Sep 1, 2019

Teaching Eleven and Twelve Year Olds How to Conduct Online Research is Fun

Working Every Day With Kids
I'm a teacher. I don't have a classroom of seventy kids. My largest class has twenty-three students. I work at a small school. There is a lot of interaction between teachers and students and I'm often in the middle of things every day. Because of my schedule, I get to teach several different subjects to different age groups. I teach two different groups of Sixth graders once a week. We've had this schedule since September. 
Working with computers
You still need paper and pen even if you're working on a computer.

Teaching Kids How to Research Online
I teach a class called Research. We do activities in the computer lab. I make them create customized Google Maps. We use Google Earth. For one lesson the kids created their own Encyclopedia Britannica online account. I teach them how to find good resources online. I make them take notes on Google Docs. I talk about Internet safety. Sometimes we play silly HTML games online. It's an easy class to teach because we’re doing stuff I like. Give me an encyclopedia or an atlas and I'm lost in it for hours. I'll forget to eat or take a shower. So I'm in my element twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. It's the closest I get to feeling like a librarian. Also, I get a kick out doing Internet-related stuff with kids. It's interesting finding out how much they know. Eleven and Twelve-year-olds are also really hilarious and curious. 
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com
Creating Surveys to Teach Qualitative and Quantitative Questioning
Leveraging my students' insatiable curiosity, I made them create their own Google Forms. We did a unit on qualitative and quantitative questions. How many hours do you spend online? That's a quantitative question. How do you feel about going to the dentist? That’s a qualitative question. And I talked about the differences between open and close-ended questions. Using those two concepts we created surveys. A large percentage of the kids wrote survey questions about video gaming habits. Elliot wrote a survey collecting information about eating-out habits. And another kid named Amber wrote a survey that used Google Form’s redirect feature to make the survey different based on answers respondents gave to questions. It was the first time I had ever made kids make their own Google Form. So I was happy. Sending out the Forms to others took some work, though. Kids had fun emailing the persistent link to friends, teachers, and family - but, to be honest, the kids who had their parents post the link to other adults via social media garnered the most results. I was impressed that one savvy researcher amassed 70+ results. Most of us managed only to get twenty. But the goal of the lesson was in designing and creating the survey - not in its popularity. So I praised kids’ design efforts over popularity. 

Creating Google Forms With Students
If you want to do a similar lesson with kids keep these things in mind:
  • The first question should be required:
  • Set the Google Form to not collect respondents’ emails. And disable required Google login to take the survey.
  • Turn off quiz mode. There are no right or wrong answers.
  • Make a snazzy visual header.
  • Brainstorm lots of ideas. Look up and model good examples.
  • A survey on BBQ versus Hot Pot is a better survey than just FOOD.
  • Use lots of relevant images!!!! 
  • Divide your survey into sections.
  • Use the grid question type in Google Forms.
  • Make your kids use all the question-types.
  • There is a difference between a checklist question and a multiple choice question.
  • Make your kids create at least one linear scale question.
  • Don't make all questions open-ended.
  • Have kids explain their questions. Not everyone understands what Fortnite and dap mean.
Other Things to Consider: 
Explain to your students that they're conducting research using qualitative and quantitative data and exploring general interests and preferences. They're not collecting personal information. Don't collect first and last names, addresses, emails, or birthdates with month, day, and year. 

If your school is not set up to use Google Apps don't worry. If kids are thirteen and older they can create their own Google accounts. If kids are under thirteen, they'll need parental permission to make a Google Account for kids. 

Proofread your kids’ work before allowing them to send it out to the world. Once you decide a survey meets your standards make the student draft a Researcher’s Letter and save it to Google Docs. That way they can be like real data scientists. 

An Example of Student Work
Dear Friends, Etc.,
I’ve created a qualitative and quantitative survey to represent students in Middle School and their favorite things (this survey only applies to students in 4th, 5th and 6th grade.). I’m conducting this research for a school project. I am not collecting personal information. Thank you for taking this survey!
What Has Been Your Experience Teaching Kids Online Research Skills?
Thank you for reading my blog. I write a lot of stuff about different topics; so, I hope you enjoyed this one about using Google Apps in the classroom. Let me know in the comments if you've ever experimented with Google Forms in a classroom setting.

