I often have what I think might be a little weird experience during conversations with others. While listening to others I find that their words trigger a reaction where I instantly have the words to a song flooding my mind. While I am not musical and honestly struggle to remember the names of many songs, the lyrics to songs seem to make connections. As I started thinking about this post, the title conjured a connection to the song "I got the music in me" and so a youtube search later here it is.
The other morning I was driving to work and a conversation on the radio about changing the melody of a song sparked an idea about the multitude of activities that can be connected to student learning. I will share a few examples that I have experienced as a student or used with students. More importantly, this post is about looking for examples others have used. I would love to create a database of ideas that teachers have used with students that incorporate music.
I have tried to break down the potential ways of using music in the classroom into different applications, but I am sure there are many more. An obvious one that I don't have listed below is to play music to set the mood or tone of the class. We know music is a powerful force and in teaching culture and history, the examination of time period music - actually hearing the music is a cool experience especially witnessing student reactions to what was cool back in the day!
Here is another post about music I wrote that might shed a little more light on my musical connection weirdness.
"We Didn't Start the Fire,"
I want to say the first time I used music as an educational experience was in high school when we used the song "We Didn't Start the Fire," by Billy Joel. I really don't think that is accurate but it is definitely one that stands out to me. We listened to the song and then jigsawed the events listed in the song. Each of us, or with a partner were asked to examine the event and report back to the group. Here is a link to a post about how I would update We Didn't Start the Fire.
"Banned in the USA"
Another lesson from my High School History class. I remember the activity was about the Bill of Rights and examining current issues. I chose to look at the First Amendment and use the group 2 Live Crew's song "Banned in the USA" that was in response to laws and court rulings that wouldn't allow them to perform in certain cities because of lewd lyrics. As a high school kid who's interest perked up when told that I couldn't do something, this interested me. I had to research the case surrounding the band and the song and the First Amendment protections. In my presentation we listened to the "Banned in the USA" song and convinced our young teacher to listen to one of the songs that sparked the controversy. I would not recommend that to teachers today.
Welcome to the Fish Bowl -
A few years ago I was teaching in a district that decided to go BYOD Bring Your Own Device. I asked the superintendent what was our policy on using these devices in the classroom. He directed me to the district's site that basically said students should bring their own device. It didn't discuss policies, expectations or provide any real guidance for teachers, parents or students. So I decided we needed a class policy. Instead of creating one and handing it to students, I took a couple of days and created one together. We listened to the song Welcome to the Fish Bowl a song that I had just stumbled across. Then using a Padlet type site we created a list of positive uses and behaviors that weren't acceptable. It was an amazing experience and I must say I learned about a lot of technologies/apps students used that I didn't know about before. Some of them beneficial, others concern me that students can access these and be exposed to the behaviors associated with them. Here is the lesson plan with links to Welcome to the Fish Bowl.
Sociology Deviance Lesson
The following is a lesson shared with me by Reuben Hoffman. The idea is to examine one of the most popular aspects of culture- music for the concept of Deviance. Students look at the lyrics of songs and discuss the examples of deviance they find within. Deviance songs.
We Built this City
Jefferson Airplane's "We Built This City" is a song that connects to an activity I did with students to build their own civilization. I will share it here and freely admit that I would revise it in multiple ways if I were to teach it again. I begin the lesson with a video of a nuclear war between the US and North Korea that leads to the destruction of modern society. The class is forced to choose a new location to rebuild civilization and make choices about how to establish society. The song seems to pop into my head every time I think about the Build Your Own Civilization activity.
An activity we did in school was to look at songs of the Vietnam War Era. I remember reading through a song by Bob Dylan and other artists and having the ideas come to life in my head. I think there are so many opportunities to look at the actual words of a song and take time to ponder their meaning and why they were chosen. If you are like me you may have sung a song using incorrect words at some point in your life. Then you read the lyrics and realize -- wow that's what they were saying! Well words are chosen for a reason and depending on the song they can connect to real world events that students should explore in more detail. What songs can you dissect?
Revise or Rewrite
I used to break down the Middle Ages into a jigsaw activity where students would explore the impact of of different areas on society like the role of the Church, the Black Death, Feudalism, etc. Students worked in groups and had to present their information to the class. I required them to perform a short skit that depicted the most important concepts. Also write a song about their topic. I encouraged them to use the format of a Ballad like the Ballad of Roland, but found it to be difficult for some students so I allowed them to choose their genre. One that stands out the song "I'm Religious and I know it" - set to the song "I'm Sexy and I Know it" by LMAFO. I gave the students one final aspect of the project- if they felt they couldn't demonstrate their knowledge enough in the skit and song they could present an overview of the topic in 3rd format to help their classmates understand the topic.
