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“Red Scarf Girl” Social Studies Unit

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Jiang, J. (1997). Red scarf girl. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publihers.

Families and Teacher

Why Red Scarf Girl?

  • First-hand, historical account of the Cultural Revolution in China
  • Told from the perspective of an adolescent Chinese girl
  • Addresses important topics including:
  1. Communism
  2. Mao Ze-dong
  3. Propoganda
  4. The Cultural Revolution
  5. Idealism
  6. Exploitation
  7. Class Status
  • It’s a well-written literary work that middle school students find appealing
  • This book will take about 2 weeks total to read

Teachers’ Comment: Students will be exposed to new and challenging vocabulary and political concepts throughout this unit. With the help of class discussion, in-class reading, the glossary provided with the book, and additional resources, we will all gain a better understanding of the Cultural Revolution in China.

For more information visit the author’s page: http://www.jilijiang.com/red-scarf-girl/

Background Information

locationmap

Map of China

Mao

Picture of Mao Ze-dong

Plot Summary:

  • Red Scarf Girl by Jiang Ji-Li is a harrowing journey of a young girl growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China. This young adult novel is  historical fiction account and is based upon the author’s own experience growing up in Communist China.   As the story explains, young Ji-Li is overcome with excitement and fervor when the Revolution hits the scene. Young students are taught in schools about the great accomplishments of their leader, Chairman Mao Ze-dong; these young children are ready to do whatever it takes to expunge the presence of capitalism and western influences from China forever. The lengths they will go to in order to do this is sometimes shocking. Young adults renounce their families and slander those they believe to be “capitalists”. As the Revolution progresses, it becomes clear that things have gotten out of hand. People are severely beaten, detained, or shunned from their communities. Families are broken and children are forced to grow up too fast. At the beginning of the novel, Ji-Li expresses her enthusiasm for this Revolution; towards the middle she starts to question whether the practices resulting from the Revolution are right or not, and by the end of the novel she has the scars to prove that the Cultural Revolution in China did not work out the way she thought it would. In fact, it didn’t work out the way many people thought it would. This transformation of the main character juxtaposed against the transformation of China during the Revolution gives the reader an idea of what life was like during this tumultuous time. This book serves not only as a lesson about the Cultural Revolution in China, but about any political, religious, or social ideology in general. In theory, anything can sound perfect; it is only in practice that we find things go stray. Indeed, increased fervor and zeal can carry things to the breaking point, just like they did in China. Ji-Li Jiang’s Red Scarf Girl uncovers the atrocities of the past, while proving a point for the future.

Important Terms:

  • Beijing: The capital of China.
  • Capitalism: An economic system characterized by private ownership of property, free competition, and business profit. Communists are strongly opposed to capitalism.
  • Communism: An economic system in which all means of production, such as land and natural resources, are owned by the entire community and used for the good of all its members.
  • Mao Ze-Dong (1893-1976): The chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, and leader of China from 11949-1976.
  • Propaganda: Information intended to promote a particular belief.

Book Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfi2tykGfYg

Unit Lesson Plan on Propaganda

Students will complete this lesson for homework, and it will be discussed in class. This lesson plan will further understand our understanding of propaganda, how it affected young adolescents in China, and how it affected the Cultural Revolution in general.

Lesson Plan on Red Scarf Girl Propoganda and Communist Revolution in China

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Differentiation: A Reflection on Differentiation and Relevant Resources

     Differentiation is a method that brings modified and malleable lessons, content, assessments, and assignments in the classroom to create unique and individualized learning to the classroom. Below is a list of resources describing different aspects of differentiation.

http://esblogin.k12albemarle.org/attachments/7b8c23a2-1dd0-4aab-943f-d417df093124.pdf

