Nov 11, 2018

Teaching the Industrial Revolution Using William Blake’s poem “London”

I like to teach history through literature. Recently I taught a lesson to High School students on the Industrial Revolution using William Blake's poem "London". We had already been studying the Industrial Revolution in Europe. So students were familiar with the concept - the idea that people began to move to urban centers to work in dirty, factories - without the labor laws we have today. Child labor was common and a general disregard for human life was horrifically rampant. Disease was widespread and a scourge on the populace.

But I like my students to work with primary sources. It's important to show students how historical events mattered to the people living at that time. What would it have been like to live in London at that time? 


So I planned two 45 minute lessons (total of 90 minutes) to look at William Blake's poem "London". I have taught Blake before - but for this lesson I wanted to show how Blake use poetry to criticize society and the inherent hypocrisy he witnessed in 1790s London when he was living the capital.


We read the poem together and I made sure students see what the poem looked like when Blake published it. One cool thing about Blake is that he was a printmaker and he self-published all of his own books - and illustrated them. 


We look at the illustrated version and I ask students to point out what they notice. We then read the poem together, and then using a document camera we work on annotating the text. I have prepared a bunch of my own annotations to guide the process but I make sure that students add their own insights as well! 


After we annotate the text kids work in small groups to work on further diving into the text using 11 reading comprehension questions I prepared. They then report back and we have a class discussion using 9 discussion questions I came up with to help students make more connections from the text to the world.


I'm proud of my students thinking and I'm thinking if you want to try teaching "London" to your student you can download the resource I packaged as a printable PDF on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I hope you enjoy using this resource and of course I'd love to know what you think. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Nov 3, 2018

Compare and Contrast: How the Song "Teenage Dirtbag" was made into a Choir Version to Advance a Documentary on Bullying in American Schools


It's a rather heteronormative narrative - but I have a crush on this song - maybe because the song talks about "getting into tube socks" and references "Iron Maiden" - and its an elegy to unrequited love - with a twist at the end. This is to all the teenage dirtbags out there. Also - Wheatus's song was the song attached to the movie Loser - as you can see by the music video.

A couple of years I went to a professional development workshop on peer-to-peer bullying in American schools. The presenters screened the documentary film Bully. The opening song is a choir version of "Teenage Dirtbag". I immediately recognized it and I thought it was an apt song to cover the phenomenon of bullying as it relates to school life.

As a teacher, I often encounter bullying. What pains me the most about bullying is that often the targets of bullying are exceptional children, "the teenage dirtbags" that often go unnoticed.

Watch the following choir version and hearken to the facts. We can be a voice for those who are tormented because they are gay, different, or just don't fit in. 


Oct 28, 2018

GIF: Teachers Do Lunch Duty!

I don't like doing lunch duty. However, I love the teachers who I do lunch duty with every day. One teacher has been a teacher for forty years. That's an accomplishment. The other teacher is my work wife. We're married. The other teacher is my roommate. We share a room, boo. And the last teacher is my science homeboy. Love you! *besos* 

Oct 27, 2018

On a Trip to Mystic, Connecticut I Ran into Versions of American History

Can you see Manhattan?
I have just returned from a sleep-away trip with Seventh graders. We went to Mystic, Connecticut — me and a couple of teachers and nineteen kids. I had never heard of Mystic — even though I saw the movie Mystic River  —which apparently has no connection to Mystic, Connecticut but there is a B-movie with Brad Pitt called Mystic Pizza - which apparently is real - the pizza. Not the story.

So, what did we do in Mystic? We stayed at the Mystic Seaport Museum which is really a cool place - much more relaxed than any museum I have been to in a long time. It is a reconstructed nineteenth-century seaport town. It's replete with an apothecary, a maritime general store, a slew of interpreters who pamper you with their stories of sea life, whale blubber stories, and facts about forecastles, moorings, and ghosts. Our crew — including me — slept on the Joseph Conrad — which is a wooden Danish training vessel that at one point sunk — killing twenty-two boys — then resurrected from the sea — then a U.S. President salvaged it and christened it as a National Historic Landmark - so it is permanently moored at the Seaport. I like history, and I like even more how history gets told, gets packaged, and is applied to how we think about the world we live in today. There is the ship Amistad moored at Mystic. It's a slave ship that was the site of a slave rebellion. Today it sits gleaming and speaks of liberty and the promise of change. However, its rewarding story belies the tragedy of the Middle Passage that claimed millions. Mystic also has a reconstructed version of the Mayflower - it is called the Mayflower II, and it is being revamped and polished for a celebration in 2020 celebrating the original ship's voyage four hundred years ago. The kids on our trip know these stories, and they see in these stories a symbol of religious freedom. However, I am confident that the Europeans who came to the New World were not as pure in their pursuit of liberty and the right to equality as we would like to paint them as in the history books. You can also see a whaling ship in Mystic - and if you are a good sailor, you might get to talk to a re-enactor. We met a jolly lady who was presenting herself as an immigrant to Mystic who arrived in the 1870s. She had left Alaska after it was sold by the Russians to the United States. She spoke of her voyage, a trip from the islands of Alaska, down to Panama, through the canal, past Jamaica, and then up the Atlantic coast to Long Island Sound. I liked hanging out with the kids. They're city kids — most of the lot — so they were into running around, kicking a soccer ball on the village green - and feeling the cold October air in their face. It is kinda crazy to be chaperoning twelve-year-old kids for forty-eight hours straight, but I loved their energy. Kids that age are full of energy but no focus. It's refreshing. Hey. If you know all the answers, then you're a fool, right?


