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Important Black Leaders To Introduce To Your Class Year-Round

BlackHistory_pstrSince 1976, American educators have officially recognized February as Black History month.  However, if February is the only time you mention the contributions of people of color in your classroom, then it’s time to reevaluate. Black history is integral to the story of America, a history that has for too long been skewed to reflect a white European perspective. And, while most Americans are familiar with the names of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, there are many other African American leaders who made an enormous impact on our country’s history.

Below you’ll find a short list of some of these leaders and suggestions of how to incorporate their contributions into your curriculum.  Remember that the lessons that are most meaningful to students are those that are given all year long, not just during one designated month.

7 African American Leadersx-hughes-langston-3hr-jpg

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was a writer and social activist.  He was particularly known as an innovator of jazz poetry and for his role in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s.  Hughes was one of the few black writers at the time to express pride in his heritage.  He wrote of both the joys and the pain of being black in America. Check out  Read, Write, Think for a in-depth lesson centered around his poetry.

Samuel Kountz (1930-1981) grew up in one of the poorest towns in the poorest state of Arkansas.  Although the odds were against him, Kountz became the first African American to attend the University of Arkansas Medical School. He was a pioneer in the field of organ transplants. And, in 1961, he performed the first kidney transplant between a recipient and a donor who were not identical twins. Consider using Samuel Kountz on this timeline lesson about American inventors.

Fredrick Dougwho_is_fdlass (1818-1895) was an escaped slave who became a leader of the Abolitionist Movement, eventually rising to power as the first African American to hold a high US government rank. Besides fighting for equal treatment for African Americans, he was also a champion of women’s rights. In 1848, he was the only African American to attend the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Urban Dreams has created a lesson plan that ties the biography of Fredrick Douglas to lessons about freedom and social development.

Emmet Chappelle (1925- ) is recognized as one of the 100 most distinguished African American scientists of the 20th Century.  His work was primarily in the field of medicine, philanthropy, food science, and Astrochemistry. Some of Chappelle’s most influential advancements were in luminescence, or, light without heat. He was able to show how satellites can monitor luminescence levels to monitor the growth rate and harvest timing of crops.   Laser Classroom has an interesting lesson about fluourescence that can be linked to a study of Chappelle’s contributions.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) grew up in the streets of NYC. His difficult childhood fueled an anger in him that he channeled towards graffiti art. His cutting edge artwork propelled him to the forefront of the Neo-Expressionist movement. Graffiti Art provides a lesson plan to show students how artists like Basquiat make art accessible to everyone.

Faith Ringgold (1930 -) is a Civil Rights activist, author, and artist.  Her s999b787fd04a50ea2772189b9955c105eries of paintings-American People-capture the racial tensions of the Civil Rights Era.  Her gorgeously illustrated book, Tar Beach, gives a unique perspective of Harlem in the 1930’s through the eyes of a young girl. Here you will find a rich series of lesson plans geared towards grades 3-5 about Ms. Ringgold’s work that integrates reading, writing, social studies, and art.

Marvin Gaye (1939-1984) was a singer, songwriter and music producer. He helped shaped Motown, a rMarvinGayeecord company owned by African Americans that played an important role in the racial integration of popular music. His hit song, What’s Going On was a reaction to police violence towards protestors marching against the Vietnam War. What’s Going On Now is an excellent project that uses history and music to compare the time period that Marvin Gaye sang about to current day issues.

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide affordable, convenient Professional Development courses for educators. Our Inspiring Ideas for the 21st Century Classroom course features a TED talk by Rita Pierson, a prominent African American teacher and speaker. Check out this class and many others in our course catalog!

Culturally Sensitive Thankgsiving Resources

Many of us gRoasted Thanksgiving Turkeyrew up with school Thanksgiving celebrations that consisted of making head dresses, Pilgrim hats and turkeys out of construction paper. Some of the more progressive teachers may have asked us to write lists of things that we were thankful for or to imagine what it was like for the Pilgrims coming to America.

But, times have changed.  Our children are growing up in a world that is far more diverse and culturally aware than in any time in history.

As 21st century educators, we are well aware of the misrepresentation of the native people as well as an overwhelming amount of inaccurate information about the events that took place on that very first Thanksgiving Day.

We have sifted through the great wealth of online Thanksgiving curriculum resources to find the most thought-provoking, culturally sensitive lesson plans to use in your class room.

  •  You are the Historian is an award-winning lesson plan designed by Plimoth Plantation.  Students take an interactive journey through history and play historic detective in order to figure out what really happened at the first Thanksgiving Dinner. Along the way, they will learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home.

