On the River, Lessons about Life and Learning

  • on May 16
  • in LRNG
  • by S Jackson

Students take to the river, building collaboration and problem-solving skills by building and sailing their own rafts, in conjunction with a critical reading of Huckleberry Finn. For Huckleberry Finn, the river is the ultimate experience of freedom. On the river he doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Yet it is on the river that Huck and his companions learn important life lessons: how to tackle tough problems, how to make decisions on their own, and the value of collaboration. Peter Stapleford is a math and reading teacher at Ferrisburgh Central School in northern Vermont. And he’s always looking for ways to teach his students to take charge of their own learning, like Huck does. Yet these are skills that are difficult to impart in a traditional classroom setting. How do you teach students to persist in solving tough problems? How do you teach students to trust themselves, to work hard and not be afraid of failure? How do you teach them to trust their friends? Last summer Stapleford and his colleagues decided to take a page from Huck Finn. They left the classroom and took to the river for a unique summer experience designed to teach students about American history...
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Using Connected Learning to Empower Student Agency

From video chats to charity basketball games, educators are empowering youth civic engagement by connecting politics to interest-driven learning as a means for teaching argument writing. Steve Fulton, an eighth grade language arts teacher in North Carolina and a teacher-consultant with the UNC Charlotte Writing Project, introduced his students to the Flint water crisis through a critical thinking exercise on current events in the media. But when he was ready to transition to a new current event after a week, his students resisted. “At the end of the week, they were like, ‘Well, are we going to go onto something else and let this go? There are these people that have these problems. We need to do something to help them,’ ” he said. Fulton spoke to the school principal, who happened to have a connection with a teacher in the Flint school district and arranged for a video chat between their classes. “We decided we were going to use our time to take what we’ve learned, connect with some people from this school who are students our age, ask them questions, get their perspective, think about how their perspective might be different from the ones that we were seeing...
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Telling Stories of Place, Change, and Culture in Alaska

  • on May 9
  • in LRNG
  • by Kathleen Costanza

The Sitka Story Lab, which helps students explore and express their stories while building writing and media skills, extends its work into rural Alaskan native communities with support from our LRNG Innovators Challenge grant. Mary Haakanson has seen a lot of change in her lifetime. Sitting at her kitchen table in Old Harbor, Alaska, she tells her great-granddaughter Alisandra Lake about life without electronics, speaking Aleut with her mother, and the terrifying day a tidal wave destroyed her village. “I hope it will continue one day, even when I’m gone,” Haakanson says of Aleut, an indigenous language of the Aleutian Islands. “You can’t forget your culture.” Lake spent last summer across the table from her great-grandma Mary, listening to her rich stories and filming their interviews as part of a documentary film project called “Our Alaskan Stories.” She and other high school students learned film and audio skills during the school year, and took video equipment home over the summer to document language, culture, and change in remote villages in southeast Alaska. “I hope that we can build an environment where students’ ideas--inspired by living in this place--can be validated, because if they look at mass media they may not...
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Writing Love and Ourselves in the Classroom and Beyond

Collaboratively explore the meaning of love and the power of personal narrative in our annotathon of Bronwyn LaMay’s "Personal Narrative, Revised: Writing Love and Agency in the High School Classroom." What is love? That’s the question Bronwyn LaMay asked her high school English students to journal about in preparation for reading Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. The exercise took longer than expected, with students wanting to use most of the class period to draw from their own personal experiences as well as cultural narratives, literary archetypes, and dictionary entries in order to construct their definitions. Students’ interest in the question was a turning point for LaMay, who has since developed a curriculum around student self-narratives that is based in an approach that supports them bringing their whole selves to the classroom. She details this approach and her students’ narrative journeys in her book Personal Narrative, Revised: Writing Love and Agency in the High School Classroom (2016). [caption id="attachment_12279" align="alignright" width="204"]Reprinted by permission of the Publisher. From Brownwyn LaMay, Personal Narrative, Revised: Writing Love and Agency in the High School Classroom. New York: Teachers College press. Copyright © 2016 by Teachers College, Columbia University. All rights reserved.[/caption] Last month, Educator Innovator...
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