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|August 25th offers several opportunities for teachable moments, but the most relevant to K-12 students may be the story of Samantha Smith, who died on this date in 1985 at the age of 13.|
|World History, Leadership, the Cold War, Community, Writing, the Soviet Union, Timelines, Problem Solving|
The K-12 TLC Guide to Samantha Smith
The K-12 TLC Guide to the Soviet Union
The K-12 TLC Guide to the Cold War
The K-12 TLC Guide to Leadership
The K-12 TLC Guide to Problem Solving
The K-12 TLC Student Guide to Writing
1. Consider the events involving Samantha Smith in the context of the Cold War.
2. Consider the events involving Samantha Smith in the context of leadership, with regard to the leadership styles and abilities of Samantha, Yuri Andropov and Ronald Reagan.
3. Place Samantha Smith in today's context. Who might she have written in today's world to create an impact of similar magnitude to her letter to Andropov?
4. Have each student select a different local, state, national or world leader, and have them write a similar letter to this leader.
5. What would Samantha Smith be doing today, if she were alive? Consider the future opportunities for leadership that might be available for a 10-year-old who begins developing leadership qualities today.
6. Consider the fact that every great idea begins with one person. What are other instances where one person has changed the world?
7. Analyze Samantha's Letter (from Can Do!) to Andropov, and determine what made it stand out among other such letters Andropov might have received.
8. Develop a timeline of the chain of events that occurred starting with Samantha's letter and ending with her death.
1. How important is the individual in today's world? What difference can one person make?
2. How important is timing to success? Why was Samantha successful in getting Andropov's attention? Why do you think this particular letter got Andropov's attention at this particular moment in history? What else might have been going on to make Samantha's letter such a big deal?
3. Read Andropov's letter back to Samantha (Samantha Smith Elementary). What do you suppose was Andropov's goal in making Samantha an international celebrity?
4. What was the role of U.S. President Ronald Reagan in this event? What did he do, what could he do, and what should he have done?
1. What do you think is the greatest threat to world peace? Who is the person most responsible for this threat? Write a letter to this person.
2. What do you think is the greatest problem in your local city or county? Who is the person most responsible for this problem? Write a letter to this person.
3. Research the year 1983, and learn more about other political events that occurred in that year. Consider Samantha Smith's letter in the context of what else was happening in the world in 1983, and explain why her single letter was an important event.
4. Consider another instance (at any level, including in your own life) where the action of a single individual has made a difference. What did that person do to make a difference, and how would things have been different if this person had not acted?
5. Consider an instance where you have made a decision that has made a difference (either positive or negative). What choices did you have, why did you make the choice you did, and how might things have turned out differently had you made a different choice?
6. Consider a change in your life that occurred over a period of time (weeks, months, years). The change could be the time it took to learn to play a musical instrument, the time it took for you to make an athletic or academic team, the time it took to learn a foreign language, the time it took for a sister or brother to be married, or a move your family made. Make a timeline of the major milestones that occurred as the event evolved, and consider the decisions made at each point or milestone. What decisions were made, and how would the outcome have been different if the decisions had been different?
|Other Teachable Moments for August 25:||
1. August 25th is the birthday of notably notorious political leaders Ivan the Terrible (Russia), Ludwig of Bavaria, Sean O'Kelly (Ireland), Erich Honecker (Germany) and George Wallace (USA). Compare and contrast what made each so notorious.
2. Plane crashes took the lives of three notable people on this date: The Duke of Kent (Great Britain), Samantha Smith (USA) and Aaliyah (USA). Compare their circumstances, compare the ages of the three individuals, and compare/contrast the impact of their lives and deaths.
b. When possible, Teachable Moments break the information to be learned into small manageable chunks, so that each student or student/group can research a single chunk of knowledge with the responsibility of bringing that knowledge back to the class and sharing it with their classmates.
c. Rather than focusing on the teacher as an information provider, Teachable Moments provide opportunities for teachers to assist their students in the acquisition of information and the sharing, assessing and assembling of information into a coherent body of knowledge that is orderly and understandable.
d. Remember, your goal is to help your students be successful. You want to constantly challenge them, but you want them to rise to each challenge and be successful. Work with the students, not against them. Before starting each Teachable Moment, tell students exactly what they need to know and exactly what you expect of them. The objective is to make the students look good by showing them the way to success, and helping them achieve success.
The introduction is also a good time to allow students to select their topics for research. Research topics can be assigned, but students will take greater ownership in their topics if allowed to select. A number of different methods can be used, but, for each, the teacher will need to have prepared ahead of time a list of available topics. For example, students can:
2. Select topics from the list in an order determined by a blind lottery of the students.
3. Select topics from the list in a rotating order week by week (by seating assignment, alphabetical, an initial lottery).
Development of the proper skills required to effectively use their research tools is critical to student success. Obviously, students who do not possess the skills to conduct the research for which they are being held responsible are doomed to failure. It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure that the students acquire the research skills they need, and to assist the students in maintaining and refining these skills.
