Can a Podcast Help Cultivate a Growth Mindset in the Classroom?


Let’s have fun learning about this now ubiquitous App Instagram evolved, and then we will examine how we can adopt elements of their success story as we begin our first steps in our own project-based learning journey. So how can we use this Instagram’s story to teach the dynamic disposition and positive attitude a student needs to cultivate in a project-based learning classroom?

It is very fascinating to hear the early iterations of Instagram (see more here: and then realize all the changes they made to make the app what it is as a working app today. That process that is narrated here is design thinking, which is a process we will explore more this year.

Perhaps an important moment in their start-up was when they followed the advice to ask their users about what they enjoyed about their app rather than investing time into wondering what others who are not using the app would want. What did they learn from this part of the process?

(Podcast Time: 6:30) Isn’t it fascinating that the best thing for any entrepreneurial is failure? The founders of Instagram cite Eric Ries and his ideas about the process of a lean startup. “Don’t ask why people don’t sue your startup. Ask why people who continue to use your start up use your startup.” 

(Podcast Time: 8:00) One of the founders tells a story of being burnt out and going on a break. Does he really take a break? Why type of thinking does he do on this “break” and how does it help the next iteration of the product of Instagram?

(Podcast Time: 9:00) Style topic. Did you notice how the music delivers a great downbeat when the divergent thinking that one of the founders has when his then girlfriend and now wife provides an insight while walking on the beach?

(Podcast Time 12:00) Just appreciate this moment. No response necessary. This is my hook for our audience!. “It was trial by fire; so many chances to fail. Kept working; all nighters. The amount we learned in that first year was crazy. It was fives years of college in one.” I would make this the hook because I’m an educator, and the producer here chose a more entertaining hook.

(Podcast Time: 17:30) There is a great conversation about how the story of success is never linear. It’s always dynamic, an up-and-down journey. Reflect on this moment and also reflect on how the founders keep their eye on the experience of the user. Do you have a personal success story that was not linear and had several “false starts” along the way before you achieve a degree of success? Write a 3-6 sentences here about that experience. We’ll share these moments in class and expand more on them.

(Podcast Time: 23:00) Around minute 23 they discuss the currency that feeds an entrepreneur. Explain in your own words this experience and its value. Then reflect on our course description and explain what experience will make our experience valuable.

(Podcast Time: 24:00) They reveal another great moment where they learned a lot through failure. This moment had to do with a mistake. What was the mistake? Could the mistake been avoidable? What else did they learn about the relationship they had with her users?

What do you think of the founders’ thesis about luck and talent? What role do resilience, grit, and optimism play in capitalizing on luck?

Posted in Growth Mindset, Podcast, Project Based Learning | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Connect a Moment in Section 52 to Another Location in Whitman’s Work

The technology staff in the Crowsnest is back on the job to isolate perhaps the most important part of this video that will help you understand how and why Whitman develops the first person voice in Leaves of Grass. You will find out why Ed Folsom will claim that “Everything that is going to be great in Whitman are in these lines of his notebook.” Then you hear several modern poets read famous passages from Song of Myself.

So, start at minute 27:50 where Whitman comes to terms with slavery. Then finish at minute 39:10 where Ed Folsom reflects on the totality of Leaves of Grass.

To focus our attention on Section 52 of Song of Myself, let’s have everyone make a comment that connects a word, line, or literary device from Section 52 to any other line in Whitman’s work. By all means feel comfortable connecting another section from Song of Myself to your favorite moment in Section 52. Compose 5-7 sentences in Standard English and read it out loud for clarity’s sake. If you want, draft and revise your comment in a Word document; then paste it into the comment box on the blog.

For Section 52, we’ll use this version in class for explicating on the Interactive Whiteboard.

Posted in 21st Century Learning, Design Thinking, Design Thinking on HMK, Homework, Honors English III, Twitter, Whitman | 9 Comments

Connect a Specific Line from Whitman’s Poetry to a Specific Scene in This PBS Documentary

The technology staff in the Crowsnest is still trying to find out why PBS took the great episode of Whitman off of their American Experience website! We found another great asset on YouTube sharing this on their channel. So, we move forward in the name of using educational material for educational goals. View the first twenty minutes of this video and strive to connect a specific scene from the documentary to one or two lines from any of the Whitman poems on the syllabus. Compose your in 5-7 sentences of Standard English in Word or another word processing software. Read it out loud for fluency’s sake. Then post it in the comment thread below.

