Goal Setting – "15 High Performance Habits"

We’re past the “New Year’s Resolution” time of the year, but isn’t a new semester an equally appropriate time to offer students a chance to “reboot” their approach to school?  This article and activity is intended to foster those conversations:

Lesson Plan Idea & Article

“A New Semester – How Will You Make It Your Best One Ever?” –  http://goo.gl/HVqCtP the activity asks the students to read and reflect on the article:  “15 High Performance Habits That Will Make You Successful” – from Lifehack.org
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Classroom Community Building & News Report Writing

The start of a new semester is a time to think hard about the classroom communities we’re building for our students. The following activity uses a list of 50 questions to get to know someone by Andrew Tarvin as an excuse to bring students together for conversations. I think it’s fun, because not only do they have a chance to talk about themselves (generally an opportunity adolescents embrace) but also we can use the list to think about the kinds of questions that are appropriate in different situations.

Character Analysis

Later in the term, these questions can be revisited as we consider characters in texts and perhaps analyze how fully realized a fictional character is based on how well we could answer these questions about a character from a short story or novel.

Small Talk & OSSLT Prep

Also, as an option for grade 9 / 10 classes, the task branches off into New Report writing as a prelude to instruction for the OSSLT.

Lesson Plan & Worksheets

Building Classroom Community – Rapid Interviews

50 Questions & News Writing Worksheet

This is interesting… – organizer

The Strange & Curious Tale of The Last True Hermit

Michael Finkel’s story in GQ The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit is a great read. Finkel tells the story of Christopher Knight – a recluse who managed to craft a life of isolation living in the woods of Maine for nearly thirty years. Knight opens up to Finkel — to a point and reveals a complicated set of interests and tastes. Knight describes his difficulty returning to society and his experience in prison, “I am retreating into silence as a defensive move,” he wrote. Soon he was down to uttering just five words, and only to guards: yes; no; please; thank you. “I am surprised by the amount of respect this garners me. That silence intimidates, puzzles me. Silence is to me normal, comfortable”.
The article connects with Into the Wild, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Glass Castle and any other text about escape, independence, mental illness or isolation.
Here’s a version of the article with a few study questions added at the end:  The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit.

Wanderers – spectacular / poetic short film narrated by Carl Sagan

Wanderers

Erik Wernquist edited excerpts of Carl Sagan’s audio recording of his book, Pale Blue Dot to create the narration of his short film “Wanders”.

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Last year, the film Gravity and the novel The Martian highlighted the depressingly real dangers and loneliness inherent in the exploration of space. This year, the film Interstellar jumps beyond the possible into the fantastic. Space exploration becomes a desperate act only made possible by mystical intervention. Now, as a counterpoint to both, Erik Wernquist depicts the beauty and excitement of human space exploration with a look at what life on our nearest neighbours could realistically look like. 

Using Carl Sagan’s poetic musings on the forces that drive us to wander as his narration, Wernquist illustrates scientifically accurate worlds from our solar system and imagines how human occupants might work and play on these worlds. The result is spectacular.

Narration from “Wanders

For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. 

We invest far-off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever. 

It is beyond our powers to predict the future. Catastrophic events have a way of sneaking up on us, of catching us unaware. Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.

Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, spoke for wanderers in all epochs and meridians: “I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas …”

Maybe it’s a little early. Maybe the time is not quite yet. But those other worlds—promising untold opportunities—beckon.

Silently, they orbit the Sun, waiting.


//player.vimeo.com/video/108650530?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=ffffff
Wanderers – a short film by Erik Wernquist from Erik Wernquist on Vimeo.

Possible Tasks / Lessons

Making Connections
1. Review the images from “Wanderers” in the gallery (http://www.erikwernquist.com/wanderers/gallery.html). Explain which of the images best connect with the following terms: “wanderers” / “adventurers” / “colonists”.

2. Read the narration for “Wanderers”. Find earth based images to illustrate Carl Sagan’s words. Find six images and justify how they connect to Sagan’s ideas.

