Squishy Not Slick

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Teaching thoughts mainly. Other stuff I'm working on is over here.

April 16, 2014 at 12:28pm
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KFC is bringing back the Double Down, which reminds me that I once had students do some critical thinking about this sandwich (including the question: is it really a sandwich?).

March 6, 2014 at 6:27pm
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A list of reasons why teaching The Great Gatsby is so much better now than it was five years ago.


Ready for a Gastby reference? Here it is: I, for one, am very glad I’m not repeating the past. 

I hate doing blog posts of top whatever lists, but this deserves it. So, without further excessive use of caps locks: a list of reasons why teaching The Great Gatsby is so much better now than it was five years ago.

• Reflector + iAnnotate - I put the text of Gatsby into a PDF with some huge margins and dropped it into iAnnotate. With the Reflector Airplay Receiver, I can mirror my iPad to my computer and get it on the wall with the projector. That means I can have the text on the screen with big margins, and I can be annotating the book using iAnnotate as we go through it. I guess I could have done that a few years ago with an overhead and a ridiculous number of transparencies… but this, at least to me, seems like a new thing that is available widely only in the last few years. And I think it makes teaching Gatsby ridiculously fun. But, then again, I’m really into this kind of thing. I also like sweater vests, so take all this enthusiasm with a heaping spoonful of salt.


[iAnnotate in action]

• Crash Course - Not only do they have the perfect video to set up the Jazz Age (slightly not safe for some classrooms, btw), they also made two episodes just about the novel, perfect for viewing afterwards. 

• RapGenius - ok, I’m having a hard time deciding if this is my favorite thing or if iAnnotate + Reflector is, because, wow, this is so, so good. Some kind people on the internet have given Gatsby the RapGenius treatment and annotated it thoroughly with helpful explanations. It’s not perfect. Typical user-generated-content caveats apply, but even still, it is so useful.

• Bingo Card Generator - I had this idea while eating breakfast this morning: what if I put together a BINGO game for Gatsby? Then I thought, nah, too complicated. I decided to google it anyway, and I found that Mr. Gravell put together a Bingo Card Generator. This was perfect. While eating my morning omelette, I typed some recurring themes and symbols and ideas from Gatsby into the generator and had a class set of Bingo cards ready to go by first period. It’s been a fun way to guide us in paying attention to what might be important in the novel.


Splashtop Streamer / Whiteboard - with Splashtop I can roam the classroom, iPad in hand, but still control my computer that is attached to the projector. This allows me to start and stop the audiobook while roaming the room, switch between Keynote for some slides and Google Chrome for videos and their timer (just Google “set timer for 5 minutes” and see what happens). 

Socrative - Socrative allows me to collect quick feedback from my students using whatever fancy devices they happen to walk in with, as long as it has a browser. I can have them do short answer responses to interesting prompts (shameless self promotion, I think these Gatsby prompts are pretty great) or have them take polls or quick quizzes to check for understanding. Socrative is one of my favorite weapons in my teaching arsenal.

*Please note that the new, Baz Luhrmann version of Gatsby is not one of my reasons. No, I don’t want to elaborate.*

[This list will likely update as I think of / encounter more reasons]

Update #1: ehsmrsj pointed me toward her Gatsby Meme Assignment, which I’m sure we’ll be trying out once we’re a bit closer to the end of the book. 

February 5, 2014 at 6:17pm
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This has something to do with teaching. (via)

This has something to do with teaching. (via)

February 4, 2014 at 9:54pm
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Reblogged from bobbyjgeorge

In a postindustrial society, understanding is reached through negotiation between the individual and his or her culture. Intelligence thus becomes communal, creative, and communicational, reflecting an ability to bring relevant “knowledge to bear on a novel situation” and a context in which “understandings can only be apprehended and appreciated if they are performed by a student.” The productive exchange between teachers and learners… is interactive, surprising and challenging as the exchange between performance artists and their audiences.

— Hannah Higgins, Fluxus Experience (via bobbyjgeorge)

(via robertogreco)

January 21, 2014 at 1:43pm
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January 14, 2014 at 6:39pm
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January 5, 2014 at 1:33pm
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SOLE / Group Research Questions

It wouldn’t be the holiday break if I didn’t decide to scrap my original plans and try something different when we come back together in a few days. 

Here’s what I’m thinking…. any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

I really like a lot about Sugata Mitra’s SOLE idea. You can watch his TED Talk (does that need a TM after it yet?) about it, or you can read the supporting documents that have been put together about it (if you do, are you horrified by the police role that they have students fill?). Here’s the basic formula for SOLE: students are given a question and the internet and then form groups to answer it. That’s about it. It’s pretty brilliant in its simplicity, and we’re going to give it a try.

