What We’ve Been Up to in Remote Learning. . .

Hey peeps!

I thought it would be helpful to share some of things we’ve been up to in grade 8 ELA, Remote Learning. Recently, in addition to our ongoing discussion of all things mental health related (see my previous posts for more on that) we’ve also been exploring the quote “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme”. More specifically, we’ve been exploring the idea that there are common historical themes that seem to present themselves to each generation, and each generation responds in a unique or not so unique manner. My teaching partner Jen and I were also wondering about how we could start to include more listening and viewing into our remote classrooms. Then the photo below started appearing in my social media stream and we were off to the races.

I used this image as our photo of the day, and after a bit of debrief about what we saw and what we wondered, it became clear that while my students did recognize Kamala Harris, they did NOT know who Ruby Bridges was. So, I gave them a bit of background and filed Ruby Bridges under topics to cover later. Then we listened to the song “For What it’s Worth” in both it’s original version and the recent cover by Dave Matthews:

After we listened to both versions of this songs, students completed a journal entry reflection on what they through the song was about, and then we had a class conversation to debrief. The students made lots of connections between the image of the day, US election, and the general state of the world. Based on these facts, the class decided that despite this song being recorded in the 60’s, it made sense that Dave Matthews felt the need to cover it, and post it on his social media feed. Students were starting to explore the idea of music as a form of protest, and were also starting to wonder who were the musical voices of protest for their generation. While they couldn’t name any specific artists that could be viewed as voices of protest, they decided that it was not Justin Beiber. I love Middle Years kids.

The few days later, we circled back to Ruby Bridges, and this was our image of the day:

We had previously been working with the the “See/Think/Wonder” visible thinking routine, so we fell back on what we had been practicing, and had students create a journal entry were they made a “see/think/wonder” chart and reflected on what they saw, thought, and wondered about with this image. This was followed once again by a class discussion/debrief. This image tied perfectly into the picture book read aloud we were doing, Rose Blanche, and continued our theme of history rhyming. Both the image and the book feature young girls who become activists/action makers.

Rose Blanche by Roberto Innocenti

The following day, we used the photos below as our image of the day. Once again we used the “what do you see, think, wonder” framework for our discussion. Once we had combined through the details I shared that the black and white photo had been taken in 1913, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, while the one on the right had been taken recently and shows a sold out dress design, with a built in mask feature. Students were immediately able to connect to our theme of history rhyming as well as the idea that our clothes can act as an extension of our voice:

Next, we listened to John Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son”, twice, and jotted down ideas in a “hear/think/wonder” chart:

And followed up with this journal prompt”:

When we debriefed this writing prompt, students made connections between this song “Fortunate Son” and the previous song “For What It’s Worth”- particularly who gets to “opt out” of the fight and who ends up “opting in” to the fight out of force or necessity.

The following day, we listened to John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” and used the journal prompt below:

Interestingly, the class debrief revealed that despite being the most recent song of protest, it was the song they least connected with in terms of message. In particular, they disliked the idea of waiting on change, and preferred to “do-ers” rather than “wait-ers”. It also furthered our discussion of history rhyming, as it appeared that different generations seemed to have different perspectives on action, activism, and change.

The next day, I wanted to dive into a more modern voice of protest and activism. This song was a full music video and combined both viewing and listening skills. Prior to viewing the video, we had students create below chart:

Then, we watched the video “Turntables” by Janelle Monae, twice, and filled in the chart:

This was the follow up journal prompt:

Our follow up session revealed that students found this song overwhelmingly impactful. The lyrics and images of this video connected to pretty much every image, song, or theme that we had discussed over the last two weeks. As a follow up, students are currently working on completing this project.

As I write out the details of this class inquiry into the history of protest and music, it seems a bit rambling- please forgive me. It is quite clear that we briefly explored quite a few historical moments in time, it wasn’t really our focus to ensure that the students knew the exact facts of each historical time that was presented in the image or the song. If they didn’t have the background needed, we provided a quick synopses. Our real focus was having students develop the critical thinking skills needed to decode visual and auditory texts. In closing, this post is more of a summary than a deep dive, and if you’d like more deets, feel free to contact me directly 😉

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