Archive for the ‘Activities and Lessons’ Category
Television and movies are–for better or for worse–a dominating cultural force. They feed popular culture and the young minds imbibing it.
According to a 2012 Nielsen report, teens watch about 22 hours of television a week. And that’s not including movies, social media, YouTube, videos, and all sorts of other technologies.
Educators may find all of this media exposure distracting to their students. According to a report by Common Sense Media, “Many teachers think their students use of entertainment media has hurt their academic performance.”
So what’s an educator to do?
I recently watched the School Library Journal webcast Pop Literacy. (I highly recommend it.) It’s a great overview of how (and why) to incorporate pop culture into your curriculum, including a fascinating discussion of the word “appropriate” in terms of pop culture in the classroom.
One thing, in particular, struck me as worthwhile, fun, and exciting for students, as well as for teachers.
If young people are watching an average of three hours or more of television a day, it probably would benefit them to know WHAT they are watching and HOW it got there. Television shows and movies require a lot of elements along to way to becoming a finished product. One of the first? A screenplay.
A screenplay, or a script, is created by one person or a team of writers. Dialogue, interaction, action, and reaction, setting, set design, costume, and prop descriptions are woven together to create a world not just to be imagined, as in a book, but also to be brought into form.
How can this project be beneficial to students?
Most students watch and enjoy television. They are drawn in by the story, intrigued by the characters, immersed in the narrative, invested in its conclusion. Some students do not enjoy classroom creative writing–the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. Screenwriting is a way to engage students as part of the collaborative and creative process in writing a screenplay.
Reading. You can start by reading, analyzing, and discussing a screenplay. There’s a huge selection at imsdb.com, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, La La Land, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can search by genre, or for a specific script. For younger students, try the read-aloud plays in SIRS Discoverer.
Discussion. Introduce students to the codes and conventions of screenwriting and review the significance of the three-act structure. Explore how to create a unique voice for each character and consider why a convincing setting is an important element of the screenplay.
Writing. Your students now have a basic idea of the screenwriting process and screenplay elements. Now, divide the students into teams, give them parameters, and set them to work imagining, discussing, and writing! Try this Writing a Screenplay lesson plan for guidance and inspiration.
Ready to move one step further and create student films from the finished screenplays? This filmmaking unit for 6th through 8th grade students gives an overview of the process.
Interested in learning more about screenwriting in the classroom? Check out the links below.
Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.
Subscribe via email to Share This and never miss a post.
Featured blogger Dawn Treude, a Library Assistant in Youth Services, provides tips for Star Wars programs at your public or school library.
There has never been a better time to be a Star Wars fan. Libraries are well suited to provide force-filled programming that may be scaled up or down depending on age groups, space, and budget parameters. With the upcoming May the 4th Be With You Day soon upon us, I wanted to share some successes we’ve had at the Scottsdale Public Library celebrating Star Wars.
While I think it’s always a good time for a Star Wars program, the two main opportunities are May the 4th Be With You Day in May and Star Wars Reads, which is now the entire month of October. The beauty of participating in these events is they are heavily promoted by Lucasfilm, Disney, StarWars.com and various publishing partners, like D.K. Books, across multiple social media platforms. In addition, printable resources and some promotional items are available for free to schools and libraries. (More on that below.)
Once you’ve decided to do a Star Wars program, you need to settle on an age group. We’ve tailored ours to the 5-11-year-old set to great success. I’ve used teen volunteers for bigger programs and run a single Star Wars Family Storytime by myself, taking advantage of the parent helpers in the room. These programs are a big draw when featured prominently in your library’s calendar of events. They’re also a great opportunity to highlight the Star Wars materials in your collection.
With kids, no program is complete without some Origami Yoda activities to challenge them! I’ve become an expert at making Yoda and Darth Paper. The kids love making them, especially when they get to choose the colored foil paper for the light saber. Since we do so much Star Wars programming, I took the time to make a permanent origami display.
For bigger programs, I choose to have stations and let the families move at their own pace between them. Our branch has a patio near the Youth area, so I spread out to avoid congestion. I take advantage of the free printables from StarWars.com and use the crosswords, word searches, and puzzles for what I like to call the Jedi Mind Tricks area.
For games and activities, Pinterest has provided some of the best ideas, under the guise of birthday party planning. I created an X-Ring Toss game using a library book cart and made lightsabers using pool noodles. But my best creation was the Death Star Trash Dive. I stuffed a library book bin with extra summer reading prizes, some of my Star Wars swag and our famous sea serpent from storytime. The kids loved digging through it to find a treasure or two.