     This academic journal describes how seemingly polar opposites, standards-based education and differentiation, can actually coincide in harmony in the classroom. The juxtaposition between standards and differentiation is this: teachers have a certain set of knowledge or skills that must be mastered by students, a certain level of desired mastery for passing, and a certain amount of time in which to accomplish this. On the other hand, however, teachers are teaching to a classroom of 20 or 30 (or sometimes more!) students that come from varying backgrounds, values, prior knowledge, learning styles, and abilities. This is where the standards and differentiation can work together because, as the article states, standards tell us what to teach, and differentiation tells us how to teach it. One quote from this journal describes the relationship between differentiation and standards perfectly: “Differentiation suggests that you can challenge all learners by providing materials and tasks on the standard at varied levels of difficulty, with varying degrees of scaffolding, through multiple instructional groups, and with time variations.” This journal also includes bad examples of the lack of differentiation and the over emphasis on standards, such as schools that teach to the test to promote high test-scores. It also includes good examples of differentiation working together with standards such as a teacher placing a group of mixed-abilities students together to work on an assignment and learn from each other’s abilities. The journal ends with a few questions to keep in mind when creating lessons and assessments for a group of varied learners.

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=FqXKT9NnrMsC&oi=fnd&pg=PA7&dq=differentiated+products+in+the+classroom&ots=suJ1d0CF3a&sig=nOYhBHYVD4AgPhi5Zkc_OdwwVLg#v=onepage&q=differentiated%20products%20in%20the%20classroom&f=false

            This last book gave some more great background information on differentiation in the classroom. As with most of the other resources, this book touched on what differentiation is, why it is necessary, and how to implement it in the classroom. What is so great about this resource that would make it worth buying, is that it includes great, concrete examples for activities, print-offs, rubrics, and tables that teachers could scan right off the page to use in the classroom. That isn’t possible (due to copyright laws) through this electronic version, but it would definitely be worth purchasing for the teacher resources it provides.

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=lwlSGcTl4ckC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=ideas+for+differentiated+assessments&ots=wibdxFQwxj&sig=prQGky5AjNIoDYe68vJECEZSZU0#v=onepage&q=ideas%20for%20differentiated%20assessments&f=false

            This book focused on differentiated assessments. By clicking on the link you can access 33 pages from this book. This book contains information about why it is important to provide differentiated assessments. However, some of the most helpful chapters for teachers might be the following that I have selected: chapter 4 focuses on 3 main types of assessments, and chapter 6 focuses on creating good test questions. The main types of assessments indicated in chapter 4 included portfolios, rubrics, and student self-assessments. This resource is definitely one worth buying to use it in its entirety.

http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED401274.pdf

      This article discusses the differentiation methods used by first-year special education teachers. One aspect of the differentiation common to all of these special education teachers was a system of setting personal goals for each student to maintain progress. This aspect of teaching is inherent to most special education programs, and it sets realistic goals for each student to progress through as benchmarks throughout the school year. This sets individual rather than school-wide goals for learning and mastery. Also, all of the teachers used a different series of differentiation strategies. Some differentiated using different leveled materials for students, others used the same materials with different strategies for each student, some also allowed students to choose the product that was created by students during learning, and all seemed to allow for different learning styles such as auditory, kinesthetic, or tactile. This article ends not only by discussing the difficulties faced by special educators in teaching their students, but it also mentioned something interesting to note about the difference between differentiation in special education and regular education. Differentiation in built into special education by design; students are required to have an individualized education plan and individual goals based their own abilities. In regular education, this is usually not a huge concern for most students, so many student teachers aren’t taught a great amount of differentiation. This carries over into their professional teaching experience.

 http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=fxrwk7_mfl8C&oi=fnd&pg=PP2&dq=differentiated+teaching&ots=SVVUAWcXfz&sig=-D-sajOd7ns_RFOXNeGxKvFIkHE#v=onepage&q=differentiated%20teaching&f=false

 

