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Teaching the Gray Areas of Conflict: an Opportunity for Critical Thinking

Teaching the Gray Areas of Conflict: an Opportunity for Critical Thinking

Dan Thalkar

Dan Thalkar

Middle School Teacher, Los Angeles, CA

I try to teach and learn. Middle school teacher in Los Angeles.

We like tidy narratives. Heroes and villains. Beginnings, middles, and ends. You need only look at the latest Marvel Blockbusters to see the formula writ large. There is an inherent danger to this structure, as we impose labels and story-arcs over people and events that rarely, if ever, conform to such a convenient structure. The opposite, though, the absence of narrative, is no better.

Unfortunately, for an example of the latter, you could just watch the news.

Not only do we increasingly like our current event stories to be clear-cut, they often seem to move so quickly that there is no time for ambiguity or complexity to evolve. Google “news cycle” and you will see a plethora of quantitative data and existential hand-wringing about the increasing speed — or complete erasure — of the news cycle. “Donald Trump killed the news cycle,” writes the Columbia Journalism Review. “Self-contained storylines that once would have risen and fallen in distinct waves of public attention have given way to information overload and frequent confusion.” The New York Times opines that, “. . . nothing matters long enough to matter.”

Labels and the illusion of character arc are still present — look at any recent story about North Korea — but context is left behind.

Forget simplistic narratives; it seems that in the news we’re often left with no narrative at all.

What does this mean for educators? It means that we need to complicate. . . everything.

We can no more teach Westward Expansion as a clear-cut moral story than we can allow our students to believe that a story no longer being talked about consistently is equivalent to the story no longer existing.

Any educator who teaches in the humanities or has the opportunity to develop students’ civic engagement, whether in class or an advisory period, has the responsibility to help students make sense of the world around them.That means identifying fake news, reading multiple sources, and identifying bias and assumptions. It also means acknowledging that very, very few events have easy-to-trace beginnings and ends or fit into convenient, all-encompassing summaries.

Case in point: Syria. The war there, which started in 2011, is still happening. It is also very, very complicated. The same can be said for Yemen, which also isn’t exactly in great shape, though you aren’t likely to hear about it either if you glance at the latest headlines. And the justifiable uproar of family separation has masked the potentially more destructive removal of asylum for those seeking refuge from domestic abuse or gang violence.

It’s impossible for every teacher to help their students fully understand every one of these issues. It’s impossible for any person to fully understand every one of these issues. But we can refuse to buy into the mindset that nothing matters long enough to matter.

We should work with our students to identify issues they are interested in, research context, and follow events as they unfold over the course of a school year. This is different from just learning history or just talking about headlines. It’s a shift in the way we perceive time and learning. Instead of a predetermined lesson or objective, we have ambiguity. Instead of a backwards-planned unit, we have uncertainty. Instead of resolution, we have the beautiful, chaotic mess of life.

If we want our students to genuinely enact democracy, to engage with the world, then our classrooms need to authentically engage with the world while it is happening. As John Dewey wrote, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

I am not advocating that we forego curriculum in order to only follow current events, or that it’s even possible to track every major news story. (What counts as a “major” news story, anyway?), but I am advocating that we open our classrooms to uncertainty and vulnerability.

Watching the world unfold in real-time is a terrifying, wondrous proposition. Follow any story closely enough, and conflict will arise in your community. Students will have differing opinions, will question why something matters, will venture into realms that are uncomfortably personal. Rather than seen as a cause for concern, we should view this for what it is — a beautiful opportunity.

Conflict within the context of learning is an opportunity not just to speak about civics and civil discourse, but to actually practice it. Not just to speak about restorative justice, but to struggle through it. Not just to theorize about right and wrong, but to wrestle with its embodied meaning for us as human beings.

So, as you develop your curriculum for the upcoming year, schedule some room for ambiguity. Give students a chance to decide what stories they want to follow. Learn what matters to your community. Make a few predictions about issues that you think will become increasingly important. And then, over the course of the year, get to know the people involved. Research the places, the histories, the futures. Help students see the connections between the content you are studying and the events unfolding around them.

Situate your classroom in the world and dwell there. Let the world matter long enough to matter.

Guest Post by: Dan Thalkar (@dthalkar) Humanities Teacher in Los Angeles, CA

On the Hook to Engage Students? Find ClassHook’s Video Resources from Kiddom’s K-12 Library

On the Hook to Engage Students? Find ClassHook’s Video Resources from Kiddom’s K-12 Library

Even the most animated teachers know what it’s like to stand before a room full of glazed-over stares and drooping eyelids. Student engagement is often the toughest part of the job, and many educators struggle to “hook” their students and reel them into academic content.

