Posted in Cross-curricular instruction, ELA, Hands-on activities, Journalism, Lesson plans, Newspaper, Project-based learning, Teachable moments

Chapter 54: A Three-Week-Long Teachable Moment

One of the best things about being a journalism teacher is that virtually anything that happens can be a teachable moment.

Case in point: Here in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced yesterday evening that all public schools in the state would close for three weeks, beginning Monday, to contain the potential spread of coronavirus. That means some of my kids will lose some instructional time. But for the kids in my journalism class, this is an opportunity to practice what they’ve been learning in class in the most real-world setting imaginable. History is unfolding around them, and they’re covering it.

Last night, within 30 minutes of the governor’s announcement, several of my student journalists and I were on our phones, holding a meeting via text message to start planning our coverage of the school closure and its effects on our district. Several kids started doing online research to learn more about the virus and why the governor would close school for it. Others started brainstorming story ideas and coming up with lists of questions and sources they could chase down via phone or email to get information. My husband, who works for the local weekly newspaper, gave us a press release from the governor’s office that contained a link to the press conference she’d scheduled for this morning; several kids made the effort to get online and try to watch it this morning. (I’m not sure how many succeeded, because we all encountered some tech issues, but that’s OK — glitches are part of life in a newsroom, too.) Continue reading “Chapter 54: A Three-Week-Long Teachable Moment”

Posted in Differentiated instruction, Special ed, Student engagement, Success, Teachable moments, Winning

Chapter 53: Community Policing

A few weeks ago, a pair of sheriff’s deputies paid a visit to our campus. Visits from LEOs aren’t unheard of, but they’re not super common, either, and the sight of two uniformed officers walking into my classroom startled a student who is still learning some social skills and isn’t comfortable with surprises.

I told him the deputies were just there because they were hoping he’d read them a story. (He’s been working on his fluency a lot lately, so I hoped he’d take the bait.) I asked the deputies to sit down and give him a little space while he processed the situation, which they kindly did. Right about then, his mom arrived to pick him up from school, but the deputies stuck around for a bit, and before they left, I got their names and a mailing address for the sheriff’s office.

The next day, my student wrote a letter inviting them back to hear him read, and when I saw one of the deputies at a school event a few days later, I asked him to give me a heads-up before their next visit so I could be sure my student wasn’t caught off-guard.

I got a text from him yesterday morning, saying they were going to be on campus later. I was out sick but immediately notified my boss, who ensured my student was prepared.

This morning, when I returned to school, my student greeted me with the news that he’d read to his new friends, and they had promised to return with patches for him and his classmates one day soon. He even got out his iPod and proudly showed me a video someone had taken of him reading and joking with them.

I’ve worked for newspapers in three states. I’ve spent a lot of time at crime scenes. I’ve met some pretty great cops. And I think I speak with authority when I say: This is EXACTLY how community policing is supposed to work.

Thanks to the patience of two friendly deputies, my student’s perception of law enforcement has changed from one of fear (which could lead to potentially dangerous misunderstandings when he is older) to one of camaraderie. Bonus: He got to practice reading and socializing a little bit in the process. And he is hella excited about that patch.

I hope he made their day as much as they made his.

Emily

Posted in ELA, English, Spelling

Chapter 51: Dunderheads

I’m an English teacher and an old copy editor. If I taught at Hogwarts, my Boggart — a shapeshifter that assumes the form of your deepest fear — would probably look a whole lot like a typo.

With that in mind, here is the email I received a couple of weeks ago:

 

As Professor Lupin would say: Riddikulus.

In case you’re wondering, this was a scam.

I think I know who sent the email, though:

Dunderheads.

On the up side, this will make a great basis for a mini-lesson on why spelling is important. Thanks for the teachable moment, suckers.

Emily

 

 

 

Posted in Dr. Seuss, ELA, English, Literature, Whimsy

Chapter 50: All the Whos Down in … Heorot?

OMGOMGOMGOMG.

You guys.

You. GUYS.

I have no idea how I missed this for 44 consecutive years, but as I was working on lesson plans for my children’s-lit students — who presented How the Grinch Stole Christmas to the K-2 students during a special holiday story hour last month in lieu of a traditional final exam — I noticed something that delighted my little English-teacher heart:

The Grinch is basically Grendel.

I don’t mean the Dr. Seuss children’s classic is a completely faithful retelling of Beowulf, because it is not. But it bears a striking resemblance to the first part of Beowulf, in the same way that Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory resembles Dante’s Inferno, and The Lion King resembles Hamlet.

Check it out:

In the Anglo-Saxon epic, King Hrothgar builds a big mead hall called Heorot, where he and his subjects feast, sing, and party like rock stars every night, inciting the rage of the monster who lives in a nearby cave.

In the Seussian epic, (OK, maybe not quite an epic, but by picture-book standards … look, just go with it) the Whos down in Who-ville feast, sing, and party every Christmas, inciting the rage of the monster who lives in a nearby cave.

In both stories, the monsters decide to solve their problems by breaking and entering with the intent of committing further crimes.

The poems diverge after this point — the Grinch sticks to larceny in his attempt to quiet his raucous neighbors, while Grendel goes for homicide and cannibalism — but the premises are too similar for me to believe they’re a coincidence.

After all, Dr. Seuss employed iambic tetrameter in Green Eggs and Ham (Sam-I-Am is a pun, as I explain here), so why wouldn’t he draw inspiration from Beowulf?

I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t notice this last year, when my seniors were having so much fun delving into John Gardner’s Grendel. I’d love to hear them debate whether the Grinch is a nihilist or an existentialist.

Emily