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Posts Tagged ‘classroom’

Classroom Socratic Seminars: Teaching the Art of Dialogue

Statue of Socrates in Trinity College Library

Statue of Socrates in Trinity College Library (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International/(c) Bar Harel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Information literacy skills are integral to today’s rising students for many reasons, including tendencies toward information overload and the trend of fake news.

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

Bring on the (Educational and Fun) Song Parodies!

Musical Notes

Musical Notes (License: Public Domain, PublicDomainPictures.Net)

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
Full-tme democracy
This is Greece!

Happy song-parodying!

 

Mindful Breathing in the Classroom

Woman Breathing and Meditating (by Joellepearson) gerokee
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

STEAM Resources for the Classroom and Library

fractal-139213_1280

Fractal Art by werner22brigitte [Public Domain] via Pixabay

STEM + Art = STEAM

STEAM is a movement that integrates an A for the arts into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.  STEAM education was created in 2006 by former teacher Georgette Yakman.

The Creative Component

Advocates of STEAM contend that there should not be a dichotomy between science and art. Instead, art should be seen as a driver of creativity that can foster innovation and spark engagement and learning in science education.

“Engineers, inventors, and designers produce drawings as part of their creative process. They draw to work out and refine concepts and details. They draw to persuade. They draw to give direction. And they draw to record their ideas and to learn from others.”–Doodles, Drafts, and Designs, Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian

Pathway to Economic Growth

John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, sees STEAM as a pathway to fostering U.S. economic growth. Maeda, writing in Edutopia, has said that “[d]esign creates the innovative products and solutions that will propel our economy forward, and artists ask the deep questions about humanity that reveal which way forward actually is.” He cites Apple as well-known example of a company in which design is crucial to the success of technology.

Tried and True

The idea of integrating the arts and sciences in education is nothing new. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, was not only a famous Renaissance artist, but was also a scientist, engineer and inventor. In fact, he used his skills as an artist to draw his mechanical ideas.

“If someone had told Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, or Galileo that the study of science in the 21st century would be separated from the creativity of the arts or the social, cultural, and historical insights into human behavior offered by the humanities, they would have wondered what scientists had done to make the world disrespect them so much.  It’s an odd idea to separate out different kinds of knowledge that inspire and enrich one another in the real world and the virtual too.” – Duke Professor Cathy Davidson

Links for Teachers and Librarians

Over the past several years, more and more schools have begun integrating the arts into their STEM curricula. Below are six links you can use to incorporate STEAM into your classroom or library:

Websites for Students

Are your students working on a STEAM project and need a little inspiration? Below are five editorially-selected websites from ProQuest’s SIRS Issues Researcher.

If you’ve implemented a STEAM curriculum in your classroom or library, let us know what you’re doing in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.