Aug 16, 2019

Short Film Review: Broke (2017)


The Short Film "Broke" - 2017 (35 minutes, in Norwegian with English subtitles)
Norwegian Filmmakers Make Another Short Film About Something Not Quite Right in Norway’s Affluent Suburbs
Filmmaker Bjørn Erik Pihlmann Sørensen and screenwriter Einar Sverdrup have teamed up and made a new short that serves as another installment in what looks to be a series of movies about the hidden underbelly of Norwegian suburban society. I reviewed the duo’s short film Reckless in June. It’s a troubling film about responsibility, desire, and sexual exploration gone awry. You can read my review here. I don’t want to play a game of compare and contrast. I will write about Broke using a more or less reader-response approach to interpreting a work of art. What I will do is look at the film as it stands, first, and what I think it is trying to say. Then — if I am so inclined I can make stray observations that lend itself more to how it opens a dialogue with its predecessor Reckless.

Here is my review of Broke:
Broke is a story of how a rather well-to-do upper-middle-class family deals with the prospect of going bankrupt. That is how the movie has been packaged — and it is the expectation I had going into watching it. Full disclosure: I was able to view the film by way of the filmmakers (since the movie has not yet been made available for full release). Mr. Philman sent me a screener (for which I am very grateful). Broke is still making its presence known at festivals and in special screenings around the world; It will debut in New York at Cinema Village and run from August 16-22. As many independently funded projects go — the movie is hoping to get picked up for a wider release.

The Anticipation that Something Bad is Going to Happen
Sometimes a movie wants desperately for you to think something awful is about to happen. And Broke is a movie just like that. Someone puts a weapon in a backpack. But it is not revealed who. A married couple fight in their bedroom thinly keeping their row secret from the kids who are supposedly sleeping down the hall. I expected violence to ensue in just the first few minutes of watching this movie. It begins taut and on edge. And I must say the movie freaked me out because for the majority of its storytelling it hugs close to a school shooting narrative (a horrifying series of hells Americans have been facing since Columbine).I had this sense of foreboding since a large chunk of the story follows young adolescent Pia (Sofie Albertine Foss) as she goes about her school day — a little uneasily. In fact, everyone in this movie seems very much ill at ease. No one is enjoying their current dispensation. Pia is enormously bright but chooses to hide her gifts and gives off the appearance of a wallflower. She is an observer, watching Daniel (Marcus Rix), a hunky boy, a bully who taunts a smaller boy, Jonas (Arthur Hakalahti). Daniel belittles Jonas with impunity, and in one unsettling moment physically harasses him in the school swimming pool. The film presents us with long shots of Pia, Daniel, and Jonas — and other kids and adults who inhabit this school. I did not pick up much joy; the blase nature of adolescent Je ne sais quoi seemed grossly disproportionate here. The kids in this film are candidates for something very bad about to happen. But we don’t know what. Or how. The film teases us a bit; the Checkhov gun is literally a gun but we don’t know how it will turn up and what character will possess it or use it or whether someone cause harm with it.
    We do eventually get the answers to these question (sort of) — what work the film does before it reveals its hands is to get us to know these three disparate teenagers a little better. Pia shows a need to withdraw (as, for example, when she tells her teacher she does not have her swimming suit with her). She sits in the bleachers instead and watches events transpire. Jonah is the picked-on kid. The pariah. Pia shows concern for Jonas; Daniel is all masculine bravado and “I don’t give a f***.” However, Pia is drawn to Daniel like a moth to a flame. And here is where the film pivots.

An Aggressive Sexual Encounter Holds the Middle of the Film
Pia joins Daniel after school; first, berating him for being a bully, and actively standing up for Jonas. But Pia takes the bait and follows Daniel to his house, and we and the camera are made witness to an awkward sexual detente between the two characters. But is it really? When Pia tries to put a stop to Daniel’s advances, he turns on her. And Pia leaves, angry and frustrated. Daniel cannot stand to be rebuffed; his retaliation is to call Pia “a slut.” Watching this interaction between the two characters I was taken aback. Where is the story taking me (us)? Daniel is aggressive and he outrightly makes a move on Pia; he is physical and rough and he exposes his body to Pia and to the camera, wanting her to perform oral sex on him. The camera does not turn away. I was relieved when Pia, deciding not to have sex, leaves Daniel’s bedroom. She makes a choice — and then the movie changes directions again. Hints are dropped throughout the movie that it is Pia’s family who has been hit with a financial blow. Her father has lost a significant amount of money (presumably through bad investments) and is forced to have to shed his assets and move his family to a different city to survive. Pia is shattered by this revelation and she is processing what this means for her. I do not want to reveal the ending because I think this is a film that deserves to be watched from beginning to end. I will tell you that I found the climax to be teeth-grinding; I had to turn my head away from the camera. Something awful does happen in this movie, but something is also restored. But it takes a lot of pain and pent-up frustration to get there. Checkhov’s gun is revealed in the end — but the gun does not end up being quite what one thought it would be. The movie ends with deep sadness.