The good news is, you don’t have to do backflips or pepper your lesson plans with the latest slang (you really, really don’t) to get your students interested, inspired, and ready to learn. ClassHook provides you with a simple way to hit refresh on your lessons. Here are three ways to engage your classroom using ClassHook and Kiddom:

 

Tip 1: Use ClassHook to bring a bit of interest, humor, and retention into the classroom

ClassHook is a full library of short film clips pulled from popular media that can be used to pique interest and make students feel more connected to the academic content. Let Bart Simpson explain the properties of metal. The Animaniacs remind students to carry their 1’s. Shrek schools them on literary tropes. How’s that for a mnemonic device!

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Tip 2: Use a ClassHook video as a high-level primer for a new topic

Film is a familiar medium for young people, and leveraging media literacy is a powerful way to help students understand complex ideas. Use ClassHook to introduce or reinforce academic concepts. While students won’t receive all of the pertinent information just from watching these clips, it can be the spoonful of sugar needed to move through a lesson with ease. Each ClassHook clip is tagged by grade level, subject, and topic so it’s easy to find appropriate content to fortify any lesson.

Tip 3: Make homework more approachable

At the end of a class, use Kiddom to drag and drop a ClassHook video resource from Planner into student assignments for students to watch later at home. This kind of homework can can be quite helpful for retaining a lesson, and might be more approachable to those students who already have plenty of reading materials to study. This tip might be especially useful for teachers trying to keep students engaged over a break or a long weekend.

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Kiddom integrates the most helpful teaching tools in one place so you can plan individualized lessons, assign curriculum, grade, and do your reporting all in one place. Along with our new Classhook integration, you can build your Kiddom lesson plans upon various other tools like CK-12, Newsela, LearnZillion, Quill, RocketLit, IXL Learning, and more!

 

 

Ready to start planning with ClassHook resourcesKiddom is free for classroom teachers!

 


By: Eboni Hogan, Content Specialist

 

How Might Schools Quantify “Personalized Learning?”

How Might Schools Quantify “Personalized Learning?”

Personalized learning is a buzz phrase we hear often in education. This pedagogical style is inspirational, and may serve students well, but it often lacks direction.

Many professional development sessions begin with: “Let’s define personalized learning,” because the term is thrown around so often. At Kiddom, we’ve had the privilege to witness many excellent strides toward personalized learning in different environments, but many haven’t yet seen it in practice. So how does an administrator or community measure the pursuit of this practice without knowing exactly how it looks or where to focus their efforts to improve?

In mastery-based classrooms, students become better advocates of their learning when they know where they excel and where they need to improve. The ability to measure performance in a focus area and put that information to practice generally empowers most students to achieve their learning goals. Schools and districts are no different.

For those systems working to offer more opportunities to personalize learning for students, visibility on success metrics makes all the difference in their own instructional growth and professional development. That’s where Kiddom comes in, and we are delighted to announce a new partnership that makes it easier than ever for districts and schools to quantify their personalized learning initiatives.

Kiddom provides both, a team dedicated to your success and a platform for personalized learning, so you have a direct pathway to monitor instructional change within your community. And now Kiddom has partnered with Education Elements to provide an Onpoint score for your personalized learning journey.

What is an Onpoint Score? A “credit score” for personalized learning, Onpoint provides the framework and metrics to help learning communities focus their individualization efforts, including curriculum and instruction, support, culture of innovation, strategy, and so much more.

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Providing schools a focused plan to implement personalized learning is what we are most excited about, as many of Kiddom’s educator communities use our school operating system for this very reason. Kiddom’s early adopter program offers benefits to new schools and districts that adopt Kiddom, including training, a personal success specialist, membership to Kiddom’s Educator Brain Trust, and the newest addition, Education Elements’ Onpoint score for personalized learning.

The ability to give individualized support to every student, with wide ranges of needs, abilities, and interests, is an amazing and critical feat to accomplish. With Kiddom’s tools and Education Elements’ reports, schools and districts are better equipped than ever to quantify their own success. They now have the knowledge to target their efforts in supporting both teachers and admin as they cultivate a personalized learning experience for students.

Interested to learn more about what Kiddom offers schools and districts? Let’s set up a time for a walkthrough!

Back to School Tips and Tricks for Classroom Teachers

Back to School Tips and Tricks for Classroom Teachers

To kick off a new school year, the Kiddom Success Team has put together some recommendations to help you get the most out of Kiddom and start the semester strong. These tips and tricks will help you and your students engage and get ready to tackle another year!

 

Tip #1: Create a Getting to Know You Survey

Investing time in getting to know your students early in the school year is essential for building strong relationships that allow students to take academic risks and encourage open, honest feedback.

