The Hill We Climb – Examining Writer’s Craft

I am sharing our language/literacy focus this week. The pandemic days are getting harder, and the winter months are dragging. I needed this. 

Last week, one of my students, Julianne, shared with me how excited and emotional she was after hearing Amanda Gorman’s latest spoken word poem, “The Hill We Climb.” She watched it live about 5 minutes before our meeting, so I wasn’t prepared to focus my teaching on that just yet. I needed to think about it and find a way to bring this into an Enrichment class (As a special education enrichment teacher, I am mindful of the style and method of delivering my lessons. I work with a group of students who are often identified as exceptional with Individual Education Plans in place). 

That night, after I watched Amanda Gorman recite her words, my head was spinning with excitement. My brain moved up a gear, and the process of developing an enriched lesson for a variety of age groups and learners began.

First – I tap into the brilliance of experts: I reached out to Tom Shea, a Secondary English Teacher and musician from Hamilton. I followed this up by doing an “all call” using my Twitter feed (see below). So many people jumped in to share ideas and advice. I am so thankful for this.

LESSON: A brief teaching opportunity- The Hill We Climb, Amanda Gorman – What gave it a melody?

Time: 1-3 Hours (or more depending on how much time you want to take and how deep you dig.

Environment: Online Remote Lesson

Focus: Word choice, word development, voice, rhythm and literacy devices (alliteration, repetition, parallel structure)

Level: Grade 6, 7, 8

1.Build the excitement prior to class.

  “I hope you are enjoying the gorgeous snowfall! The wind is singing, and the trees are swaying and twinkling in the twilight. ✨ It’s “WILD, WHIMSICAL AND WONDERFUL WORDCRAFT WEEK!  I am super excited about our Enrichment Meeting. Not only are we are going to examine exactly why Amanda Gorman’s Poem, “The Hill We Climb, is so AMAZING, but we are ALSO going to PLAY with literary devices, use our own voice, words, ideas, and phrases and INVENT works of Art through WORD CRAFTING.

2.Open Meeting. Poetry^J Amanda Gorman .pptx

Students participate in a series of challenges, mini-lessons, discussion and reflection.

First (Model and Share), we talk about a theme, focus or story. This isn’t an easy task for some, so we share ideas together.

  • We talk about the value of narrowing down a big idea such as ‘The Pandemic” to smaller ideas within.
  • We make a list – “Time, change, struggle, worry…” We decide on ONE WORD. Time.
  • Students work together to create related words. “Never-ending, blended, slow, fast, on-going, grey, unknown, lasting…”.
  • To model the process of the lesson, we created alliterative words: “Tackling time, loving, learning, rest, renew.

Finally, we create a brief poem called, “Time”. Time spent tackling my sense of self. Time to be more loving and living through learning. Time to rest, renew and rejoice and time to recognize the power and privilege before us so we can act, insist and assist those weathered and wanting.

Work time!  I use a SLIDES presentation (shared above) to guide the challenges. (I gave a link in the chat space of the remote class for students to access a shared workspace and tools)

Challenge One: Students are given a 5 minute challenge (and the use of resources and tools) to create a list of words related to THEIR OWN idea, theme or story.

5-minute mini-lesson (teacher talking). What is ALLITERATION, Why it is used?

Challenge Two: Students are a given 4-minute challenge to form alliteration with their words. They can use the Alliteration Generator should they wish.

10-minute mini-lesson. The whole Group examines the TEXT version of Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”. Students are asked to point out phrases that use alliteration. We watch and discuss the Video,

Challenge Three: 15 minute Challenge. Connecting the alliterative words.  Based on the vocabulary they chose in the previous challenge, students being to use tie it together. They use a shared document (Microsoft Word or Google docs) that is open and viewable. (I created a table and gave each student a section).

3. Final/Assessment: Students are asked to submit/share one or more alliterative phrases before leaving class. Could they create a meaningful phrase or idea? Did they use alliterative words creatively following some of the examples? *They are also reminded that the process of creative writing takes time and thought and they may want to spend a few days just thinking about it. We will revisit the lessons again next week.

4. Reflection and Discussion

We talked about how poetry and text can feel like art and music. One student used a metaphor that words are like colours of paint and how you use and mix the paint will impact the beauty and message in the final product. We talked about how paintings can be viewed and examined over and over (one student said she watched Amanda Gorman recite, The Hill We Climb thirteen times and “feels” something different each time.

