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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching Activities’

CultureGrams Teaching Activity: The World Game

Looking for new ways to incorporate CultureGrams into the classroom? Look no further than CultureGrams’ collection of over 75 teaching activities! This collection of educationally engaging activities is organized by grade level and activity type. Each activity includes an objective, curriculum standard correlations, a list of materials needed, the amount of time required to do the activity, instructions, and extension activities. These activities help promote critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving.

If you don’t have access to CultureGrams, enjoy this free teaching activity today and sign up for a free trial of the product to access more.

The World Game

Grade level: K–5

Objective:
Students will develop basic map skills and learn about the worldwide appeal of soccer.

 


Time requirement:
Preparation: 40 minutes
In-class: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Materials:
CultureGrams Kids Edition
CultureGrams Online World Edition regional maps:
North America
South America
Europe
Africa
Asia
Oceania

Instructions
1. Divide the class into four groups, and assign each group one of four regions:

  • North and South America
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia and Oceania

2. For each region, print out a list of the countries in the Kids Edition. Have each group locate
these countries on the regional maps (listed above).

3. Have students access the “Games and Sports” page for each country on their list. Have them determine in which countries soccer is popular and highlight these countries on their regional maps. What number or percentage of the countries on their lists play soccer?

4. As a class, discuss their findings. Explore some reasons why soccer is such a popular sport around the globe (inexpensive to play, introduced by colonial powers, etc.).

5. During an international soccer competition (e.g., World Cup, UEFA European Championship, Africa’s Cup of Nations) assign each student a country to follow during the competition. Use the success of particular teams to launch a discussion about those countries. Internet sites that may be useful include:

International Football Federation (FIFA)
Union of European Football Associations
U.S. Soccer Federation

Image from CultureGrams Mozambique Slide Show “Homemade Soccer Ball.” Photo by Salym Fayad

 

CultureGrams: The Importance of Maps

World Map via CultureGrams

Have you ever thought about why maps are so important? Maps can help orient us. They can tell us where we are and where we want to go. Maps can help us find things. They offer a visual way to comprehend the world we live in and even worlds beyond ours. They provide perspective from high up or at a micro level.  They can be valuable in providing context, making comparisons, identifying connections or patterns, and even in predicting what lies ahead. Whether in the classroom or outside it, maps are valuable tools for teaching and learning. No wonder that developing map skills is a part of Common Core and other national and state curriculum standards.

Gabon Detail Map via CultureGrams

 

In CultureGrams you’ll find a wide variety of maps to help users learn. There are simple maps, physical maps, political maps, regional maps, detail maps, and county maps. And there are outline maps that are not only useful in their own right, but that students can use to create their own maps to reflect what they find interesting about a particular region, country, state,or province.

Denmark Outline Map via CultureGrams

To add further value to the wide variety of CultureGrams maps, our editorial staff has created a number of map-related learning activities that teachers can use for in-class projects or homework assignments. Students can use maps to understand the worldwide popularity of soccer in The World Game, as part of a “Geography Bee.” Or they can learn more about the impact of colonialism in Africa and elsewhere through such activities as “Colonization of Africa” or “Cricket and Colonization.”

Developing Visual Literacy

Dadès Gorges, Morocco. April 2017. Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

When I was in Morocco this spring, I took pictures of all the usual things, like stunning geometric architecture, carefully piled spices for sale, and lines of camels walking among majestic Sahara dunes. But this image, of no great photographic value, turned out to be one of my favorites because it suggests a story.

If you “read,” or understood,  a story from this photo the first time you glanced at it, that’s probably because you’re visually literate. At some point, you developed the skill of analyzing visual clues related to subject, framing, angle, light, focus, composition, and context in order to understand an image’s purpose and perhaps even something about the place or people it represents. You have probably been using this skill long enough that you do it without thinking, but that won’t be true for someone less experienced. And according to Common Core and McRel national standards, having such strategies on hand to interpret the content and style of visual media is a must for today’s students.

So how might you guide students to help them move from a passive viewing of this photo to a well-supported reading of it? One way might be to lead them through this exercise, available from the National Archives. Let’s work through the exercise’s steps together, using the photo featured here.