     This book gives ideas and guidelines for differentiated teaching for intermediate readers in grades 3-8. The online version of the book shows 90 of the pages of this book. Chapters 1, 2, and 8 might be most helpful for the general population because they include concrete examples of differentiated instruction, activities, and assessments. One such activity included partner reading in small groups. Here, students are put into small groups, and each person has a partner within the group. Pairs take turns reading a passage of a book or text. The partner that is not reading gives feedback for the partner that is reading to help him or her improve. The roles are then switched. This is a great activity and opportunity for differentiation that teachers can use to help students with higher level abilities scaffold students with lower level abilities while confirming and practicing their own knowledge and skills.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-3802.2004.00023.x/pdf

            This pdf includes information about a study of differentiation conducted in Malta. The basis of differentiated teaching in the Maltese school studied is that all students are individuals who are equally valuable and deserve of challenging and stimulating academic work. This resource also ranked, from most effective to least effective, strategies that help students learn. This list included in descending order: working with technology, having educated parents follow up on work at home, discussion between themselves (students), working cooperatively in groups, working actively on a task, and paying attention to the teacher. However, as with all practices in education, the teacher must pay attention to each students’ learning style. This article also noted something very important: that teachers, staff, and administrators must work together to achieve differentiation throughout schools.

http://www.principals.in/uploads/pdf/Instructional_Strategie/DI_Marching.pdf

            This article begins with background information about differentiated teaching instruction. Since the previous resources dealt with the same topic, I chose to focus on the last two-thirds of this resource. One of my favorite sections of this article is the section that states that the key to differentiated teaching is having a toolbox full of teaching techniques that can be used when necessary either by themselves or mixed with other forms of teaching. These methods included direct instruction, inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, and information processing strategies. Under each type of teaching there are links for additional information to give teachers even more concrete examples. Further along, this resource provides additional links for information on fair and equitable assessment. The resource concludes with a reflection on different classroom scenarios and the level of differentiation utilized by each teacher.

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Nerds Book Review

     Image      For those of you that have experienced the sometimes brutal social and emotional roller coasters of grade school, you know how upsetting it is to be called a nerd, but in the context of Michael Buckley’s young adult novel Nerds, being called this name is hardly a bad thing.

     Meet the National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society, NERDS. That’s right, Nerds are actually a super secret group of high-tech secret agents that you probably pass right by everyday. From the beginning of time nerds have been bullied, taunted, and sometimes flat out ignored because of their unassuming appearances. However, we all known that looks can be deceiving. These paste-eating, inhaler-puffing, buck-toothed, brace-face kids can move between the regular world and the world of spies, secret agents, and super villains undetected because of their humble appearances. And guess what? Not only are these school kids super cool spies in disguise, they operate right out of their own elementary school! While most students are too busy talking with their friends, eating lunch, or checking their hair in the mirror, this awkward group of outsiders is busy slipping through the secret passage ways in the lockers of the school to access their headquarters in the basement. From there they use only the most up-to-date technology to practice their moves, get new gear, and jet-set around the world to fight crime. It must be hard getting picked on and called a loser when you’re a secret agent living a double life to save the world, but for agents code named “Gluestick”, “Pufferfish”, “Choppers”, “Flinch”, and “Wheezer”, maintaining their secrecy is the key to keeping incognito and hidden from the super villains they fight on the regular.

     For these agents, risking their lives to save the world is no big deal, but can they handle a new addition to their team? Sure, kickin’ the world’s most maniacal villains in the rear is no big deal, but when Jackson “Braceface” Jones shows up, things get sticky. You see, for years Jackson was a hot-shot, football playing, cool-kid. That all changed when Jackson got braces. Suddenly he was kicked off the team, and his friends quit talking to him. When he has a run-in at the NERD’s headquarters, the team’s leader, Agent Brand, decides to take him in. Will Jackson ever find friends again? Will the NERDS accept him as one of their own or forgive him for the years of merciless taunting he made them endure? When Jackson finds himself as one of the “nerds” he always bullied, everything starts to change. 

