Maximize Student Learning After A Weather Break: Publish a “special issue” class magazine

publish a class magazine after weather break

What do you do when you have experienced a weather-related school shutdown (like “Southern Snow Storm Leon AKA “Smowmageddon 2014”?)

Sleep late and wear your PJs all day, of course!

No- I mean when you get back to school. Do you just jump back in right where you left off? Or should you stop and spend some time processing what happened with your students? After all, if school was canceled, you probably experienced a significant and/or unusual local event. The children will have a lot of schema and story to share along with interest and excitement for writing about an event they personally experienced.

But what should you have them do? Talking about it in a morning meeting is nice, but with all that “real life” experience, you could take it a lot further.

Please do not lame out with something like this: Write a paragraph telling what you did over the snow days. So boring! My eyelids are getting heavy just thinking about it.

Let’s take that idea 5 steps further. How could you engage your students in thinking, writing, and creating in an authentic manner that will be fun and motivating?

Here’s an idea! Publish a “special issue” magazine! [Read more…]

Writing About Dr. King’s “Big Words”

Writing About Dr. King's Big Words In my previous post, I described a series of lessons (taught in a 1st grade class) dedicated to learning about Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of service, justice, and peace. If you missed that post, you probably should go read it or this one won’t make much sense.

The fourth and final component of this “mini-study” was focused on writing from our paintings. I have written about this approach before:

Arts Integration Structure: Pictures First

Understanding Illustration as Composition

I want to make it clear that my “writing from pictures” work has been inspired by Beth Olshansky and her fantastic professional resource book, The Power of Pictures. However, I have never attended one of her workshops nor do I claim that my work is an accurate representation of her work. I very much hope to attend her seminars one day, but until then I will continue to “be inspired” by her work and muddle through the process on my own. [Read more…]

Honoring Dr. King’s “Big Words”

Honoring Dr. King's Big Words: An Art-Based Lesson Plan The older I get the more I admire Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In recent years his words have lingered in my mind and heart. Words like,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”


“Not everybody can be famous but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”

These are powerful truths. These are the kind of words that can set a positive course for daily life.

Just this week I read that Dr. King was 39 when he was shot and killed. It shocked me; that is my current age. What a tragic loss.

As a child I learned about Dr. King in a historical sense. He was brave. He gave powerful speeches. He led a march on Washington, DC. He stood up for the rights of African Americans (and all people victimized by discrimination) and preached nonviolence. He was instrumental in getting the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964. He was assassinated in 1968.

These were the facts. We learned them and quickly completed some sort of activity before moving on to other topics. But there was something missing.

The real goal of our “MLK Day Lessons” should be just as much about passing on his message as passing on his history. I think he would want that very much. It’s fine to have kids write their own dreams, and summarize his life inside a foldable portrait project, but if they only learn about Dr. King and not from Dr. King, we’ve missed the most powerful part of his legacy.

So, I worked with my son’s wonderful teacher, Mrs. Greenman (interview with her coming soon!), and we taught a lesson that tried to get a little closer to the point. Actually, it was four lessons completed in four separate 30-45 minute blocks of time: [Read more…]

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