Hashtag summaries

When teaching my preservice teachers methods of making quality use of benign textbooks (when they must use them)..I give them a chapter from a middle school History textbook. Benign because…dense text, voiceless, boring….I ask them to read it as groups and then summarize the chapter with hashtags. No rules other than that. Here is one from last semester—can’t wait to see what this semester group does:

The chapter below focused on the Pilgrims.

Here are their hashtags:

#Mayflower   #pilstruggs  #missingthemotherland   #demWampananagos   #originalThanksgiving  #churnthatbutter  #Jesus4life  #Squantowho?   #workingafarm   #wigwams4ever   #seriouslongwinter     #allinaday #nomoreboattripsplease #Plymouthrockrocks #BFFSquanto #worstcasescenario #thankfulforSquanto #sickonaship #praytheedontkillus #holierthanthou

Results: Well, for starters there is always a whole bunch of laughter and fun. But, they do get it. We ask kids to summarize, summarize, summarize. When it is not so important that they write ample amounts, why not allow some levity and have groups hashtag summarize short texts? They will capture the critical points and their hashtags can launch class discussion.


YES to Arts Integration!

Arts Integration

Great article (located on a cool resource website The Edvocate) on the how’s and why’s for integrating the arts across the K-12 curriculum, a topic of passion for me. I especially love this statement from the article:

Why does art integration work?

The science behind arts integration is solid. Simply put, more of the brain is at work when the arts are part of the learning process, strengthening attentiveness, reaction time and comprehension. There is also plenty of research to suggest that arts education methods improve long-term retention. In other words, what the students learn through arts integration will stay in their memories for longer than that year’s standardized test. When students are allowed academic expression through artistic means, like drawing a picture or writing a song, the information is embedded in their minds. Long-term learning and practical application of knowledge are both supported when the arts are integrated.  (Matthew Lynch, 2014)




Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia


So many rich resources. Edutopia  just rocks!

Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia.

How are you literate…?

Yesterday I had coffee with a colleague and we got to talking about the challenges of teaching literacy to content area teachers. Last night as I reflected on that discussion I thought back to a workshop I held many years ago for teachers of all subject areas. The workshop was one of many varied sessions in a summer Arts in Education week-long conference held in a beautiful and expansive natural area in Birmingham, AL.

To engage the teachers in thinking of literacy outside of just English Language Arts and inside of their specific content areas, we trekked to a pond area surrounded by woods and paths. They each took a clipboard and pencils, markers, and some even took watercolor paints. They had 2 hours to linger and accomplish the task at hand. Here was the task–I may not word it exactly as I am drawing solely on memory:

Go to the targeted area. When you get there, look around, explore, and find a place to sit and ponder how you view this place as an expert in your content area. Come back to our session with something to show your thinking–maybe words, maybe images.

If your content area is Math—how do you view this place as a Mathematician?  How are you “literate” mathematically as you experience this place?

If your content area is Social Studies/History, how do you see this place? What questions come to mind? How do you “think like an historian” as you sit here awhile, as you explore? How are you literate as an historian in this place?

If your content area is PE, how are you “literate” here? How are you “comprehending” this place–imagining it as a place to teach your area? How are you using “words” to describe it? Are you “listening” to sounds for which you might have your students create movements?

If your content area is Physics…what are you thinking here?? How might this natural setting help you to “show” or “explain” some laws of physics?


…you get the idea.  I can tell you the results blew me away. Math teachers even came back to session with artifacts—parts of plants that illustrated Fibonacci numbers! Others left the plants intact but sketched and labeled specimens. Some History teachers wrote imagined scenarios of how this place evolved into what it is today. Other History teachers, knowing a lot about the Civil War, imagined (and recorded in words) what may have taken place during that time in those very woods.  ELA teachers wrote poetry, stories, vocab lists….I cannot recall all, nor is it necessary that I do so here. But, just leaving you with the thought that literacy is every which way we view and experience our worlds. Content teachers often think literacy is just reading and writing. How do you know what you know???–no matter the content area—however you answer that question is likely in the broad realm of “literacy.”