Too often as teachers we choose the song, the activity, the method of presentation and how students will demonstrate learning. There needs to be choices involved with activities as well. I have been thinking about how to introduce the idea of analyzing lyrics and really digging into what the artist is trying to say or how it connects to a larger societal issue. I have listened to interviews with artists explain the inspiration for their songs and found them to be eye opening. Often not what I thought the song or a particular verse was about. I wonder if we introduce the idea of analyzing lyrics to students by giving them the choice of which song they want to dig into. Let them bring in a song of their choice and do the work on song they want to investigate.
When I was 7 Years Old
This song seems to be on replay on my Amazon Music, or I just can't get it out of my head. But the song instantly pops the image of a timeline activity in my mind. I wrote a post about this with a few alternative activities. When I was 7 Years Old I realize this is already a long post and want to keep each idea relatively short so please check out the post if you want to see more.
When I Look into the Eyes of My Brother
I heard this song recently and it really started me on a path to write a number of posts about music in the classroom. I am a visual person and had some ideas about what I think the song was about and how it could be used and then I saw the video and this changed my perception of what is possible. Here is the post on When I Look into the Eyes of My Brother.
Engage Student Talents
Teach the to Dance
When teaching students about the Roaring 20s, I came across a lesson that talk about the dance the Charleston. I decided it would be cool to try to teach my students this dance. Admittedly I had never done it so I turned to Youtube for help. We all worked on the steps and I recorded their dance competition on Vine. I was fortunate to have a really good group of students and they were willing to take a risk with me. I think expanding this to other eras and other dance styles could be amazing for students, and let's face it some of our students are already dancers on the dance team or otherwise and they could teach us. Let their talents shine.
I worked with students to create a presentation last year using a Google Slides template created by David Lee that looks like a museum. This is an amazing looking template. What really made this awesome was that a few students went home and recorded themselves playing a song that was used to turn a Google Presentation into a video. The students tapped into their own talents and created something special and memorable.
When I was in 8th grade my English teacher assigned us to create a radio program. We had to create our own commercials and program a list of songs. The cool thing was recording our own commercials and the planning of our hour long program. We didn't record all the songs for an hour just the commercials. I wonder if we could create an opportunity where students create radio programs from different eras. What music, commercials would have existed. I know we could do video projects, but remember it wasn't until the 1950s that we had television.
This might be a staple in many History Teacher's tool kit, and it could be either a great activity or a disservice to students. I will start with the disservice. When teachers use the jigsaw activity of having students research and create a presentation about a decade for the rest of the class as the main form of instruction about the time period this doesn't do justice to the time period or student learning. The decades closest to the present that are most likely to resonate with students is glossed over while we spend weeks on topics students struggle to see any relevance. I speak from experience and hope to make awesome projects for students.
I like the idea of exploring a time period especially when looking at the cultural, and human aspects. Too often history is explored from a global or ideological perspective instead of making connections to the individuals who lived them. What I enjoyed about doing a decades project was the exploration of the dress, food, and especially music. Our group made a video and included music of the time in our VHS masterpiece. I remember spending hours editing this video to create just the right final product and I was hooked by the sense of accomplishment. This helped unlock the door to the things that I do today.
How to make this academically awesome? First let kids use their talents and have choice in the final product. Second and maybe more important is -do not let this become- oh crap we are out of time and need to cover the last 40-50 years of history. This cannot be the only connection to the more modern era students have. Cut out other things in your curriculum that hinder you from getting to the modern era and always make connections to the modern era to help students see why they should care about history. History isn't about events it is about human behavior and the stories of individuals doing great things.
Please share your music lessons below
I have had a number of lesson ideas that have resulted from hearing a song, sometimes from the very first time I hear it, other times it is a song I have heard over and over again that just seems to resonate differently this time.
When driving home after running some errands for school I was listening to the radio when a song came on that I had never heard before, "When I look in the eyes of my enemy I see my brother." As I was driving I was envisioning a great social studies lesson. I remember reading "Citizen Soldier" by Stephen Ambrose that recounted the realities of war and history through the eyes of individual human beings.
The song had me seeing images of soldiers facing off, looking eye to eye and realizing they are more alike than different. It reminded me of the stories I have read about soldiers during conflict finding momentary lapses in hostilities to connect and learn about each other. To break down the walls of hatred. I began thinking about how to leverage this in a social studies lesson. How could I get students to explore some of the most important historic events through the eyes of the individuals and not as concepts most students in America cannot really relate to?
Then I watched the video and this changed. The first images are of people from various walks of life. Then you see a young girl who takes pictures of numerous people each time giving them a card. I was moved by the images as I listened to the words that made me see each of these unique individuals as special human beings. The music, lyrics and images are so powerful. They conjured up so many emotions and ideas about how to recreate this with students.
I began thinking about how to use this song and the idea of taking pictures of so many unique individuals in our community. But then the video pulls it all together. The cards the young lady handed each person she took a picture of brought them all together to an art exhibit. All of the pictures with a description were hanging in the room as the people who were in those images mingled, and learned about each other. It was a powerful experience.
