It’s early June and many schools are still in session. As the weather warms up and thoughts of summer fun tease at our students’ imagination, it becomes more challenging to engage them in thoughtful consideration of their lessons. Wouldn’t it be terrific if teachers could tap into a resource that offered a novel way to introduce a lesson, stimulate deep conversations, or provoke critical thinking and self-reflection? State testing is done for the year and teacher observations are over–it’s a great time to explore new instructional approaches.
We all know that various types of media engage students–they have grown up surrounded by a collage of sound, image, and text every day of their lives. Imagine having access to film clips from popular movies like Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar or Forrest Gump or Finding Nemo that you could share with students as a part of a lesson or advisory? Just the novelty of viewing popular media in their classroom will intrigue students and provide that extra “umph” needed these last few weeks to help keep kids focused. Then think about…if this resource resonates with kids in June, what might the potential be the rest of the year?
The resource is FILM Clips for Character Education (http://www.filmclipsonline.com). It’s not free–I have to be up front about that. However, and it’s a BIG however–right now there is a 2 week FREE Trial available! Therefore, teachers can try out this resource at no cost and no obligation. You might be thinking what comes with this trial offer?
- Access to 89 clips–they are just clips. There are no captions, no messaging.
- A synopsis of each clip
- A pdf study guide that suggests an overarching question and some follow-up activities
These clips are streamed so all you need is a computer, internet connections, and an LCD projector.
What are the topics encompassed by the term “Character Education”? That language sometimes raises a red flag for folks.
- active listening
- being a good neighbor
- being different
When I started my free trial my mind immediately went back to my classroom. I watched a clip from Shrek where Princess Fiona asks Donkey to keep a secret. I thought of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Stacey keeping the secret about who actually cheated on a test. He took the blame and received the consequences. I thought what a great way to make that scene come alive and spark student reflection on the positives and negatives of keeping secrets. Another clip I watched was from Liar, Liar and concerned telling white lies. I made the connection to WikiLeaks and thought about using the clip in social studies. It seemed to me the possibilities of using these clips are almost endless.
It’s important that our students think deeply about actions and their consequences, whether they be their own actions or those of their community or country. Sometimes it’s difficult for young adolescents to see the relevance of such discussions. Using a concrete example like a film clip helps them make the connection between the theoretical and the here and now.
Making good decisions about attitudes, behavior, relationships, and health starts to become more complex in the middle grades. Advisory programs were developed, in part, to help students learn strategies to rely on when they are faced with perplexing challenges. In some schools there is no advisory, but the teams build strong relationships with students and find ways to integrate social-emotional and decision making topics into the curriculum.
Middle schoolers want to see the relevance between what they do in school with what they perceive as the real world outside the school house walls. Sometimes resources designed for advisory programs can seem to be contrived and lack the authenticity students crave. There’s a new web resource that focuses on the stories of teenagers and young adults who are learning to “navigate” the real world. The current target audience is high school students, but there are elements of the website and its accompanying mini newspaper that middle school teams might adapt to use with their own students.
The website is http://navigatingtherealworld.org/. There you will find many video interviews with young adults who discuss challenges they faced and decisions they’ve made. Some of the decisions have not worked out well. However they demonstrate that more often than not there are alternative opportunities. You need to listen to any you might choose to use to make sure there is a hook that a young adolescent can grab on to. Many of them will stimulate good conversations in advisory on topics that relate directly to the students’ future success–attitudes about effort in school, the affects of bullying, making the wrong decision, feelings of isolation, etc.
Below is a sample video where Whitney, the interviewee, encourages the viewer to find the one person who wants to see you succeed and will support you. Very poignantly she points out that the one person may just be yourself.
The newspaper has sections devoted to high school, jobs and careers, college, and the finances associated with college. The information is delivered with lots of graphics and just enough text to pique students’ interest. These pieces would be a high-interest supplement for a career exploration unit. The information on financing college would add authenticity to a unit on economics. The newspaper might also make an interesting focus for student-parent nights, especially for eighth graders planning their high school program.
Tom Tracy, the Executive Director, reports that the group is exploring the possibility of developing middle school materials. However, that’s in the future. In the meanwhile, check out the website with your students and begin the conversations about their futures.
Neil Pashricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things (http://1000awesomethings.com/) is a great source of discussion topics or ideas for things to do during advisory time:
- Decorating lockers (building a sense of community on the team)
- Showing an elderly friend something new on the computer (being involved in the community)
- Numerating things that make you laugh (creating a positive team climate)
- Watching out for friends (growing up safe)
Neil was a recent TED Talk guest. Watching the video as a team or in individual advisory groups might just stimulate good conversations about the impact of one’s attitude on life, emotional health, and behavior. Too often young adolescents feel powerless. Neil, a young professional that most kids could identify with, describes choices he made to empower himself during a time of sadness and loss.
His talk is entitled “The 3 A’s of Awesome” is is quite inspiring as we learn how a simple blog he started has grown into an award-winning world-wide phenomenon. You can view the video at http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_pasricha_the_3_a_s_of_awesome.html.
Prompts based on the video might include (these might not make sense without watching the video):
- What are some ways you embrace your inner 3 year old so that you notice the world around you?
- What are the most challenging situations that make it difficult for you to maintain a positive attitude?
- Create a collage that represents your authentic self.
- Attitude, Awareness, or Authenticity–which are your strengths and which challenge you?
- What 3 ideas drive your life?
Other activities based on Neil’s blog and video might include:
- Students create a team area bulletin board on awesome things about their team or school or town.
- Students develop their own blogs focusing on awesome aspects of their lives. (Check out security precautions your school wants you to take so students don’t give out personal information.)
- Students and teachers create and post a team word cloud about awesome things using Wordle.com
- Team uses the video and blog as an inspiration for a service learning project.
- The advisory or teams problem solves a significant school issue and acts on their ideas.