Minecraft Reimagined: Exploring #BritLit Monuments in the Virtual World

Minecraft is a game where creativity and divergent thinking is celebrated through architecture and creation, and Suffield students have taken advantage of this opportunity right in the classroom. We have begun to outline and construct the Tabard Inn, a place in which serval characters from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales entertain, inform, and share their stories. As our project progresses, we plan on using monuments from Beowulf, such as Heorot the mead hall, or even pulling inspiration from Shakespeare with the Globe Theater.

Original Tabard Inn:

Screen Shot 2019-12-19 at 11.57.00 AM

More information about the historic inn can be found here: https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/The-Tabard-Inn-Southwark/

Minecraft Reiteration:

:Minecraft Reiteration,

Please comment below and provide us constructive feedback. Annotate links that we might explore for more support. While our group of students know about the game, we are exploring more creative ways to incorporate our “disciplinary” goals from our study of British literature. We are using the Norton Anthology of English literature: https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393603118


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Let’s Celebrate Divergent Thinking!

Do you see how one thing these two thinkers have in common about explaining divergent thinking involves school? With that in mind, let’s leave behind your school brain and enjoy this moment to foster a new cognitive skill that helps with creative problem solving. So we will add another step of divergent thinking so that you might incorporate this cognitive skill and develop creative disposition more deeply in your thinking. Interestingly, this type of thinking may help you navigate the college process as well as your future challenges in your college courses and future careers.

While we had fun viewing Sir Ken Robinson for homework along with this short video from Guy Claxton. Now select another video from one of these thinkers (or view both) and reflect on a specific moment in a movie, show, book, or drama where a character exhibits divergent thinking. In 5-7 sentences of Standard English, locate quickly the character’s personality and situation in the work and explain how one scene captures this “out of the blue” (Claxton) that enables the character to move forward with this new idea, new thought process, or new mindset. This is an opinion-based prompt that simply requires you to support your creative claim with support from your selected text. By all means include any links if they will help the general reader.

I hope you enjoy this hook portion of the video that sets up his thesis for finding a way to help students develop the most important capability in their life: the ability to learn for yourself. The ability to cope calmly, creativity, confidently, and capably with challenges and frustrations [in the learning process].

Likewise, Sir Ken Robinson helps us expand our culture’s narrow definition of creativity. Let’s us then explore that value of your original ideas in several of these assessments. Later on we will go back to the drawing board and have you brainstorm your topic. In the meantime throw yourself into this exploration of divergent thinking and realize that we are never going to emphasize product over process in this class. This long conversation has been about giving you an opportunity to practice these thinking and creativity skills. As a facilitator of the creative process, I will meet every student wherever they are in the process and help them move forward by individual mentoring as well as by creating a collaborative and iterative culture that helps fosters growth for everyone.

Posted in #PBL #StudentCentered, 21st Century Learning, 21st Century Skills, Design Thinking, Design Thinking on HMK, Divergent Thinking, Project-Based Learning, Reflective Assessment, TED Talks/TEDx Talks, Twitter | Tagged , | 43 Comments

Let’s Have Each Student Design a Project in our British Literature Survey

What is project-based learning? Let’s start by celebrating this diagram that will explain our instructional goals during this creative and meaningful learning process. After deliberate reflection, the way for us to enter into this great mode of learning is for me to give you “voice and choice” regarding a project you want to make that complements your learning in English IV Honors. Moving forward we will keep these points in mind and discuss how best to help each learner design a project.

  • So realize that when you make something in a learning atmosphere, brain based research informs that you will remember that content far longer than material studied for traditional academic assessments.
  • Also appreciate that the iterative and collaborative process that we use in class will better help you internalize confidence in the complicated and messy process of collaboration and authentic learning so that you hopefully transfer these skills into your college courses and future careers.
  • Disciplinary suggestion: What is the migratory project associated with any of the stories in our anthology? Note that we will be visiting an exhibit at Yale on this very topic: https://britishart.yale.edu/exhibitions
  • Gamification in a learning environment = the future of education: One possible track: Minecraft. Can you create Shakespeare’s Globe theatre and bank side neighborhood?
  • Realize that designers actually enjoy and revel in the design process itself. So begin with an open mind and a belief that if you create many ideas and prototypes, you will then find one more appealing in later stages of our work. Good designers and engineers also remove harsh judgement from this phase of the project. Instead try to come up with multiple ideas and pursue them a little more with words and images.
  • Let’s devote time to research other students who made projects for an English or ELA classroom. Perhaps you will find a good model to share because it resonates with our disciplinary goals (British Literature) for this endeavor. Or you may find a topic that involves a technique and illuminates an aspect of the collaborative nature of project-based learning. See how we will ask you in this phase to find a project and employ our four instructional goals–disciplinary, authenticity, collaborative, or iterative–in your evaluation of that student project.
  • We are currently in the “voice and choice” aspect of the project. Realize that this type of work will be much more common next year at the college level. You may also be uncomfortable with this learning position because in our previous AP modes, students were pacing themselves towards a curricular or skill-based acquisition. Now, we are asking you to create flow with our curriculum and that takes time. The more time and energy you invest in this part of the process, the more you will get out of this fun approach to learning. Summoning the Beatles’ Abby Road (50th Anniversary commemorative process right now!) closing song, I would like to suggest that any project where you invest yourself into the learning process will produce personal and profound results. So if we unpack these words from the Beatles’ last recorded collaborative performance, “The End,” we can realize that “love” in this case is what the student experiences when he or she invests “voice and choice” into a topic and hopefully loves the work. This type of love can also mean struggle, because we also struggle with our most meaningful relationships in life. So celebrating the lines, “And in the end, the love you take/Is equal to the love you make” (Abby Road), be mindful moving forward that we will help you find and declare your own (#VoiceandChoice) #PBL topic (aka academic “love”) for our class.