Image Source: Greig Roselli © 2018

Sep 29, 2018

With the Ubiquity of Electronic Devices That Can Seamlessly Stream Any Content Folks Are Going to Digital Media for All Their Heartache Problems

I went to the bank today to cash a money order. There was a twenty-person long line. I almost bailed on the line but I decided to wait it out. "Twenty minute wait - right? I can do it." 

I was amused by a tween who was sitting in the windowsill intent on his Smartphone. He was watching an animated video with a voiceover. The voice was a woman's. She was talking about a breakup with her boyfriend. He had delivered the news through a long text *animation of a long text*. She was heartbroken *animation of a heart breaking in two*. The voiceover was very adult sounding and since the tween hadn't plugged in his earbuds the volume was audible. He never looked up from his screen. Watching the tween watching his phone it was like he was externalizing his inner turmoil for everyone to see and hear. The voiceover was so audible and the tween's intent stare so intense - it was the muse-en-scene of a performance piece. Maybe the tween had had a recent breakup with a girl and in his confusion and heartache he googled YouTube videos related to breaking up. He wasn't reading an article in a magazine nor was he talking to a friend - he was watching a video that he and me and everyone in the damn line could hear. By the time I reached the cashier and scooped up my money - I turned around to see if he was still sitting in the windowsill. It was empty. So long fellow. I hope time heals a broken heart.

Image Source: The Mix

Sep 26, 2018

Do You Have a Comfort Pose?

I guess most people have their "comfort" pose. It's that posture one comports to when feeling the need to be comforted, protected. For me, it's pulling my shirt neatly over my chin - and just under my lips, so I can nibble the fabric. It makes me feel safe - especially if I want to feel protected.

I have several comfort poses, actually. Some I've abandoned. Others I’ve kept on. In high school, for example, I carried books close to my chest. All the time. No matter where I was I had a hunky book attached to me. I don't traverse the traffic of my adult life in exactly the same way. Now, I go to my books. I keep them around. I put them in satchels or in the bathroom. I'm a teacher so I've taken to creating a space in my classroom where I showcase books. It’s professional. But it’s also for comfort.

Most of us want to be comforted so we tend to comfort ourselves in the absence of other's care. And with others we play with the scripts that comforted us and we play around with what works - and abandon what doesn't.

What's your comfort pose? I'd love to know in the comments.
--

Greig Roselli
(c) 985-237-2232

Sep 25, 2018

Forty-Three Year Anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

"Don't Dream it. Be it."
Dr. Frankenfurter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show


Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, and Nell Campbell in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Patricia Quinn, Tim Curry, and Nell Campbell in The Rocky Horror Picture Show © 1975


Image Credits: Twentieth Century Fox

Sep 10, 2018

What If Life Were Like the City Builder Simulation Video Game Cities Skylines?

I don't consider myself a gamer. However, like many kids who grew up in the 1990s, I did have a major hankering for the Nintendo and Super Nintendo. There was one point in my childhood that I almost edged onto sociopathy when I used my best friend at the time just to go to his house to play video games. I think his parents eventually caught on when they realized that Lance had gone out to play and I was left in his bedroom stomping on those pesky Goomba characters that are Mario's constant aggravation.

I stopped playing Mario and advanced onto city builder games

One game did stick with me after my Nintendo phase wore off (by the time I was in Sixth or Seventh grade). I started to play Sim City and - at some point - I discovered a game that my brother had installed on his computer - A-Train. My interest in city builders was born. It's not a big surprise that I fell into city builder type of games. I had (and still have) a fond affection for Matchbox cars. And I always liked playing around with maps; and, my older brother liked maps too; I think at one point he and I - in one of our rare bonding moments - worked on a super map of an imaginary city in which we pasted a bunch of white colored posters together with tape and mapped out our city in number two pencil. It was epic. I think we had a city that was composed of at least twelve or thirteen pieces of poster-sized paper.  
La Grange! Oh how I loved making this city.
I have played all of the Sim City games. But it wasn't until Cities Skylines came out in 2015 that I really saw the potential of a city builder. What a game. What I like the most about City Skylines is that the gameplay is more dynamic than Sim City. First of all, a player has a much larger cityscape to play with and the city feels integrated even across multiple districts and distances. One train station built in the northwestern part of the map can affect what happens in the city center. 

