Monday, May 16, 2016

Challenges and Pinwheels

This is the first guest post by one of our newcomers who has been in the states less than one year. Through her efforts, leadership, and vision, our school was able to raise the equivalent of $7000 just by making pinwheels. (Part one has details here.)

Check out her thoughts on the project and learn how it impacted her. She ends with perfect advice!


Working hard every morning to create, count, and recruit others!
 Have you thought about what do you want to do for your future? What do you want to do after school??? .... You have the opportunity to think and make it possible!!! If you work so hard you can make real all the goals that you have in mind... but some kids in others countries do not have these opportunities at consequences of wars or poverty like is the case in Syria.


   These Syrian’s children have many dreams, they really want to became a professional person that can help their country to be better and more peaceful, no matter the bad situation that they are living, they want to make the change but at consequence of the war, some of these Syrian’s children were removed from their homes to refugees where the conditions are not the perfect ones for them.


   One day two great teachers, two great friends and me were searching someone who need our help, so Miss Wendi and Miss Jimenez found a challenge which espoused the conditions where many Syrians are living, well this page give to us what we were looking for. We decided to do the challenge and in the process we found more than just make pinwheels. We found a way of happiness that can not be compared with another one. The challenge consisted to make pinwheels and for each one that you make a organization will give two dollars. That will be used to bring education to these Syrian kids that are allowed in the refugees. We found some videos and things to read about kids in the Syrian’s refugees where they were told us what they what they want to become in the future. All of them were wishing to change their country to one in peace, for example there was a nice and little girl who want to have a pharmacy with the motivation to help the people with their diseases.


    With just to watch the videos of the Syrian kids made us increase our goals! For example we started with the idea to make 1000 pinwheels, then 2000, but finally we exceeded our goal at 3500 pinwheels with the help of many of JM students and teachers showing the great unity in the school. This challenge was really fun, in many days the pinwheels just appeared in the classroom and we never knew who brought them. But I can say that this challenge is one of the best things I have done and I’m thankful to God for bring to us the opportunity to help the kids in Syria.


   All the people who hear about war and terrorism think that all of the people from this country are horrible and they’re killers, but we should think different think that these kids did not pick where to be born and they aren’t bad people. We should meet or search more of their culture, and not just from Syria, also all of the countries that have bad reputation. It’s not right just to look at the bad things that they do.  “Don’t judge something that you do not know so much.”   


One person cannot do so much but all of us together can do something big and special!!

Don’t think two times when the opportunity to help someone is present,

do that now......

This is what 3500+ pinwheels look like!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Millionaire Teacher


Watching your students succeed after long hours of work can make a teacher feel like a millionaire. I experienced this fully as my students shared video stories about their journeys as immigrants/ language learners with teachers from UNC Charlotte. The teachers' responses made all the work and planning oh-so-worthwhile. There were tears, laughter, questions, photos shared, personal questions asked, conversations started, and mutual learning in spades. At the end of the day, students were so excited. They told me they wanted to do something like this again. They told me it was fun, and they enjoyed it. But, most heartening of all, they told me they didn't feel invisible anymore. #FeelingRich #Priceless

Friday, May 6, 2016

How Pinwheels Impact Education

Call it new math. 

If one pinwheel equates to $2, 
and every $2 is donated toward the education of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and Iraq, 
how many "pinwheel makers" could 3 girls encourage to join the challenge?

How many pinwheels do you think there are?

Joy and relief at a challenge well-surpassed. 

Their initial goal was 1500 pinwheels, but they were determined
to encourage more folks to jump on board.

When all was said and done, the girls had collected 3534 pinwheels from
classmates, staff members, and family members! Those are two proud
teachers in the center and on the left. 
The International Rescue Committee and Healing Classrooms/ Students Rebuild will distribute some of the pinwheels to Healing Classrooms students in Lebanon and Iraq. Others will be used to create a commemorative display within some of the refugee schools. Donations generated by the Pinwheel Challenge will provide training for teachers "in special techniques to engage conflict-affected children with social-emotional learning opportunities and to create secure, nurturing learning environments."  