So, as we aim to create a learner-driven classroom, let’s take a moment here to research other models and reflect on what specific aspect of #PBL makes that project soar.

In the comment thread below, please compose 3-5 sentences in Standard English a thoughtful annotation. Explain how the #PBL model you discovered during your research resonates with one as a learner and explain in your own words how the project illuminates one of the instructional goals illuminated by the image and article above. For now, feel free to hone your observations to one aspect of a #PBL learning environment. When you pitch your model to class, we can all have fun wondering about the other dimensions together. Therefore, reflect on how the project that you think effective for us to consider as model displays one of these instructional goals: disciplinary (academic subject, British literature, including postcolonial authors, issues, etc), authentic, iterative, or collaborative. I’m excited for us to consider our collective internet research as it might facilitate a more productive brainstorming process and foster more considerations for each student’s #PBL experience. I’ll make this prose a small “Learning Through Technology” grade event in the gradebook.

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Aiming for a Learner-Driven Classroom

This is an embedded Microsoft Office presentation, powered by Office.

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Make One Critical Observation between Shakespeare & Sting

What is happening in the Sting song, “Consider Me Gone”? In five to seven sentences of Standard English, create a critical observation about Sting’s lyrics. Be sure to supply at least one word, phrase, or line of textual evidence to support your point.

Consider Me Gone, lyrics by Sting

There were rooms of forgiveness
In the house that we share
But the space has been emptied
Of whatever was there
There were cupboards of patience
There were shelfloads of care
But whoever came calling
Found nobody there

After today, consider me gone

Roses have thorns, and shining waters mud
And cancer lurks deep in the sweetest bud
Clouds and eclipses stain the moon and the sun
[From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/s/sting-lyrics/consider-me-gone-lyrics.html ]
And history reeks of the wrongs we have done

After today, consider me gone

I’ve spent too many years at war with myself
The doctor has told me it’s no good for my health
To search for perfection is all very well
But to look for Heaven is to live here in Hell

After today, consider me gone

Sonnet 35

No more be grieved at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense —
Thy adverse party is thy advocate —
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence.
Such civil war is in my love and hate
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Posted in Flipped Classroom, Learning Through Technology, Reflective Assessment, Shakespeare, YouTube | 11 Comments

How did The Last Lecture Inspire You?

While you may know that the word inspiration means to motivate or stimulate, the word inspiration derives from the root spiritus, which means breath. Part of the reason why we say “God bless you” to someone who sneezes, is that we fear some of their spirit may have departed with the sudden sneeze. (Read through other reasons on the Library of Congress page here.) In addition, the prefix in, in this case, emphasizes the breath of a god or goddess being breathed into the mortal.  The word resonated with the ancients who believed that gods and goddesses breathed “spirit” into humans, and as a result, humans felt emotionally charged and ready to accomplish something special or creative. In that spirit, create 5-7 sentences and use MLA format to explain how a passage, idea, line, or word from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture inspired you. 

Posted in 21st Century Learning, Community Theme, Text, Learning Through Technology, Summer Reading | 26 Comments

Why #PBL for Students Today?

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 5.49.12 AMWhile this recent PBS documentary Cyber Work and the American Dream reports serious concerns about the future, there are some positive suggestions about how to get this current generation ready for their turbulent careers ahead of them. Students today must all get used to the process of learning. In fact, to summarize many of the experts in the film, “We all have to keep on learning.” During minute 47 of the film, this theme of helping future citizens learn how to learn builds momentum. Here’s a link to the program: https://www.pbs.org/video/cyberwork-and-the-american-dream-9dxkw2/

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From Poverty to Poetry- Carl Sandburg’s Life and its Influence on his Writing