3. Bring to life one of the moments illustrated in the film. Using the text form of your choice (short story, news report, blog entry, narrative poem) tell the story of one of the adventures depicted in the film. Use a phrase from the film’s narration as the title of your text.

Literary Elements
1. Carl Sagan was a scientist who wrote beautifully. Identify the most effective passage in text of his narration and explain how Sagan made use of figurative language to convey his ideas.

Media Literacy
1. Listen closely to Carl Sagan’s performance of his text. Identify three moments in the recording that demonstrate effective speaking techniques. Explain why they are effective.

Unintended Consequences

The European Space Agency landed a robot on a comet only 4 km in diameter after a 10 year journey covering 6.4 billion kilometers. It’s like shooting a bullet in Toronto to land on a balloon in Tokyo. Magic. 

Sadly, at the press conference to discuss the landing of the spacecraft, the lead scientist made a wardrobe choice that distracted much of the Internet’s attention away from his team’s accomplishments.  Mika McKinnon has written a very thoughtful, clever personal essay about the issue:  Thanks To That Shirt, We May Get a Shirt Celebrating Women In Science.

Unintended Consequences Assignment: McKinnon’s essay is a great opportunity to examine the idea of unintended consequences. This assignment challenges students to read and understand her text and to consider how she maintained a wonderful balance of anger, frustration, humour and purpose in her word choice and ideas to create just the right voice for her text.

Beyond that, students could explore other examples of unintended consequences and create their own blog entries detailing cautionary tales telling the story of a small decision that led to unexpected consequences with interesting links for further exploration.

Fingerprint Words

Matthew J.X. Malady has written a terrific essay about word choice for Slate. It’s a great exploration of how our vocabulary defines us. It’s a thoughtful and complicated text that would be a great close read for a senior class… or could be cut down for a junior class.  You might consider using it as a prompt prior to a novel discussion group meeting. Senior students could read the article and then apply the thinking to the choices the author of their book made in creating the text’s characters. Junior students could read an edited version of the article and identify the “fingerprint words” of some of the main characters in the text.

In a Writer’s Craft class, I think this article could be a great launching pad for some narrative writing.

Fingerprint Words from Slate.com

P.S. – Isn’t J.X. Malady a great name for a fictional villain?  Students could create a list of great character names and the “fingerprint words” that would define them.

Spencer O’Brien distraught over her 12th place finish in slopestyle

Spencer O’Brien’s tearfully apologizes for her performance in the Olympic slopestyle event:

From CTV.ca:  Spencer O’Brien

“Sorry I’m just really disappointed right now,” she told reporters as tears rolled down her cheeks. “I had a really hard year coming back from some injuries. I was really happy to be riding the way I was here. 
I was just really excited to be a part of Team Canada. Just after watching Mark yesterday, I was really inspired to just try really hard to bring home a medal.
“I went for my hardest run and it didn’t work out today. So I’m really disappointed and really sad that I let Canada down.”


Questions:

  1. How should a friend respond to Spencer O’Brien feelings about letting down her country?  
  2. Do you feel that the members of Team Canada are competing on your behalf?
  3. Review some of the profiles of members of Team Canada on the Olympics.ca website or CBC.ca “The Olympians” website – how do the profiles try to create an emotional connection between the audience and the athletes. Refer to specific details in the articles or videos to demonstrate your analysis.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sochi/o-no-o-brien-finishes-last-in-women-s-slopestyle-final-1.1677700#ixzz2ssKh9ie9

Snow day activity…

Let’s not get our hopes up, but just in case…
An open ended inquiry challenge for students who brave the elements and make it to school:
Prompt:  A few schools in Halton have had fire alarms go off this winter on really really cold days. Imagine you’re the safety officer for the Halton District School Board.  Research and develop a safety protocol for schools to follow on days with dangerously cold temperatures when a fire alarm goes off  Convince the school board and the fire department that your plan is well thought out and will improve the safety of HDSB students.

Hints: Is it ever a good idea to get a coat rather than immediately evacuating? 
What nearby shelters could students be directed to? At what point do cold temperatures become dangerous?  Let the Googling begin…