A few weeks ago, I met with a group of educators to discuss their observations from a series of learning walks in classrooms. They found that though students could accurately tell them what they were doing, they struggled to articulate what they might be learning. In response, I suggested building reflection into the daily routine. Whether students use audio and video or pen and paper, encouraging them to take a few minutes to capture not only what they learned, but also how and why, may ultimately allow them to make deeper connections to the content.
On an episode of Radiolab recorded earlier this year, host Simon Adler leads us down a fascinating and somewhat terrifying path into the future of fake news, where videos of real people—like a U.S. president—can be made to say fake things. While we have strategies for identifying fake images, a new wave of audio and video manipulation tools have the potential to twist reality even further. For educators and those of us thinking about how to ensure that students have the skills they need to be informed citizens, these new technologies are an urgent reminder of the importance of news and media literacy education.
I learned about the book tasting—an opportunity for students to try out a variety of books—from an instructional coach at my school, who modeled it for the teachers, enabling us to learn firsthand what this activity can do.
To start, I gather titles in a variety of genres from the school library, classroom library, and literacy library—it’s best to have a few copies of each book. I set up my tasting by putting my students in seven groups of four, with four titles in a different genre for each group. One group is generally realistic fiction, one literary nonfiction, one fantasy, and so forth. With groups of four, students get to experience different viewpoints without being overwhelmed—every student gets a chance to contribute when they discuss their books.
Chemistry seems to inspire a D mentality: A significant number of students just want to pass the class to meet their graduation requirement, and do it with as little effort as possible.
Take Evelyn, for example. A junior in my chemistry class in the spring of 2015, Evelyn was bright, but she didn’t see chemistry as relevant to her present or future, so she kept her head low, didn’t engage with the material, missed about 20 percent of the class, and seemed to target a grade of 60 percent. That was at the beginning of the year.
The trauma and adversity that students are carrying into classrooms are changing how educators need to address learning and academic performance. Fifty-one percent of children in public schools live in low-income households, and when poverty levels exceed 50 percent, there’s a significant drop in academic performance across all grade levels. At the same time, 25 percent of all adolescents—including 30 percent of adolescent girls—are experiencing anxiety disorders.
Ice crystallized on the windshield and then a tire burst on the way to school, making you late. By the time you arrived, the computer (with the video clip and presentation cued up) froze. Minutes later, Jason pulled the fire alarm while you tried to catch up on parent emails. During lunch duty, a student was punched in the nose. Your nose is stuffy while you explain to the principal right before an IEP meeting why your plans haven’t been submitted yet. The day trudges along… At last the final bell rings, and in your first quiet moment of the day, thoughts of leaving the teaching profession suddenly seem, well, right.