Here is an outline below:

0-5 minutes: excellent overview of 19th century American culture.

5-9 minutes: important family background information. Growing up on the margins of early 19th century culture. 9:40 New York City: the place where a young man goes to make his mark in the world. Is that true today for women and men?

10:00—15 minutes: young Walt cultivates a sense of self-reliance (Emerson) and follows his Democratic sympathies and impulses. Needless to say, it’s not great career advice to tell give these “ideals” as excuses for missing work. The technology staff in the Crowsnest wants to prepare you for college and career.

15:00—21: 55 minutes: this portion completes the biographical idea of his growing “urban affection” by the end of this section. It is so fascinating to note that Melville and Poe are walking the same streets during the same period and write about other subjects!

Posted in 21st Century Learning, American poets, AP Mindset, Design Thinking on HMK, Digital Citizenship, English III Honors, Higher Order Thinking, Whitman, YouTube | 9 Comments

Let’s Curate Digital Assets for Colonial Literary History

//’s start collecting digital assets that will enhance our study of colonial literature. Again, as we begin our work in American literature, we are not formally using volume A of our multi volume Norton Anthology of American Literature. Instead, I am impressed with your work so far for remember US History trends and ideas from last year, and leveraging those insights to dive deeper into our essential questions for this unit as well as the year.

Keep up the great work! Simply annotate your link in the comment thread. In other words, compose 3-4 sentences in Standard English that explains the value on your link to our unit’s goals. Also reflect on the source itself. Is it an educational site? When was the information last updated? What else should you consider when you check a source’s value?

Nathaniel Philbrick discusses his book Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.
Towards the end of minute 9, Philbrick makes the claim that “the pilgrims are our founding myth. We’re a recent people. We need a beginning. Best to see it as it was.” Click here for the NPR essay where he wants to “debunk the myth” of the pilgrims.

Ronald Reagan’s use of Winthrop’s “A City on the Hill” reference. How does Reagan’s city compare to Winthrop’s version? This version was produced by the Reagan Library.

Posted in 21st Century Learning, American Literary Studies, Becoming an American Literary Critic, Colonial Literature, Twitter | Leave a comment

Let’s Use PBS Documentary to Guide Colonial Literature

PBS Frontline’s God in America helps us appreciate the Puritan way of life exhibited in Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing and will help us get ready to read John Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.” Let’s have you just view segments of this for homework. Then we will ask you to compose a response in a Word document and paste it in the comment box under this blog post. God in America is a great resource for teachers and students about the spiritual life of Puritans, the Puritan Doctrine, John Winthrop, and Anne Hutchinson. Please view minute 12-33 of this documentary. It dramatically shows how Anne Hutchinson sets the stage for colonial Americans to “recreate” their idea of religion here and how one’s “consciousness” can speak out against the state. It was fun the other day in class when we discussed Geraldine Brooks’ comparison of John Winthrop to the Taliban. You all perked up and made more connections to the tension  in both the novel, Caleb’s Crossing as well as the historical record of John Winthrop. Again, here’s that link if you want to review that interview.

Directions for homework: View the specific twenty minutes of the movie outlined above (you can view more if you have your other homework completed). Then isolate one moment in the documentary that you think will help you appreciate future intellectual or cultural trends in studying the next three centuries of American literature. One example of this assignment may be a reflection of how Anne Hutchinson inspires other brave thinkers in American history to speak their “consciousness” against the state. Can you think of a specific example? Likewise, does any moment in the documentary answer this question for you: Why have people come to America? (This will be a fun question for us throughout the year when we also reflect on why do people to come to America today?) If you do find an answer to that from the documentary, feel free to explain that moment as your response. Another way to consider this documentary is to reflect on Anne Hutchinson’s position as a woman. One question we will be asking all year is how does gender, race, and class function in American culture? And how do those who are discriminated by gender, race, and/or class seek education and power? Does a moment in the documentary provide you a response to these questions? Comment on one of these topics. Make your response 4-7 sentences. Whatever you decide to comment upon, please be sure that you use Standard English and revise your prose in a Word Document. Try reading your phrase out loud to create more fluency with your response. Have fun!