How can we create this in our buildings? How can we create something like this for teachers in our buildings or better yet in our district? How can we create opportunities to build community within our own organization? How could we recreate this were students can create a gallery of their classmates. How could our art classes use this idea to create art exhibits? When I first saw the images I was thinking that they could include a QR code with a audio/video recording sharing information about the person, but the face to face was so much more powerful.
I have lots of questions about this song, but hope to add more answers to those questions as I spend more time with it. I would love to hear your ideas for using this song and music in general in your class. Please add comments.
I The other day during a car ride with my daughter we embarked on an amazing learning journey. She was watching a video on Slavery from BrainPop. The video did a good job of providing an overview of the issues of Slavery and the causes of the Civil War as related to slavery. It detailed the beginnings of slavery in America and including the Triangular Trade Route, treatment of slaves, and the Emancipation Proclamation. There were some really good details in the video, but as I listened, I was compelled to ask my daughter some questions to delve into deeper levels of understanding.
I asked her if she thought all the people in the North wanted to end slavery, that they all disliked it? After she responded, I added details about my educational journey. That it wasn't until my junior year of college in a African American literature class that I truly began to see history as a complex web of personal stories all told from various points of view. I began to see the events that shaped this country were not exactly what I was led to believe in history text books, or the multitude of classes I had attended.
I didn't explain this to her, instead I told her that when I was her age I thought everyone in the North disliked Slavery and everyone in the South wanted desperately to hold onto the practice. I truly saw the North as the benevolent Abolitionists and the South as morally corrupt and despised them. I continued the conversation adding an overview of the economic differences as they impacted the need for the different labor practices. And as I am reading this I realize it sounds like the conversation would go way over her head. I realize I am not doing a good job with the dialogue we had. What I am really trying to portray the learning that I experienced during this conversation.
While I was trying to explain to her the causes of the Civil War especially looking at the idea of how one side was trying to tell the other side what to do I saw the connection between so many other events in history. The revelation is simple. We too often overlook the point of view of certain parties/groups/people involved in history by telling the story from the victors point of view. Now this might not be ground breaking for many, but in this instance it led to a flurry of potential examples. I began to see a multitude of historical events in a new light. We have learned about history from a particular lens that often doesn't include the multitude of perspectives or their complexities.
From this I had the honest question- how do southern states teach about the Civil War? In the North we focused on slavery. Yes as I got older there was more talk of other causes, but honestly slavery was still front and center.
As I began to ponder the question about how the south would teach this, I took a step back and thought about how the south viewed the causes of the Civil War. I wonder if their version would have focused more on the tyranny of a distant government trying to impose its will upon them. The actions of this government in the North trying to take away their livelihood.
The lessons for History!
This perspective lead me to a whole list of similar events in history that made me take pause and consider from a different point of view.
America celebrates Independence Day, how does Great Britain view this day and more importantly the Revolutionary War?
America fought to make the world safe for Democracy, how do the countries where we engaged in war view our presence and our actions?
America worked to create peace in the Middle East. In doing so it funded Iran with the Iran-Contra Affair as well as Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Both countries were waging war agains the other going into battle with American made weapons. How do these people view American involvement and how has that impacted modern events?
America considers the colonists who fought against the tyranny of Great Britain's rule as heroes, yet the southern secessionists could be considered traitors. Or another example the colonists were freedom fighters from America's point of view for standing up to a government trying to impose its will and its way of life on others. Would groups like Al-Queda and ISIS see themselves as terrorists or freedom fighters? Why is it important to consider their point of view?
Japan bombed Pearl Harbor to bring the US into WWII, and America dropped the only Atomic bombs in history on Japan to end the war. How would Japanese teach these events in their history classes? How does the world look at America for being the only country to use these weapons on other human beings and yet today strictly controls who is able to have access to this technology.
How do we tell the story of inequality throughout the world?
How do other nations view America's excess, disposable technologies, and affluent lifestyle, when they are unable to obtain adequate food, water and healthcare?
How do the 42 million Americans living in poverty view politicians, superpacs, the rich debating what is best for America- talking about jobs, entitlements when they struggle daily?
How would the industrial workers in America tell the story of the Industrial Revolution?
How would Native Americans retell the events of Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion?
How would our textbooks and historical perspective be different if we recorded the Immigrant POV and not just an overview?
How would we view war if we told it from the Soldier's POV like Stephen Ambrose attempted to do in Citizen Soldier?
I am someone who loves hearing ideas about connecting the contemporary world with my classroom. I used to love playing Jeopardy in high school as a review game. I now love seeing, hearing and using modern concepts of game shows, or reality TV in my classroom or helping others to create these for their students. A colleague Josh Gauthier @mrgfactoftheday did a presentation using the Amazing Race and Google Maps that was really cool. It like many of the concepts I want to discuss here, added the element of competition. It was amazing sitting in a room of educators and seeing how much the atmosphere of the room changed once the idea of a prize or winner was introduced.