A few students asked me to share their sample writing: 

Cailyn
A composition and repetition of competition of inhibition. I am not perfect and I am not pristine, this shell on the outside is not what it seems.
Naomi
It is life to listen, listen to the light, the bright, the big and small. Follow the fallen, hear the worth of the winners, lend an ear to the stifled, speechless. So strong is it to listen. Connect and compare the art that’s a part of what we hear.
Barret
Togetherness through this endless. When can we end this? Repetitive Demise.Endless cries. Hope.
Adiba

cold and covered, cornered messy and dense

we’re living in a den of disoriented decoration

 stuffy with stuff, annoyed enough

but won’t clean up

the trees covered in snow, the snow that is blown

fallen row, by row, annoyed to anticipate

patience is delicate,

winter is worrisome, but everyone’s bolder

the snow blows harder

but we can survive rather

They don’t

Resources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remote Learning Activity – DiXit Game is more than just Vocabulary

Social-Emotional Learning through Language Skills and Higher-Order Thinking 

Dixit (Latin: dixit, Latin pronunciation: [ˈdiːksitə], “he/she/it said”), is a French card game created by Jean-Louis Roubira, illustrated by Marie Cardouat, and published by Libellud.
This is a fun family-friendly game that can be adapted to use with a variety of age groups, literacy levels and cultural differences.

LESSON FOR REMOTE:

  1. Whole Group or Small Group, Jamboard: Make a COPY: https://jamboard.google.com/d/1lxVFLZR_kS7jb2EBwl4nDEsPY-VuJ188DDpYhkkDN-Y/copy

I do this with the WHOLE GROUP together. I make the link so anyone can edit. In this Jamboard, I have students each pick a card and come up with a word, or words to describe the feeling or action. The trick is to think and share through symbols and metaphors.

2. Whole Group and Breakout Rooms: Make a COPY: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1hLCXgvHbYVxd1MsCZxFg9iWFqDIHIKsl6Ge_uamF-cg/copy

 

In this Slides activity, students will be put into small groups, be given a theme, serious of words or types of words or may create their own. Students will use symbols, ideas, feelings and thoughts to match themes to an abstract image. In LARGE GROUP,  small groups will present their word or phrase and others will guess what pictures they feel works with it (explaining why).

Dixit is a fantasy association game. The game contains large playing sized cards each with different images. The fantasy and story-telling images are extremely detailed and provide room for interpretation and abstract thinking.  Children and adults alike enjoy reading the cards and finding creative ways to interpret the meaning and symbols. 

At home, I play this with my family (ages 16, 17, 20 and adults). I also have an ELL student living with us who loves using this game to learn vocabulary. He uses a translater to help him express his ideas.

As an educator, I play this with my students as a guided language lesson. We dig into higher-order thinking skills, comprehension, symbolism and abstract thinking. We use the pictures to discuss elements of a story as well as point of view and perspective.  I dug through the curriculum (Ontario) for examples of higher-level language skills that can be practiced when using this tool. 

Picture Comprehension/Abstract Thinking and Skills to Practice and Learn: 

Understanding the content of the picture and being able to think abstractly about associations that may be made with that picture is a required skill for the game” 

Skills: 

  • Comprehension
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Expressive Language
  • Verbal Language
  • Interpersonal and social skills
  • Use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes. 
  • Communicating and conveying meaning through various forms
  • Transfer of knowledge and skills (e.g., concepts, strategies, processes) to new contexts
  • Real, purposeful talk
  • analyze texts and images in order to evaluate how effectively they communicate ideas, opinions, themes, or experiences
  • use appropriate words, phrases, and terminology from the full range of vocabulary, including inclusive and non-discriminatory language, and a range of stylistic devices, to communicate their meaning 
  • develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations
  • analyze a variety of text forms and explain how their particular characteristics help communicate meaning, 
  • identify various elements of style – including metaphor, and symbolism – and explain how they help communicate meaning and enhance the effectiveness 
  • regularly use vivid and/or figurative language and innovative expressions
  • develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations 
  • use vivid and/or figurative language and innovative expressions in their writing 