     On a more serious note, Nerds presents some important themes that resonate with children in grade school. Throughout the book you see the effect of Jackson’s bullying on those considered “nerds” or “losers” in school. One of these nerds, through years of anger and hard feelings, eventually turns to the dark sides and tries to destroy the world. Now I’m not saying that any person who has ever been called a name wants to take over the world, but this book does show the reader how seemingly harmless pranks and cranks can seriously hurt a person’s feelings. In Buckley’s novel, things are turned upside down. Bullying is not cool, and being a nerd is actually awesome. It also goes to show that not only should you accept others for who they are, but you should always accept yourself for you who are.

     So does the team ever accept Jackson into their world of secret agents and globe trotting missions? Read Michael Buckley’s Nerds and find out!

Buckley, M. (2009). Nerds: National espionage, rescue, and defense society. New York, NY: Amulet Books.

 

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Book Review for “Wild at Heart”

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Eldredge, J. (2002). Wild at heart: Discovering the secret of a man’s soul. Nashvilli: Thomas Nelson.

     John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart finally solves the enigma of man’s ever-searching soul, right? While that might not be entirely true, it does explain to you what Eldredge believes God created man’s heart to be.

     Throughout his novel, Eldredge argues that modern Christianity asks men to turn in their masculinity and pour out their feelings in small groups rather than live the dangerously faithful lives they were created for. According to Eldredge, Christianity is a life-risking religion that asks us to wage war against the devil, stand up in the face of adversity, and valiantly rescue our brothers and sisters that have been wounded in battle. This is precisely why God made man the way He did. God didn’t make man a sissy; He made him to lead the troops to victory.

     While this read is compelling, critics have called it very one-dimensional. If you are a man that does not enjoy climbing mountains and building things, then you might have a hard time relating to this book. However, if you can find a way to relate your own interests to the examples Eldredge lays out in his novel, you may really get something out of it.  Though, I find it challenging to review this book, perhaps Christian men that have read this book share more complex sentiments about its effectiveness. On the other hand, author John Eldredge and his wife Stasi Eldredge together wrote another book very similar to Wild at Heart for a more feminine audience. This book is Captivating, and it seeks to unveil the secrets of a woman’s soul. For obvious reasons I take much more interest in this book, and I hope to find the time to write about this one soon.

     In the end, whether or not this read is successful for every person who picks it up, Wild at Heart seeks to do one thing: to repair, preserve, and build up the hearts of men that have been wounded in this life. Eldredge believes that all men are called to give their lives for their loved ones the way that Christ did for us. This book not only shows men what they were created to do, but how they can do it effectively.

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Reading for a Cause: A Long Walk to Water and Lost Boy No More

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Park, L. S. (2010). A long walk to water: Based on a true story. New York, NY: Sandpiper.

     I first became familiar with  A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park through a college class that specialized in teaching social studies in middle school. Though I was not assigned this particular book, I found that my peers’ enjoyment and enthusiasm of this young adult novel piqued my interest. I was absolutely thrilled when I saw that my school bookstore was selling this book for only $5.99, so I jumped at the chance to explore this historical fiction read for myself. What I ended up loving so much about this book was that it’s not only a heart-touching and evocative read, but it raises awareness for a dire cause that is still in need of attention today.

     In 1983 the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out between the central Sudanese government in the north and the Liberation Army in the south. From then until 2005, this area of the world was ravaged by hatred, cruelty, and genocide. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is based on the real life experiences of Sudanese native Salva Dut. While some of the details of this novel were fictionalized, the storyline chronicles the outbreak of war in Salva’s village up through his remarkable triumph over adversity and his return home to help people in need.

9781433675270

Nhial, A., & Mills, D. (2004). Lost boy no more: A true story of survival and salvation. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers.

     Another great book to read along with A Long Walk to Water is Abraham Nhial and DiAnn Mills’s Lost Boy No More. This novel, though aimed at a slightly older audience, follows a similar story to Salva Dut’s. Abraham Nhial was also a lost boy of Sudan. (This term is given to the hundreds of thousands of young boys like himself and Salva who walked out of Sudan to find safety.) Nhial helps Mills write this biographical account of his journey to faith, safety, and peace. Not only does he share his experiences of leaving Sudan as a young boy, but he also opens up to the reader about how his trials brought him to faith in Jesus. These two novels both shed light on the personal horrors of the Sudanese Civil War.