The best exercises available for research skill development are the 5-Minute Quests provided with each entry to the K-12 TLC Daily Almanac. As an example, Click Here to see the 5-minute Quest for today's Daily Almanac. The Quests are provided at three different levels to accommodate varying student abilities, and the use of these quests each school day will go a long way toward building critical student research skills.
It is suggested that use of the 5-minute Quests begin as a teacher-led class exercise for the first few days to familiarize the students with the process and skills, and then make the 5-minute Quests a routine out-of-class exercise for which students are to accept responsibility. For example, the 5-minute Quests are short fun exercises that students and parents can enjoy doing together from home. It is also ideal to have a computer in the school library dedicated to the just the Daily Almanac and the 5-minute Quests, so that students can use the Quests before and after school, during lunch and/or during their scheduled library periods.
The Socratic Symposium often can be most effective when every student/student group comes to the symposium with unique information to contribute. If each student/student group has been given the task of only researching a single "chunk" of the total information to be covered by the symposium, then each student/group will come to the symposium with a narrow perspective that is uniquely their own. This creates a learning environment in which each student becomes dependent upon their classmates for the rest of the information, and establishes among the students a collegial sense with each of the students contributing information that is essential to the group. This gives each student a position of importance within the class, and provides an excellent basis for lively discussions and interactions, as students learn from students with the teacher guiding the process from the side.
The role of the teacher is that of Socrates, asking probing and leading questions, maintaining an orderly exchange of information, and making sure that students allocate their time wisely so that the entire base of knowledge is covered. The teacher needs to maintain control, but should do so by saying as little as possible. Students need to talk in order for the exchange of knowledge to take place, and it is the teacher's responsibility to make sure every student is engaged as an active contributor in the exchange.
Using this approach, students will occasionally come up with information that is news to you as well. These are moments to savor. Don't be threatened by them or shy away from them. Challenge the students to extend your knowledge as well as theirs. Don't hesitate to admit that their information is new to you, but, as any good learner should, question their information to make sure they understand it, that it is factual and that it comes from a reliable source. Is the information factual and supported by reliable resources, or is it conjecture (perhaps an urban legend) that is just being propagated by the source and now the student? You don't want to embarrass or deter students who bring "new" facts to class, but you do want them to know that their knowledge will be challenged and that they need to have their facts straight when they arrive. If everything checks out, compliment the student(s) responsible, and encourage them and their classmates to "stump the teacher" whenever they can. You will be amazed how much smarter you will become using this approach over the years!
Suggested Concluding Steps:
1. The Five Best List:
a. When appropriate, have each student make their own list of the "5 best" from the list of items. Students should do this without discussion with other students. Students are not held responsible for their selections, so it is a non-threatening exercise, yet it forces them to think critically on their own and gives them a voice in the final selection.
b. Collect the student lists and use them as ballots to create a class list for the rank order. Count the ballots as a class without identifying which ballots belong to which students. This exercise will allow each student to see how their choices compare to those of their classmates.
c. List in rank-order the five items which received the most votes, and ask for comments from the students. Do they agree with the final order of the top five? Do they agree these are indeed the top five? Are there other items they feel should have been included on the top five? Why do they think these were left off?
d. For better or worse, the top five now comprise your class Hall of Fame for this topic. It is suggested that you use a piece of poster board and a marking pen to create a Hall of Fame list that can be displayed in the classroom. Not only does this display create a sense of permanence, validity and importance about the exercise you have just completed, but it also provides a ready resource to which you and the students can quickly refer whenever you return to this topic. By adding to the display each Hall of Fame as you complete each Teachable Moment, you are creating a public record that will become ingrained in your students' minds as a daily reminder of the essential knowledge that has been chosen by your class to be of the highest value and importance.
2. Word Association Chart:
a. When you are concluding your discussion of an important concept that you want to especially impress upon your class, ask each student to list five adjectives that come to mind when they think of the concept. Collect the lists, and combine them to make a master list, rank-ordering the words depending upon the number of lists that include each word.
b. Create a Class Word Association Chart, and add to the chart the name of the concept followed by the five words at the top of your rank-ordered list. Display the chart permanently in the classroom where everyone can see it, and add to the chart whenever you have an important concept that you want to impress upon your students.
c. Addition to the word association chart will: 1. Impress upon the students this is important, 2. Serve as a permanent reminder of important concepts through the year, and 3. Cause students to reflect back on the symposium when this concept was discussed.
3. Assessment Distribution Charts:
a. For activities such as a symposium on the life and times of an American President, it can be helpful to conclude by allowing students to grade the president (A-F), and submit their grades to the teacher on a secret ballot.
b. From the secret ballots, a class assessment can be determined and recorded on a poster board to be displayed in the classroom. On the poster board, clearly indicate what has been assessed, the raw totals for each grade received from the student ballots, the percentage of the total for each grade, and, if possible, a bar graph illustrating the totals for each grade received.
c. Posting these assessments will help students to recall the class discussion of the issue or person, and it will help them to relate mathematical distributions to an activity to which they have contributed.
Whatever the approach, a creative, imaginative, energetic, caring teacher is still the key component in quality education, and it is the mission of the Teachable Moments to create an environment that allows quality teaching to promote the best possible learning opportunities for all students to reach their potential each and every day.
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