From start to now

Did an activity where the students had to compare  where they began with their CSpan  film and where they are now.

Two favorites:

I have no idea/why the f*ck do we have to do this?
My  film is about the NFL’s protest due to the President’s comments on one of the Football Player’s choice to kneel during the National Anthem.

About Donald Trump
I would first say my topic.  Then talk about how society portrays Muslims and other religions and how even though it’s freedom of religion, we don’t really have it.

What’s left over?

An attempt to help everyone realize that any project requires lots of extra work.  In other words, how do you help kids realize that no real project has just enough work, that any project requires work that doesn’t always have immediate pay off.

I tried it with three areas — house building, recording an album, publishing a magazine — with the prompt of what gets left behind or what the extra work might be.

Example below:

General thoughts on CSpan Proposals

General feedback on CSpan Documents

I finished working my way through these documents on Friday and the grades in Worksis should be live and accurate.  Below are some general thoughts for all of you.

One, given the nature of this assignment — a short assignment — you need to think of it as an opportunity to think deeply about each word. You only have 250 words so you want to make sure that you’ve thought about each word, that it represents the best word you could choose, and that you’ve edited each sentence carefully.  Here’s author E.B. White:

“Vigorous writing is concise.   A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should contain no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”  

I read a number of papers with minimal efforts to punctuate sentences or capitalize proper nouns.   I read papers with multiple sentences that simply did not make sense.   Here’s the deal: you’re in 11th and 12th grade.   I will now read papers until I reach four basic mistakes at which point I will make the assignment not completed until you re-submit the paper.

Two, I deeply appreciated those of you who began to collect evidence about your topic.  Having a feeling or having watched something sometime is not evidence.  It’s just something you happened to write down on a paper.   Given the English seminars most of you have had and given the projects you’ve done in the past, I’m not going to spend that much time thinking about this.  Ask yourself again and again: what is my evidence for this claim? How do I support my claim with more than a feeling?

Three, a number of you did something important.  You realized that you had deep thoughts and ideas that might help you create this film and you added them to your paper, even if they didn’t necessarily relate to the prompts and even if it forced you over the word count. (For those of you who submitted 250 words exactly, you should know that I received five proposals with more than 750 words.) Thinking deeply about your film and about the end goal of this project will always serve you well.

Please feel free to make an appointment to discuss any and all grades.  Send me an email explaining in 2-4 sentences why you feel the grade is too high or too low and we’ll find a time to sit down together privately. Like on the green bench in the hall.


Sustenance from the group

I was thinking as I was walking in this morning about where the students are drawing positive, academic energy from.  They can get energy from me.  They can get energy from the group.  They can get energy from themselves.

In a perfect world, there’s a balance.  Not one source gets overdrawn or overused.   You have reserves in each, too, so that sometimes when you need it, you can pull on those. And positive energy creates more positive energy.

But it breaks down.  A few kids wear me out and then I can’t give any positive energy to anyone.  Or the entire group is having a crap day and it feels like you have nowhere to turn.  Or one student has such negative energy that they’re looking to bring everybody down.

I want to think about this more. How can I create more positive group energy so that students can count on that instead of always relying on themselves or me?

First day of deliberative forums

We spent today deconstructing the format of the National Issues Forum’s booklet on the Opioid Epidemic.   This brilliant six-page document is replacing a research brief as the precursor to filmmaking.   We’ll be writing these and then leading forums with our ninth graders.

We read it together and then we did three things:

  • What are the different parts of this document?
  • What is the purpose of each section?
  • How will the section help us make a short film?

Day three: Article II

Opening question:   Why do we have a president? Why do we have an executive branch, especially given yesterday’s conversation about the legislative branch?

Good conversation, culminating in this awesome bit of wisdom:

“If you don’t know how to bring all the people together than you’ve already lost.”