  • A quick scan of the photo reveals that it’s a candid documentary type image. The caption offers the location, date, and photographer’s name.
  • An observation of the photo’s parts reveals a man dressed in traditional clothing squatting to take an action shot of a man in athletic clothing climbing a rock face. On or near the rock face itself is graffiti and some kind of cable or line.
  • In trying to make sense of the photo, students may look at the caption to see who took the photo, where it was from, and when. With a little bit of research, they would learn that I am not a native of Morocco, that the Dadès Gorges is a dramatic mountainous landscape popular among rock climbers, and that spring is a common time for climbing enthusiasts and tourists alike to visit the area.
  • Based on all of this information, students can make some inferences as to why the photo was taken and what story or stories this photo is telling. To help them make this final leap, you might ask questions like the following:
    • Where would you guess each person in this photo is from? What might their clothing tell you about them?
    • What might their relationship be?
    • Why might the man in blue be taking a photo of the man in orange?
    • Why might the photographer have chosen to frame this image to include both the climber and the man photographing him? What is the effect of giving each figure equal focus and space in the image?
    • What might this photo tell you about tourism and environmental protections in Morocco? What sources could you find that would deepen this knowledge?

Students should now be able to write a paragraph about this photo. And the story they suss out will likely be something similar—at least in broad strokes—to the one I experienced and intended in taking the photo, which might be fun to share at the end of the exercise. And if the paragraph a student wrote is not close, that’s fine too, as long as the student can muster visual and contextual evidence to support their interpretation.

Here’s my story:

The man in blue was a local Moroccan guide who had been hired to lead my small tour group through the Dadès Gorges. The area is quite dependent on tourists, both those that come to climb there and those passing through on their way to the sand dunes of Merzouga. One of the men in our group was an Austrian mountaineer. At one point, after we had passed several foreign climbers, the mountaineer started to scale one of the walls we were walking by. This delighted our tour guide, who grabbed the mountaineer’s camera and excitedly started taking several shots, despite the Austrian’s protests that the climbing he was doing was utterly basic and not worth photographing.

My purpose in taking the photo was to document this unusual moment of a Moroccan photographing a tourist, since it’s nearly always the other way around, and to explore the idea of what people choose to photograph when they are confronted with foreign people or places. All day, we tourists had been taking photos of things that were utterly ordinary to the locals, including food, clothing, and transportation methods that seemed unique compared to our home countries. And now our guide was doing the same—with the difference that his photos were not on his own camera. Delighted though he was by what to him was a rather novel sight, he was still an employee catering to the satisfaction of one of his employers, a mountaineer accustomed to the Swiss Alps, who he assumed would want a photo of himself a couple feet off the ground. So the photo is also meant to turn on its head the usual power relationship between the subject and creator of travel images. 

For more visual literacy resources, see the CultureGrams Teaching Activities and extensive Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams Kids Edition Scavenger Hunt

In order to be successful in using a research database, students need to learn how that database works, of course–what content it offers, how the database can best be navigated, and what tools and features are available to help them in their research. And with all the databases and other online resources out there, it is a real challenge to find the time to train younger users on how to use the wide array of resources that are available to them.

But all is not lost! We’ve come up with a new scavenger hunt to help students become familiar with the CultureGrams Kids Edition. This is in addition to the scavenger hunt that we already developed for CultureGrams more broadly. By working through these twenty questions, either in groups or individually, students will learn about the country reports in the database and what categories of information are available, what supplemental features there are, how the data tables work, what multimedia resources they can access, how to cite CultureGrams as a source, and much more. And when students have completed the scavenger hunt, they will be much better prepared to do their own research in CultureGrams to prepare a presentation, create a poster, or write an essay because they will know what information the product has to offer them to do their work.

Kids Edition Scavenger Hunt

*Each of the questions is followed by parenthetical information that suggests where the answers can be found.