Posted in 21st Century Learning, American Literary Studies, Becoming an American Literary Critic | 12 Comments

Establish an Argument for the Best AP Prompt

This is just to let you know that the technology department in the Crowsnest likes to connect literature to movies; enjoy this trailer from the interesting teen movie, Easy A. Though by no means a rendition of Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, you will find that some issues repeating here: individual reputations within an intense, hypocritical community, double standards, and the social dynamics when cultural forces treat women as objects. Have you seen this movie? It was released a while ago, but maybe you caught it on Netflix recently. Or that other media, Television. You can enjoy the movie in your free time, though it will not directly help you with the nuances of the novel’s plot. It is just a fun homage. In the meantime, click on the link below of past AP Essay prompts. Download and review carefully this PDF Document, which lists the essay questions on the past AP Exams. Please reflect on the whole list well and then select what you think is the best prompt to apply to The Scarlet Letter. Argue in 5-7 sentences in Standard English, which prompt would help you create the optimal essay for The Scarlet Letter. You can refer to your prompt simply by the year. Again, compose your 5-7 sentence argument in a Word document so that you can conduct spellcheck and grammar check easily. Then paste your 5-7 sentence argument in the comment thread below this post. In other words, you will make comments on this post just as you did for the comments on the community text. AP.Prompts.1970-2015.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, AP Mindset, Honors English III | 10 Comments

Community Happens! What’s Your Take-away?

English teachers often challenge students to invest time and thought into their essays. We make handouts, write notes in the margin of essays, give pep talks, and repeatedly suggest to students the need to reflect on one’s thesis. One of the marvels of Sebastian Junger’s Tribe stems from the fact that he has been ruminating his entire career about the complex ideas in this book regarding tribes and the alienating effects of modernity. While coming to terms with the effects of trauma after being a war correspondent himself, Junger’s firsthand experience of being embedded in Afghanistan informs a reflection over his long career as a war correspondent as well as a chronicler of dangerous jobs in American (see his book Perfect Storm). Interestingly, he was a tree climber and trimmer, which historically ranks high on the list of dangerous jobs. In addition, when Junger was testing himself as a young man by hitchhiking across the country, a compelling encounter he had with a homeless man enters his thinking and never leaves. And perhaps another, more profound theme resonates from an insight shared by his long time Native American mentor who reminds Junger that Native Americans rarely fled from their “tribes” to colonial outposts. Historically, the flight trend occurred among colonists who had fled from rescue attempts once experienced tribal life. So what is it about having a feeling of belonging in a small group of people? Interestingly, Junger taps into his anthropology background (his college major, which is a great liberal arts major to build critical thinking skills) for more understanding to explain our human tendencies to bend towards community bonds. That said, how does the convenience of modern life sometime deprive us of opportunities to work together, appreciate the vital things of life, and share resources? Or, what aspects of community and community spirit that is linked to our cultural DNA, do you find enduring, blooming? What’s your take-away? Feel free to enter the text wherever you want and create your personal response.

Directions: Please reflect on Junger’s Tribe and write about one useful takeaway that you had after reading this text. Then supply one sentence or phrase from the text that supports your takeaway (your idea, insight, or claim), and compose a 5-7 sentences in Standard English explaining how your quotation explains and supports your takeaway. Please follow MLA guidelines for citing your page number so that we can look up your passage easily. I suggest that you compose your comment in a Word document first, and then read it out loud to see how you can improve the flow of your ideas. Here’s a great model for help: Also recall to italicize titles.

Personally, I found this text compelling to read and ruminate upon throughout the summer. One aspect of Sebastian Junger’s profound thesis that I noticed reappearing on the news coverage lately had to do with the recent events in Texas and now Florida. So many people are taking responsibility for others and sharing resources! In fact, I also learned about Team Rubicon when I heard a great podcast that Junger did with Joel Klein, and these ideas together seem to be playing out even more. ( Team Rubicon helps channel veterans who have an innate sense of community and want to help out fellow humans recover from disasters. The organization is doing great work right now because it allows veterans to re-experience a sense of selflessness as well as that feeling of making a difference for others in need. This organization fills a need and deploys specialist who want to feel an authentic community spirit.