We’ve made a Jedi Trials obstacle course with collapsible tunnels, yarn mazes and of course lightsaber precision training where padawans balance a balloon on their lightsaber. (Note: the lightsabers require supervision, especially if siblings are using them!)
In addition to having games and movement-centered activities in our Star Wars programming, we’ve also incorporated art. Two of the biggest hits are simple and low-cost. The first involves some planning, as you save withdrawn Star Wars items for a few months. These damaged or falling apart materials then become repurposed for scene creation. We supply blank paper, crayons, markers, glue sticks and scissors and the kids supply the imagination. They cut characters and starships out of the books and create their own story on the page. I personally can’t watch the book cutting, but the kids really get into it.
More recently, I took a risk with finger paint during a Star Wars themed Family Storytime and we made handprint Wookiees, an idea I saw on Pinterest. As you can see, the results were amazing.
I encourage costume wearing for all our Star Wars events and often wear my own Jedi gear. In our local area, there are Star Wars costume groups that have volunteers who are available to attend events in costume at no cost. Demand is high, so plan accordingly!
My Favorite Resources
ART2D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling by Tom Angleberger
The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton
‘Star Wars Reads’ Returns This October: This is a post from starwars.com that has nice downloadable options
Star Wars Reads Color the Page: This is a printable activity book from Lucasfilm Ltd
Pinterest: A search with the keywords Star Wars, storytime, birthday party, and activities returns helpful resources
Google: A search for Star Wars Storytime will yield useful information
The new movies have given a new generation the opportunity to become Star Wars fans. Big or small, I can guarantee that offering programming in the galaxy from far, far away, will bring your patrons in.
May the Force be with you!
Dawn Treude is a Library Assistant in Youth Services at the Scottsdale Public Library in Scottsdale, Arizona. A regular attendee at San Diego ComicCon, she enjoys sharing her passion for Star Wars with children and families.
If you look at any image gallery of the flags of the world (such as the one provided by CultureGrams), you’ll notice that while there are a wide variety of colors and symbols on the flags, there are also some obvious similarities, especially among flags from the same region. These similarities in flag design often reflect a common cultural, political, or religious heritage among the countries with those flags.
Help Students Understand 6 Common Patterns and Themes in World Flags
Use the CultureGrams Flag Gallery to get students started exploring similarities among the flags of the world. Can your students spot any patterns or themes in world flags? What do they think the reasons are for those similarities? (Tip: If students need help understanding the meaning behind the colors and symbols of world flags, check out the helpful explanation on each CultureGrams World and Kids country landing page.)
While there are many patterns to be found in world flags, here’s a quick overview of six common themes:
- The Union Jack. The Union Jack is the name of the flag of the United Kingdom, and variations of the Union Jack appear on the flags of some countries and territories that were formerly (or are currently) associated with the United Kingdom. These include Australia, Fiji, Montserrat, New Zealand, Tuvalu, and Niue.
- A star and the color red. Many current communist countries include a star/s and the color red on their flags. The star/s typically represent ideas associated with communism or socialism, and the color red stands for revolution. Countries whose flags incorporate this symbolism include China, North Korea, and Vietnam.
- The star and crescent. The star and crescent became common during the Ottoman Empire and are now considered traditional symbols of Islam. Flags that use these symbols include those of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives (crescent only), Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
- The Pan-Arab colors. The Pan-Arab colors are green, red, black, and white. These colors first came from the 1916 flag of the Arab Revolt. A subset of the Pan-Arab colors are the Arab Liberation colors (red, white, and black, with green less prominent), which came into use in the 1950s. Flags with Pan-Arab colors are those of Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan.
- The Pan-African colors. There are two sets of Pan-African colors: (1) red, green, and gold, based on the Ethiopian flag, and (2) red, black, and green, based on the 1920 Pan-African flag. Countries may incorporate one or both sets of Pan-African colors into their flags. Not all countries that use the Pan-African colors in their flags are in Africa; some are countries elsewhere with strong African heritage. Flags with Pan-African colors include those of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Guyana.
- The Pan-Slavic colors. The Pan-Slavic colors are red, white, and blue. The colors were decided on at the 1848 Prague Slavic Congress and were based on the colors of the Russian flag. Countries whose flags use the Pan-Slavic colors are Croatia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
What themes and patterns did your students find in the flags? Did they notice the six mentioned above? Did they find others? Let us know on Twitter how your students did by tweeting us at @CultureGrams!
Subscribe via email to Share This and never miss a post.