I want to share some ideas, some that I have heard from other people and may had added some of my own twists to. I hope if you find something interesting here and use it that you would share with me the way you used it and how it went. I love hearing how things are used so I can learn and grow. I don't ask so I can take credit. I shared a concept about using Speed Dating about a year ago and had lots of responses about how people were incorporating it into their classroom content as well as PD sessions and lesson planning. I was amazed at the creativity and imagination applied to these applications. I was so appreciative that people shared their incarnations and results with me because I shared those ideas with other teachers who then used or tweaked the new methodologies in their learning environment and more and more people benefited from the sharing and conversations around a simple concept. With that in mind, I want to share some of the ideas about using Reality TV in the classroom.
EDIT to post- I put this post down for a couple hours today to grade some papers from my grad class and hang out with my kids while they were in the pool when I saw #edumatch chat starting up. As part of this it was mentioned the idea of Shark Tank and I commented I had a post in the works about this. Then I saw a link to a post about someone else's take on it. What I found as I began reading it is that unlike my post that is based on the concept, and discusses the potential, this post discusses what was actually done with teachers and students participating.
Here is the link to Shark Tank goes to school by Natalie Orenstein outlines Mari Moss's 8th grade class as one example.
What follows is my post with the concepts of both Lesson Plan Shark Tank and Students being put into the Shark Tank as presenters themselves. I wanted to give credit to those who initiated this idea and acknowledge their efforts. I appreciate the ingenuity and contributions to furthering education.
Shark Tank Reality Check
Shark Tank- the high pressure environment of selling yourself, your idea, and your hard work. In the end you are evaluated, judged to be worthy or unworthy of someone else's money. So how can we use this premise in Education?
I read a tweet or heard someone share the idea at a conference of having teachers engage in a Shark Tank Environment. I brought this up to teachers in my grad class recently and saw the look of terror come over some of the teachers in the room. So what kind of environment could we create that would make teachers visibly uncomfortable? Ask them to enter the Shark Tank accompanied by their lesson plans. When the doors swing open they see the three to five chairs elevated slightly and sitting in these chairs are their students. Stop, pause, reread the scenario if necessary. You walk in and students are sitting in the judges' chairs. Your task, like those on the show, is to sell your ideas to the panel of investors, this case your own students. What are your ideas in this case, are your lesson plans. Now to actually make this work, you would bring in one lesson plan and sell sell sell your vision. Another concept might be to present your vision for the course, present an overview of your vision for the term.
Students would listen to your proposal, ask questions, probe you for information, and give you feedback. This feedback could be constructive, or brutally honest and devastating depending on the student just like the judges on Shark Tank, their personalities and interests vary.
Realistically it would be a challenge to do this with all of our lessons, BUT if we don't consider our students reactions to our lessons, we are less likely to succeed. If when considering this scenario we are truly scared of student's responses, or if we know their responses wouldn't be good, we need to scrap those lessons and rethink what we are doing. We should be student centered and always consider how this will be perceived by our students. Telling students I know this is boring, or really tough stuff and then lecturing at them doesn't cut it. We can do better!
Now that I have thrown out the challenge- I must admit much like when Dave Burgess proposed the question would students come to your class if they didn't have to, or could you sell tickets to your lessons would not have resulted in favorable responses. It was like a kick in the stomach. I thought good things were happening, but Dave set a pretty high bar. Very similarly, the idea of having students evaluate our lessons is scary and I don't know that many of mine would have had unanimous support. I share my shortcomings because admitting that you have growth potential allows you the freedom to achieve those higher standards. I worked hard in the past few years to increase the number of ticket lessons and creating an environment students wanted to be a part of. Each year I set a goal to improve, to have more ticket lessons and to continue to build relationships with students so they knew I cared. I am still a work in progress, and the idea of presenting our lessons in the Shark Tank is to get us to do a self evaluation and make a plan for our personal growth.
If the idea of entering the Shark Tank is too intimidating, but you still feel that student feedback is important, then enlist students to be your sounding board. In the past few years when we tried new lessons I spent some time debriefing with students about what they liked. What went well and where I could improve the lesson. I set up expectations for the conversation to be constructive but honest. I told them that I was always trying to get better and needed their help. There were sometimes that things were said that I didn't like, but overall students had insights that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. They had experienced both the in class work and the outside of class interaction with both the content and peers that helped shape their experience that I wasn't privy to. All of this helped me reconcile my perception with reality and make change. I would encourage you to debrief with students, not only about the content, but more importantly the learning experience.
