New York Times 3rd Annual Narrative Writing Contest

12 Oct

The New York Times invites middle and high school students ages 11-19 to tell a short story about a meaningful life experience in 600 words or fewer. Contest Dates: Oct. 13 to Nov. 17, 2021. For this contest, they invite you to write a personal narrative of your own about a meaningful life experience. Please click on this LINK to read more about this contest and the rules.

Works Cited:
Josie, Melinda. “The Winners of Our 2nd Annual Personal Narrative Contest.” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/20/learning/the-winners-of-our-personal-narrative-contest.html. Accessed 12 Oct. 2021.

Readicide (Book Review)

26 Sep

Read-i-cide (noun): The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Readicide – How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher is a fantastic book that I should have read many years ago. It was published in 2009, and while some of the references to the the state of educational initiatives and politics seem a bit dated, the information and approaches are spot on. This year, I have returned to teaching Language and Literature. This book would make any Humanities, Language Arts, or Middle School/High School English teacher reflect on his/her practices. It is centered more on the teaching practices in the U.S. but I also think the anecdotes fit a lot of what I have observed in American international schools during my career. Parts of the book that resonated with me, include:

  • The over-analysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful. This “chop-chop” curriculum or step-by-step approach that we often see in novel studies bombards students with ‘goals’ and ‘habits of thinking’ is a recipe for readicide.
  • The over-teaching of literature prevents students from experiencing the place where all serious readers want to be – the reading flow.
  • The need for authentic reading, sustained silent reading or DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read), and the 50/50 goal of having students read for pleasure 50% of the time, while the remaining 50% is focused on classes reading a novel that focuses on the skills needed to unpack that novel.
  • The need to build classroom libraries, in addition to amazing school libraries. The middle school language arts classrooms at the American International School Chennai (India), my former school, has incredible classroom libraries and spaces to read. I felt like I was walking into a independent book store.
  • “Young readers are drowning in a sea of sticky notes, marginalia, and double-entry journals, and as a result, their love of reading is being killed in the one place where the nourishment of a reading habit should be occurring – in school” (Gallagher 59).
  • The importance of finding the balance between over-teaching and under-teaching a novel or text and what this looks like.

Along with The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, a book I read several years ago when I taught Humanities, Readicide gave me a lot of practical ideas and things to ponder about how we literacy skills. I have often observed very different philosophies between school divisions in how they view the teaching of reading. I feel like this book could bridge the divide and for departments to come up with common agreements and understandings that promote a love for reading while also supporting students to become better readers.

Sanctuary (Book Review)

19 Sep

I am teaching MYP 3 (Grade 8 ) Language and Literature this year and really enjoying it. In class we are currently reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and our unit is called The Human Condition. I will write more about this book when we are are finished with it. Part of our class includes D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time. On the eighth day of our eight day cycle, our class also goes to the library to find new books, return books and to do mini-lessons. DEAR time is something I value, and it’s important to me that my students read a wide variety of genres and books outside of the required novels and texts we read in our class. I look forward to sharing book talks and reviews from my students on my blog this year.

During a recent library visit, I picked up Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher, a new book that was purchased by our library. As a Social Studies/History teacher and news junkie, I am very interested in topics around migration, immigration, refugees, identity and poverty. I am teaching MYP 4 (Grade 9) Individuals and Societies this year too! My goal is to read more Young Adult (YA) novels this year, outside of the books selected for our Language and Literature novels and readings. My plan is to share some of these books here, and to encourage others to read them.

This is my short review on GoodReads. I gave it five stars: I LOVED this book! I would recommend it to adults and teens. It touches on some of the biggest stories of our day – immigration, migration, poverty, government infringement on our freedoms, your identity, etc through a beautiful (yet frightening) dystopian thriller that is set in 2032. It feels like a blend of The Road (Cormac McCarthy) and the Netflix series, Black Mirror. I could not put it down. From the jacket cover, it is as “haunting as it is hopeful in envisioning a future where everyone can find sanctuary.”

From Penguin Random House, the publisher (LINK) of Sanctuary, their description, which is featured on the inside of the cover (the dust jacket flap or flap copy): It’s 2032, and in this near-future America, all citizens are chipped and everyone is tracked. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but that’s exactly what sixteen-year-old Vali is doing. She and her family have carved out a stable, happy life in small-town Vermont, but when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip starts malfunctioning and the Deportation Forces raid their town, they are forced to flee.

Now on the run, Vali and her family are desperately trying to make it to her tía Luna’s in California, a sanctuary state that is currently being walled off from the rest of the country. But when Vali’s mother is detained before their journey even really begins, Vali must carry on with her younger brother across the country to make it to safety before it’s too late.

Check out this book! I really enjoyed it.