 

  • The Learning Network provides a list of helpful resources to engage your students in Kid on field with basket of vegetablesProject Based Learning activities dealing with the realities of hunger in America. This is especially important around Thanksgiving, a time when many of us are celebrating a bounty of food that is just not the reality for many Americans.

 

  • The American Indians Children’s Literature website put out a list of books to help children learn about Native Americans.  These can be read around Thanksgiving, but are even more effective when integrated into your curriculum year- round.

 

  • Story Corp does an incredible yearly project in which high school students are asked to record an interview with an elder during Thanksgiving weekend.  Your students Friends studyingcan participate or just listen to the rich oral history that has already been collected.

 

 

  • Scholastic: The First Thanksgiving provides students with letters written from the historical perspective of a Pilgrim girl and a Wampanoag boy living in the New World.  If you sign up by November 14, your classroom will receive all of the letters together on November 17.

 

  • Indian Education for All has created an in-depth lesson plan that provides students with a more accurate understanding of the events that led up to the celebration of the first Thanksgiving.  The lesson plan was written for grades 5-8, but can be adapted for both older and younger students.

 

  • Readwritethink.org provides a lesson plan in which students are presented with common myths about the first Thanksgiving and asked to do a thorough exploration into the truth behind each myth. The lesson is geared towards grades 6-8.

 

  • The Library of Congress has a collection of primary resources including the original Proclamation for the First Thanksgiving, a letter from George Washington, and paintings of historical events that occurred during that period in American history.

Handsome Young Man

  • Teaching Tolerance presents a collection of resources and activities to help students understand how, what can be a holiday for some Americans, is actually a day of mourning for others.  This can be an especially powerful lesson in teaching kids about perspective and empathy.

 

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide you with these and other educational resources for your classroom, along with an extensive catalog of online Professional Development courses. Check out our affordable course list and find a class that is right for you!

 

 

How to Make a Real Difference by Bringing Social Justice Issues into your Classroom

Why we Teach…

There are many reasons that people become educators. Perhaps they’ve always loved children, are natural teachers, or possess a deep love of learning. These are all excellent Ereasons for becoming an educator.  However, there is another underlying reason that many people decide to go into education, a reason that can often get pushed to the wayside under the strains of meeting standards and deadlines—To change the world.

Making a Difference…

The role of a teacher in students’ lives is invaluable.  Every lesson, every interaction, every conversation, is an opportunity to impact how the students look at the world, and, in turn, how they can change it.

As teachers, we have the ability to do so much more than relay facts to our students, we can teach them how to think, and, in turn, how to become thoughtful, contributing citizens.  One of the best ways we can do that is to bring issues of social justice into our classroom.  Dealing with problems of equality and fairness helps give students valuable experience in critical thinking, research, and respectful, meaningful conflict.

While bringing social justice issues into your classroom can potentially be of enormous benefit to students, it cannot be done without a lot of careful thought and planning.

10 Tips to engage students in conversations about social justice

1. Help guide students, don’t try to control.  One of the major goals of social justice education is to give students experience participating in, and even leading difficult Hands_Smallconversations.  Your role as an educator is to help lead students in the right direction when they get off-course, not to dominate the conversation.  If done correctly, you will find yourself spending most of the time listening to the students’ discussions, interjecting only if the conversations go off topic or become volatile.

2. Find relevant topics. Read social media.  Check the local news.  Talk to your students about what is going on in their neighborhoods. Is your town considering closing a skate park? Are there students in your school who are going without regular meals? Are students of color treated unfairly?  Students will be most motivated by issues that they have observed or have affected them.  The Anti-Defamation League’s website offers a wealth of topics and lesson plans that deal with social justice.

3. Be hopeful. Dealing with heavy topics can be oppressive to young people.  Try to help them find the light in even the darkest issues.  Help empower students to believe that all problems, even the most hopeless seeming, are solvable with cooperation and hard work. For example, if you are discussing the plight of local homeless people, show them examples of how other communities have created programs to feed and shelter the homeless. Giving them real-world examples of difficult problems that have been solved will empower them to look for viable solutions to issues of social justice.

4. Model and expect respect. Encourage debate, but find common ground.  When conversations become heated, divisiveness can occur. Often students become so entrenched in their own perspectives that they lost sight of the bigger picture.  Something as simple as helping students find common ground can make a big difference in the tone resizedimage241159-teacher-and-studentsand effectiveness of the conversations.

It is your job to ensure that students have a safe, respectful environment in which to voice their opinions.  Make it clear that bullying or name-calling will not be tolerated.  The Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution provides an extensive list of resources for dealing with conflict management.  For further assistance and professional development credits, check out our course on the causes and prevention of cyber-bullying.