What is Broke Trying to Say?
A key to the movie’s inner logic, I will say this as a closing, comes earlier in the film — when the kids are in class and the teacher is proceeding to dole out an ostensibly boring lesson on the fall of the Roman Empire. The teacher asks his class, “What would you do if you had no money?”. His question falls on deaf ears because the kids in his class do not know what it means to be truly broke. They are blithe in their privilege and I get the sense, watching the film, there is a lost ability to deeply care. I am a teacher so I get bored high school students. And suffice it to say — the teacher doe not try hard to entertain his classroom. But that is the point. He plays the part of the Cassandra of the film; he lays bare what happens when a society has a fiscal collapse. It turns in on itself. And it is then, watching the movie a second time, I realized what the final scene is meant to explore. What happens when society itself “runs out”?

Stray Observations
  • Pia’s relationship with her little sister is similar to Mads’s relationship with his sister in Reckless.
  • I leave out considerable plot points in my review because I feel like it is best to let the reader make the narrative connections. The movie has a twist and I do not want to reveal it. 
  • Both Broke and Reckless are beautifully shot works of art. I liked the aesthetics of Reckless better - because I noticed the use of bright color was effective against the backdrop of the dram. The color scheme in Broke is much more muted and somber. 
  • Both short films serve as a kind of “Public Service Announcement”; and that is not necessarily a bad thing. 
  • The classroom scene was notable for me. As I mentioned in the review the students are incredibly bored. However, I don’t think the lack of affect in the teenagers is a direct criticism of Norway’s educational system; I think it is a conceit drawn up by the filmmakers to heighten the sense of dread the film is meant to evoke. 
  • One of Pia’s classmates, Mikkel, reads like the most emotionally distant character in the film; his performance in Pia’s history class is very characteristic of teenager crying out for help.
  • Guns are a controversial topic; unchecked violence in society has attempted to unmoor the stability of our cities and people are on edge. This movie plays on that uncertainty and looks at it from a unique perspective.
“Broke” is screening at Cinema Village from Friday, August 16 to Thursday, August 22.

Aug 4, 2019

Coming Out Stories: Inspired By a Quotation From the Documentary Paris is Burning, I Write about Growing Up Gay in Louisiana

Paris is Burning © 1990 - a documentary about the gay ballroom scene in New York City.
N.B. This post is about growing up gay; and as such, it deals with content that some may find offensive. I know there is a lot of heat about the Tayler Swift Song "You Need to Calm Down" - but I will say to my possible haters: "You are somebody that I don't know / But you're taking shots at me like its Patron." And I don't even drink Patron!