Celebrating Our Cultures Through Journaling

12 Sep

Learning about our students’ cultures is vital to understanding our school community and celebrating our diversity. In secondary EAL this week, I learned that Suomi means Finland in Finnish. I asked my new sixth grade student what Suomi means when he entered my classroom wearing the hat pictured. He was not able to tell me, but we Googled it and I learned that it means Finland. I found this BBC Travel article (LINK) about the “mysterious origins” of the name. During a dialogue journal writing activity, one of our English language learners wrote about the kinds of food he likes, while also sharing examples of Finnish cuisine.

A New School Year (2021-2022)!

27 Aug

The start of our fourth year at the American International School of Lusaka (AISL) has gone really well. As we wrap up the final days of August, all grades are back to on-campus learning and most students are back in Zambia. I am teaching grade 8/Year 3 MYP Language and Literature, Grade 9/Year 4 MYP Individuals and Societies and also providing English (English as an Additional Language/EAL) support in the secondary school. Flor continues to teach MYP/DP Spanish and Maya enters 10th grade. My goal continues to be the share ideas, learning, and reflections on teaching, as well as photos from life in Zambia and (hopefully) travels. Have a good year, and do stay in touch.

Revolutions: MYP Year 3 I & S

6 May

Students in my MYP Year 3 Individuals and Societies (Grade 8 History/Social Studies) are learning about revolutions, revolts, protests, rebellions and resistance. This is a new unit for our class and we are focusing on key terms. The statement of inquiry (SOI) is:

At different times and locations, societies can experience revolutionary change, due to a variety of causes and often with long-lasting consequences.

Key Questions we will address:

Factual: What is a revolution? What are the causes of a revolution? Review case studies from history.

Conceptual: What are the different types of revolution? What factors determine the significance of an event?

Debatable: Do revolutions always lead to progress?

Last week, students had to do the following task:


Demonstrate your understanding of the term revolution by drawing a sketch or cartoon to represent it, using the information you have learned in our lessons and your own ideas. Think about how you could bring the key concept of change into the drawing.

Kafue National Park – Zambia

20 Apr
Sunset in Kafue National Park
Red-breasted roller
Male lion
Elephant near Ila Lodge
Jackal on the M9 at sunrise
Kafue River at sunset
Kaingu Lodge
Baby crocodule
Walking to the rock to watch the sunset (Kaingu Lodge)
Puku

Kafue National Park is in south-central Zambia. Established in 1950 and located about 200 miles (322 km) west of Lusaka, the park covers an area of 8,650 square miles (22,400 square km) and consists of a vast and gently undulating plateau, situated along the middle reaches of the Kafue River and its two tributaries, the Lufupa and the Lunga (Britannica). It is the oldest and largest park in Zambia, and one of the largest in Africa. We have visited Kafue a few times, most recently twice this year. We stayed in Ila Lodge and Kaingu Lodge, both excellent lodges.

The Impact of Ideas and Innovations on Me

13 Apr

Our current unit in MYP 3 (Grade 8) Individuals and Societies is coming to an end. In an effort to make connections from our case study – The Renaissance – to our world, I asked students to make a collage and to consider this statement: The Renaissance impacted our personal and cultural expression. What is my culture, and what ideas and innovations have impacted my life?

1. Mind-Map: Create a picture/text collage of your own culture and what influences you. Consider what artists and any other significant people and things influence your own expression or who you are. Use PicCollage, Google Slides, Google Documents or another app/website to create your collage.

2. Rank – Review your finished collages and pick out your top 3 most significant influences on your own culture. For each one, explain why it influences you, and what they tell you about the time and place of your own culture.

3. Write – Write a paragraph describing what your own culture is, using examples.

Paul Salopek (Out of Eden Walk): Guest Speaker

19 Dec

Paul Salopek from the Out of Eden Walk joined 4th graders at the American International School of Lusaka (AISL) last Thursday for a Q & A about this journey, slow journalism and explorers. The students had just completed a unit on explorers where they compared explorers from history to modern-day. Paul’s walk has inspired me since he started in 2013 in Ethiopia.

We did a Google Meet from Myanmar (Burma) where he currently is staying, as he prepares to enter China in the new year. There were so many nuggets of information and words of wisdom from our thirty minute session with him. One key take-away for students is the understanding that explorers do not have to travel long distances to learn about other places. They can learn more about their neighborhood and city through slow walks and close observation…opening their senses.

I am very appreciative of Paul for taking the time to talk with our students. The Out of Eden Learn project and his walk remain something that I am passionate about as they have brightened my days. Follow the Out of Eden Walk and join Out of Eden Learn, if you are an educator. Photos by Tony Potts and Rob Martin.