And I am always amazed by the simulation. There is a cause and effect reality to Cities Skylines - and most city builders - that make it playable. It almost kind of feels like real life. 

A story of my own Cities Skylines City: La Grange

There is one city I built in Cities Skylines that I am proud of and still play it from time to time. It is a coastal city. I called it La Grange. I have a crappy Mac Mini that is not designed for serious gameplay so I have to play the game at the lowest graphical level - and I usually try to aim for a city that does not have more than 130,000 people. Of course, I use mods. That's probably the second best part about Cities Skylines (the first best part is naming everything like you are Adam and Eve in the Garden) - you can access a treasure trove of user created buildings, roads, and tweaks to the vanilla game. I particularly like using the multiple track enabler mod so I can have subway systems with double, triple, and quadruple tracks. The automatic bulldoze mod is a must because who wants to manually bulldoze every abandoned building; the same goes for the automatic emptying mod (although it is just easier to not have cemeteries and landfills in your city).
Look at those cims scurry to catch the bus!
The third thing I like about Cities Skylines is that it is essentially a traffic simulator game. Everything and everyone has to move around your city. Tiny tweaks in the gameplay can drastically change your cims' movement (N.B.,  In Sim City citizens are called sims but if you are playing City Skylines they're called cims. Get it?). For example, I recently moved a bus stop at a very busy intersection and all of a sudden there was a sudden, mass movement of people in the game briskly walking to the next stop.


Traffic is a nightmare - I still can't alleviate the congestion at my airport.
It took me a long time to build a good city. The trick is making a decent transit infrastructure to move cims around the city; that includes subway, and bus connections, as well as an integrated interstate highway system. The game has a monorail system which is fun to use but cims do not like to use it. Trams are great as a replacement for buses that use a heavily traveled route. Cable cars, ferries, and hot air balloons are also an option.

Building a city with districts that have enacted policies unique to their district - no heavy traffic or recycling initiatives - can really change the make-up of gameplay as well.


What if life were like a city builder game?

1. Everyone would go to work, go home, and go to ONE park or commercial zone.
2. Your car would disappear into thin air at random times.
3. The bulldozer would be God. Essentially.
4. It would be like that movie The Truman Show. But with more bulldozers and cims.

The developers of this game, Colossal Order, keep coming out with new iterations of the game. The newest one is Park Life - which I really like because it allows you to make a more interactive park system in a city. As with most city builder games zoning is really important. There are residential, commercial, industrial, and office zones. Zones build up around the road network - but as the city grows and the zones max out along the street grid there are often pockets of green space that now I can populate with micro parks and whatnot. 

It's funny. My post is becoming an advertisement for a video game. Who knew my blog would boast of such things! I want to wrap up by saying the toys and games we played with as kids do somehow find there way into adult life. I don't have posters scribbled in graphite but I have a saved game that I love to load up every now and again. So, every city tells a story. I don't play this game every day. I play it as a way to zone out and to relax. It is one activity that I can do where I can empty out work-related stress and just focus on planning my little city of La Grange. I think I need to upgrade my Mac - though - if I want to simulate more cims!

Check out the cityscape of La Grange. Can you spot the arcology?
Another view of La Grange with the city sewer system in the foreground.

It's fun to follow individual cims to see where they go.

I'm obsessed with creating zoos and parks.

Sep 4, 2018

Is Brainstorming Ideas a Good Idea in the Middle of the Night?

I feel like my best ideas come to me in the middle of the night. Or, I'm like "Oh my God! I left the baby on the bus!"

I try to get a good night's sleep. I have a ritual for bedtime. I turn the curtains and turn on the white noise machine. Sometimes I take a Melatonin tablet. Sleep comes easily enough. I'm a deep sleeper but when I wake up I'm awake. It's one o'clock in the morning I'll wake up with a start. If it's a school night I automatically think of something school related. While I don't advise it, I keep my mobile phone next to my bed. Once I use it - it's a death knell to sleep. My brain starts whirring and I start to input ideas into my Google Keep app (I also like Day One Journal).

The last couple of nights I've woken up with lyrics from the Scissor Sisters stuck in my head. It's not uncommon for me to browse my Amazon.com purchases. Yes, I know. I hate that I do that. It's nervous energy. Once when I was sick in bed I wrote up an entire emergency lesson plan so my substitute teacher would have something to do for my students.

I wasn't always this way. As a kid and as a teen I went to sleep before eleven o'clock and woke up at quarter past six in the morning. I had a bus to catch! Times were simpler then; or, more accurately, I think when you're young you're preternaturally ignorant to the ways of the world. It's the paradox of youth. Young people are so into themselves that they've inoculated themselves to certain things. It's partly because adults have constructed a world - a youth culture - to protect them. It's not to say youth are not stressed but there's a qualitative difference between being a dependent and then becoming a tax-paying adult.