     I am a slow learner. Growing up gay in South Louisiana in the early 1990s I had no idea there was a subculture just for me. I could have had a family. I could have been like the fem boys and the drag sisters and mothers of the street. I could have jumped on the Greyhound bus in Mandeville, Louisiana and landed as a street kid in New York City. However, as a twelve-year-old kid who had a semblance of his own gayness, I did not come out to my friends as gay until I was seventeen years old (which is an entirely different story) - and I was not out to any of my family members until way later in life (when I was in my 20s and 30s). I remember my mom asked me when I was about sixteen if I were gay and I flat-out said: "No, Mom." I did not have to think about it. I was not ready to go down that road. I think I had a deep sense of secrecy because I had internalized that my gayness was not something to share. It was a part of me but it was not something I wanted other people to know. And as the kids in Jennie Livingston's documentary Paris is Burning attest to - coming out as gay was not a safe option - even for the ballroom kids. In fact, it was the rejection of their gayness that led the ballroom kids to ascend on New York City's underground club scene in the first place where they ineluctably formed their own version of families (called "houses").
     I recently watched the documentary (which I am ashamed to say was my first viewing). I had only seen clips on Youtube and had listened to Ru Paul Charles preach about the film on her cable TV reality show Ru Paul's Drag Race  - which has gathered a lot of its aesthetic and jolt from the ballroom culture. Ru Paul rightfully references the show on her show - and I think she sees it as "a peering into" the world of drag culture that perhaps not many people are privy to. I could have used the truth of Paris is Burning growing up. I am sure my story is not unique. Growing up in the suburbs - which the filmmaker Xavier Dolan once said was "the place where dreams and ambitions go to die" - I wanted something more than "this provincial life." Thank you, Belle. Little did you know that as a gay kid Disney's animated bibliophilic French country girl was my hero. When you are gay - and you do not have a lot of representation in movies and on television - you go and find it; you make it; you see it in the subtext - which is probably why gay folk are really good at reading between the lines (and why some of us have made a name for ourselves in literary theory). Looking back on it I was crafty as a kid. I consumed gay identity - but I did it covertly and I was careful about learning how to be gay. I think I failed because when I went to my twenty-year high school reunion no one was surprised; I realize now that the superlative I received in the yearbook for "most friendly" was actually a substitute for "most gay." In the 90s there were emerging examples of gay representation but you had to look for it. I did buy a copy of XY magazine at the newsstand (I had to go in the back and look behind the Playgirls; but I found it - and I was internally satisfied by the magazine's outright celebration of gay male beauty. As a way of marking my gay desire, I did cut out my favorite pin-ups and pasted them in my notebook (that is a true story). I also hunted the shelves of the local public library for gay-themed books. I stumbled upon a copy of Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and read its frank discussion of surreptitious male desire and came to understand that homosexual desire was not only universal (not just tacked on to my identity) but something that existed and has existed for a long time and in different civilizations and dispensations.
    I say I am a slow learner because I have accumulated gay culture in drips and drabs. In 1996 I discovered the musical Rent - and I listened to it with my friend Jonathan like a billion times - along with tracks from Tori Amos's album Under the Pink and Crash Test Dummies. As a teenager, I was a theater kid. Being involved in community and school theater helped me to form my first sense of belonging. It was the closest I got to the ballroom scene as a kid. Not to say I was out in the small theater world I participated in (nor were any of my friends). We were the kids who did not do sports, were not especially interested in academic accolades, and we just wanted a space to hang out, to be on stage, to work together and to put on plays. My closest friends were straight boys and girls; and very rarely did sexuality ever come up in conversation; I never had a gay friend or lover in high school, and, as an adult, I was surprised when someone I knew in high school had come out as gay as an adult. Austin, for example, was a shy kid in my Seventh Grade American history class; his father was the vice principal of the school; he made excellent grades and he was intelligent and well-spoken; however, I don't think we ever socialized. Ever. Why didn't we connect as kids? Being gay is not an immediate reason to become besties, apparently. I had heard on Facebook that he had come out in college and he was, according to a mutual friend, very gay.

Jul 11, 2019

Video Installation: Striking a Pose at the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey

Adam Driver plays a bus driver-cum-poet in the movie Paterson 
In this post, I document a recent visit to Paterson, New Jersey to see the Great Falls. 
On the way to our mutual friend's wedding, my friend and I stopped at the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey. It is an exciting site because in Paterson (back in the day) engineers (with the support of Alexander Hamilton) discovered a way to harness the sheer power and velocity of the falls by converting moving water into energy using a series of waterways and hydropower. The falls are the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi - by volume ( but for me: it is just really relaxing and beautiful). The town of Patterson has a lot of history and impressive architecture - and there is a third reason - Adam Driver - he plays a New Jersey Transit bus driver-turned-poet in the movie Paterson - where in one scene he makes a pit stop at the Falls to conjure up some inspiration. I don't claim to be an Adam Driver; however, I am certainly one to espouse the practice of making art from the everyday details of life.

Where do you go to sit and relax (and perhaps get inspired)? Do you have such a place? Or, do you have to find it?

