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!).
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.