A blog following teacher Aaron Jura as he plans engaging, yet relevant English Language Arts content for High School students in New Orleans, LA.
After an amazing three-weeks participating in the National Endowment for the Humanities teacher seminar titled From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African American History, Literature, and Song I presented my culminating project titled The REAL Illuminati.
If you haven't noticed, many of my teaching strategy posts center around the concepts of engaging students in higher levels of academic achievement. Inspired by Dr. Tricia Rose's talk on Redlining and discriminatory policies and politics in the United States I concluded my project would take the redlining information from the federal government and juxtapose it against modern day racial gerrymandering.
This project would not have come together without the input of several amazing people:
Access all the readings, recordings, PowerPoint, and all other materials on Google Drive -- by clicking here.
This presentation uses the power of student friendly and culturally relevant ideas -- the narrative of "The Illuminati" to illustrate how power can be wielded behind the scenes to disenfranchise particular groups -- an impact very relevant today in America.
The presentation's main claim is that modern day racial gerrymandering in congressional districts is eerily similar to the now "illegal" discriminatory lending practice commonly called redlining.
When you look at the presentation, using Charlotte, NC as a guide you will see the similarities between 1940 redlining maps, the gerrymandered congressional district (blue line), when you layer in 2010 census data on racial concentration in Charlotte, NC.
The point of this exercise is to illustrate a claim, evidence, the tools of argumentation; while still using culturally relevant hooks to engage students in what could be viewed as "boring" without the strong sales pitch.
There are many exciting possibilities when using current events in the classroom, and the recent Supreme Court decisions on this issue also provide an opportunity for a larger, horizontally aligned connection to social studies, law, and even science (topography, etc.) Students could extend this even further into the math sphere by looking at election probabilities based on demographic data.
Again, the possibilities are endless -- I hope this inspires you or you use it in your class to create a more socially conscious student body -- the next leaders of our great nation!
I hope this is something you can use or modify to use in your classroom.
Every professional educator knows that engagement is a key element in ensuring students are committed to deep learning in the classroom. Every English teacher knows of the importance to engage students with riveting lessons that are both relevant and rigorous. This strategy layers in deep learning and investigation, while encouraging students to act as investigators. Getting them deeply involved in their text and evidence based analysis.
Haunted History is a term coined by Dr. Yohuru Williams in his AMAZING book Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook. This book and my time with Dr. Williams at this year's National Endowment for the Humanities seminar titled From Harlem to Hip-Hop have revolutionized the way I will approach the 9th grade English classroom for the next school term.
Haunted History and another strategy I will discuss in a later post called CSI -- are really simple presentation tricks and flipped classroom techniques that could be used in a variety of settings.
In my example, I use some of the alumni of the school I work for to engage students in biographical research projects ultimately resulting in the creation of a written biography of another alumni from our HALL OF FAME.
If you download the PowerPoint version (above) you will notice that creepy music plays when you dramatically read the introduction to the individual being profiled. This adds the drama that students love -- it's your hook!
After you present the case file you pass out to students (in small groups) evidence bags with various primary sources. Make it a mystery -- blackout names (as if they have been censored). Also, type up a list of questions you want students to be able to answer about the cases in question.
The case numbers and pictures are strategic -- use them to draw in the student (why those case numbers, etc).
While for my classroom this works with notable alumni, this can also work in other areas. Suggestions at the conference included exits off the turnpike (who are they named after), the names of cities, examination of important events, literary figures, scientists -- the opportunities here are endless.
Please feel free to post any questions about this you might have and I will definitely help out with what I know. Oh, and buy Dr. Williams' book -- the strategies are transformative.
I am about to blow your mind with a way to use MUSIC to give students context and deep analysis of a period of time/movement/really anything you want. This method is called KEYNOTING. Enjoy! I hope I just blew your mind. If you want more on these cool teaching strategies, check out Dr. Yohuru Williams' book Teaching U.S. History Beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies, Grades 5-12.
1) Select the theme or concept you will be having students work through. In the example, we used the concept of internalized racism and the black is beautiful movement.
2) Come up with a series of questions. These should be tied to your subject area. We worked through this using a more humanities driven approach to teaching English. Example: Who was the president? What was the unemployment rate? Who was the biggest celebrity that year? What's going on in foreign and domestic policy at the time? REMEMBER: These questions will remain consistent for the lesson -- doesn't matter which song the students are working on.
3) Have students work in small groups -- give them the year and have them use their technology tools to answer the questions based on the year.
4) Bring class back together for a report out -- chart the answers somewhere (board or a Google doc), etc.
5) Expose the students to the songs -- for our example we used Nina Simone (1966) Four Women, India Arie (2001) Video, and Kendrick Lamar (2015) Complexion -- focused on the feature by Rhapsody.
6) Whole class discussion and close reading of the lyrics -- keeping in mind the overarching theme.
Remember: Your going to want to provide copies of the lyrics and close read the selections to speak to the historical periods or issues you are working on throughout the lesson.
Sample of the questions and "student answer":
Closing thoughts: Differentiation opportunity: Since the questions remain consistent you could easily differentiate for a particular roster, you could select one song in the middle that speaks to the theme based on the average year of birth for the class (ENGAGE!).