Jul 4, 2019

Dinner at Amherst College's Valentine Dining Hall Yields Dogtime - Plus Some Thoughts on the Fourth of July

    For July, I will be a student at Amherst College, studying punishment with Professor Austin Sarat. I am here with fifteen or so educators. We live on campus during our time here as National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholars. I am living in a dorm on campus - called the Charles Drew House. The house was once the home of a guy named Seelye who was an Amherst Alum. Now it is a themed-house named in honor of the African American surgeon Charles Drew. Today is a National Holiday - the Fourth of July - so there are no classes, and the college is closed; however, the dining hall is open during the holiday, so those of us who have nowhere else to go can eat here! One of the teachers has a service dog - a Great Dane named Daisy. Tonight for dinner, before watching the Fourth of July fireworks at the University of Massachusett's campus, I chomp on edamame and chicken breast. Daisy joins us. So does Mike - a Catholic High School Theology teacher and Aklima - an English teacher in Flushing - and Matt - a Middle School teacher from Philadelphia. Anne - a social studies teacher from Florida - joins us too.
    I am excited to be in a new place. A new environment - even if it is just for a month. After dinner on campus - we pile into a public bus headed for the fireworks display. It is a slab gray bus and the bus driver, sporting a blue tee, flashes a smile, and welcomes us aboard. American fireworks are a display of patriotism - that is for sure - but it is also a day when people do not mind staking out a patch of green, laying out a blanket, and lounging in the dark with a bottle of beer and snacks. I lay on the grass, feeling tired from all of the excitement and take in the show. For such a small town - it feels like everyone is out tonight. The fireworks are colorful and loud - emanating sound and light from the center of the UMASS football field. It transpires in a flash. Lights. Shouts. Ohhhhhs. Ahhhhhs. And darn. The buses are not running to take us home to the Charles Drew dorm. We walk back, up to the hill, past picturesque houses and driveways, to the dorm. I say goodnight to Emily Dickinson. "I dwell in possibility," I say to my pillow. Goodnight.    
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Jun 29, 2019

Travels in Summer: A Cadillac Parked in the River Terrace Terrace Neighborhood of Washington Reminded Me of My Childhood

I collected Matchbox cars when I was a youngster, and this classic car parked on a leafy side street in Northeast Washington reminded me of one of my old diecast cars. I went to Washington to see a few pals (and made some new friends). I stayed at an Airbnb hosted by this actor-cum-airport-employee named Shaun (who was super nice). Walking from the AirBnB, I spotted this car. Now mind you - it has been super-hot these past few days - and D.C. was no different. However, I really enjoyed being outside, and I spent a lot of my time in the Capitol, exploring nature and the outdoors. Shaun's house is located in the River Terrace neighborhood of the District adjacent to the Anacostia River. One can access a bunch of trails from this spot - I walked from R.F.K. Stadium across Benning Road Bridge a few times. It is a gorgeous walk! And if you are a train, subway, or general rail enthusiast, it opens you to a magnificent view of the city's Metro trains that course along on an open, elevated trestle across the river. I was struck by how much I had been missing being outdoors ever since I moved to New York City. New York has great parks - don't get me wrong - but it never feels like the outdoors. D.C. has some spectacular trails and nature views for the adventurous. Give it a try.  #washington #oldcars #neighborhoodstreets
Flowers on Kingman Island (District of Columbia)

Jun 26, 2019

Photo : A Snail Climbs Up A Wall (And a Joke about Snails)


After taking this photo of a snail climbing up the wall of a friend's house, I was reminded of the following joke that circulated among us high school French students back in the day:

Car Salesman: What can I do for you today?
Snail: I want to buy a car.
Car Salesman: OK. Let me show you some of our newest models.
Snail: I know what I want. I want that car over there (points to a rad sports car). But when I buy it I want you to print the letter "S" all over the car.
Car Salesman: Excellent choice, Mr. Snail; but, may I ask why do you want the letter "S" printed all over your new car?
Snail: Because when people see me they'll say, 'Look at the Escargot!".

Jun 24, 2019

Philosophy in the Classroom: Sample Student Work on Plato's Allegory of the Cave (With Thirteen and Fourteen-Year-Old Kids)


Sample Work from Mr. Roselli's 8th Grade Ethics Class
Planning an Eighth Grade Ethics Curriculum at a Private School in Queens
I taught the 8th Graders every Tuesday as part of my teaching load this past school year. I teach at a private, independent school in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens. The kids are receptive to learning - albeit a rowdy bunch. The class was split into two. So basically I saw each group every other week. The class was PASS/FAIL and I put a lot of emphasis on student participation, talking, and group work. I uploaded content for them to read and view on Google Classroom so I did not have to spend a lot of time going over the material in class. Here is a short overview of one particular lesson I did (with some student work).

Reading Plato's Allegory of the Cave in a Middle School Ethics Class
We read Plato's cave in class - using a lesson I had created (and which you can access here). The kids were in eighth grade - so they would be thirteen or fourteen years old.