5. Have age-appropriate expectations.  Kids as young as 5 or 6 can tackle issues of social justice.  However, the topics and level of conversation will be much different than those that take place on a middle school or high school level.  When working with young students, make sure to choose topics that are more concrete. Some ideas could be to discuss ways to make the playground more fun for everyone, ensure each child has a Phealthy lunch, and debate the fairness of “team picking” in gym class. Education World offers some social justice lessons designed specifically for younger students.

6. Teach students how to do good research. While discussing issues of social justice, it is important that students learn to back up their opinions.  One way that they can do that is by conducting research on the topics at hand. The internet offers a wealth of resources for information, of varying degrees of credibility. Help students understand how to tell the difference. Literacy Education Online provides some useful tips on assessing a source’s credibility.  Learning to discern between reliable and unreliable information is one of the greatest lessons you can teach your students.

7. Bring in speakers.  There is nothing like a first-hand account to help students become invested in an issue.  Have a military veteran come to your classroom and talk about the difficulties of re-adjusting to civilian society.  Invite a local wheel-chair bound woman to explain why she has trouble navigating your town’s sidewalks.  Ask a former high-school student to talk to your students about how bullying affected his education.  Do you know someone who has been naturalized? Ask her to speak about her immigration experience. Putting faces to the causes will give students a personal connection and ignite their enthusiasm.

8. Understand that students come from different backgrounds/perspectives.  It is our job as educators to put our personal biases aside when helping students confront issues of social justice.  Although you may be socially liberal, understand that some of your students may come from religious, conservative backgrounds.  And vice versa.

It is not your job to cPupils working together at desk in libraryhange the students’ views, only to help them understand and respect other people’s perspectives. Discrediting a students’ background or life experiences will only seek to alienate them.  Instead, work on finding commonalities and building bridges. With experience and maturity, you might find students with previously established beliefs opening their minds to other perspectives.  Dealing with issues of social justice is one of the most effective ways to help expedite this process.

9. Keep up-to-date on current events.  Social media and 24-hour news has given this generation access to more information than any other generation to date.  It is crucial that we, as teachers, also stay informed in order to retain our relevancy and credibility. Besides reading news that is of interest to you, try informing yourself on topics of interest to your students.  One easy way to do this is to instruct students to use sites such as CNN Student News and PBS News Hour Extra to bring in articles for classroom discussion. You may find that even issues of pop culture or celebrity news can inspire discussions of social justice.  The recent “taking a knee” stance of Colin Kaepernick is one current example.student and teacher looking smiling at the library

10. Take real-life action.  There are few things more powerful in education than showing students that they can, indeed, make a difference.  While not every issue of social justice is adaptable to a classroom project, many are. The basis of many project based learning lessons are issues of social justice.  The Bucks Institute for Education website is one of the best resources to teach you how to use PBL in your classroom.

The Teacher’s Academy is committed to providing teachers with the most relevant, affordable professional development courses.  Our classes meet Act 48 requirements and can be taken from the comfort of your own home.  Check out our course catalog to find the class that’s right for you.

 

 

Teacher Feature: Mr. Heisey

Teacher Feature: John Heisey

 “Teaching lets me be creative. Most people spend their jobs completing tasks for other people, but I have autonomy to make it as interesting as I want. It never gets dull.” mr heisey

-John Heisey

Creativity has proven to be a key component of brain development as well as an essential tool in building confidence and acquiring strong social skills.  Creative people tend to embrace challenges, learn from mistakes and use their imaginations to better their lives. Unfortunately for some students, room for creativity in education often decreases in the older grades. For a lucky few, creativity is alive and well…

Want to get your students’ creative juices flowing again? Check out how a 7th grade Social Studies teacher fosters creativity in his high-tech (almost paperless) classroom.

Mr. John Heisey, our May Teacher Feature and middle school super hero, has given his students the tools, the time and the freedom to be creative.  Yes, I said he gives his students TIME and FREEDOM to be CREATIVE.

This Penn State graduate has an impressive toolbox of secret weapons that he uses to create the optimal learning environment for his students. For starters, he holds dual certification in secondary English and Social Studies Education, as well as a third degree in Communications.

His remarkable knowledge of technology has led him to become the technology integration coach for his school. Besides his impressive educational achievements, he is also a skilled outdoors man. He hikes, fly fishes, runs marathons and coaches 7th grade baseball at his middle school.

Finally, he has a fundamental belief in the importance of finding new ways to keep his students motivated. Mr. Heisey promotes independence in learning, conquers stagnation in education and fosters creativity.  And, he does all this without even wearing a cape!

