Angela Crawford is a two-time National Board Certified English teacher in Mobile, Alabama and a 2014 Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. Check out Angela’s blog to hear more about her trip to Iceland and creative teaching methods.
Activity: Black History Month Project-Based Unit
Grade Level: 11 – 12
Time Commitment: 4 weeks
During Black History Month, my Advanced Placement students embark on a project-based unit. After close readings and textual analysis of texts such as King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” we investigate the controversy surrounding the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. In addition to discussing the merits of the arguments regarding placement on the National Mall and choice of sculptor, students weigh in on the arguments surrounding choice of quotations and defend or challenge proposed quotes.
Students then work collaboratively and develop a proposal to commemorate a person or an event from the Civil Rights era they believe deserves such commemoration and then propose their plans to an authentic audience. To complete this project, students synthesize multiple sources, analyze how to appeal to a target audience, argue for a particular site and design, anticipate and address objections to their proposal, and determine the best means to communicate with their chosen audience.
My students were deeply engaged and buzzed with a sense of purpose. They no longer felt like they were in school; they were designers, associates, and civic leaders.
By unit’s end, students realize that visual “texts” make arguments and utilize similar strategies, like contrast, emphasis, balance, rhythm and repetition, just as written texts do. More importantly, the unit combines necessary skills required for success in college with deeper learning competencies required for career and civic life.
How did this activity impact your students?
During the project-based portion of this unit, my students were deeply engaged and buzzed with a sense of purpose. They no longer felt like they were in school; they were designers, associates, and civic leaders.
How does teaching with a global perspective impact your students?
I sincerely hold fast to the idea that if we are to have a planet worth inhabiting, we must attend unflinchingly to all human beings that will inhabit it and the ways in which they deal with one another. While my goal is not to create global crusaders, I do strive to promote a broad understanding of the world and how it works so that my students will make responsible decisions as global citizens and will be able to interact successfully in our rapidly evolving planet.
What advice do you have for teachers who want to get more involved with teaching students about the world across disciplines?
Seek out like-minded professionals. Many teachers are lucky enough to work alongside colleagues who share a similar vision. For those who are not so lucky, join professional organizations or apply for programs, such as the Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. Technology has both expanded the world and brought the world closer to us. Via Skype, webinars, Google Hangouts, etc., teachers should not have to feel as if they are on an island.
What is one simple activity that any educator could do with their students to get them thinking about the world?
The vast majority of my students see very little of the world outside their neighborhood. Actually, they and their families see very little of the rest of the city, much less the region, country, or world. They spend their summers working or at home, not traveling. One of the simplest things I do is to broadcast portions of the Planet Earth or the Sunrise Earth DVD series on my Smartboard. My inner-city students rarely get to experience the majesty of the Arctic or the serenity of Yosemite. A 5-10 minute segment while students are transitioning into class and while I take attendance makes my job of helping them to become effective stewards of our beautiful planet much easier.
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you in your personal life or in your teaching?
“The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.” – Ludwid Wittgenstein
Once students really internalize that vocabulary development is this important, they become hungry for words.
Do you know a great educator who teaches about our world? Nominate a colleague or yourself as the next Educator of the Week!
The Educator of the Week series features inspiring activities and lessons that educators are implementing with their students that connect them to the world in bold and exciting ways.