     Yes, the content of these two books can be difficult to swallow. The fact that there is unimaginable suffering and killing going on in our world is never easy to accept. However, these two novels help create hope and a way to help those in need. Visit http://www.waterforsudan.org to see how you can donate money to help supply clean water to an area of the world that is still recovering from its hurts. Read A Long Walk to Water and Lost Boy No More, and take your own journey with the people of Sudan.

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A Reflection: Video Games in the Classroom and a New Kind of Literacy

     In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that the standard of public education in the United States has been drastically slipping. Many theories and explanations have been created to help remedy this problem. Is this due to the lack of funding? Or maybe it is the lack of rigorous standards? Perhaps the popular culture of instant digital media and video games are to blame? Many current thinkers in the realm of education are starting to believe the opposite. Yes, video games and digital media have had an effect on our students, but that effect is not necessarily negative. Because of modern technology, students think and learn differently than they used to. This fact has been largely ignored in the past, but with rapidly slipping test scores, this won’t be the case for much longer. There are many reasons why video game literacy is underrated, but many prominent thinkers have come up with many concrete reasons why video game literacy should be incorporated into classroom learning. This reflects the fact that video games can be used as a teaching tool, and in today’s 21st century, it is not only an option but a necessity.

            To many, the word “literacy” simply means the ability to read and write; however in the 21st century, this word is taking on a whole new meaning (Felini, 2013). The word “literacy” includes any type of human communication and learning; this includes digital mediums (Felini 2013). Reading is a necessary skill for survival in a modern world, but reading is no longer confined to books, magazines, and newspapers (Gee, 2012). Young adolescents are now reading on many different mediums from television, to computers, digital books, smart phones, and game systems. Because of this many people believe that the use of video games in the classroom can help bridge a student’s home and school life. After all, there is a whole new “school system” developing outside the classroom walls (Gee, 2012). This school system includes the ways adolescents and young adults learn to navigate and master their technology and digital media. Technology is changing, and it is no longer something we turn on and off. Everywhere we go we are bombarded by digital media. This is the realm of digital media that is constantly educating and shaping its participants nearly twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (Gee, 2012). Incorporating popular culture into today’s curriculum rather than censoring it out can be a great advantage to modern education (Felini, 2013). Through this we can teach students in ways we know they identify with and take to very easily. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that the idea of using video games as learning tools is still not widely accepted (Felini, 2013). It is no secret that many adults, parents and teachers alike, blame video games as their children’s source of violence, lethargy, lack of imagination, and lack of personal interaction (Prensky, 2001). Many educators even blame students’ lack of attention on their immersion in modern technology (Prensky, 2001). Is this really the case?

            It would be wrong to say students learn any worse today than they did in the past because of video games, however it would be correct to say children learn differently (Prensky, 2001). The science of neuroplasticity can show us exactly how our digital culture has shaped our brains (Prensky, 2001). Every day, brain cells are constantly being renewed and reorganized; persistent use of and exposure to digital technology affects this process (Prensky, 2001). In the words of Dr. Bruce D. Berry of Baylor College of medicine, “different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures” (Prensky, 2001). This is not necessarily a bad thing. Technology hasn’t shortened our students’ attention spans, but it has given them a different cognitive structure (Prensky, 2001). The instructional periods in many classrooms today include slow, step-by-step, logical, and methodical memorization of raw bodies of facts or processes (Prensky, 2001) (Gee, 2005). Because modern students are raised amidst constant exposure to technology, they have developed a new, parallel cognitive structure (Prensky, 2001). This means that students’ brains favor a quick-paced, rapid-response, learn-as-you-go style of learning (Prensky, 2001). Even anthropology can support this theory. People who grow up immersed in different cultures have been shown to not only think differently but to think of different things all together (Prensky, 2001). This is because different cultures have different beliefs, values, and practices. If we consider technology a separate culture in and of itself, then those who are fluent with digital mediums think differently and about different things than those who are not fluent with modern technology (Prensky, 2001). Both neuroplasticity and anthropology have shown us the need for video game learning in the classroom, but how specifically can students learn from video games?