Using our Google Drive integration, you can create a survey in Google Docs and share it with your students in Kiddom. They’ll each receive a private, personal copy organized automatically in a Kiddom folder in your Drive. Our assignment settings make it easy to share this without it counting towards a grade to ensure that students aren’t afraid to be honest.

You can also align your survey to any of the CASEL standards for social emotional learning — we suggest the competencies that measure Self-Awareness and Relationship Skills. Once students have submitted their responses, you can comment directly on the Google Doc or use Kiddom’s commenting features to start a dialogue that will last all year.

 

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Tip form Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

 

Tip #2: Make Every Assignment Unique…and Engaging!

It’s simple: When you give students meaningful, engaging assignments, they’ll appreciate the material, and they’ll appreciate you.

Bellwork, exit tickets, and other re-engagement activities can be crucial for retaining information, and Kiddom’s K-12 Library lets you easily offer exciting and engaging materials for all subjects. You can then use our Playlists to organize and store all of your saved videos, interactives, games, and more without hours of searching or planning. Your Playlists will be ready to go with a simple drag-and drop!

Let’s start by creating an assignment in a Playlist. The Playlist will be saved in your Planner, so you can easily drag and drop your classwork for each day whenever you’re ready to assign, without creating the assignment over and over again. Within your Playlist, you can make an assignment for each day and attach content from the Library (or your own…or both!), standards, points/rubrics, and assignment type. Use your Playlists to group lessons, resources, videos, assignment types — whatever works best with how you’re organized.

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When you’re creating an assignment in your Playlist, click the Kiddom “K” logo to access our content library. With about 100,000 resources, we have exactly what you need: videos, interactives, practices, and more, for all subject areas.

Simply select your grade level, subject, and if you want, where you’d like to see the resources from or resource type. This will generate all of the content we have for your subject and grade. You can also use keywords like “American Revolution” or “Molecules” to narrow down your search. Preview the content to see if it’s the right fit and then click select to attach it to the assignment.

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Since Playlists live in your Planner, you can carry them with you from class to class. When a new week starts, simply edit the assignment to add new content/change due dates/points or rubrics. kiddom

Tip from Shabbir Manjee, Support Specialist

 

Tip #3: Create and Assign Class Roles

Clear and consistent routines and procedures can make or break classroom management systems. When I was an 8th grade teacher, I often wished I could multiply myself to get it all done. So I did! I created a list of “class roles” for students to act on, such as homework recorderoffice assistant, and tech assistant. This gave them the chance to practice taking on more responsibility while freeing me to focus on instruction.

Not only do class roles give students greater agency — if done right, they can be an orderly foundation for your class culture.

 

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How can I implement this in my class?

  1. Think of tasks students can carry out to help the flow of the day or period. You know your class and students best, but feel free to use our resource of possible class roles and descriptions.
  2. Create an assignment for each role in Kiddom. Write out the descriptions in student-friendly language so they will be able to understand the expectations when it is their turn.
  3. Create a Playlist of class roles that you can drag and drop into your Timeline and assign them to different students throughout the year.
  4. Go over the roles and expectations as you would routines and procedures. Depending on your students, you may need to model it, review it mid-year, or have them sign up. Ask them to master it and then teach the next student for you.

That’s it! Enable your students to contribute to the class and give yourself a break.

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Tip from Nicole Plante, Support Specialist

 

Tip #4: Start a Student Club! Run By Students, Powered by Kiddom

Teachers using Kiddom know it’s a great way to plan, organize, and assess student progress throughout a school year. But did you know you can also use Kiddom to power student-run clubs?

If you are an advisor for a student extracurricular, whether it’s student government, debate team, or the anime club, you know it’s a lot of work to get members the information they need about upcoming events, trips, fundraisers, and meetings. You’ve probably found yourself wondering how you can put more of the onus on your students to get it done. That’s where Kiddom can help.

If you want to give student club officers control of their clubs, it’s as simple as creating a teacher account for them to use on Kiddom.

Just set it up with credentials for students by creating a student officer email account, then use that account to sign up with Kiddom as a teacher. This account can be used each year as new students take leadership roles in your activity.

Here is an example:

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Class: Debate Team

Teacher: Ms. G

Collaborators: Debate Team Leaders

Now your students have access to the same posting and commenting abilities that you have, putting student-run clubs back in the hands of students.

Do your student officers need to distribute an itinerary for a upcoming club trip? Do they need to vote on a revision to club by-laws? They can easily post documents, questions, and polls for their club members with this account!

In addition, these student club leaders will have the ability to assign members of the club individual tasks and goals; just like you would do in an academic Kiddom class. Meaning, not only can your club become officially student-run, but your student leaders will be able to distribute tasks and assignments to groups of club members in order to get everyone invested in club goals and activities.

