Tag Archives: readwritethink

Celebrate Mandela Day

In 2009, the United Nations declared July 18th “Mandela Day”, an international day of honor for former South African President Nelson Mandela. Also his birthday, Mandela Day invites everyone, particularly young people, to take action to promote peace and combat social injustice. According to the official Mandela Day website, Mandela Day “was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made [in 2008], for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that ‘it is in your hands now’.”

Familiarize students with Mandela’s life and legacy by reading aloud Kadir Nelson’s Coretta Scott King Honor book, Nelson Mandela. Share the illustrations and stop frequently for questions and discussion of Mandela’s early life, determination to change social conditions in apartheid-era South Africa, and eventual presidency. Fill in any gaps with resources from the biographical websites found here.

Then explain the purpose and mission of Mandela Day before inspiring students to brainstorm their call to social action by sharing this page from the Mandela Day website. There, students will see examples of service projects around the key themes of awareness building, food security, literacy and education, service and volunteerism, and shelter and infrastructure.

Finally, invite students, as a class or in small groups, to determine a project they can undertake to plan and publicize their contribution to a more just world.

How do you plan to recognize this day?

Reading, Writing, and Spelling

The National Spelling Bee Finals are held this week! Hundreds of student spelling champions, ranging from 9 to 15 years old, will travel to Washington, DC to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

Most students won’t win the National Spelling Bee, but most students can learn to spell. They need to see words in print through lots of reading and lots of writing, and they need strategic help from their teachers. The sixth standard of the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts states that “students [should] apply [their] knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation)” in their speaking and writing.

In this article in Primary Voices, Sandra Wilde suggested the following:

The Speller’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right to express yourself in first-draft writing regardless of what words you do and don’t know how to spell.
  2. The right to do a lot of reading, which is probably the greatest single factor in spelling acquisition.
  3. The right to actively construct knowledge about the spelling system.
  4. The right to developmentally appropriate education in spelling.
  5. The right to learn that spelling does matter.
  6. The right to know about and have available a lot of ways to come up with spellings (including just knowing how to spell the word).
  7. The right to learn to proofread.
  8. The right to have spelling placed in its proper context as a small piece of the writing and language-learning process.
  9. The right to be valued as a human being regardless of your spelling.

Will you tune into the Spelling Bee?

Connecting Families to What Is Happening in Schools

literacyAs educators, we understand the shifts we are making in our own practices. It’s important to think about how these changes are being communicated to families. What is essential to share? It seems best to keep it simple. Better yet, our challenge is to show not tell as we involve families in the literacy learning happenings within our schools on an ongoing basis.

Here’s a group of educators that didn’t need to tell families about the importance of reading and writing more complex texts across the disciplines because they are showing it:

  • Meet third-grade teacher, Bev Gallagher. She made notebooking a regular part of her instructional practices. These notebooks will become a treasured part of each child’s school career long after third grade.
  • Julie Wollman, a ReadWriteThink.org and NCTE author, shows us how to get started with family message journals as a means for students to write to an authentic audience about their learning.
  • Because the ways we teach writing are often quite different from the ways most of our students’ parents learned to write, it is important to think about productive ways to get families involved as strong allies for excellent writing instruction. The authors of “Inviting Parents In: Expanding Our Community Base to Support Writing” describe workshops and other methods for getting parents productively involved in their children’s literacy development.
  • Watch as a parent who is in a Community of Practice with teachers shares what it means to learn, talk, and design activities as a full CoP member with teachers.

Join us over at ReadWriteThink.org on the Parent & Afterschool Resources site for engaging ways to introduce children to reading or to encourage teens to write. Need some age-appropriate book suggestions or rainy day activities? These materials are your answer—all of them created by experts to be fun, educational, and easy to use outside of school.

What role do parents and families play in your school?

Using Film as a Tool in the Classroom

1960s-classroomThe first Academy Awards ceremony was held during this week in 1929. To celebrate this milestone, here are some resources for using movies to support the literacy learning in the classroom.

The Language Arts article “Let’s Go to the Movies: Rethinking the Role of Film in the Elementary Classroom” argues that elementary language arts teachers should expand their definition of “text” to include film, a valuable instructional resource. The article notes that today’s elementary students come to class with a great deal of knowledge about films — prior experiences which teachers can tap into — and discusses the application of reader-response theories to film.

Based on the above Language Arts article, the ReadWriteThink.org lesson Get the Reel Scoop: Comparing Books to Movies asks students to compare and contrast books with their movie counterparts and then work in groups to design a readers theater response to the film version.

Ask students to play the role of moviemakers with techniques from the Voices from the Middle article “Meeting Readers: Using Visual Literacy Narratives in the Classroom“. The article describes a literacy narrative project — a concise digital video in which students meld still images, motion, print text, and soundtrack in communicating ideas/insights/discoveries about who they are as readers and writers.

Students take on the role of film director in the ReadWriteThink.org lesson
You Know the Movie Is Coming — Now What?. After exploring cinematic terms, students read a literary work with a director’s eyes, considering such issues as which scenes require a close-up of the main character and when the camera should zoom out to see the entire set.

The English Journal article “How Movies Work for Secondary School Students with Special Needs” demonstrates how to use scenes from films to help special education students improve their visual and auditory skills, build confidence in their abilities to talk about and analyze the components of a narrative, and feel comfortable engaging in writing and class discussion.

In the ReadWriteThink.org lesson Decoding The Matrix: Exploring Dystopian Characteristics through Film, students view and analyze clips from The Matrix and other dystopian films to gain an understanding of the characteristics found in dystopian works, such as Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984.

Research has shown that contemporary popular films are a valuable resource in the ESL classroom, but what about older films? The Teaching English in the Two-Year College article “Unspoken Content: Silent Film in the ESL Classroom” explores how overlooked silent films can facilitate the development of ESL students’ critical thinking and writing skills.

Teacher educators can challenge students to explore how educators are represented in movies and television shows. Share the English Journal article “Teaching English in the World: All I Need to Know about Teaching I Learned from TV and Movies” with preservice teachers and ask them to film their own revised versions of the real life of teachers in the classroom. Encourage discussion of ways to counter flawed visions of the profession locally and at state and national levels.

How do you use film in your classroom?

Teacher Appreciation Week

thank-a-teacherSince 1984, National PTA has designated one week in May as a special time to honor the men and women who lend their passion and skills to educating our children. This is a week for everyone to show teachers just how much they are appreciated!

Here is an activity to do with students that celebrates teachers:

Read a book about a teacher such as Thank You, Mr. Falker, Miss Nelson is Missing, The Miracle Worker, Tuesdays with Morrie, or A Lesson Before Dying. Why are the teachers in these stories special? Have a class discussion about some of your students’ favorite teachers. Then have students try these follow-up activities:

  • Compare a favorite teacher to a teacher from a book with a Venn Diagram.
  • Write a letter to a favorite teacher using the Letter Generator.
  • Create a character map of a storybook teacher with the Story Mapping tool.
  • Use the Word Mover to create a piece that describes the teacher or school.

To round out Teacher Appreciation Week, watch a movie that inspires you and makes you feel proud to be in the field of education where YOU really do have an impact. Enjoy!