            Whether or not it is commonly accepted, not all video games are violent or vulgar (Felini, 2013). There are numerous ways students can have the opportunity to learn through the use of educational video games. Students can become creators. They can create their own characters, plots, themes, audiences, and purposes (Felini, 2013). Doesn’t this sound a lot like story writing? Students can become analyzers. Just like written texts, students can analyze games for their themes, values, and stereotypes in greater depth than just reading words on a black and white page (Felini, 2013).  Video games can teach students about history, civilization, language, numeracy, mythology, collaboration, and problem-solving (Gee, 2012). For example, the game “World of War Craft” teaches its player how to strategize; “Portal” teaches its player how to problem-solve; “Full Spectrum Warrior”, based on United States Army simulation, even teaches its player the necessary skills to become a professional soldier (Gee, 2005)(Gee, 2012). When educational video games are based upon concrete, modern, scientific research concerning learning and cognition, the possibilities of what students can learn through video games are endless (Gee, 2005). So why are so many educators and schools still so reluctant to adopt video games as a digital media tool for learning?

            Many schools and teachers argue that modern technology is expensive and difficult to acquire (Felini, 2013). On top of this, teachers must also learn how to master this technology (Felini, 2013). Even more plainly, many students have grown up immersed in technology whereas many teachers have not (Prensky, 2001). The invalidation of digital literacy occurs because of a cultural bias of those who did not experience it all their life (Prensky, 2001)(Felini, 2013). It is an all too common occurrence to hear teachers blame students’ lack of attention span on their daily video game use. For those who do not use this sort of technology themselves, it is easy to see how they have come to this conclusion. As students began playing more video games over the years, they have become more and more bored in school. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that students can’t pay attention anymore. What it does mean is that outdated teaching techniques are no longer effective for children who think and learn differently. Despite this, digital media and video games are an important aspect of students’ lives today (Felini, 2013). Today’s students are living in a modern world, and they need to be prepared to live in this 21st century (Gee, 2012).  Video game literacy will not replace traditional forms of literacy such as reading, writing and arithmetic, however it will be used as a tool to supplement these traditional forms of literacy.

            The topic of video game literacy is a controversial issue in schools today. Should students have to learn the way their parents learned? Or should educators and schools begin to tailor their instruction to the changing brains and thought processes of today’s young adolescents? While the debate may continue for years to come, this issue will not go away. Our world is becoming increasingly technological and digitized. Many may still argue that students are doing worse in school because of video games. Traditional thinking tells us that constant exposure to rapid-response technology deprives our children of personal contact, imagination, wholesome entertainment, and physical fitness. Cutting edge educators however, believe that this same technology can be used to education’s advantage. Video games can teach children to do more than shoot guns and drive cars recklessly. When used in conjunction with science and educational theories, video games can teach our students whatever we choose.

Resources

Felini, Damiano. “Video game literacy: Exploring new paradigms and new educational

            activities.” MedienImpulse. n. page. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.

            <http://medienimpulse.at/articles/view/269.pdf&gt;.

Gee, James. “Digital games and libraries.” Knowledge Quest. 41.1 (2012): n. page. Web. 24 Jan.

            2013. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/detail?vid=4&sid=6cfd2589-28ad-48dc-813e-

            f4990d8f97eb@sessionmgr114&hid=101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU=

Gee, J. P. (2005). What would a state of the art instructional video game look like?. Innovate:

            Journal of Online Education, 1(6), Retrieved from

            http://www.innovateonline.info/pdf/vol1_issue6/What_Would_a_State_of_the_Art_

            Instructional_Video_Game_Look_Like_.pdf

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. MCB University Press, 9(5).

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants: Do they really think differently?. MCB

            University Press, 9(6).

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