Shark Tank 2.o
Using Shark Tank with students in the classroom where their work is evaluated by a panel of experts. My first idea is not very divergent from the show. When I taught Economics as a student teacher, we had a class that was called Economics and Entrepreneurship where each student had to propose a product and their classmates voted on which to build. The class was set up to create a business with manufacturing and marketing groups.
Economics - What if instead of building the product and business, students present a business plan. They come up with an idea for a new product, service, etc. and after doing research, they present before a panel of business people from your community. Something to benefit the students in this process would be to bring in business mentors who could assist students with their research and development. This economics lesson could be very elaborate involving a multitude of people and actual products, or more in the realm of visionary. Who would make up the judges would depend on who you have access to in your local community.
Social Problems - I worked with a colleague this year on a service project where we used the KIVA micro-loan project. I wrote a post about it earlier (May). Students researched one of the potential campaigns and then had to present before their class to decide which would be funded. The cool thing is that there was real money available for the winning cause. The class had three students who were the judges and make the final decision. I wasn't able to see the days of voting, but I would definitely push for these to be set up more like the Shark Tank model where the judges are tough but fair. They were in charge of real money and making investments that would make a difference in real people's lives. From what I saw the days I was in the class, students were taking if very serious and working towards making their presentation the best it could be. An extension could be to partner with local businesses who would be willing to pledge their own funds to the project and hear what questions and ideas these individuals might have.
History - There are many opportunities for students in history to use use the concept of Shark Tank to create real world presentations. I did one that could easily be turned into the shark tank if I had given my intended audience a little push to be more skeptical of the presenters. Two years ago I had students present before the head of the school board, the superintendent and my building administrators as to what they thought should be taught in schools about how the world came to be. This could be Scientific explanation, the Big Bang Theory, or Intelligent Design, a higher being creating our universe, or a combination of ideas. If I had changed the scenario slightly I could have created a much more intense venue for the presenters to not only share their ideas, but be in competition somehow for the votes of the audience. The votes should not be based on what idea was presented because it is too controversial, but rather how well the ideas were presented and how well they were able to defend their position. This would have been an assessment of their content knowledge and their ability to persuade. I think this could have been very good for some students and very difficult and challenging for others. As it stood, I found myself more of a cheerleader for my students than worried about which stance they took. I wanted them to succeed and knew some students hadn't had a lot of academic success prior. Turning this into the Shark Tank for some would have been an exciting experience and for others a traumatic event.
Math- I am not a Math teacher nor do I pretend to understand the complexities of math. But after watching shows like Numbers and Big Bang, I was thinking about the way they discussed math. Math was a way to solve problems and there were a multitude of methods at their disposal. My thought here was if teachers created a problem based activity for students to delve into there could be opportunities for divergent thought. Some students or groups might attack the problem one way while others look at it another. Some might use one formula or others apply it differently. My vision was for students to present their plan of attack to the sharks in the tank. This could be a panel of experts from a local business, engineering firm, etc. who recently had to solve a similar problem. The students could present their plan of attack to the sharks, get some feedback, but not necessarily be steered away from their thinking. At the end they present their final solution and here would be where the sharks vote on which solution they think would have completed the task most satisfactorily. I apologize to the Math teachers out there who might be thinking that is a poorly constructed lesson plan. I am not a math teacher, but putting my thoughts out there, I hope you say- I can do better and do it! Make it happen for your students.
Science- Maybe this is because I liked the show House, but this idea came to mind. Students would be presented with an illness, a case with symptoms that the patient is exhibiting. Their task would be like in the show House, to present their idea for the best method of treatment. In the show House, the main doctor used to have brain storming sessions where his team would discuss the symptoms and make a case for their best course of action for the patient. In this case the sharks would take the place of Dr. House. This is probably pretty advanced thinking for high school students, at least it would have been for me while in high school biology. But think about experiences where students could apply their knowledge of science and have to defend their thinking.
The Wrap Up!
If you read this post to the end, you might be thinking that the lesson ideas that I tossed out there would not fair well in a Shark Tank Lesson Plan show down. I don't disagree. I didn't spend a lot of time building up the plot lines or adding hooks to grab student's attention. I didn't provide much in the way of detail or learning targets. The lessons were simply my brainstorm session trying to comprehend how Shark Tank could be used with students as the entrepreneurs in the scenario.
What resonates with me about the Shark Tank idea is that there is Real, Meaningful, Honest feedback by people invested in the outcome. With lesson plan sessions, we get that by brining in the students in our class. They are definitely invested in what we do because it directly impacts their experiences in school and life. What about providing students opportunities to do things where their audience is directly invested in the outcome of their learning journey? How can we create activities where students are doing things that matter to people beyond the school building? How can we flip the experience to be one that creates community involvement in a multitude of subject areas? How can we tap into student passions and desire to learn, create, and develop a sense of investment in what they are learning and doing?