We are grateful to The Bezos Family Foundation for generously matching each pinwheel made during the Healing Classrooms Challenge with a $2 donation. This has been an incredible way to heighten consciousness of the Syrian crisis as well as the refugee crisis, and to 
prove that small actions can help 
create tremendous impact
 for both recipients and makers alike.   

Keep checking the Students Rebuild website for more challenges, and to view prior ones. They also include free educational resources to help you add depth and understanding to the experience. 

Stay tuned for a guest post next week from the girl who spearheaded this effort. She was the "ringleader of wonderful things". And thank you again to Students Rebuild, the IRC, and the Bezos Foundation, as well as all the students at JMHS! Go, Jets! 



Friday, April 22, 2016

More ways to use Visual Notes in the Secondary Classroom!

2 ways we used Edusketching in class this week, that you can implement tomorrow!

1. The Collaborative Whiteboard Review: As a review of the day's learning in World History, I began by writing a title elicited from the students: "What was the primary topic of today's learning?" It was an introduction to the French Revolution, as you can see at the top of the whiteboard. 

Then I simply started asking students about some key points and takeaways from their reading and their notes. "Tell me about the social hierarchy", and as they talked, I drew--but only the title and the social classes you see here.  Then we talked about causes of the Revolution, primary people, etc. etc. and as soon as students gave answers, I said "c'mon up and draw that for us". Big smiles and eagerness were the norm here, as in "hey, this is fun."

For those who knew the information but were reluctant to come and draw, I simply asked the other students how we could represent ______ with a simple drawing. LOADS of help from the others encouraged the reluctant to give it a go! This photo is from today, when students actually asked me if they could add more notes to our compilation from yesterday. 

Edusketching in action!
What? How awesome is that?

Anyway, I love their energy when they take small risks. Students at their seats can copy without risk, then add to their own as we go. Can't you imagine trying this simple review tomorrow in class?

2. Visual Summaries: My ESL class ranges in proficiency levels from absolute newcomers (just arrived in the past 3 weeks) to a high level 3. Lots of gifts within these students, let me tell you. They are currently working on a storytelling video project, and as we are thinking about how to make our stories more interesting to the audience, we are focusing on....you guessed it...those wonderful details to make the story stick. 

This is what we did. This particular class is comprised of all native Spanish speakers, and my Costa Rican colleague agreed, with delight I might add, to weave a fanciful 5-minute tale in Spanish for them about one of her, ahem...Adventures. 

Her storytelling hat donned, students were prepared to record her story via Visual Summary. They had 6 boxes in their homemade graphic organizers, with lines under each for an accompanying sentence about it. She regaled them with tales of Costa Rica, cows, and stolen mangoes. 

Kids completed their visual summaries, and most (not all) completed some sort of sentence or label underneath each sketched picture. Notice the differences in writing, imagery, and details from this range of students and their progressing abilities.

This student captured the sequence, with words for
the beginning and end.  
This student captured the sequence, with slightly more detailed
drawings, but needed to go back to recount details verbally.
This student was "resourceful" by erasing and combining pictures
5 & 6, and also used some labels.  
4/ 6 images, but with sentences for each.
6/ 6 images plus verbal details for each. See how quickly
you can assess students with visual summaries, while
you're having conversations with them and digging deeper
into what they know? So much fun, too. 
6/6 images, plus labels and some simple phrases. Love how quickly
these visuals let me assess listening,  writing, and speaking (through
informal conversations about their images and then when they share
with their peers).
The next day, students worked in groups to analyze 4-5 summaries each. What can we learn from visual summaries? What was the same? What was different? And most importantly, why the similarities / differences?
Conversations were slow to start because this was the first time we'd done anything like this in class, and these were very new questions. We had all heard the exact same story. It was told in their native language. 

Yet. 

The images were different. And the same. How could that be? 

Through their analysis, they realized that 2-3 similar details were in each of the summaries: mango trees, airplanes/ airports, and people from the story. Why was this? Out of all the other details what made these resonate so deeply? What made them stick? 

The biggest reason they stated was that they thought it was because they could relate to her culture and knew about mango trees, and that everyone in the class is from Central America like her. 

They analyzed the content: the sequence and details were all correct in each of them, despite differing details; they thought that the visuals made it shorter and easier to understand, and they learned some life lessons from her story. 