Resources:

https://teachinggamesefl.com/2017/08/24/how-to-use-dixit-in-the-classroom/

https://www.teachershouseshop.com/archives/1230

http://c-raine.com/2013/11/12/dixit-storytelling-cards-inspire-esl-class/

https://samblanco.com/2013/10/22/dixit/

https://samblanco.com/2013/10/22/dixit/

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6UlbxeDE0w

https://www.teachershouseshop.com/archives/1230

Picture Comprehension/Abstract Thinking – Understanding the content of the picture and being able to think abstractly about associations that may be made with that picture is a required skill for the game. For some learners, I focus on the “clues” they give by narrowing the possible choices they can use. For example, if I have a student that loves movies, all clues must relate to movie titles.

Describing Pictures/Expressive Language/Intraverbal Conversation – After all, cards have been displayed, players discuss which card they believe is the correct choice for the clue. They must be able to provide their reasons for the choice they have made.

https://samblanco.com/2013/10/22/dixit/

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6UlbxeDE0w

https://www.teachershouseshop.com/archives/1230

Brain Games, Brain Teasers and Riddles

Did you know that January is International Brain Teaser Month? I have always used brainteasers in my classroom. They can engage various learners despite ability or age and encourage students to think in different ways, divergently and become more proficient in seeing patterns in words, shapes and numbers. For many, it is also calming, mindful and a strategy to decompress. 

Brain Teasers are a form of puzzle that requires different thinking types depending on the task and sometimes a requirement to think in an unconventional way to solve a problem. 

“Brain teasers are puzzles, riddles, math problems, situations and more that require thought to solve. Often, brain teasers can be unconventional in ways and can have the simplest of answers. Other times brain teasers can stump the thinker and require lateral thinking.” https://www.goalexandria.com/31-brain-teasers-use-january-library-lessons/#:~:text=January%20is%20International%20Brain%20Teaser,that%20require%20thought%20to%20solve

Interestingly, there is a lot of conflicting research about whether partaking in brain teasers and brain-based games impact learning and intelligence. A recent study from Western University, London, ON  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30009838/ calls into question the benefit of cognitive training to improve general cognitive functioning ability to transfer the skills learned through the Brain Games to other areas of life. On the other hand, a recent study by Stephanie Jones and her team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is building a new approach to SEL that focuses on the use of Brain Games, specifically on simple strategies adapted to many settings.

In my role as a teacher and parent, I use brain games for a variety of purposes and continue to look for research and evidence that uses a wide variety of criteria when determining any connection to learning and intelligence, especially those relating to soft skills such as problem-solving, creativity, divergent thinking, collaboration, building confidence, etc.  Consider this: 

  • Enjoyment and engagement
  • Explicit opportunity for collaboration and discussion
  • Inspiration to look at problems, ideas and numbers in different ways
  • A break and way to de-stress, calm down the brain
  • A fun challenge
  • Understand different types of learning (a great way to discuss the different kinds of thinking.
  • Social-Emotional Learning

“Brain Games build three main competencies, which the team calls “brain powers”: focus, remember, and stop and think. To maximize learning during play, teachers can be intentional and explicit about the building’s SEL skills. They can talk to students about the brainpower needed to play each game and about strategies for using that power. After the game, they can talk about what happened, “building metacognition and a shared vocabulary around the skills they are learning,” Jones says. And through a set of debriefing questions, “teachers and students can think together about how to use these skills at other times of day, connecting ‘brain powers’ to work ethic in the classroom, teamwork and relationships, and successful behaviour in school and beyond.” https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/08/fun-and-brain-games 

I am not the creator of these games but have compiled them into a PPT format crediting all sources. This format allows folks to grab a slide or two and add it to the daily teaching in synchronous or asynchronous classroom environments. Reach out should the link or any of the sources not work out. This is a work in progress, and I’m sharing because we are all better when we share. 