These are all big questions that I don't have quick quotable answers to. I struggle with this but want to help make this a reality for students whether it be in the buildings I serve, or students across the country or world. I want to see students engaged in learning that matters.
When my two daughters came into this world, my first thoughts were about how lucky my wife and I were to have 2 beautiful, healthy amazing babies to hold and love. I also thought about the future and how I am now responsible for them. I am here to love and care for them and especially protect them.
I watched the video below that many may have seen or heard about, and couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by emotion of sadness for this young woman and her family. I also thought how horrible the actions of her tormentors were and wondered how people could act that way. I had viewed part of an episode of CSI Cyber about a girl who was being bullied and harassed online and how she wasn't able to escape.
I found myself becoming angry at those human beings, those individuals who thought it was okay to treat others this way without the thought of the consequences of their actions. I began to think about a tragedy that could have been avoided. I thought about what her parents might have done, should have done, and realized with some of interactions they had little control to prevent this. I say this in the fact that I work with teenagers who are very social and like many of us struggle to cope when not connected to others. As well as an age when you are less likely to tell your parents everything that is going on. So understanding this, I realized that her parents may have been doing everything they could think of to prevent these harmful interactions, but aside from sheltering your child away from the world, they will face some negative interaction with others. It is an unfortunate aspect of human society, at least in our highly advanced, civilized society.
As I continue to contemplate the events that led to this tragedy I wonder am I strong enough to protect my own children from the dangers of society? From the perils of online life? From predators who you can't see, don't appear at your door but get into your house just the same. Am I strong enough to both protect my children and allow them opportunity to experience life? Can we all turn Amanda's tragedy into positive change?
Please help be the change that our children need and deserve. Please take some action in your life in your role as parent, educator, friend to help this from happening to another person.
Here is the link to Amanda's Legacy site including the investigation into her cyber stalker.
This year brought about BYOD in our classrooms, and so I decided to embrace this new opportunity. I will admit that I was a little nervous, and still am about the potential risks, but I have just completed my lesson on the FISHBOWL and am excited at the results. So you should be asking, what is the FISHBOWL, well before the year began I was looking for music for my classroom, and I have blogged about that already, so to the point, I stumbled upon the song, Welcome to the Fishbowl, by Kenny Chesney. I had never heard it before, but after listening to it, I realized there was a ready made lesson to begin my year.
This week I attempted something new with the students. We collaborated on a policy to implement BYOD into the classroom. My hook that really grabbed their attention occurred on the second day of the discussion when I took away all of their devices and told them this will be a no technology zone. It was interesting to observe the varied reactions. I told them that there were too many problems associated with the use of the technology in class to be worth the few opportunities to use them in a positive manner. I did give them the final chance to change my mind. They worked on creating a list of potential uses, and the ideas were amazing. They thought about using it to set up homework or important reminders. They could use it to collaborate on projects, look up information to help them complete tasks. They thought about the potential for contact, and even suggested using skype for students who were sick or absent a day to keep caught up with the class.
As the discussion continued over the next couple of days, I did have a few instances that happened in class that were used as great examples of reasons why we need to have a policy of expectations. Some students' behaviors exemplified the potential misuse of the technology, now no serious issues of concern happened, but they were great demonstrations of behaviors that we needed to address.
The students took this process very seriously, and were engaged in earning their devices in the classroom. I am very happy to say that we created a policy for use.
The basic principles of the policy are as follows:
The use of the device is at the discretion of the instructor who should be asked for permission to use the device during class. In this, the students should explain exactly how they will use the device during class time unless directed to use it in a particular way by the instructor.
Taking pictures may be allowed if the following conditions are followed:
Ask the person(s) in the photo for their permission, explain the purpose of the image, show them the end result, and do not alter the picture from what has been agreed upon by those in the image.
Students thought using images to take notes, for their portfolio, or of activities and tasks would be appropriate use of taking pictures, and the use of sharing them for their educational portfolios would be acceptable use.
Texting is strongly discouraged as it creates a distraction to the student and potentially other students and classrooms. The exception was if contacting a parent or an absent classmate were necessary for school related purposed as decided by the instructor.
I plan on using the devices as part of the class. There are multiple ways students can utilize these devices from taking notes, looking up information sharing answers and ideas, communication, and increasing engagement that I think the benefits from using these in a sound educational manner is too great to pass up.
The final aspect of the policy is the enforcement. Students have agreed to first abide by the rules, second help support others in following the rules by encouraging those who are not following the rules to stop those practices, and they are willing to accept losing the privilege of using the device if they refuse to follow the policy they created.
In true Pirate style, Day 2 is supposed to keep student's attention and cultivate the behaviors of an exciting, nurturing and relevant classroom. Dave Burgess starts out acting out scenes similar to what I created in the video clips above. I am not as comfortable as he is with the stage. While I know I need to push myself to let my guard down more, I also realize I don't need to be a parrot of Teach Like a Pirate, more of a cultivator of its intentions.