Carl Sandburg was a very complex poet despite the fact that the majority of his poems and writing incorporate themes of industrial and natural life. While his poetry expressed virtually the same theme and topic in each piece, Sandburg used varying language, techniques, styles and imagery in order to represent the ideas in powerful and unique ways. This theme allowed Sandburg to criticize aspects of the society he was living in through his poetry. The differences in the two environments that Sandburg illustrated showed his critique of the poverty in his society. This criticism was based off of Sandburg’s personal life in poverty. When he was 13, Sandburg dropped out of school to work and try and help his family. He then lived as a hobo at 17. His poetry is a reflection of his struggles as a citizen in his own city. He used his details in his poetry to highlight the struggles of the poor working class and the ways the city treated them. Sandburg also hinted was the life of war in his poetry. These details stemmed from his service Puerto Rico in the Spanish American War. This image represents the main theme Sandburg incorporated in his poetry. A lot of Sandburg’s work illustrated details of industrial life and the way it contrasted with natural life. Through these contrasting environments, Sandburg was able to clearly display his criticism of the lives of the poor. This image illustrates the contrast of the industrial life in the background and the nature that represents the poor, working class on the side. The worker on the train represents the subject of many of Sandburg’s poem as the man represents a poor worker. Sandburg focused his poetry on the issues of the working class and jobs in Chicago due to his background. Sandburg’s life had a major influence on the poetry he produced.

An image representing the contrast between industrial and natural life and the depiction of a working class citizen illustrated in Carl Sandburg’s poetry.
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The Power of Words

When reading Maya Angelou’s poetry, there is a connection in a sense that she speaks to her readers in an abstract way. Her poems possess themes that allow the audience to feel connected and relateable. In her poem “Still I Rise,” she writes about how she overcomes adversity, even in the times when it is as if the world is working against her. In the first stanza, Angelou powerfully begins, stating, “You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise” (Angelou). Throughout the poem, she expands on the motifs of resilience and courage. She speaks directly to her opposition and boldly challenges their motives. Speaking from the perspective of an oppressed person, she reiterates the idea that no matter the cruelty, regardless of circumstance and method, the victim will rise up and the slave will overcome adversity. It is a reminder of the abuse of power by those who in the police force, the government and the military. For members of society, the poem echoes repeated and clear messages of hope. No matter the circumstances, there must always and will always be hope to cling on to. Angelou’s poetry has a false stigma particularly when audiences think that it is only meant for an African American audience. A careful reader, however, would notice that she has universal appeal. Her poetry is for anyone who has been maltreated or oppressed in any shape or form. This poem not only empowers people, it educates. Angelou writes about the struggle to overcome prejudice and injustice. Most importantly, when read by those who understand repeated wrongdoing, the poem becomes an anthem. It becomes a beacon of hope for the downtrodden and oppressed. When deciphered by readers today, many interpret it as their own and incorporate it into spoken word. Spoken word is a performance art that is word-based. It is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play such as intonation and voice inflection. Spoken word is written on a page but performed for an audience. It relies heavily on use of rhythm, improvisation, rhymes, word play, and slang. Some examples of spoken word are stories, poems, monologues, slam poetry, rap and even stand-up comedy. Artist Smarel Nicole claims that “Maya Angelou was the first person who’s words and story that encouraged me to write as an outlet in elementary school. This poem is just ONE of my favorite of hers. It’s fitting for sooo many life situations” (Nicole 2017). She makes the poem her own and adds her own personal twist to it. She conveys her relation and connection with the poetry using an assertive and brazen tone. Her poetry reaches people in many different ways and dimensions. The abstract way it touches her audience is the essence of Angelou and her work. 

“Still I Rise” – Maya Angelou (Spoken Word by Smarel Nicole)
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Dear Black Child- Black Children are Worthy

This picture represents black royalty and importance, characterizing the young black girl as a princess exceeding the world

Hey Black Child
Do you know who you are
Who you really are
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be

Hey Black Child
Do you know where you are going
Where you’re really going
Do you know you can learn
What you want to learn
If you try to learn
What you can learn

-Countee Cullen

This picture is a representation of Cullen’s famous poem “Hey Black Child”. This poem expresses the endless possibilities a black child can have. It is a poem written to motivate the African American youth and show them that there are endless possibilities for them. It is a poem representing hope and acknowledging the strength of black children who are often downplayed and undervalued in society and usually do not get a shot at society or are able to reach their fullest potential. It serves as a message to black children that they are worthy of the world and can reach any goals they seek to achieve. I think this picture is a great representation of the poem “Hey black child” because it shows a black child on top of the world. In the picture, the little black girl has a crown on her head and resembles royalty, she resembles power and divinity, symbols not often paired with black children. The child sits on top of a mountain, to show how strong and resilient she has to be; she is in the clouds where she is invincible and powerful. This picture is a representation of how a black child belongs among the stars and has importance in the world,  similarly to the poem. The picture serves a message that a young black child can be and is capable of rising to the top and surpassing every obstacle (mountains) that he/she faces.

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