Student - ASIDE 2019

Building a just world can start with just words!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Student Hope Sculptures: The Analog Version

Source: 6th Grade Students, ASIDE 2019

In our last post, we wrote about using the "Building Hopes" website, or app, to create "Hope Sculptures." While we realize the value of technology, sometimes the simple act of looking, drawing, and coloring by hand is just as effective.

Source: 6th Grade Student, ASIDE 2019
Our students in their leadership class used their Chromebooks to view the web version, in order to select the topics that were most important to them. They used social media to share them with others, but then they also constructed these hand-drawn sculptures to display in the library.

Source: 6th Grader, ASIDE 2019
Their drawings received a lot of attention from other students who wanted to know more about the designs, and so we thought we would share their visual creations with our followers.

It was touching to see how this exhibit led to lots of students thinking about hopeful things that were important to them, as well as wanting to know how to build their own sculptures to share.

Source: 6th Grader, ASIDE 2019
We were delighted to assist the students in this activity, and we posted the website on their student portal. They went straight to work, carefully selecting their choices to design their own personal, hope sculptures.

Source: 6th Grader, ASIDE 2019
Of course, we had plenty of colored pencils and paper around for them, too.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Building Hope Wth Art, AR And Data - Get Students To Visualize Their Hopes For 2019

Source: Accurat

With so much turmoil this year across the political spectrum, with the upheaval in the economy, and with the constant headlines asking the question, "Why is there so much hate in society?," we found it hard at times to keep a positive attitude and neutral position in our classrooms. It's also no wonder that according to Google search trends for 2018, the world searched for "good" more than ever before; people needed something positive.

We did, too. We're sure that's why the "Building Hopes" visualization designed by Accurat caught our eye. It appeared on a list for top visualizations for 2018. This interactive visualizations lets users create "Hope Sculptures" by balancing rocks to represent the things that they are hopeful for. Ironically, the size and rotation of the rocks, including their direction and speed, are linked to Google Trends data on the topics that are chosen.

Source: Building Hopes
Source: Building Hopes
While the website lets you build "Hope Sculptures,” such as the images in this post, the mobile app, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play, takes it to another level.

By walking closer toward the floating rocks, the topics appear for selection. The user needs to pick at least four in order to build and place his or her "Hope Sculpture." It can be placed down anywhere, such as the image at the beginning of this post.

There are ten different topics to choose from, and each rock can be weighted depending on how much hope there is for each one. They can be viewed by hopes or by topics, but what makes it even more interactive is how your hopes can be compared to others who participate in the project.

Once the sculpture is created, it can be used to access Google Trends data to see how people around the world are searching the same ideas, concepts, and movements. The size, rotation, direction and speed of the rocks represent different data trends.

Source: Building Hopes
We think letting students create their own hopes for 2019 would be an excellent way to begin the new year in our classrooms. Students can use this information to discover what others are hopeful for, and how passionately.

It provides an opportunity to think about what's important and to share ideas in an innovative way. It could be incorporated into classroom discussions or written reflections.

Hope is what we need for the future; it brings out the good in all of us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Visual Thinking And Human Rights Day

Source: @StefRosenthal; ASIDE 2018
We just thought these second-grade drawings were too good not to share. In an effort to celebrate Human Rights Day on December 10, our friend and colleague, Stefani Rosenthal (@StefRosenthal), wanted her students to participate in this special tribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Source: @StefRosenthal; ASIDE 2018
It did not take much for Stefani to shift her regular lesson on character traits in literature to apply those same skills to discuss the human rights defender of education, Malala Yousafzai. It provided the perfect opportunity to talk about rights and what they mean on a topic that the students could connect with as second graders.

Source: @StefRosenthal; ASIDE 2018
Stefani primed the students by reading a book on Malala from the library and then showed them the BrainPop video on her as well. The students looked at some of the images from the illustrated booklet on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They loved the little character in the book, so they decided to use similar ones in their own drawings.

Using their sketchnoting techniques, they constructed their own versions for the "Right to Education." This enabled them to internalize the message of this right by using visuals as points of reflection on what they learned.

These drawings are precious and worthy for all to see. Sometimes, a little time away from the usual routine does a lot more than we think.

Source: @StefRosenthal; ASIDE 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Commemorate The 70th Anniversary Of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Source: TED Ed

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on December 10, 1948. This Monday marks the 70th Anniversary of this historic day that is celebrated every year as “Human Rights Day.”

With the unfortunate rise of hate in our society, it would be great if in some small way we could all take a moment to acknowledge the rights of all people with our students. Let's inform our young global citizens about what this day means and encourage them to stand up for human rights.