Kids' Understanding of Plato's Ideas
Students jot down their summary ideas to get the gist.
The one takeaway I noticed with this age group is that they totally "got" the idea of most people's inability to change a mindset and think through a different perspective. I feel like that is indicative of the age group - most kids that age have difficulty understanding and processing different points of view. They recognize others' points of view, but since they are often self-focused and not other-focused, they spend a lot of energy and anxiety over whether or not people "get" their point of view. They desperately want to be understood (which is human). In this example, from student work, I had the kids present their own visual representation of Plato's cave. These three students, Isabel, Ryan, and Hayden, were very much fixated on the idea that enlightenment is pretty much impossible. Notice how they put an exit sign in the cave with the label "unachievable".

Getting Students to Jot Down Their Ideas

The lingo teachers use is "getting the gist". You are not looking for kids to pen a dissertation. But you want students to produce something written in the course of the lesson. The comments they made were original, and I liked how they understood Plato's dual reality theory. It is not an easy concept to get, but they really appreciated it. From a writing perspective, it is vital to get students to jot down their ideas - even if it is a few sentences or even a list of words. It helps the kids solidify their thoughts. And also it helps me, the teacher, to scan for student understanding.

Class: Eighth Grade Ethics / 90 Minute Lesson (you can break it down into two separate 45-minute lessons)
Materials: paper, pencils, pen, handouts of the Allegory of the Cave, Comprehension Questions, Discussion Questions, Entrance, and Exit Tickets
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Jun 19, 2019

Whose Quotation Is It?: "You Greeks Are Like Children"


Ancient Ruins
“You Greeks are like children.” An Egyptian priest has reprimanded Solon, a Sixth Century Greek diplomat, about why Egypt has been around for quite a while longer than the Greeks. The Egyptians are having none of that. Greek civilization at that time was still too young to boast of its own greatness. Grow up a bit, the Egyptian advises.
But what is the veracity of this quote and where does it really originate?

There is a general rule of thumb that if you read a quotation online purported to be penned by a famous writer, politician, or philosopher, it is best to be skeptical, especially if the quote is not cited with a reference to an actual book or solid source. Plato said it? Abraham Lincoln said it? Hillary Clinton said it? I'd be wary if the citation is not complete. It has happened to me several times that I found a quote that I liked (and even posted it here) only to later find out that its authorship is unknown.
A Quick Internet Search Has Yielded a Researcher’s Headache
A few years ago, I was an assistant to a political scientist - he needed someone to come to his house in Staten Island to work on a manuscript he was writing about emerging global markets. One job I had was to track down quotes he wanted to use in his book. “Research Solon's remarks about ‘You Greeks are like children’,” he told me. It was a seemingly easy quote to track down because I knew the story from History. Solon did indeed visit Egypt in the Sixth Century B.C.E. But who actually recorded the interchange between the priest and Solon: “You Greeks are like children …”?
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A quick Internet search showed that apparently, Plato was the one who immortalized the exchange between the Egyptian priest and Solon - but as I mentioned earlier, I could not find a hard source. However, I finally found the source - after doing a series of searches in the Complete Works of Plato - I found it. The quote comes from Plato’s Timaeus. In this book, Plato has Socrates and his friends talking about a bunch of things, but one strand that runs through the dialogue is the creation of the world. Solon appears in the dialogue because of Critias - one of Plato’s cousins! He tells the story of Solon visiting Egypt. An old priest stands up and says:
“‘Ah, Solon, Solon, you Greeks are ever children. There isn’t an old man among you.’ On hearing this, Solon said, ‘What? What do you mean?’ ‘You are young,’ the old priest replied, ‘young in soul, every one of you. Your souls are devoid of beliefs about antiquity handed down by ancient tradition. Your souls lack any learning made hoary by time.’” (Timaeus 22 b-c)*
*Plato,  and John M. Cooper. Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009. Print.

Jun 17, 2019

According to the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man (from 2002) Smart High School Students from Queens Study at the 42nd Street Library

The 42nd Street Library (The Stephen A. Schwartzman Building)
If you live in New York City, everyone knows the 42nd Street Library on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The building (flanked by its two iconic lions - Patience and Fortitude) represents the city's public library system - even though the site is not a branch library (it's a humanities research library) and the city hosts three public library systems. The building is also embedded in the medium of American popular culture - everything from Ghostbusters, Sex and the City to Day After Tomorrow and Breakfast at Tiffany's have featured the library. So considering Spider-Man is New York city's own superhero - he's a teen from Queens, after all - it's fitting that the 2002 original Spider-Man movie starring Tobey Maguire would feature this iconic spot.

