Pre-Holiday Lesson Plans for the Days Before Break: The Year in Review, My Favorite Things, and Current Events

So I thought, since (of course) the expectation is that we’re conducting meaningful activities and learning in our classrooms through the 23rd (despite pep rallies and holiday parties and other distractions), that I would compile some options that might take the thinking/research/planning off of your plate after benchmarks are completed.

Option 1: The Year in Review

The New York Times’s Learning Network features an article “Looking Back on 2014″ with 15 ideas (with links and resources) for having students think about and reflect on 2014.  It also includes “retrospectives” linked from the New York Times and around the web for the biggest stories of 2014.

Included in the links are some resources that could be great sources of inspiration for discussion, Socratic Seminar texts, or Writing Workshop prompts including TIME and CNN’s “Top Ten Pictures” & “The Year in Pictures;” “16 Memes that broke the internet,” TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year, and “The Year in Ideas: TED Talks in 2014.”

There’s also Time’s “29 Instagrams that defined the world in 2014,” shared by Bonnie!

There are a lot of great ideas here that can be literacy-based and meaningful for those last two days of school in 2014! Check them out. 🙂

Option 2: A Few of My Favorite Things

Brainpickings creator and author, Maria Popova recently highlighted Maira Kalman’s My Favorite Things on her site. She includes screenshots from the book that often combine text with art and it might be fun to have students create a visual (with text explanations or titles) “My Favorite Things.”  This could easily be worked on Monday & Tuesday and displayed on bulletin boards and walls.  Have them share and discuss.

You could even create a class, “Our Favorite Things,” where you roll out big paper and have each student choose one of their favorite things to add to the class visual-list as they draw and write together on the floor or wall of your classroom.  It would almost be a class infographic on everyone’s favorite things.  This could springboard from or into a discussion or writing workshop activity where students reflect on the class-list and determine what this list tells them about their class or something that surprises or intrigues them.

If students have to provide a visual with their title and explanation, this could be a really fun and dynamic piece of your classroom decor.

Popova even references and links Barthes’s favorite things – and not favorite things (scroll down for the visuals) and Susan Sontag’s (scroll down for visual).  Lots of fodder for mentor texts here!

Option 3: Current Events (Caution: Heavy): The Taliban’s Murder of 132 Children at School in Pakistan

Here’s the Reuter’s article: Taliban go on killing spree at Pakistan school, 132 students dead.

My goals in sharing this and opening up a dialogue about it would be creating awareness of others  and self, including how lucky they are to be provided an education without question or issue.  The other interesting topic of discussion here could be the power of education.  Why would they target school children?  What is so “dangerous” about a school and children learning?

Of course, we know that education is perhaps the single greatest weapon in history, but our students don’t have any such appreciation for it.  Pair this current event with excerpts from I am Malala or a news story about her fight for the education of young girls and the price she paid for it.  In fact, here is her response to the attack.

This might also be fascinating paired with the TED Talk from Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the filmmaker responsible for the documentary, Children of the Taliban, Inside a School for Suicide Bombers, which explicitly shows how the Taliban uses and manipulates the educational system to its political and religious ends.

I know this is a rather heavy option right before the holidays, but it’s engaging and important also.  It reminds me how important the season’s cry of “Peace on Earth” is in the world in which we live.

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