Adventures in Zambia

14 Dec

I have done a very poor job of maintaining my blog since the start of the school year. Grand plans of posting regularly fell by the wayside, as the school year began with distance learning and all the work that is involved in providing the best for our students (and our families!) during these difficult times. I feel fortunate that Zambia has managed things well during this pandemic. I am grateful for our school community and friends who have been supportive. I am also thankful that I live in a beautiful country where our family can get out and camp and go on safaris to see the amazing wildlife. I have included 10 of my favorite photos from different spots in Zambia, including the Busanga Plains, Kafue National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park. These photos were taken by me or my daughter.

As we complete our last week of school before Christmas break, I wish my students – former and current – all the best. Be safe and keep in touch. I would love to reconnect with you. My email address is: rmartin@aislusaka.org

Wishing you the best during these difficult times. Let’s hope 2021 brings better news.

– Rob Martin, American International School of Lusaka, Zambia

Lord of the Flies Resources

30 Aug

From Ted-Ed: I like their “Why you should read…” videos. My daughter, now in 9th grade, is starting to read this novel. Explore William Golding’s timeless satire, “Lord of the Flies,” which follows a group of shipwrecked boys as they descend into anarchy. After witnessing the atrocities of his fellow man in World War II, William Golding was losing his faith in humanity. Later, during the Cold War, as superpowers began threatening one another with nuclear annihilation, he was forced to interrogate the very roots of human nature and violence. These musings would inspire his first novel: “Lord of the Flies.

Check out William Golding’s Lord of the Flies Video SparkNote: Quick and easy Lord of the Flies synopsis, analysis, and discussion of major characters and themes in the novel. For more Lord of the Flies resources, go to http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/flies/

An audio version of the classic, Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies Video Summary (from GradeSaver)
Lord of the Flies (Full Movie)

This link to the novel is helpful for English language learners. It’s an audio book and you can adjust the speed – LINK (from ESL English Bits).

News of the Week

2 Jun

Two articles/Op-Ed pieces I have read this week that are worth sharing and that resonated with me:

How Western media would cover Minneapolis if it happened in another country by Karen Attiah (Washington Post) – LINK – As a long term expat, I found this very well-written.

How We Broke the World by Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times) – LINK

Distance Learning Resources (The Power of Journaling) – Part 2

28 May
Video source: John Spencer (Youtube) – John Spencer’s Website
Image source: @ValentinaESL (ναℓєηтιηα gσηzαℓєz) – Cult of Pedagogy
Many teachers and parents are seeking engaging opportunities and lessons for students during distance learning, especially ones that don’t require a technology or a device. One of my favorite activities is journaling. I have had students journal for years, and I have always noticed amazing growth in their writing and thinking skills. Whether you are journaling for yourself or for your students, I have been collecting resources during the past two months. Here are some of the best articles I have found on this topic. My top 10!
Students Can Respond to Daily Writing Prompts, Inspired by The New York Times, at Home for Free (New York Times Learning Network)
Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary (New York Times)
My 2020 Covid-19 Time Capsule (Long Creations)
How Keeping a Pandemic Journal Builds Students’ Historical Thinking Skills and Helps Them Cope (Mindshift)
12 Ideas for Writing Through the Pandemic With The New York Times (New York Times Learning Network) – Great ideas here!
How Student Journals Can Spark Curiosity and Inspire Creativity in the Classroom (John Spencer)
Why Mundane Moments Truly Matter (New York Times Smarter Living)
How Dialogue Journals Build Teacher-Student Relationships (Cult of Pedagogy)
Student Journaling During Coronavirus (Facing History and Ourselves)
Innovative Ways to Make Coronavirus a Teachable Moment (Edutopia)

Distance Learning Resources – Part 1

26 May
A photo a parent sent to me doing a Google Meet with her daughter.
Image Source: International Baccalaureate (Living the Learner profile – Learning Online) – Good reminders!
Like many teachers, I have been drinking from the “firehose of information” when it comes to the resources, technology tools, and reflections on what is working or not working in distance learning. I have been sharing articles with friends and educators, as well as Tweeting (@DigitalNomadRob) some that have resonated with me. Here are a few standout sources. I will continue to add ones that I think are keepers and worth a read. These may appeal to parents as well.
Revising Your Teaching Philosophy for This Crisis (Edutopia)
“Keeping a clear head during a crisis is difficult, but drawing on our beliefs can guide us through. Condensing your teaching philosophy to short statements will help you recall what is important in these moments and will help keep you centered and clear—and applying it to your work will help you chart a path forward for everyone.” – Aaron Tombrella
How Can Educators Tap Into Research to Increase Engagement During Remote Learning? (Edsurge)
Helpful Online Resources for Teaching ELLs (Edutopia) – There are some great links to resources within this article.
“If I Knew Then…”: A School Leader Reflects on Ten Weeks of Learning Online (Global Online Academy) – excellent suggestions!
A Letter to Educators Teaching Online for the First Time (Edsurge)
The job of an online teacher is the job of an offline teacher is the job of a teacher. Connect to people and help them to feel connected to you and to the dimension of the world you are leading them to experience. Connect your students to one another in a way that enables them not only to learn content from one another, but also to catch life experiences from one another—to shape one another in the way that only peers can. It’s that simple … and it’s that complex.” – Reshan Richards and Stephen J. Valentine
Distance Learning: A Gently Curated Collection of Resources for Teachers (Cult of Pedogogy) – One of my favorite educator blogs!