1. What tree is a national symbol of Haiti? (Haiti country landing page)
2. What is a smorgasbord in Sweden? (Sweden Food category)
3. What are the 5 largest and 5 smallest countries in the world? (Extremes Data Tables or Build-Your-Own)
4. The Netherlands has twice as many __________ as cars. (Netherlands landing page/Did You Knows)
5. How do you say (Can You Say It)
a. “Let’s have a barbecue” in Aussie English? (Australia Can You Say It)
b. “Hello” in Hindi in India? (India Can You Say It)
c. “No” in German? (Germany Can You Say It)
d. “Please” in Somali (Somalia Can You Say It)
6. What are some of the chores that kids in Madagascar do each day? (Madagascar Like as a Kid category)
7. Find a recipe from three countries on three different continents. (Recipes)
8. Find two interviews of children from two separate countries. List two things you have in common with the children and two things that are different. (Interviews)
9. What is the average life expectancy of a Brazilian compared to the average life expectancy of someone in the world as a whole? (Brazil landing page/Infographic)
10. What percentage of New Zealand’s population is Hindu? (New Zealand Religion category/pie chart)
11. What happened in 1219 in Afghanistan? (Afghanistan History category/Time Line)
12. Name one famous person from Mexico and tell what made them famous. (Mexico Famous People)
13. According to the Money and Economy category for Chile, Chile is the world’s largest producer of what? (Chili Money and Economy category)
14. Which country has the highest percentage of women in parliament? Spain, Thailand, or the United States? (Country Data Tables)
15. How far is it from the capital of Ukraine to the capital of Nicaragua? (Distance Calculator)
16. Find the photo “Cowboy” in the Myanmar photo gallery. What is the cowboy in the photo herding? (Myanmar Photo Gallery)
17. What type of vehicle is used to retrieve children from school in the video “School Pickup” from Vietnam. (Vietnam Video)
18. Create an MLA citation for the flag of Togo. (Flag Gallery or Togo landing page)
19. Of all the countries in the world, which one would you most like to visit? Explain why.
20. If you could live in any country in the world other than the country where you currently live, what would you choose and why?

To find the correct answers, check in the comments area. And be sure to let us know how the scavenger hunt works for your classes.

Teaching Activity: Tracing the Effects of Slavery

Frear’s Silk Dept (circa 1882), via Wikimedia Commons

This activity comes from the CultureGrams Teaching Activities PDF, which features more than 70 activities to help teachers make the most of our country, state, and province reports.

Grade level: 9–12

Objective: Students will understand the geographical scope of the slave trade. They will be able to trace some of the lingering socioeconomic and cultural effects of slavery across the world. See the Teaching Activites PDF for Common Core and other national curriculum standards met by this activity.

Time requirement

Preparation: 30 minutes

Monument of the Four Moors, Livorno, Italy, via Wikimedia Commons

In-class: 50 minutes, less if students read selections at home

Materials

CultureGrams World Edition

Helpful maps from UNESCO

Understanding Slavery Initiative (timelines, maps, paintings, and images of artifacts)

Instructions

  1. Explain to the students how, besides being a general atrocity and a personal tragedy for the millions of Africans who were sold as slaves, the African slave trade has had a major effect on the history of the world. Slavery has influenced the historical development and current cultural and socioeconomic conditions of many nations: African nations from which individuals were captured and nations in the Americas to which Africans were brought as
  2. Divide the class in half to form two groups. Have each group read from these selections in class or at home:
Group One Group Two
United States (History) Angola (History)
Antigua and Barbuda (History, Arts, Holidays) Botswana (Religion)
Barbados (History, Language, Arts) Malawi (History)
Haiti (History, Population) Mozambique (History)
St. Lucia (History, Population, Holidays) Senegal (History)
St. Kitts and Nevis (History, Flag description) Sierra Leone (History, Population, Religion)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (History, Holidays)
  1. Ask the students in Group Two to discuss the circumstances surrounding the African side of the slave trade, in addition to any long-lasting effects it has had on populations or
  2. Ask the students in Group One to discuss the history and cultural impact of slavery in those countries. What did it take to end slavery? What types of economies were created as a result of the slave trade? How did it influence the arts and languages of the Americas?
  3. Have each group prepare a short presentation to share their findings with the other group.
  4. As a class, analyze the Country and Development Data for all of the countries. Which statistics might slavery have influenced and how?

Carving of slave caravan, alternate, Lake Malawi Museum ,by Tim Cowley via Wikimedia Commons

Extension activity

For background information, read the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) report on modern-day slavery (summary of facts below).

  • Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
  • Almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.
  • Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
  • Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year.
  • Domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment are among the sectors most concerned.
  • Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.

Explain to the class that slavery still exists and briefly discuss the various forms it takes (i.e. child and bonded laborers, sex slaves, domestic servants, agricultural workers, etc.). For homework, instruct students to look up a current event dealing with a form of modern-day slavery, then do a write-up that summarizes the event and analyzes the laws and circumstances that result in continued slavery; they might also compare the effects of modern-day slavery with those of the African slave trade.

In this article, students can put a face to modern descendants of the African slave trade and hear their perspectives.

Promoting Media Literacy: Educators’ Resources

“Never have we had so much information at our fingertips. Whether this bounty will
make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded
will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it.”
–From Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning
(published November 22, 2016, by the Stanford History Education Group)

Fake news and media literacy have been hot topics lately. The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016 was post-truth–an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

How can librarians and educators teach digital and media literacy skills when many have not had formal training or education on these skills themselves?

The Center for Media Literacy in Santa Monica, California, was a pioneer in media literacy education. In 2005, this list of the five core concepts of media literacy was created, along with key questions for each one.

MEDIA LITERACY: CORE CONCEPTS & KEY QUESTIONS

  1. All media messages are constructed. [Who created this message?]
  1. Media messages are constructed using creative language with its own rules. [What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?]
  1. Different people experience the same media message differently. [How might different people understand this message differently from me?]
  1. Media have embedded values and points of view. [What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?]
  1. Most media messages are constructed to gain profit and/or power. [Why is this message being sent?]

This post offers some resources for promoting and teaching media literacy in the digital age. They were largely compiled from two webinars: Teaching Digital Literacy (edWeb) and Information Literacy in the Age of Fake News (School Library Journal).

Triangulation: Verification/Fact-Checking/Hoaxes

Triangulation is defined by Joyce Valenza as trying to “verify or corroborate the information in multiple sources, including traditional media and library databases.”

FactCheck.org: A nonpartisan, nonprofit from the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that monitors “the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.”

Hoaxy: A tool created by the Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University that visualizes how claims in the news–and fact checks of those claims–spread online through social networks.

Hoax-Slayer: Allows Internet users to check the veracity of a large number of hoaxes. Owned and operated by Brett Christensen.

PolitiFact: An independent fact-checking website created by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper to sort out the truth in American politics. It rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others on its Truth-O-Meter.

Politwoops: Tracks deleted tweets by public officials, including people currently in office and candidates for office. From ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

Snopes: Founded by David Mikkelson in 1994, the site bills itself as “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.”

Lesson Plans/Curriculum Resources

Center for News Literacy: Offers a wide range of resources in their Digital Resource Center, including a 14-part curriculum, lesson plans, and a glossary. From Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism.

Checkology® Virtual Classroom: “Teaches students in grades 6-12 how to navigate today’s challenging information landscape by using the core skills and concepts of news literacy through a series of engaging digital experiences that use real-world examples of news and information and guided instruction from journalists and other experts.” From the News Literacy Project.

Media Education Lab: Creates free multimedia curriculum materials to help learners of all ages advance knowledge, skills, and competencies. From the Harrington School of Communication at the University of Rhode Island.

Media Literacy Clearinghouse: Developed by media education consultant Frank W. Baker, this site offers resources and workshops for K-12 educators promoting critical thinking to help students read media messages.

NewseumED: Offers free learning tools on media literacy and our First Amendment freedoms. From the Newseum, an interactive museum in Washington, D.C., that “promotes, explains and defends free expression and the five freedoms of the First Amendment.”

SchoolJournalism.org: Part of the American Society of News Editors‘ Youth Journalism Initiative, this site presents lesson plans, curriculum resources, articles and research on news, information and media literacy.

Curation

Headline Spot: Find thousands of the best and most useful U.S. and world news sources by media type, subject or location/region.

Kiosko: A visual daily press directory that gives access to the world’s largest news sites and displays a readable image taken from today’s frontpage cover of each newspaper. (Also available in French and Spanish.)