  1. Slides of Number Based Games: Daily Brain Teasers Slides.pptx
  2. Slides of Language-Based Games and Activities: Daily WORDS and WORD PUZZLES Jan 2020 public.pptx
  3. Compilation of Game Templates for Breakout Rooms Activity https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1E-u3OrSpsPhW3DYsByYhhzBL2O-q36U_HgudsboYOGI/copy
  4. Sudoku- Great for partner activity in Breakout rooms: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1XO4Hd7vN8e1IvYoCHHhnNDzv38FR1GqVzyl4VZr0I6Q/copy 

TO SHARE: 

 

Sources: 

Stojanoski B, Lyons KM, Pearce AAA, Owen AM. Targeted training: Converging evidence against the transferable benefits of online brain training on cognitive function. Neuropsychologia. 2018 Aug;117:541-550. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.07.013. Epub 2018 Jul 25. PMID: 30009838. 

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/13/mental-exercises-to-keep-your-brain-sharp

https://kids.niehs.nih.gov/games/brainteasers/index.htm 

https://www.parentingscience.com/benefits-of-play.html

\https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/a-brief-history-of-games 

https://phys.org/news/2019-07-people-chess-smarter-evidence-isnt.html#:~:text=Some%20studies%20have%20found%20playing,the%20group%20who%20learned%20neither

Thinking about Sleep.

 “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Irish Proverb

Around 350 B.C., Aristotle wrote an essay, “On Sleep and Sleeplessness,” wondering just what we were doing and why. For the next 2,300 years, no one had a good answer. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/08/science-of-sleep/ 

What we do know is that our body needs sleep to be healthy. Sleep is as necessary to our health as good nutrition and exercise.  We know that sleep impacts our emotional health and behaviour and can influence our choices.  As an educator, the topic of sleep has often been at the forefront. When my students (or my own kids) are NOT getting enough of it, learning is hampered. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, can support learning, processing of information, decision making and problem-solving.

This is why I am often asking, “How are you? How was your sleep?”.  It is rather fun talking about dreams or sharing sleep strategies. One student shared a mindfulness technique that she uses to help her get between the first and second stage of sleep,

“I’m walking on a soft pine needle covered path in a brightly lit forest. I can sense the tingling feeling of the needless on the bottoms of my feet and through my toes.  I wiggle them. I feel the cool air on my skin. I stop and look up and see the sun beaming through the leaves and can hear the trees dancing, making that shhhhhhh…..sound  in the wind….I keep walking…

I do something similar and imagine myself running. I use run as a natural remedy for stress and anxiety, so this works well for me.

I lace up my shoes and step out in front of my house. I think of a familiar route and start slowly. I run to the end of the street and make a right. I notice the house on the corner is still for sale and the cat in the window. I cross the street and head down the zig-zag path toward the waterfront…

I usually drift off before I get to the second kilometre.

While not all used in the order you see them, these slides were a useful tool to engage students in the inquiry and discussion about sleep. Where did it lead?

    • Sleep and the impact on health
    • Sleep and our lifespan
    • How much sleep do we get in our lifetime?
    • What is Melatonin, and why do we need it?
    • What happens to us when we don’t sleep?
    • What factors contribute to a good night’s sleep?
    • Do income and demographics influence our sleep? Why?
    • How do poverty and hunger impact sleep?

Link to the SLIDE DECK: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nu4–f9GKM0LL6UrlCBLpTK7LScNtfic/copy

 

 

Alone Together.

My #2020OneWord is “Alone Together.” Ok, I know it’s two words, but I just can’t get it out of my mind and do not have one word to describe this feeling.
I feel more connected with my online community than I have in a long time. On the contrary, I feel much more isolated from my school community (who aren’t necessarily using online tools) since I’ve been working from home. So, I am Alone, “Together” with you.

In October, I was required to isolate myself after being in close contact with a colleague who “tested positive’. Two days later, one of my immediate family members was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. From that point on, I have been working in a full-time remote teaching position from home. I am entirely isolated now. The only time I leave my house is to go for a run or take Stewie (our Australian Shepherd) for a walk. Otherwise, I’m Alone, “Together” with many of you.
I’m grateful t have such a geographically diverse online community. Many of you out there inspire me to be better, think more deeply, care more passionately, and teach more vigorously. When I’m struggling, I know that I am NOT alone.
Full disclosure: I am finding the alone part not so bad. As an introvert and someone with social anxiety, I often find the day to day social aspect quite overwhelming and tiring. Of course, I still meet up with colleagues (online), but the time spent is more structured. I wonder if there are others out there who feel more productive in this scenario? What about our students?
-Zoe