Spring is in the air! It is a great time for students to get outside and enjoy nature. One way students can connect with the great outdoors is to visit a state park. State parks are frequently used by educators and students as outdoor classrooms. They offer students unique environmental and historical learning opportunities. If you’re looking to create a memorable experience for your students, consider planning a field trip to one of these stunning state parks.
1. Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island State Park is located north of Salt Lake City, Utah and is accessible via the Davis County Causeway. The park provides excellent views of the Great Salt Lake and is home to many kinds of animals, including bison, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep, bobcats, coyotes, and a wide variety of birds. One of the highlights of my trip to Antelope Island State Park was getting the chance to see bison and beautiful horses at the Fielding Garr Ranch. A visit to the park is not complete without stopping at the historic ranch. The ranch house built by Fielding Garr is the “oldest original-foundation Anglo building” in the state of Utah.
Antelope Island State Park provides numerous field trip opportunities. Students can take a guided hike to Buffalo Point, participate in a scavenger hunt during the visitor center tour, and wade into the Great Salt Lake to look for brine shrimp and brine flies. If you’re thinking about planning a field trip to Antelope Island State Park, check out some of these lesson plans offered by the park to get you started:
- A Pre/Post Trip Quiz
- Bird Classification/Adaptation Lesson
- Brine Shrimp/Brine Fly Activity
- Plant Adaptation Activity
- How Salty Is It?
2. Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Utah. The park is located near the town of Moab, which also serves as the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The park’s main attraction is the Dead Horse Point Overlook Trail. The overlook offers breathtaking views of the Colorado River and adjoining canyon country 2,000 feet below.
Dead Horse Point State Park offers students the chance to learn about geology, local flora and fauna, prehistoric cultures, and the park environment.
3. Emerald Bay State Park
For anyone interested in experiencing the beauty of Lake Tahoe, California’s Emerald Bay State Park is a must-see. It is located 12 miles north of South Lake Tahoe. The park offers sightseeing, hiking, boating, swimming, scuba diving, and kayaking. The scenic overlook on Highway 89 provides visitors with a magnificent panorama of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Fannette Island. In 1969, the U.S. Department of Interior designated Emerald Bay as a National Natural Landmark.
If you’re considering taking your students on a field trip to Emerald Bay State Park, I highly recommend taking a tour of Vikingsholm. The historic mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered “one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture” in the country. Guided tours are available for a nominal fee from Memorial Day through September.
4. Franconia Notch State Park
Franconia Notch State Park is located within the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. It offers students the opportunity to see some amazing geological wonders. The park was home to New Hampshire’s beloved Old Man of the Mountain landmark until it collapsed on May 3, 2003.
Popular activities at the park include riding the aerial tramway at Cannon Mountain, walking through the spectacular Flume Gorge, and visiting the New England Ski Museum. Other activities include boating, fly fishing, swimming, bike riding, hiking, and camping. If you live in New England, I encourage you to take your students on a field trip to visit this magnificent state park.
5. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is considered the “crown jewel” of the California State Park system. The entrance is located on California Highway 1 just south of Carmel. Point Lobos is known for its breathtaking ocean vistas, scenic trails, and its abundant wildlife. On my trips to Point Lobos, I’ve been lucky enough to see deer, sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters.
Point Lobos gives students a chance to appreciate the natural treasures of California’s Central Coast, making it an ideal destination for an educational field trip. Students can observe marine mammals in their natural habitat, study the area’s diverse flora and fauna, and visit the Whalers Cabin and the Whaling Station Museum to learn about the cultural history of Point Lobos. I’ve visited Point Lobos many times, and in my opinion, it is the most beautiful place on Earth.
Now you know some of my favorite state parks, tell me about the state parks you love to visit. Are you planning an upcoming field trip to a state park? What state parks do you recommend?
Comment below or tweet us using #ProQuest.
The gathering of information begins with a need or desire for an answer to a question. Perhaps that question is posed by a teacher or by the student herself. The next course of action in schools these days is usually to consult a website, or perhaps a book. Information literacy skills support students in navigating this process of finding answers.
But once students are equipped with these vital research skills and find answers to questions, what is the next step toward understanding and integrating the information they find?
Another way to ask that question might be this: How can we turn information gathering into wisdom?
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”—Socrates
Socrates prized questioning over information gathering. He valued the qualities of critical thinking and engagement with a topic. He believed in creating a learning atmosphere of cooperation, dialogue, listening, and further questioning—cornerstones of the Socratic method, and foundations of the Socratic seminar.
Socrates believed that collecting and memorizing information provided little opportunity for true learning. And as learning was best nurtured in a social atmosphere, the lone activity of research provided little support for critical thinking and comprehension.
