Monday, July 24, 2017

Brain Break: Paper Cup Columns

Hello again!

Today's post is a quick one. It works both as a Brain Break and as a more standard lesson-type activity, depending on how you use it. It's fun and engaging. Plus, as a bonus - it incorporates a buzzword from the past few years of education - STEAM. For more info on Brain Breaks, see my previous post about the Sticky Step. For more information on STEAM, check out this short page on STEAM Basics.

Preparation: You will need some specific materials, and students assigned to groups (or maybe partners if necessary)
Stacking the Cups
  • Paper Dixie Cups (5 oz. size) - 15 per group
  • Scissors - 2/3 pairs per group
  • Students will also need prior knowledge about the three major classical orders or an explainer sheet (see picture at right)

Goal of the Activity:
Build 3 columns, one Doric, one Ionic, and one Corinthian.

Sample Columns
A majestic Corinthian column
A simple, free-standing Doric column

Victory criteria: 
  • The different capitals on the columns must demonstrate knowledge of their features.
  • Each column must be 5 cups tall.
  • Each column must be free-standing.

Some notes:
  • The first time students do this activity, they will probably find it difficult.
  •  many of STEAM or STEM activities, you can run it as a
    • race (first team to finish wins!)
    • challenge (every team that completes the activity wins!) 
  • You can increase the difficulty of the activity by adding to the height of each column. 
  • If you use it as a Brain Break, you can recycle the cups!
  • If, by chance, you used paper cups with the Solo Jazz design, that would be the bomb. :-)
classic, but not classical, cups from the ’90s

Monday, July 3, 2017

ACL Institute Recap

Salvēte omnēs!

Mea culpa! I didn't mean to be gone so long. And while I could spend a bunch of words discussing the reason for my lengthy, and certainly unintended, hiatus, I'm going to just jump right back in. In particular, today's post is about the 2017 American Classical League Institute at Grand Valley State University.

I've often been told and shown that good teachers, after something has ended, reflect upon it. This has been emphasized by Charlotte Danielson's Framework for Teaching, by administrators who take stock of everyone's ideas before officially closing a meeting, by colleagues who model reflective blogging, among many other examples. And while I could write a quick summary of ideas and tips from presentations, instead I'd like to focus my reflection on one big takeaway from the past two Summer Institutes:

Because as great as the tips, pedagogical ideas, new readings of literature, lesson plans, and tech tools shared during the scheduled sessions are, I am confident that most people's experience of ACL Institute can be pretty accurately described by the above quote.

When I think about my friends who have been attending each year since before I was even an adult, they don't come back to hear their friends speak again, or watch their friends navigate an unfamiliar campus, they come back to feel as good as they did the last time they were together.

When I think about the meritus/merita honorees, they almost always speak about the people who made them feel good and tell stories of the good times. They usually skip a greatest hits list of presentations they've attended or accomplishments they've valued the most.

When I think about the teachers who attended for the first time, they want the professional development, but they also crave the connection and want to feel it again.

When I think about what people take away from the Teaching Materials Exhibits, they may have books in their hands and ideas in their heads, but the positive vibes of the people in the physical space are what make shopping there better than Amazon.

When I think about mentorship and supporting teachers, especially as the overall ACL as well as its sub-organizations have dedicated increasing effort to the cause, I realize the problem is an adaptive challenge. Technical solutions can only help so much, because the emotional well-being of other humans cannot be implemented by edict. The complex interactions, fostering of relationships, and most importantly, the people with the problem (those who need mentoring) being a part of the work solving it.

At this year's Institute, I spent countless hours listening to others, but comparatively very few listening to presentations. I purposely spoke person-to-person with so many people, in an effort to make sure they felt heard. And I will tell you, that, although I took notes on many of these chats, I don't remember exactly everything they said or did. I made my best go at speaking with purpose, to ensure a connection of ideas. And I remember feeling awesome about these conversations!

So, if you attended ACL Institute, I hope the time with colleagues fueled your fire, enriched your soul, and brought you joy. If you are going to return in the future, I hope you know what to look forward to. And if you are going to attend for the first time soon, I'll see you there, and afterward we can remember together how much we enjoyed it.