Day 2 begins with the video presentation followed by the Survivor Island Scenario. Students are assigned to groups and then discuss who will be rescued and who will be allowed to be saved. I also tried playing the song "Should I Stay or Should I Go Now," as they began their examination.
The students ponder the situation, discuss, and then work to create a collaborative group decision that they can justify. This activity provided a lot of great teaching moments. First we discuss the idea of consensus. It was important that all students agreed, which also meant that they had the expectation of all sharing and being heard. I made a group leader who was responsible to ensure all were actively engaged. Students were give 15 minutes to discuss then we listed their results for who would be rescued and who would be saved.
This actually took us to the end of the hour for Day 2, so our discussion of the results was carried over to Day 3. What an amazing day this was. Not only did it provide opportunities to again reinforce expectations for group work, but it also helped students understand what I mean by justifying or supporting your ideas. I emphasized that there would be no right or wrong answer, but they would be evaluated on their rationale. Having never done an introductory task with so many possible answers, I was nervous about what I would hear from students. What did help is that during the discussion process I did make it around to groups and listen to their discussions and ask questions, or even play devil's advocate at times to spark extension of conversations.
The whole class sharing was enlightening. Students had so many different approaches to how to solve the task. Some looked primarily at who should be saved and the others were left to fend for themselves, others focused on making sure those on the island would have the best chance of survival, and finally, some tried to make it possible for all to survive balancing at times those they thought should be rescued with the skills they could provide to those stranded on the island. The analysis of how they went about tackling this task became a topic for discussion that I used to further the idea of how critical thinking varies for every student. There isn't a right approach, or one right answer.
Another area that led to some very cool discussions was what to do with the murderer. I learned so much about how people perceive the idea of a murderer. Most students saw this person as a male and someone who was prone to violence. They viewed him as a threat to those left on the island and many sent him home to save those on the island. Others still viewing him as a threat, or a bad person, left him on the island because they had a hard time giving him the seat of someone they felt more deserving. In the end we discussed their views or perceptions and had a very cool conversation that I think opened the door for future dialogue about perspective.
This activity is another piece of the framework I am hoping will fit together to show my students that my classroom is different, this year is different, and I, as their guide, am unique.
Teach Like a Pirate Week Begins!
Here I am with the classroom movie posters I made for the hallway outside my room.
DAY 1 - I wish I could have the cool effects like the X-files where the ideas type in those cool green letters because I feel like what I experienced this week was crazy exciting!
Okay, so if you have read anything else I have written thus far, you know that I am a huge fan of Teach Like a Pirate. I took the challenge to be a Pirate this year, and my year has begun with the first week activities that Dave Burgess outlines. I got on Amazon, asked my wife for permission to use the card and purchased the biggest pack of play-doh I have ever seen. 36 cans of funky stuff that can be molded into some of the most creative objects I have ever witnessed in my life.
Day 1 for most teachers begins with some introductory or get to know you activity. I have been doing something for most of my career and enjoyed the activities. Students although sometimes reluctant to share, always provide something that could be used to build rapport and relationships with them. So what is so revolutionary and exciting about using play-doh? Nothing! Absolutely nothing in terms of the idea of a get to know you idea. It isn't the play-doh that makes this activity, it is how and what it is used for. As I said, I always did an activity to begin the year, but this year my approach was markedly different.
The difference to some may seem subtle, but it was really a significant change for me. In other years, students had shared things about themselves, and I have even learned some very personal things about my students through questions they had answered. Day 1 this year was no exception. Where the difference came in was in many cases how I learned these ideas. While students were making their projects out of play-doh to represent something about themselves, I focused on asking them questions, talking to them, and sharing with them. I heard their stories directly from them in a conversation that I could react to and they could see and hear my thoughts, ideas, or in some cases compassion for their lives. This was missing in the past where students answered questions just for me and I was reading those in isolation of them. I still react, still feel for them, still want to connect, but they never saw those reactions, and thus the moment of me being a real person and not just another teacher was lost.
So the best and worst of the sharing and lessons learned. I realized after trying this with my first class, that the need for explaining that the object had to be something important or significant to their lives resonated with most students, but I did have one that tried to push back against this. His object was a chicken drumstick because he said he loved chicken. Not exactly what I was going for. He and I talked before he was to present, and he modified his sculpture, but I think he was still trying to be the class clown. I learned from this and the rest of the classes I emphasized that I was looking for something significant to their lives. It yielded better results, although I did have the hour where half the class talked about sports, where I again had to adjust my questioning to why were sports so important to them. Why would you spend hours doing something, what are the rewards to this activity in your life?