Source: Stand Up For Human Rights
The official page for the 70th Anniversary of the UDHR provides an array of resources for educators. In addition, students can take the pledge and add their support for human rights. Ask students to participate through social media using the hashtags #StandUp4HumanRights and #RightsOutLoud on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Source: United Nations

Source: United Nations
The United Nations also produced a booklet with beautiful illustrations by Yacine Ait Kaci. Read it online or download the PDF for your classroom library. The sketchnote quality of the images makes for good examples to inspire students to create their own drawings in support of human rights.

Stand Up For Human Rights - Add Your Voice
The United Nations released this video in 2017 to ask individuals to submit videos of themselves reading the preamble or articles from the UDHR to commemorate the 70th anniversary. There is still time to add your voice by having students record and add their own.

What Are The Universal Human Rights?
TED educational videos are our go-to for many topics. This video is perfect for any age. It helps students understand the basics of human rights including who and how they are enforced. The video explores the subtleties of human rights; it makes for an excellent place to start a class discussion, especially with younger children.

The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
We are big fans of kinetic typography to graphically combine the power of words with images and music. This video will not disappoint. It's straightforward and powerful. Students love it.

Youth For Human Rights
This website is loaded with resources for educators, including a full curriculum, lessons, downloads, and more. It also created short public service announcements on each of the 30 rights in the UDHR. One of our favorite PSAs is Human Right #2 - Don't Discriminate. Watch this with students; it sends a clear message about about discrimination by appearance.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Building Learning Communities Conference More Than Lives Up To Its Name

Source: ASIDE 2018

Source: November Learning
This year’s Building Learning Communities - Education Conference 2018 more than lived up to its goal of fostering dialogues between talented, dedicated educators. Sponsored by November Learning (@NLearning), the BLC18 conference took place from Tuesday, July 24, to Friday, July 28, 2018, in the beautiful and perfectly situated Boston Park Plaza Hotel. The industry-leading keynote speakers and the expert presenters were all chosen personally by Alan November (@globalearner).

We don’t think we have ever been to an educational get-together, whether formal or informal, that created as true a sense of community as this past week's conference. The engaged, committed educators were all open and candid in sharing ideas and dilemmas, and the tone of the conference was set early by Alan November to encourage conversation among every voice in the room.

Source: Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; Lafayette PTA

The opening keynote address by Dr. Marc A. Brackett, PhD, (@marcbrackett, @YaleEmotion) stressed the importance of emotional intelligence, as he introduced the audience to Yale’s RULER approach and mood meter. The closing keynote provided a fitting bookend to this message as Ted Dintersmith (@dintersmith) author of Most Likely To Succeed and What School Could Be, as well as the film "Most Likely To Succeed," talked passionately about how schools can reinvent themselves to better serve today's learners.

Source: Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
As non-computer programmers, we were somewhat bewildered by Stephen Wolfram's (@stephen_wolfram) talk on Thursday afternoon. We were amazed, however, by the potential of his WolframAlpha search engine, which seems ready to upend modern information-gathering. Its “smart” algorithm coalesces data and far-flung facts on any topic (or combination of topics) to make most traditional homework assignments obsolete.

All of the presenters were clearly prepared and heartfelt in offering a good balance between practical teaching tools and theoretical learning frameworks. Some of our favorite sessions included:

We would like to thank all of the collaborative teachers and administrators who attended both of our sessions: "Where Learning Meets Design: Taking Control Of The Visual Classroom" and "Student Videos: Empower Creativity And Visual Journalism." We would also like to thank everyone for generously returning after the hotel fire alarm interrupted the first presentation. We greatly appreciate the range of questions and ideas that were shared during the talks, and we are grateful for the kind feedback we received.

We were also honored to be interviewed by Bob Greenberg (@bobgreenberg) for his Brainwaves Anthology series on YouTube. His videos celebrate teachers who make an impact, and his interviews with international thought-leaders highlight many of the progressive ideas changing traditional models of learning.

Finally, we would like to thank the tremendous conference organizers who staged such an incredibly smooth and well-run week of professional development. They fed us extremely well, with a full breakfast every morning, a welcoming dinner for presenters, drinks and snacks throughout, evening cocktail receptions, and, of course, the favorite dessert dance on Thursday.

If you are in the Back Bay area of Boston, Erbaluce is a charming little Italian restaurant two blocks from the hotel, and Lucca is an absolutely delicious extension near the Prudential Center of the popular North End establishment.

We look forward to seeing everyone at BLC19!

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