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A Classroom with a View

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all" –Aristotle

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cultural studies

Differentiating Instruction through Reading Choice

IMG_5112In my previous post Building a Culture of Reading through Choice, I discussed how teachers might create more avid and willing student-readers by offering multiple texts from which students may choose rather than one compulsory text read by the entire class. I received many emails asking how I implement this in my classroom, how I choose books, and how I facilitate student learning when there are several different texts. Since so many people were interested, I thought why not just write another post? As any teacher knows, if one student asks a question, there’s probably 8 or 9 others who were wondering the same thing but were too shy to ask. So–to those of you who emailed: I hope this helps; and to those who were too shy to ask: don’t be! (I know–completely unhelpful advice).

As I stated before, I don’t like being told what to read, especially if I’m told to read it because it’s a “classic” and “canonical.” On my own, if still a bit begrudgingly, I decided to read Moby Dick and David Copperfield because peer pressure still has some power and I had to see what Continue reading “Differentiating Instruction through Reading Choice”

Judging a Book by its Cover: Teaching Theme

Things Fall Apart Cover art
Theme seems like a no-brainer–it’s the universal truths we find in a text that make it relevant to the human experience. Yet teaching theme can be quite challenging. Students have difficulty grasping the concept, and I am not sure if it’s because they don’t know how to phrase a theme statement or if they simply don’t have quite enough life experience to recognize grand human truths (we’ll set aside semantics for now and operate on the premise that there are “human truths” by which we live). Continue reading “Judging a Book by its Cover: Teaching Theme”

Global CXN: The Technology Challenge, Part 2

Part 2: Technology and Time Difference

TOS students celebrating their first place win in Olympia Athletics, but their joy is not dissimilar to our joy in finding solutions to our technology issues.
In my last Global CXN post (click here to read Part 1), I talked about how our group started and the initial “getting to know you” stage of the interactions. Once students learned a little about each other and found a common project to undertake, work got underway and students have enjoyed their collaboration. However, getting them on a reliable, functional, collaboration-friendly platform has been a hit-and-miss operation for Vietnam GCXN facilitator Daniel Rymer and me. While we have most of the kinks ironed out now, it was off to a dubious start three months ago.

When we first started in September, I knew getting our students on a platform that encouraged discussion and collaboration was going to be a challenge. Not only were we facing a 12 hour time difference that could stymie any sort of real communication, but also The Olympia Schools is a Google platform school, whereas La Porte ISD is an Office 365 school. My school district blocks all things Google except for Google Search and previous requests to unblock Google have always been met with rejection. Too, Continue reading “Global CXN: The Technology Challenge, Part 2”

Global CXN: La Porte, Texas meets Hanoi, Vietnam, Part 1

Part 1: The Beginning

US Global Connections group.
US Global CXN group.

This year, students from La Porte, Texas, have the opportunity to correspond and collaborate with students attending The Olympia Schools in Hanoi, Vietnam, to learn about each other’s local communities, lifestyles, education, and other sociocultural issues. Initially begun as a way for US and Vietnamese students to engage in literary and cultural studies that would provide a basis for cultural awareness and allow them to interact and share their worlds, the group has moved far beyond our hopes and is now a thriving learning community of global citizens.

A few TOS students sharing a picture with us after a water fight at an autumn festival.
A few TOS students sharing a picture with us after a water fight at an autumn festival.

The idea for the group began last March when Christopher McDonald, Head of Schools for The Olympia Schools in Hanoi, Vietnam, and fellow AP English Literature grader sent me a television newscast video of the charitable work TOS was doing as part of a service learning project in their community. His students were interacting with the world around them and becoming better citizens and stewards of their community while learning valuable life skills and character development through experiences that complement the lessons taught in the classroom. While McDonald has cultivated many partner schools in the US and Canada, La Porte High School, the only high school in a suburban city of 35,000 people approximately 30 miles outside of Houston, is relatively insulated from the world. What better way to broaden my students’ worldviews than by introducing students from each school and providing an avenue for them to collaborate, as well as gain proficiency in 21st century skills and the real-world application of those skills? McDonald and I discussed the possibility of a student-led collaboration between the two schools, and with high hopes and no idea where this project was headed, we created the Global CXN group. Continue reading “Global CXN: La Porte, Texas meets Hanoi, Vietnam, Part 1”

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