Those were the ones that didn't quite meet the mark, although with the exception of the chicken example, they did a good job explaining their ideas. I included images above of just some of the objects. There were 3D objects, activities as mentioned earlier, even including music and dance. Then there were the ones that really showcased what this was all about. The handful of students who talked about the connection to others in their lives, or how something was almost vitally important to them. I had a couple of students use symbols like a rainbow to discuss their being homosexual, or their connection to the Gay Straight Alliance. I also had a student share a very personal story about how she has been affected by suicide. She made the semi-colon sculpture above. I didn't know it was the symbol for suicide, but I did know about this student's story before she shared. I was overwhelmed that she shared it with the class. I was very emotional at the end of the day hearing so many wonderful and powerful stories about things that impact my students' lives. It caused me to really reflect on my responsibility as a teacher to honor their courage to share, and to do everything I can do to make my classroom and this year a safe and nurturing one. I struggle with the fact that I do not know that I am up to the challenge of helping students who have the realities outside of school that some of my students do. I pray I have the strength to be the teacher they need and deserve.
Let me preface this post with the same disclaimer as every other post I will ever write, I AM NOT AN EXPERT! Now that we have expectations in check, let's get this show on the road. I want to honor the idea for this post to a colleague on Twitter who had the idea to start a playlist for school to engage students. I am completely stealing the idea, however I have poured over my Twitter feed and have not been able to find the post for the idea that sparked my version. For those that may be so inclined to continue reading my posts, I hope you take away the fact that I am like the ancient Romans, I am not very inventive, but more like a pirate in acquiring and using resources. I maybe unlike the Romans, want to give credit to those who inspired my variation on the lesson, or idea.
Okay, so my legal department can now sleep easy that I have acknowledge the real creative forces out there, let's begin.
Oh you are still reading -- awesome! You must really be curious about music. I have found music to be a powerful force in my own life. It is amazing how it can transform your mood, inspire and motivate you to complete the exercise, help you concentrate, or express your ideas to others. Gone are the days with the 8 tracks and vinyl records. Yes I am old enough to remember both, so respect your elders. I also lived through the giant boomboxes that everyone stocked up on D batteries to carry around and blast your music. We witnessed the transition from tapes to CD's and now digital music. As these transitions happened, the portability of music increased. With the advent of the mp3 player students are more readily connected to music, but may also be more disconnected to their surroundings. Welcome to the 21st century where a phone is a mobile workstation and a portable stereo with limitless access to music anywhere anytime. Those are the technological changes that have sparked social changes. Students plugging in their ear-buds and tuning out those around them. When independent work time is given they immediate ask if they can listen to music. They want it, nay they crave it. And I completely get it. Music is an amazing path to escape into your own little world.
Wow! He just told us music is important to students, he must be a genius. Well no, not really, and no I am not trying to insult your intelligence, but rather set the stage for using what the students crave to your advantage. When you watch a movie the music pulls you to ramp up the excitement, feel the emotion of the main characters. The producers spend a lot of time choosing the right music to get those results. They want you to remember the events more vividly. The same could be done in a classroom setting. We can set a mood of excitement with high energy music, or grab students' attention with a short clip like at a football or basketball game. You could use it as a transition or as a timer. I plan to use it in some of these forms, but also to connect to my content. I think students pick the music they listen to many times because of the beat, the sound, the tempo, without always realizing what the song is about. Think about connecting to your content. In just the last two days I have a few ideas for lesson plans with music.
To give you a quick example, you can use a song that discusses discrimination or intolerance such as Everyday People, by Sly and the Family Stone, or more modern, Born This Way, by Lady Gaga., or one I will use and have a lesson plan for, Fishbowl by Kenny Chesney where he discusses the impact on our lives of social media and technology. Here is the lesson.
Another lesson I plan on creating is to have students look at the music being played at different times in history. What were people listening to during WWII, Vietnam, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? What does this say about the impact of war on our society? Has it changed over time? Has war had an impact on the home-front? These are just a few things that have come to mind as I think about incorporating music into my classroom.
I have begun a music spreadsheet for the purpose of connecting to students. There are several tabs that have been created to separate the purpose of the songs. Please take a look, add your ideas, and take what you can use. Also add lesson ideas or class connections you can think of. This is a work in progress, but I know we can make our classrooms better through collaboration.
The inspiration for this post comes from several other educators who have shared their playlists, or ideas for music with me. I didn't invent the idea of using music as a hook or connection to students, I just decided this year to incorporate the ideas started by others, and implemented in my own manner. Please take a look at the google spreadsheet I created and share ideas or comments you have as well as steal anything people share to better enrich your lessons and your connections to your students.
Credits for this post - I included the link to their post in their name.
Michael K. Milton @think42
Josh Gauthier @mrgfactoftheday
DDEUBEL'S BLOG - 50 Ways to incorporate music into the classroom
Here is some research supporting music in the classroom:
John Hopkins University
There were others that I looked at in my quest, but unfortunately I did not do a good job chronicling all of the sites that I found useful to help me in my journey to use more music.