Uncle Ben's Famous Speech: "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility"
Peter Parker needs to study, so Uncle Ben drives him from their home in Forest Hills in his massive gas-guzzling Cadillac to the front steps of the library. It's there that he gives his famous speech: "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." Besides being a motivational speech given by a surrogate father to his maturing son, the address serves as foreshadowing to what's to come. Uncle Ben dies in a shoot-out caused by the trigger-happy actions of a thief (whom Peter Parker was unable to capture). Peter feels directly responsible for his Uncle's death - and it is his death that propels the Spider-Man story forward.


Do Kids from Queens Use the 42nd Street Library to Study?
How many kids from Queens go to the 42nd Street library to study? I am a teacher in Queens, so I really want to know. My experience is that Queens' kids stick to their neighborhoods - be it Jackson Heights or Forrest Hills. So I guess it shows that Peter Parker is an outlier - he chooses to expand his horizons. In reality, if you live in Queens, you are more than likely to use the Queens Public Library - which is actually a separate entity from the New York Public Library - but I digress.

Great Places to Study if You Want to Do a Peter Parker and Get Out of Bed
If you really want a quiet place to study but you don't have Uncle Ben's wheels to take you to Manhattan here are a few of my favorite places to explore in Queens:
  • Forest Hills Branch, Elmhurst Branch, and Jackson Heights Branch of the Queens Public Library - these are just three of my favorite branches in the Queens system.
  • Museum of the Moving Image - If the weather is beautiful - and you don't mind paying the entrance fee (15 for adults 11 for students and 9 for kids) - the outside patio is a comfortable place to study and read.
  • If you are looking for a sweet spot in Jackson Heights try Espresso 77 - but be warned you cannot use a laptop on weekends - and on weekdays laptop people are relegated to a particular table.
  • The J, Z, F, M, R, E, G, and 7 trains of the New York City Subway all go into Queens - so grab a metro card and sit, ride, and read (not recommended for very prolonged periods).

Jun 15, 2019

Lesson Plans, Activities, Printables, Editables, and More that I have Created and Made Available for Teachers

Most of the following lessons plans, activities, and other teacher resources are for sale on my teacher's marketplace; however, lesson plans marked with an asterisk (*) are free to use (under a creative commons non-commercial license).

Formative Assessments

Teachers often need to make sure their students are on track. This usually involves checking for understanding during class, creating discussion questions, quizzes, tests, and so on. Here are some original formative assessments I created to help you track your students' success.
Short English Language Test for ELLs - I created this assessment to assess my English Language learners in September. You can use it as a short, formal assessment of language skills. 
Long English Language Test for ELLs - I created this longer assessment to assess my students at the end of the semester. There are three versions.

Greek and Roman Mythology

Teaching Greek and Roman myths is a favorite topic among upper elementary and middle school students. Here are some resources I created that touch on some of my favorite topics.
*10 Words and Phrases Derived from Greek Mythology - From my blog, here are ten words and phrases popularly used in the English language.
 The Myth of Icarus: A Cautionary Tale from Ancient Greece -  Introduce your students to a fairly popular Greek moral tale about an ambitious inventor and his erstwhile son. I have created a 3-day lesson plan filled with activities to get your students thinking critically about this important mythological text.
Ready-to-Go-Activity: 10 Everyday Words and Phrases in Greek Mythology  -  I updated my blog post on words and phrases from Greek myth and made it into a usable resource for teachers in the classroom.

Homesick: My Own Story by Jean Fritz

Jean is a ten-year old American girl living in the British settlement in Hankow, China in the 1920s. In this autobiographical novel, Jean witnesses major events on the world stage through her own childlike perspective.  

