Have your students expressed an interest in the new movie Black Panther? Not only is the movie a great action movie, but there are many curriculum connections to be made particularly at the middle levels for World History, Geography, Social Studies, Economics, and Literature. A teacher from the Chicago Public Schools (Tess Raser) created this set of lesson plans and activities for middle school students to go along with a viewing of Black Panther. If you have students who have been engaged in the themes and topics brought up in the movie, I highly encourage you to look at and adapt these resources for your use. Here's an article in EdWeek about Raser's plans and the importance of connecting cultural moments to our students' lives and the daily experience of the classroom.
Finding resources for high quality early childhood classrooms can be challenging. Recently, the Boston Public Schools has implemented changes in the way they approach early childhood, focusing on student learning needs and developmentally appropriate experiences. The change was covered locally on WBUR and picked up by NPR nationally. Here is a link to the BPS site that contains lots of information about how you might think of implementing high quality, learning-forward early childhood classrooms.
Oftentimes, we receive great resources from schools. Here is a plan developed by two teachers at St. Columbkille Partnership School in Brighton, MA.
Created by Margaret Betts (Grade 2) and Anne Krane (PreK), St. Columbkille Partnership School, Brighton, MA
Violence in schools and in neighborhoods in our country has been a constant conversation, and we have been looking for something we can do to help teachers, families, and students feel a little less helpless and a little more empowered. This can be especially challenging in the early childhood, elementary, and middle school levels. We want our schools to feel safe. This plan centers around a prayer service planned for March 14th of this year. Our hope is that this plan would minimally interrupt the routine, meet students at an appropriate level and still have a positive impact on our community. Early childhood would focus on peace as a self management skill, elementary ages would focus on peace and activism, and middle school would focus on peace and nonviolence.
The plan in its entirety can be found here, but there are four major parts to the St. Columbkille Peace Plan!
All grades: Pieces of Peace - Students will each be given a large puzzle piece to take home over the weekend. These will be filled out by families and returned to school the following Monday and Tuesday. Along with the puzzle pieces will be a description of the events and activities leading to Wednesday, March 14th, so families are informed. These peace pieces will be collected and formed into large peace sign posters to be hung on each level of the school. (We will send this template to you when it is ready!)
All grades: Peace Project - Each grade will do one short activity that focuses around peace on Monday 3/12 or Tuesday 3/13 in their classrooms. It could be a book, a short movie clip, a writing project, a prayer. A few ideas are provided to give inspiration, but if you need more help or a more concrete plan, please let us know and we are happy to help out!
All grades, staff, families, friends of school: Posts for Peace - All will be invited to participate in posting pictures, videos, photos, poems, quotes, songs etc. on our social media, or their own social media on 3/14. Using the hashtag #stcps4peace and #postsforpeace . Anyone is invited to post something that they feel will inspire others towards peace. (How do you work, sing, share, inspire for peace?)
All grades: Peace Prayer Service - Students will participate in a 17 minute long prayer service on March 14th at 10 AM.
In the spirit of Catholic community building and collaboration within the Archdiocese of Boston, we've attached the full plan here in hopes that you may share it with other schools whose teachers may be looking for a resource or a way to address the violence with a Catholic foundation at the early childhood, elementary, and middle school levels.
Here is a link to resources posted on NCEA's website to help schools better prepare and integrate Black History Month into their schools during this important month. They provide a wide range of resources that you can access and use, including information about a session at the upcoming NCEA conference if you plan to attend.
Here's a link to a lesson plan on exploring what counts as history, an important theme for later elementary and middle school students to consider during Black History Month. This resource comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance website, a great source for culturally relevant pedagogy and classroom resources that can help to disrupt negative assumptions and beliefs about race and ethnicity.
What teacher hasn't tried to figure out ways to conserve time with mountains of student learning to assess? Here's a list of strategies from Dr. Jade Caines Lee (sent over to me by our Director of Data Annie Cervin) that may provide you with some ideas about how to rethink the way you spend time during grading/assessment. What I like most about this post is that these strategies connect to our common sense: focus on what is most important in grading an assignment in order to emphasize the student learning that is occurring.
Here's a recently posted article from the "Shanahan on Literacy" blog about what to do when going through the "growing pains" of a new literacy series. Several of our schools have considered or recently adopted new literacy programs. This question-and-answer post will help you consider some questions related to the tensions between whole group and small group literacy instruction, as well as what it takes to find balance and manage the change of adopting a new literacy program.
As I've been traveling around the Archdiocese, people have heard me talk about the need for more high quality and authentic learning opportunities for students in our schools. This post, from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, provides four practical examples for elementary and secondary cross-disciplinary performance assessments that you could use today. For more information on quality performance assessment in general, check out the Center for Collaborative Education's website here.
Check out this post from EdWeek describing what it takes to turn an instructional leadership or teacher coaching conversation into a productive learning opportunity. What I like most about this brief article is its focus on the questions that help frame and center this instructional leadership conversation. Instructional leadership is built on professional relationships. Solid questions and the willingness to work together with teachers you mentor, coach, or supervise are part of the foundation of excellent conversations about teaching practice.
Chalkbeat, a great source of education news and research I recommend all teachers and leaders peruse regularly, has just announced they are going to have a Great American Teach-Off in March 2018. I encourage any math teacher in the Archdiocese who is interested to read more and consider applying before the January 19 submission deadline.
The editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat, Elizabeth Green, writes extensively here about why this Teach-Off is such a great idea for making teaching practice public. Even if you think you may not be ready to apply for this kind of "competition," I highly recommend you take some time to read Green's post and consider what teaching and learning would look like if we had lesson study systems in place like those she mentions observing in Japan. Lesson study is something the CSO is looking into currently, considering what it might look like throughout the Archdiocese. Reach out if you would like to be a part of that planning and conversation!
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