Navigating and bridging the educational essentials of research and the art of critical thinking may be a challenging journey.
The Socratic seminar is one way to help connect these two elements of a successful classroom.
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”—Socrates
The Socratic seminar provides students with a forum to ask questions and exchange ideas with their peers on a specific topic, event, or piece of literature. Students come prepared to engage in discussion with fellow students, having read assigned materials, conducted appropriate research, made personal connections, and formulated questions to bring to the seminar.
The teacher becomes the seminar’s facilitator, keeping the students on topic and asking open-ended questions when necessary. The goal is to allow students to practice the art of true dialogue. Emphasis is placed on the value of listening and respecting everyone’s questions and opinions. Socratic seminars are not debates; rather, they are cooperative conversations geared toward critical thinking and discovery.
Interested in learning more about this teaching and learning tool? Check out this Socratic Seminar Strategy Guide and this Seminar Discussion Rubric, and select from these Socratic seminar lesson plans on literary texts, immigration, and human gene editing.
“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”—Socrates
Depending on which part of the U.S. you live in, your students will celebrate their 100th day of school pretty soon (it usually occurs in January or February each year). Many schools across the country celebrate the 100th day of school. It’s not only a milestone but also a great opportunity for teachers to practice math with their students. This is especially important in preschool and kindergarten, where students are learning their numbers. But it also provides good activities for all elementary-level students.
For example, you may ask your students to bring in “100” of something. It could be a collection of paperclips, or macaroni noodles, or buttons. The possibilities are endless! When my son was in preschool, he brought in a collection of 100 animal fact cards that we collected from National Geographic Little Kids magazines. We laid out all the cards on the floor and I helped him count all the way to 100. We also practiced counting by 10s. This activity is a good way to introduce more numbers.
See these fun activities that you can use in your classroom:
In SIRS Discoverer, we love to find resources that teachers can use in their classrooms. See our activities page and math resources for more ideas. Also, see this cute story from Highlights for Children entitled 100 Things about a girl who is trying to find 100 things to bring in for the 100th day of school celebration.
Are you celebrating the 100th day of school? We want to know about it. Tweet us at #ProQuest or comment below!
Song parodies are quite popular these days. A search of “song parodies” on the Web returns more than 30,000 videos—and some of these song-parody creators have quite the following. Shows like Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon Tonight, or the Academy Awards boldly use song parodies to get laughs and make statements. Weird Al Yankovich, who caused quite a musical stir in the 1980s with his song parodies and satirical music videos, is still the biggest name in the genre.
And then…there are the educational song parodies [insert students laughing and/or groaning—it’s usually a mixture of both].
I’ve been in classrooms and have watched students watching educational song parodies.
Coming from 1980s classroom culture, which embraced video watching as a fun and wasteful day, I was a bit skeptical.
But the classroom came alive, and I witnessed learning happening.
Each of the educational song-parody videos I saw in the classroom—or heard about from my daughter and watched with her later—was created by an educator somewhere in the world singing or rapping (sometimes pretty badly) about a topic. (And let me just say that any teacher willing to put time and effort into creating an educational song parody and accompanying video gets an “A” in my book.)
So…we are in the classroom, the lights are dimmed, the screen goes down, the music and video come on and…education begins. The students snicker, groan, laugh, and sing along. The song parody ends, discussion concludes the lesson. Class is over, and students leave the classroom singing the song.
As I said, learning happened. And it was fun.
If you check some out, I think you will understand why. My daughter’s favorite is “Ancient Mesopotamia Song By Mr. Nicky.” Mr. Nicky has recorded other World History song parodies, but this one is particularly enjoyable (and quite catchy). Another favorite of hers is “Five Themes of Geography,” by James B White. He calls it “hip-hop-tabulous.”
Math facts have made their way into educational song parodies, as in the song-parody compilation “Multiplication Mash Up – A Fun Way to Learn Your Multiplication Facts!” by McCarthy Math Academy . And be sure to check out this charming performance of “Perfect Squares (Dark Horse Parody, Katy Perry) Songs For School” by Songs for School.
Want some more? Web sites catering to teachers, such as TeachHub and Mental Floss, have compiled lists of the best educational song parodies: Top 12 Educational Music Videos and 19 Videos That Make Learning Fun, respectively. TeacherTube provides a search engine to find more educator-approved educational song parodies.
And if you’re thinking of getting in to the song-parody business, you’ll need to know how to write one. How to Write a Song Parody, complete with graphics, should cover it.
Song parodies are so popular that teachers are incorporating them into their class curriculum. Curious about how that would work? Check out this Student Parody Assignment. Wondering how a song-parody project fits into educational standards? To give you an idea, I found this handy Civil War Song Parodies assignment page from the Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System site.