Chapter One Lesson Plan Resource 
Chapter Two Lesson Plan Resource 
Chapter Three Lesson Plan Resource

Maps and Geography Skills

My first paid teaching job was a Summer school gig in New Orleans, Louisiana. I taught Geography. Here are some lessons to get your students more geographically-aware.
*Printables: Blank World Map for Printing (with borders) - I like using this gratis, public-domain world map; it's easy to use, has borders, and makes for a good geography quiz template. 
Geography Skills Lesson: Ready-to-Use Worksheet with Blank World Map - I made this resource as a simple day one assessment of a student's knowledge of world geography. It's ready-to-go out of the box

Philosophy in the Classroom Series

One of my projects is teaching philosophy in the classroom. Every chance I get I introduce students to philosophical thinking. Here are some polished resources that are classroom-tested and guaranteed to get your class thinking.

Caught You! The Ring of Gyges from Plato's Republic - A lesson plan on justice 
Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Plain Language - A lesson plan on truth and reality 
"Discuss any Moral Dilemma!" All-in-One Lesson - A lesson plan for any moral dilemma 
Empiricism versus Rationalism - A lesson plan on how we know that we know (and why)

Reading Comprehension Resources

Reading is essential. Here are some resources to help inject some energy into any-level reader.
Five ELL Reading Comprehension Questions ("Bobby the Math Whiz" - Nonfiction) - Use this text as a reading comprehension worksheet for English Language Learners.

William Blake and Romanticism

William Blake's poetry is mystical and beautiful - and here some lessons I have created about him and his work.

William Blake's "London": Visualizing the Industrial Revolution Through Poetry - Blake's poem is evocative of a time period in history where children worked as chimney sweeps and child labor is London was commonplace - a travesty of the first stages of the Industrial Revolution.

Jun 12, 2019

Why the National Endowment for the Humanities Seminars and Institutes for Summer Scholars are Amazing for Educators

Image result for neh summerThe National Endowment for the Humanities will help me go back to school tuition-free for the Summer. I was selected as a Summer Scholar - which means I will join a small cohort of educators for a month of study at Amherst College in Massachusetts to study the ethics of punishment and reward. 

NEH Summer Scholars
Every year the National Endowment for the Humanities offers dozens of humanities-based programs for primary and secondary school teachers and higher education professionals. Teachers apply for the programs they want, and if selected from a national pool, are able to participate in an NEH summer seminar, landmark, or institute. The aim of the program is to put educators in an institution with great teachers, colleagues, and set with a topic - so when we return in the Fall we are hopefully enlightened, inspired, and equipped with new ideas, tools and curriculum to share with our home schools. 
"Punishment, Politics, and Culture"
I was selected to participate in a four-week Summer Seminar hosted by Professor Austin Sarat from Amherst College entitled "Punishment, Politics, and Culture". Here is a link to what we will be reading and discussing. I will come away from the seminar enriched because we'll dive into important texts (e.g., Beloved by Toni Morrison and The Book of Job from the Bible) that have shaped culture, history, and literature. The essential question of our seminar is why do we (as a society) punish - or reward - the way that we do and what does this say about our moral values? 

A community of Educators in Queens
I teach at a private, independent school in Queens. We're called Garden School and we've been in the Jackson Heights neighborhood since 1923. A few of my colleagues, James Pigman, Marcia Elkind, and Nancy Massand have participated in NEH Summer programs and they inspired me to apply. The cool thing about the NEH Summer Scholar program is that it creates a mini-community of educators who have done one or two programs and you become committed to sharing what you have learned.

Mr. Pigman, an Emeritus Educator Inspired Me to be of the Hot Sauce Variety at Amherst
Mr. Pigman, who is now retired (but still very active), told me that "I am of the hot sauce variety". That's because I ate a dish of spicy crawfish in Suzhou, China (on a school trip we did together with students and other teachers back in 2017). I think he admired my spunk so I hope to bring that same zest to the Summer I'll be attending at Amherst. All of us in the program are all already linked together on an email chain and participants I will be working with have sent emails discussing what cool things we can do in an around the Amherst and Western Massachusetts region. I am looking forward to seeing the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Fun Facts:
The National Endowment for the Humanities provides opportunities like the one I am attending this Summer every year. Educators can apply for next year's programs in the Fall. Stipends of $1,200-$3,300 help cover expenses for the one- to four-week programs. I am staying on campus at Amherst. The stipend will help cover my dorm and meal expenses while I am at the college. I am grateful for this opportunity and I cannot wait to dive into the texts and meet our 2019 cohort.

What Do You Think?
Have you ever done an NEH Summer Landmark, Seminar, or Institue? I'd love to hear about your experience. Let me know in the comments.


Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com
Visit my online teacher store on TpT for original resources
I created for the Humanities and English classroom