This weekend the NEH Voices from the Misty Mountains group went on an optional field trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the variety of museums and monuments in the city. I included some pictures from the trip below:
On Wednesday the 20th we had the great pleasure of participating in a small group teaching session with Frank X Walker. Walker's poetry in Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers was especially poignant and relevant -- even though it focuses on revisionist mythmaking surrounding the murder of Medgar Evers by Byron de la Beckwith in Mississippi in the 1960's.
This work is so powerful and I hope to use Walker's work this year in class. Below you will find an NPR story regarding the book and the links above will get you to Amazon to buy it! It is well worth it and something you can use in the classroom or just to think at home.
We have all been struck by the violence we see each and every day on the news from all around our county. Recently in Louisiana, Baton Rouge (about an hour and a half away from New Orleans) a man named Anton Sterling’s murder, at the hands of officers, was caught on cell phone video and virally hit the Internet. Of course, many were outraged at the multiple angles of different cell phone video, which seemed to show a cold-blooded murder at the hands of officers. This along with other stories of murder and brutality has plagued people of color in our communities for far too long.
The question is: How do you broach the topics of race and race politics in the secondary classroom? The answer seems to be, it depends. Teaching in an urban environment with a high proportion of African American students means I do have to maneuver through these complex issues with students as they grapple with the violence that seems to be all too common in interactions with individuals whose duty it is to protect and serve.
The issue with the concept of the “all lives matter” movement is a complicated one. There are many great articles breaking down how the all lives matter phrase is a boondoggle. See here and here. But, the real question is – if all lives matter, which ones matter most? It’s obvious based upon subjective data that institutions and society at large systematically oppresses people of color and has done this throughout American History.
While there aren’t easy answers we can start with living as an ally not an adversary. The term ally doesn’t mean one who is passively committed, but instead that you are actively pursuing justice and equity. If you aren’t doing that you are not being an ally.
Coming back off my trip to California (where I learned the news of the murder in Louisiana) I knew I had to do something to show support to the community I live in, love, and value. I went online and organized a contingent of teachers to drive down to Baton Rouge and stand in solidarity with the African American community as they struggled to figure out how they could live in peace and without fear.
The protest was a peaceful one (of course, we are teachers) but the emotions were raw. Of the nearly 400 protesters who showed up on Saturday the 9th of July at the site of the murder of Alton Sterling we were greeted with love and gratitude. It really took me back that I was being thanked for showing up with hugs and tears from African American protesters and one thing became clear: the divisions that have long been used to separate us must be broken down.
Show your support, lend your voice. If you don’t want to be political all it takes is a simple acknowledgement of the fact that the community is in mourning. Be there for your fellow man. The parallels to the civil rights struggles of the 1950’s and 60’s are clear as day. I choose to support those I serve and not simply serve myself, will you remain silent or will you lend your voice and understanding?
Also, I recommend reading Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education..
After an amazing two weeks in sunny San Diego, CA I must say this has been one of the best experiences of my life -- and many memories will be cherished forever. The USS Midway Museum's Midway Institute for Teachers is a top-notch teacher professional development program offered aboard the USS Midway Museum for two weeks over the summer. Participating in scholarly lectures ranging from the Cold War to the Vietnam War we engaged with the best scholars available on the topic.
Institute Director John Burns and Dr. Kirk Ankeney along with many others from the educator and curatorial departments provide teachers with the opportunity to engage and experience the period in one of the museum's classroom spaces. I highly recommend applying to the program for next year's application cycle (see link above).
Historians, led by the incomparable Robert Dallek, presented a two-week intensive with sessions on the Cold War, Korean War, the Vietnam Era, etc. The sessions don't only cover the events -- they go deep and analyze the experiences of these important points in history. The institute gives a very well-rounded view of the periods being discussed with lectures on Women, African Americans, Latinos/Chicanos, etc. These lectures are punctuated by oral history presentations from people who experienced the wars. The experience cannot be beat and the institute ranks as the best professional teacher development experience I have ever had the pleasure of attending.
It's hard to put into words how important this was for me -- but, more importantly how important the experience I had will be for my students. Thanks again to the organizers, attendees, and all the presenters. This is an experience NOT to be missed.
Below you will find the slideshow of my tours of the USS Midway:
A cool video with the EVOLUTION of radar equipment (and a fitting tune):
As I had previously posted, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the 2016 summer teacher institute aboard the USS Midway (now a museum in San Diego, CA). Well I am here now (actually writing this post from the carrier) and I am having an excellent time learning with fellow educators and history nerds. I will post a ton of pictures soon, but one of the many highlights was the experience I had on the 4th of July.
A friend of mine is stationed aboard the USS Carl Vinson here in San Diego and I was able to be escorted aboard to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the flight deck of the carrier. I put up a pic above.
If you want to keep up with my trip follow me on Twitter or Instagram for constant updates.
Mr. J is a high school teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. J believes in the power of educators to help children and families achieve. Follow his blog for tips and techniques to keep engagement high and student achievement at the forefront.