Developing Creative Learners in a Blended Environment

In today’s lesson, Mr. Heisey uploads a picture of a rubric using Microsoft® One Note® and a Smartboard®. His students begin discussing the different requirements of a project for which they are about to be introduced. The rubric will provide guidance to students for the duration of the project.

“Today you are going to begin writing your own piece of historical fiction. According to this rubric, what does your story need to include?”

Quickly the classroom transforms into a round-table discussion of ideas and solutions to crafting the perfect writing pieces. His students’ proficiency in Middle-Age history is evident heisley classas they begin to discuss specific events and influential people.

Mr. Heisey emphasizes a critical part of the project that encompasses the entire rubric. “I want you to show the readers of your story the Middle-Ages, include elements of the stories we’ve read and most importantly: Have fun and be creative!”

Putting the Imagination to Work

Next, Mr. Heisey passes out completed stories for his students to peruse.

“Here are some examples of stories written by former students.  Take a few minutes to read through and critique these stories,” he instructs.

After about 5 or 6 minutes pass, the emergence of quiet conversations among the inspiring writers queues the next discussion…

“So what do you think?” Mr. Heisey interjects.

A few random answers are called out:

“I really like how this writer used details about the Plague and the Mongol attack, but there were a few spelling mistakes.”

“I think this writer got the history wrong.”

“Good.” Mr. Heisey responds. “Remember to get your history correct when you write your stories and be careful of spelling and grammar mistakes, because that can make your story more difficult to read.”

We are only about 15 minutes into the class period when Mr. Heisey provides one more support for his budding writers.

“Just in case a few of you are still stuck on how to get your story started, take a look at the screen.”Character List

Interactive settings for a Middle-Ages story are projected using the Smartboard.  Mr. Heisey and his students have fun discussing a variety of opening scenes, protagonist characters and potential conflicts.

Throughout the class period, students have access to the digital story supports along with settingsa host of other available resources. Websites, previous class projects, text and library books, maps, story samples, magazines and fellow classmates are just a few of the resources available.

“Everyone take a few seconds to meet with your partner and discuss your story idea.”

The classroom becomes a flurry of activity. Students are up and moving about, discussing ideas and talking about the different resources they may find to be helpful. Without changing the activity level of the classroom, Mr. Heisey gives his students the go ahead to start writing.  He gives no direction to “sit” or “quiet down.” His students are free to access all the resources provided during class, and like all good writers, they do.

All of this “pre-writing” activity may seem a bit unnerving to teachers who are not used to giving this kind of Slide1freedom to their students.

I asked Mr. Heisey about the effectiveness of this type of activity.

“Student motivation is a never-ending challenge in education, and allowing for creativity is one of the best ways around that challenge. Historical fiction, documentaries, political propaganda – these are great ways to get students to show what they know.”

Slide2Sure enough, one by one, the students begin to settle into their chairs and the clacking sounds of the keyboard overtake the tactical discussions from a few moments earlier.

The previous buzz of the classroom has settled into a focused calm. I watch as Mr. Heisey provides support when needed.  He is careful not to take away from his students’ own creative thoughts by providing too much direction.

As I observe his students working, it suddenly strikes me that I am in a Social Studies class! This whole time, the students were actually learning about the Middle Ages. I have to smile as I look around the room at these poor unsuspecting students who have just been bamboozled into learning lots of content, while being given the opportunity to grow creatively.

Integrating Curriculum

“How important is it to incorporate reading and writing into your Social Studies class?”  I ask.

“The line between history and English is a blurry one.  Understanding literature means understanding the context in which it was written, and nobody can understand a time period without seeing art and literature that came out of it.  The cognitive processes – analysis and critical thinking – overlap in the two disciplines as well.  I really approach my classes much more like a general humanities class than strictly a history class.”

Producing Lasting Results

Quietly wandering around the room, I am able to get a glimpse of the writing being produced by these students. Some students are creating outlines, some have sketched a few pictures in what resembles a comic strip, others are developing characters by researching names and living conditions. Once in a while, a student will use the digital story-starters for additional inspiration, while others are typing emphatically to get the story out of their head and onto the screen, before they lose any important parts.heisey desk

It occurs to me that they are using the same skills used by professional writers. These 7th graders have a solid set of writing, research and communication skills as well as an in-depth knowledge of the 13th and 14th centuries. To say these students are getting prepared for college and career is an understatement!

I happen to notice one girl staring at the screen in front of her – possibly a little lost?  “Are you having fun writing?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m not writing. I’m creating a story.” She smiles and begins typing again.

His students are not writers – they are creators of stories. #Superhero.

Thank you, Mr. Heisey!

The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide thousands of teachers with a convenient, affordable  place to earn professional development credits.  Check out our course catalog to find the right course for you!