Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Simple Use of Something New to Teach a Classic Skill

This week, my English class students embarked on a study of rhetoric as it has been used in some of America's greatest speeches. We began by analyzing the connections between President Obama's 2013 Inaugural Address given yesterday and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. One of the tools we used was Wordle.net, which enable us to throw the text of both speeches into the Create field to produce a word cloud. The students enjoyed playing around with the word count limits and fonts to produce the arrangement which most clearly conveyed the overriding themes. I thought I would share this simple activity as it allowed us to watch themes emerge from prominent diction. From here we will look for connections to other American speeches and to our literary studies (mainly our current reading of Fahrenheit 451 and recently completed Inherit the Wind). Here are the word clouds generated today; they were excellent conversation starters!

President Obama's 2013 Inaugural Address 

Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

An Eclectic Approach to Staying Smart

I write this after another failed attempt to wake up early and head to the gym...which followed another failed attempt to wake up early and share some thoughts via a post. Basically, my New Year's Resolution has a very weak pulse at the moment. But as I pondered over why I was really not feeling anxiety over the situation, a connection occured to me which caused me to feel pretty good about being an adult in charge of both my fitness and my learning. As adults, we have the freedom to mix and match our choices, picking things up and putting things down based on their immediate effect on how we feel in response to the activities and where we are on our life paths.

My learning and my fitness approach are completely parallel. Where I exhibit a high level of fidelity and dedication in most areas of my life, I am more or less a player when it comes to picking an exercise routine and sticking to it. For a while, it was triathlon training. I loved it...until the novelty wore off and I realized I did not really love being cold or getting my hair wet in the pool. Oh well, on to the next! Then it was running. I loved it! I ran a few races, bought running tights, a running watch, and thoroughly engaged in my love affair with running...until I developed achy knees and had a hard time walking downstairs. Then it was riding my bike to work. I was head over heels with that...until the cold set in. Now it is Yoga. Again, I'm in love, and so are my knees.

I have many fitness loves, and I suppose instead of fixating on my inability to do one thing and stick to it, I should have some appreciation for the fact that I'm consistently active. I do a little this, a little that, maybe run, maybe bike, maybe climb a mountain. I don't think I'll ever marry one exercise.

I realized today that my learning pattern is the same. A few years ago, I started tweeting and I could not get enough. I was checking Twitter feeds all day and barraging people with resources. Blogging, pinning, Edcamps, 140 Conferences, chats, Facebook groups...if it existed, I had to hunt it down. More recently, I have been reading...offline! I've put down my phone for some classic books I have been wanting to reread and was sucked into that whirlwind again, loving every moment. Now it's onto a professional read.

Rather than be frustrated with my lack of consistency in my learning patterns where others have been able to systematize them, I'm going to choose to embrace and recognize the beauty of the eclectic opportunities we have as adults to shape them. I am really hoping to find a way to illustrate the importance of such choice and allow for it in students. Long live the learner who plays the field and never settles down! May her affairs by plentiful and fulfilling.