Differences? Drawing ability was one idea posed for the differences, while levels of listening ability were proposed as the reason a couple of our students only completed 2-3 images of the 6. :-) Some groups focused more on the actual story than my question, but their conversations remained rich regarding the topic, and I let them converse for a couple of minutes before re-focusing. 

They also understood that everyone in the class has different visual ideas for thinking and drawing, that all people think and visualize differently, and differences stem from our imagination. 





So what does this mean for their next steps? They will now go forth in the next steps of their video script armed with these takeaways:

1. How can you help the audience relate to your story?
2. What key details do you want your audience to walk away with? (and is there a why?)
3. What language can you add to create vivid images in your audience's mind?
4. What imagery within your own video will help you reach your audience like you hope to?
5. What is the tone of your story? Humorous, serious, informative? 

This analysis took about 30 minutes, but the conversations within each group were animated, and they enjoyed looking at each others' visual summaries. The simplicity of sketches always belies the complexity of thought and the vast lessons that can be learned about each others' thinking.  

How will you incorporate a lesson like this tomorrow? I'd love to know!

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Week of (FREE!) Student Travel!

It's a busy time of year, and friends ask me if I'm "ready for summer" yet.

Honestly, no, I'm not.

When I say that, my friends think I'm joking. But, there's So. Much. To. Do. I'm talking good stuff, too, dear readers. The kind of things that get you hopping out of bed early in the morning, and may even keep you up late at night.

Those of you who know me, know I LOVE to travel, explore and learn about others and their cultures. I'm always seeking ways to bring my students along, which is why I also love being a connected educator. Here are some of the things that make teaching exciting for me. Have a look at these images from just 3 days!

Traveling to the Middle East and Central Asia!
I get excited when I see curiosity sparked in students, and it's especially easy using realia like these artifacts from Bahrain, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan:


Artifacts from Kyrgyzstan
Artifacts from Afghanistan and Pakistan
Articles from Bahrain
Don't let their age fool you--teens still love to try
new things!
Who are these new people in our class?
Flags!!







Traveling to New York City and the United Nations Headquarters!
And showing them places they've not been--but in real time, and in an interactive way, like this virtual field trip at the United Nations in NYC: (via skype)
A view outside the window of the UN in New York!
Art representing Chernobyl. There are many pieces of donated
art which represent historical events, people and cultures. 
Ah, yes. The inner workings of the UN.
Meeting and seeking solutions. 
One of our favorite illustrated rights from the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

"Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including
reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay." 
My sketchnotes from our United Nations virtual field trip.


Traveling to Costa Rica to meet a Women's Rights Activist!
And introducing them to a bilingual human rights activist who taught them how easy it is to get roped into human rights issues when you are observant, care about those around you, and have faith. Here is a photo of Adilia Caravaca Zuniga, a strong member of the Women's International LPF, an organization over 100 years old.



Ms. Caravaca started her quest for human rights as a
very young girl. 
She has continued her fight for women's rights for
many years, in many places. 
What was REALLY cool about Ms. Caravaca's presentation is the fact that, as busy as she is, she realizes the value of spending 40 minutes with teens thousands of miles away! Sparking interest, sparking curiosity, and reminding all of us how critical it is that we care? Thanks to Skype, we experienced all of that!

And yes, students remember. Of course, when you tell them "this day, THIS CLASS!, is going to be unforgettable, and without a doubt their favorite class of the day", guess what?
You'll be right.

Hope you enjoyed the "week in pictures"! Fun times are afoot in Room 204. :-)

What connections can YOU make with your students this month/ semester/ year? What universities can you partner with? What virtual tours can you experience? Who can skype in with your students? Most importantly, what connections can your students help you find?

*Special thanks to WorldView at UNC Chapel Hill, for providing the different culture kits;
thanks to UN outreach center for setting up two separate tours; and thanks to my colleague Carla Jimenez, for procuring our esteemed guest, Ms. Caravaca, on Friday. It truly does take a village to educate our children well, and although it takes a little time setting it all up, this, my friends, is what students will be talking about far more than that worksheet or study guide.  ;-)

Who will you connect with today?  Where is your next destination?