Once your students have access to their club’s Kiddom course, the possibilities for student ownership are endless!

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We hope you find these hacks for using Kiddom fun and exciting! Let us know how you’re using Kiddom by emailing support@kiddom.co, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter below for the latest news, guides, resources, and more!

Kiddom and Google: Better Together, Pt. III

Kiddom and Google: Better Together, Pt. III

If you are using Google Drive or Classroom, you know Google just updated the student and teacher experience. What’s great about these updates is that the Google and Kiddom combination is even more powerful than before. Check out this list of awesome things that Kiddom and Google can do together.

Note: This is Pt. 3 of our 3-part series on how Kiddom and Google work better together. Be sure to also check out Pt. 1 on Helping Students Track and Act on Progress and Pt. 2 on Transforming Drive Folders Into Organized Curriculum.

With new updates to both Kiddom’s platform and Google Classroom, there are many perks to using them together. The biggest one? Increasing student ownership by providing students access to reports and progress throughout the school year. Here are a couple of ways you can maximize your Google Drive and Kiddom experience:

Student-Teacher-Parent Conferences

While Google Drive and Classroom can certainly provide you the ability to get assignments and grades out to students and their parents, Kiddom gives you the additional benefit of illustrating the progress of each student in your class throughout a school year.kiddom

Often, when parent-teacher conferences come around, we often find ourselves trying to explain what getting an 88%, a 95%, or a 72% means. Kiddom allows students and parents to understand, in competencies, the progress being made in class. With standards-based grading reports, Kiddom takes a percentage grade and creates an easy to understand, written, explanation of student progress.

Kiddom’s reports break down a student’s progress standard by standard, so you can truly differentiate instruction for your students and they’ll have a better understanding of why they are receiving certain tasks and assignments beyond just the “I have a 72% so I’m being remediated” mentality.

Where does this all lead? When the time comes to sit down with parents, your students can take the lead in discussing their progress and their weaknesses. That’s why combining Google and Kiddom is such a great choice.

Project-Based Learning:

When you have the power to assign standards to individual student work or group work, you’re taking PBL to the next level by allowing the inquiry and problem solving required of students to flourish. As students get more and more comfortable in a PBL environment, they come to understand the standards being addressed in your class, and they take more ownership throughout the year: They will be the ones tacking standards onto their projects, based on what they know they demonstrated. Or they might choose a project and a standard set because they know they struggle with those skills.

Think about it: Let’s say you assign students an essential question for PBL. The next step would be to show them the standards that would be addressed for this specific unit. But what if you ask them to choose how they will complete the project by assigning themselves standards and competencies? You could have the following criteria:

1. Ask students to choose at least three standards from this particular unit that they want to focus on in their project.

2. Two standards should be areas in which they feel they will excel.

3. One standard should be an area in which they know they might be weak.

4. Students can explain their rationale for picking these standards in the pre-work and brainstorming phase of their project. This helps students hone their metacognitive skills while they prepare to complete the project.

This is just one way you can have students choose standards, but really it’s up to you and your students to find the best combination of standards assignments. You might even want to assign everyone in the class a certain standard while allowing students to pick a few others they want to incorporate into a project. Regardless of how you do it, providing students with the opportunity to practice inquiry and metacognition is an added bonus when you use Kiddom alongside Google.

Assignment Submission Super-Charged:

In Classroom, students can certainly submit written assignments to their teacher, but what about videos, PDFs, podcasts, pictures, etc.? With Kiddom, students can not only submit the written parts of their assignments, but they can also submit multimedia and other content that goes along with it; all in one dropbox per assignment. That’s pretty awesome, right?

 

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With Google Drive integration, students don’t even have to move their files in order to attach them to an assignment in Kiddom. They just need to connect their school Google accounts with their Kiddom accounts and they have a direct connection to all of their work, all the time. And you can easily grade any type of multimedia straight from the Kiddom app using our built-in rubrics or your own custom rubrics. Not only that, but just like everything in Kiddom, it’s fully customizable for each student. You can attach a rubric, attach a set of standards, or add a student goal for any number of students at one time (all the way down to a case-by-case basis).

Using Kiddom along with Google Apps helps take your classroom to the next level of ownership; it allows students to choose what types of files to submit, how they will submit, and what needs to be submitted in order to receive credit and show progress on the skills being tested. Not only that, but Kiddom’s built-in rubrics make grading Drive assignments even simpler than before.

 

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And that concludes our 3-part series on how Kiddom and Google work better together. Be sure to check out Pt. 1 on Helping Students Track and Act on Progress and Pt. 2 on Transforming Drive Folders Into Organized Curriculum.

 


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Written by: Sarah Gantert, Success Specialist