I’m going to end with a personal note–My daughter has written and performed two song parodies so far in her World History class. She was so proud of the finished work and loved the entire process. She and her partner called their second song parody “This Is Greece,” sung to the tune of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. If you know the song and can carry a tune, try it out–I’ve included the first verse and chorus below:
The Greek world is on a peninsula
In the meditteranean sea
You dream about myths
About every single god
Just look at those city-states
With history, art, and drama
Such architecture around you
What more could you be wishin’ for
This is Greece
This is Greece
Oh my, it’s better
Down here we’re voting
Take it from me!
Up in Sparta they fight all day
Out in the mountains they train away
While we’re learning
This is Greece!
Fake news is a problem. Information illiteracy is an even bigger problem. A Stanford University study released last November found that most students could not identify fake news because they lacked basic information literacy skills. The good news? We are finally having a national conversation on the importance of teaching information literacy, which teachers and librarians have been talking about for years.
Unfortunately, a recent ProQuest survey found that only 25% of librarians thought their library adequately supported information literacy instruction. Thankfully, there are information literacy resources available on the web. Damon Brown’s TED-ED video “How to Choose Your News” offers a quick, student-friendly introduction to information and media literacy. ProQuest’s editable guided research worksheet “How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps” helps students become skeptical news consumers.
Want more resources? See eLibrary’s new comprehensive Research Topic on Fake News.
Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out. Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out. Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out.
How many times a day are you aware of your breathing?
Our breath connects our bodies with our minds.
Try the above exercise for a minute and feel the truth of that statement.
Breathing is a physical action that occurs instinctively…over and over and over and over and over again. Our breath connects us to life. Without it, we do not bring oxygen into our lungs, our blood cells do not absorb it and transport this essential element to our organs and other cells, our bodies no longer sustain themselves and their animation.
Our breath connects us to each other.
Imagine the infinity sign: You breathe out, I breathe in. I breathe out, you breathe in.
Breathing is integral to many religious and spiritual practices. Beautiful philosophies about the spiritual impact of breathing abound. Some spiritual leaders, including Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, believe that taking control of one’s breath will lead to healing and enlightenment. Proper breathing is part of a practice called “mindfulness” in the Buddhist tradition.
Mindful breathing is an integral part of mindfulness practice.
Imagine a classroom in which the teacher and all of the students are breathing together, aware of their breath. They are in control of their bodies and minds in a way that others, who not aware of their breathing, are not. Because they are in control of their bodies and minds, these students are calm, open, balanced, ready to engage, prepared to learn.
There have been many studies conducted to prove the beneficial impact of controlled breathing on students and in the classroom. Check out this one from the University of Ontario, which concluded that the classroom practice of mindful breathing improves academic success. Other studies show the same, and also document other favorable effects, such as reduced stress, improved social behavior, and even increased feelings of happiness.
So learning to breathe, or more accurately, learning to breathe properly, is a life skill that is taught with enormously successful results in classrooms. Deep belly breathing, paying attention to one’s breath, following the breath in and out, practicing movement (such as yoga) while breathing, incorporating guided meditations while breathing, using sound to punctuate the breath—these are all ways educators incorporate mindful breathing into their classrooms.
Try the super-simple breathing technique at the top of this post again. Breathe in–I know I am breathing in. Breathe out–I know I am breathing out. Breathe low into your lungs, exercising your diaphragm and expanding your belly. Can you feel the power in your breath? When I am anxious, stressed, feeling out of control, or generally not OK, I feel my breath turn shallow and somewhat erratic. Mindful breathing brings me back to myself, back to my center physically and emotionally.
I am not an educator, nor a yoga or breath-work practitioner. But I found a few very useful resources that can help any teacher—or anyone, really—get started with proper breathing techniques.
This five-minute guided breathing meditation from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center encourages listeners to sit, listen to and feel their bodies, and breathe. Five minutes can do a world of wonder for anxiety and other stress-related issues.
The Mindful Classroom is an educator’s blog about mindfulness in the classroom. This post on deep breathing discusses why this practice is so important to classroom efficacy. It provides a script for teachers to guide students in breathing and offers tips and techniques in leading healthy breathing exercises.
Teacher Meena Srinivasan’s book Teach, Breathe, Learn offers guidance to teachers on ways to bring mindfulness into the classroom. Breathing is one of the tools she utilizes to create a calm and compassionate classroom.
Let’s all learn to breathe. Not just for our students, but for ourselves.
You are currently browsing the archives for the Activities and Lessons category.