Other Resources

AllSides Dictionary: This resource bills itself as “a human look at hot-button terms from every perspective.” Created by over 30 volunteer mediators and educators who span the socio-political spectrum, it allows users to browse issues and terms as defined across the political bias spectrum.

Community of Online Research Assignments: An open access resource for faculty and librarians, intended to be a collaborative space for adapting and experimenting with research assignments and sharing the success or lessons learned so that others may benefit. Also includes a Teaching Toolkit featuring a wide range of resource types.

The CRAPP Test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose): A list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find.

The Digital Citizenship Institute: Committed to “promoting social good through the use of social media and technology” by “partnering with districts, schools, parents and organizations to provide a community approach to digital citizenship.” Founder and CEO is Dr. Maryalice Curran.

The Center for Media Literacy: An “educational organization dedicated to promoting and supporting media literacy education that provides leadership, public education, professional development and educational resources nationally and internationally.”

Google Reverse Image Search: Begin your Google search by grabbing and dragging an image to Google Reverse Image Search in order to learn more about where it originated, and where else it is appearing. View a YouTube video of Google Image Downloader by Michelle Luhtala.

Making Sense of the News: Literacy Lessons for Digital Citizens:  A six-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) created by the University of Hong Kong and the State University of New York and offered through Coursera. It seeks to provide learners with “tools that teach you not what to read and consume, but rather how to critically consume information and make yourself more informed and engaged.”

* * *

ProQuest Resources

See our guided research worksheet on How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps. Also see ProQuest Guided Research products, which equip students to learn information literacy skills. Free trials are available.

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CultureGrams’ Teaching Activities: One Religion, Many Practices

Looking for new ways to incorporate CultureGrams into the classroom? Look no further than CultureGrams’ collection of over 75 teaching activities! This collection of educationally engaging activities is organized by grade level and activity type. Each activity also includes a national curriculum standard correlation.  If you don’t have access to CultureGrams, enjoy this free teaching activity today and sign up for a free trial of the product to access more.

One Religion, Many Practices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Standards for Social Studies

 Culture

  • Standard C [Middle Grades]: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity, so that the learner can explain and give examples of how language, literature, the arts, architecture, other artifacts, traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors contribute to the development and transmission of culture.
  • Standard E [Middle Grades]: Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of culture and cultural diversity, so that the learner can articulate the implications of cultural diversity, as well as cohesion, within and across groups.

Developed by the National Council for the Social Studies

Standards for Geography Human Systems

  • Standard 10: The geographically informed person knows and understands the characteristics, distributions, and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics.

Developed by the National Council for Geographic Education

Grade level:

6–8

Objective:

Students will compare the practice of a single religion across multiple countries and interviews.

Time requirement:

Preparation: 10 minutes

In-class: 1 hour and 30 minutes, two different days

Materials:

CultureGrams World Edition

CultureGrams Online Edition—Interviews

Instructions:

1. Have students read three interviews with people who practice the same religion. The interviews featured below represent the perspectives of three Muslims from Kuwait, Mali, and Syria. Students can also find religion excerpts about Catholicism (Javier: Bolivia, Trina: Costa Rica, and Petrosse: Mozambique) and Buddhism (Sai: Cambodia, Dawa: Nepal, and Chhun: Cambodia) just to name a few.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. What differences do students notice in the way the interviewees practice their religion? Differences may be found in how often a person attends worship services, how important they consider religion in their life, ways they worship, and holidays they celebrate.

3. Now have students read the Religion section of each interviewee’s country in the World Edition report. What do these sections say about the religion? How does the information in the report compare to the information in the interviewees’ answers? How does the practice of the religion vary between countries?

4. Have students write a short essay on their observations about the ways a single religion varies in different areas and between individual observers of that religion. They may also speculate on why this could be.

Try out CultureGrams’ Teaching activities in your classroom and let us know what you think by tweeting us @CultureGrams.

Screenplays in the Curriculum? Of Course!

Clapperboard (Credit: Photo by Will Jackson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

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.

Screenwriting.

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.

Teaching Scriptwriting, Screenplays and Storyboards for Film and TV Production
How to Bring Screenwriting into the Classroom
Teaching Screenwriting to Teenagers
Scriptwriting in the Classroom

Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.

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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!