Posted in #Placemaking, 21st Century Learning, Brain-Based Learning, Community Theme, Community Theme, Text, Disposition of a Critical Thinker | 64 Comments

Caleb’s Crossing as Threshold to American Literature

Geraldine Brooks’ Caleb’s Crossing will help our introduction to American literature. While there are many voice and location to begin an American literature course, this historical novel may help us appreciate the colonial invasion from the Native American point of view as the Wompanag tribe has been living as a community for thousands of years on the island of Noepe, what later became knows as Martha’s Vineyard.

This novel opens up the North American land story by helping us understand how Native Americans viewed the land and lived with the other species on the land. Reflect on scenes where Caleb show Bethia how to plant crops in the three sisters manner, rather than ripping open the land. Note how Native American thought that oxen and horses ruined clam beds and other parts of the natural world. Contrast this point of view to how the colonists are “developing” the land the way they see fit for prospering. What are the two ideologies regarding the relationship each culture? We can also appreciate how most of the novel occurs right before the King Phillips War; it also provides an visceral chapter of how the Native American were on a long train of disposition of their lands by disease.

Bethia’s grandfather also wanted independence (part of our cultural DNA) and chose to live on the island to get away from the strict and severe rule of the Massachusetts Bay Company, governed by Jonathan Winthrop at the time. In the opening of this interview with Leonard Lopate, Geraldine Brooks compares Winthrop’s ruling style to the Taliban:

The novel will also help us appreciate the historical background to our major work of the term, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter.

We’ll explore the colonial experience from the point of view of a young girl. In the worlds of books, Bethia echoes other great young, curious girls such as Jane Eyre.


Posted in American Literary Studies, Becoming an American Literary Critic, Colonial Literature, English III | 3 Comments

Reflect on and Locate Chinua Achebe’s Post Colonial Novel, Things Fall Apart

Let’s enjoy this informative interview with Nigerian author Chinua Achebe that was recorded fifty years after the publication of his novel, Things Fall Apart. View this interview and take notes on a few items. First note what was Achebe’s first motive to write this novel. “What needed to be done,” according to Achebe? Also reflect on the universal themes that Achebe discusses.

We’ll then discuss during another day in class Chinua Achebe’s influence on Novelist Chimamanda Adichie. What motives do they share? Do you realize that they are writing in different eras? While we only have a short period of time to discuss the summer reading, we will focus on how Achebe uses elements of modernism (remember your spring term in English III?) to create a post colonial story. We’ll also be mindful that he influences other African authors today. Do you know of other authors besides Chimamanda Adichie who pay tribute to Achebe’s influence? 

Homework: To start a conversation on the blog before we meet in the classroom, listen and reflect on the value of Chimamanda Adichie’s lesson about moving beyond one story in her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” What is the most important part of her TED Talk? Please cite a phrase, sentence, or paraphrase some of her TED Talk that informs your opinion. In order to draw out the writing process here, compose this comment to the length of 4-6 sentences in Standard English in a word document first. Then read it out loud and look over your prose carefully as a way to revise your prose in isolation. Then paste your prose below in the comment thread.

Here’s a great way to locate what we mean in an English classroom when we discuss issues of post colonialism:

Again, what other African novelists besides Chimamanda Adichie have taken up Achebe’s role and have tried  to tell  the story of their generation? Please research and post a thoughtful comment in Standard English below this post.

Posted in Design Thinking on HMK, Disposition of a Critical Thinker, Summer Reading, Things Fall Apart | 2 Comments

Diving Into the Life of Nikki Giovanni

NikkiMajority of Nikki Giovanni’s poems focus on the subject of discrimination against women and minority groups as well as people below the poverty line. Giovanni describes her poems as voices for those who felt voiceless. Although it may seem that many poems are from Giovanni’s perspec
tive, this is unlikely because she was born to two college educated parents in the middle class. Her grandmother greatly influenced her life as she was very outspoken. As Giovanni explained in an interview, “I come from a long line of storytellers” ( It was her grandmother who pushed her to enroll at the traditionally all-black college known as Fisk University. Upon graduating she attended the University of Pennsylvania as well as Columbia University. After receiving a teaching position at Rutgers University and the birth of her son, Giovanni turned to verse for children. These poems for children also focused on the feelings that many black children experience as they grow up. As the number of her works grew, Giovanni’s popularity as a lecturer and speaker also increased. Her outspoken poetry and other works has earned Giovanni many awards including multiple NAACP Image Awards, the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award and over twenty honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the country.

Posted in English III Honors, Feminism, Modernism, Poetry | 1 Comment