I’ll have to tweak it a bit for our purposes in a few ways…

  • Our pattern will be one day of research (eighty minutes) and then one day of prep and presentations (twenty minutes to get set and then an hour to present, discuss, reflect, and write about it). We’ll see how this format works and what needs to change. I’m assuming that the length of time needed depends a lot on the question, and I’m sure some of the questions will need quite a bit more time.
  • I’ll assign groups. I know that one of the big pieces of the SOLE system is the whole “self-organized” thing, but, sadly, my students are fifteen and have spent a decade learning bad habits around motivation for education. Maybe they’d do fine. Maybe the question and the freedom to answer it together as they choose will help them to overcome those just-give-me-what-I-need-for-the-quiz mindsets, but I’m not that hopeful they’re there yet. I have lots of other reasons for this, but I am hopeful that after they get the process down (a few rounds of it), they will be able to make good choices around who they work with. So, hopefully we’ll get to the point of being actually self-organized in the near future.
  • I have put together a form to structure some of it and help with the grading part of it. I think that ideally there would be no grades, and it would be all about the love of learning together. But that’s just not the reality of what we’re working with here.


imageHere are some ideas for questions we might try to answer… many of these relate to the content we’re supposed to be covering:

  • Which human has saved the most lives on the planet?
  • What does the rise of the selfie tell us about society?
  • What will daily life in 2075 be like?
  • Are you worth your weight in gold? Is any person? Is every person?
  • What is the situation in South Sudan and what options does the US have there? Which option should they pursue and why? 
  • Who is Edward Snowden and should he get clemency?
  • Which place and time on earth has developed the greatest art?
  • What was the most important invention of the last 200 years? 
  • Which historical figure should we bring back to be president in 2016. Why this person?
  • How would your life be different if you lived in a totalitarian state? Are you living in a totalitarian state now? How do you know one way or the other?
  • What are the keys to a successful revolution?

Standards? I’ve got lots of those figured out. This hits a bunch of them… 

What else? What am I forgetting? What should I think about?

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Reblogged from thrumminginthemixture

[Auden] combined vast literary ambition with a sense of shared, common humanity, and understood that comedy and profundity are both at their best when they coexist. When serious themes tempted him to solemnity, he reminded himself that his poems could point towards seriousness, but that neither he not any other real person could embody or personify it. He thought of poetry as a “game of knowledge”-a game that could explore matters of life and death, but was always itself less important than the world in which such things were real.

— Edward Mendelson, in the Introduction to “W.H. Auden: Selected Poems” … This has something to do with teaching. (via thrumminginthemixture)

December 27, 2013 at 1:30pm
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Reblogged from nicolefenton

Wise therapists help clients to think more clearly, feel more deeply, and behave more responsibly. Wise writers often want to do these same things.


Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World  (via nicolefenton)

wise teachers… 

December 18, 2013 at 12:55pm
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discussing selfies/video unit (in process)

UPDATE: I’ve gotten some great responses in this Twitter thread that I have yet to get into this post but will hopefully do someday.

Ok. Let’s create some classroom action around the selfies/video discussion that’s happening online right now. This is all hypothetical for me, but maybe if it comes together well I’ll actually try it out. Also: please help me out. I’d love to hear some better ideas.

Do we start with essential questions, first?:

First, this is really about our relationship to technology, right? Especially technology that helps us to capture an experience? Or is it about narcissism? Maybe the first thing is to actually have students come up with the questions… and I could see this going into a discussion about selfies and culture, or about documenting your life digitally… or it could be about both.

ehsmrsj had her students: “[talk/write] about images (like selfies) vs words and which were better for capturing the mood of the day.  Also watched the funny 'Look at this Instagram' Nickelback parody.” (She noted that the video had some language that was NSFW and had to be cut.)

Tom Woodward added this question: “Would a personal journal/diary be a textual selfie?”

This too from Tom Woodard: Is the Rockwell self-portrait a “triple selfie”? He writes: “wondering about painting vs portrait if subject is essentially the same.” 


A question prompted by this essay (Are All of Your Photo Memories Actually Making You Forget?) from ehsmrsj: what the relationship between memory and photography/video?

Recommended viewing: Renny Gleeson’s Our Antisocial Phone Tricks.

Related: maybe it’s about how technology affects our relationships with others also: “The challenge of modern relationships: how to prove more interesting than the other’s smartphone.” – Alain de Botton

If you’re into them, here are some ideas for Common Core standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. 

Then we need some readings. I’ll go with the ones that came out of this tweet/thread:

Examples of “strange selfies” from Tom Woodward:

Then we need some discussion/debate scaffolding. I need help here. Anyone have anything? Probably some sort of generating of questions, maybe some writing… 

Then we need a way to finish it up… I’m thinking a whole class discussion might work. Maybe a fish bowl? Ideas?