Africa Day

25 May
Image source: Geographicus Rare Antique Maps

Africa Day is a holiday in Zambia and some other African nations every 25 May. The day celebrates the founding of what is today called the African Union, but originally was called the Organisation for African Unity, which was founded on 25 May 1963.

The Danger of a Single Story (TedTalks)

22 May
“Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.” This TedTalks video is an excellent one that I recently heard about through a webinar. It’s excellent and I strongly encourage you to watch it. It has been viewed by millions.

Where is Home?

21 May

Paul Salopek (Out of Eden Walk) and other presenters will be talking about the concept of home with a focus on Chicago. This webinar will be on May 26 at 3:00pm (Central Time – US/Canada). Sign up using this link. This talk makes me think about one of my favorite Ted Talks by Pico Iyer, “Where is home?” If you are a long term expatriate (expat) or Third Child Kid (TCK), you will really enjoy this talk. Here is a link to the Ted Talk.

President Obama’s Message to the Class of 2020

19 May

Greetings students!

I hope this blog post finds you well. I have enjoyed hearing from current and formers students from around the world. These are hard times, and I am striving to improve my communication with friends and family. Teachers love to hear from former students. I would love to hear from you and to know how you are doing. I have enjoyed watching social media updates about my former students who preparing to graduate at my former school in Chennai, India. I am very proud of you and wish you all the best. I really enjoyed hearing President Obama’s message to students graduating this year. Whether or not you are graduating this year, watch this excerpt from this speech and reflect on his words of encouragement and hope. I hope to hear from you. Please stay safe.

All the best,

Rob Martin (martin.robert.lee@gmail.com)

CNN 10: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Playlist

1 Apr

CNN 10 shares a growing playlist of short videos that explain the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Check out these short videos that give bite-sized chunks of information for students. Wash your hands, and be well.

Below is a TED-Ed featured video that is also quite well done.

Wide Open School: Distance Learning Resources

1 Apr
Image source: Wide Open Scholl

Wide Open School is a free collection of the best online learning experiences for kids curated by the editors at Common Sense. There is so much good happening, and we are here to gather great stuff and organize it so teachers and families can easily find it and plan each day. Click HERE to find resources – for teachers, parents and students.

Just for Students: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

10 Mar
The New Yorker – Cartoon by William Haefeli
The New Yorker – Cartoon by Pat Achilles

Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus (National Public Radio/NPR). Students, this comic is for you. “It’s based on a radio story that NPR education reporter Cory Turner did. He asked some experts what kids might want to know about the new coronavirus discovered in China.” Here is a link in English and a version is Chinese.

Wash Your Lyrics

10 Mar

Wash Your Lyrics

Generate hand washing infographics based on your favourite song lyrics 🎶 Check out this LINK and create your own posters.

Created by William @neoncloth

Out of Eden Walk Coalition (NEW Video)

1 Mar

“The Out of Eden Walk is not one person’s journey. It is a unifying voyage that belongs to humanity.” – Out of Eden Walk Coalition (LINK).

Watch Paul’s newest video which gives an excellent overview of his journey and it’s many connections. If you enjoy storytelling, travel, and photography, as well as topics that focus on global connections, the environment, mass migration, climate change, and people to people connections, then you will find Paul’s journey amazing. In a time when news seems worse then ever, check out Paul’s journey and join his coalition of followers through his blog, National Geographic articles, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feed. I have enjoyed doing the Out of Eden Learn project with students in Chennai and Lusaka.

Valentine’s Day

13 Feb

The history of Valentine’s Day from the History Channel.

Is there a place for love and romance — or, at least, reading, writing and research about academic aspects of it — in your classroom? Check out these amazing links from the New York Times from across many subject areas for teachers.

Coronavirus Fears

29 Jan

This video was re-shared by The Atlantic with this article. I have a lot of friends teaching in China and I am closely following the news about this virus and how communication and treatment are being managed. Wishing everyone there the best as they try to control the spread of this deadly virus. Here are some articles that I have enjoyed reading (I will add more as I see them):

The Deceptively Simple Number Sparking Coronavirus Fears – The Atlantic – LINK

China’s latest virus outbreak exposes perils of exotic wildlife trade – Reuters – LINK

Leaving Shanghai as the Coronavirus Extended Its Reach – New York Times – LINK

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