The Pen Is Mightier Than The Blade


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  • I have a diverse classroom of students. Ultimately, as a teacher at an IB school, I seek to open the eyes of each child to their own inner brilliance and the world. The IB program seeks to develop internationally minded citizens. The heart of the IB program is the IB profile. AS students begin to grow in each of the profile areas, they will become sagacious and sensitive world citizens. The IB attitudes are ingrained into the curriculum as the character aspect of the IB program. Part of being a sagacious world citizens is advocating for social justice, practicing civic responsibility, participating in our democracy, and being conscious and aware of the many issues and events locally, nationally and internationally. In my research, I sought to find ways to use literacy to promote love, peace, tolerance, balance, respect, justice, and progressive and positive thinking. Furthermore, I evaluated strategies on how to be empowered through literacy.
  • Explain classroom demographics. Talk about retained children feeling like failures. Talk about homelessness. Talk about transiency rate of class and school. T
  • Why do we write? Why do we read? In the classroom, with the immense pressure to produce high test scores and meet various targets, we can get snagged into teaching literacy as a stand alone subject. That is, focusing on comprehension strategies and skills in reading and writing to simply retell and demonstrate mastery of a particular writing skill as opposed to reading and writing to challenge and develop our own value systems. Students should know that they read and write for pleasure, to stay informed, to shape and/or act our political , moral, or cultural identities. We don’t just read to pass a test. We don’t just write to retell information.
  • Social justice, civic responsibilty and awareness begins with one’s self. The world is comprised of billions of individuals. Effecting change on a broad scale commences with one’s self. The IB program instills the learner profile and attitudes into each learner. However, students determine how these character traits manifest in themselves. Likewise, it is imperative that we guide students and support students as they work to discover their personal beliefs and values.
  • My students are extremely diverse. I have students in the gifted program, with IEPs, EIP support, ESOL, and other needs. In addition, to the labels, they all learn differently. I teach fourth grade, yet I had a student in my class who was 12, I had 4 other retained students in addition to this child. In terms of cultural demographics, I had 20 students—5 Latino, 2 Caucasian, and 13 African American. All of my students received free lunch. The population is also quite transient. 1/5 to ¼ of my students who begin with me in August leave before May. I get a lot of new students. Likewise, it is imperative that the classroom culture of respect, inquiry, and productivity is established firmly. My students like drawing, rap, fashion, and dancing. These things are viewed as recreation. I draw on he hip hop culture and art to keep them engaged. I teach all subjects and I cannot lose their attention. Once they disengage, then behavior challenges arise. One form of expression and literacy and voice this project has prompted me to investigate is graffiti.
  • In the classroom, I would give students enough time to come up with a tag and then they could work on the artistry of the tag later.
  • As students connect with their personal values they will naturally have views and opinions on local and international issues. I have pulled an article. I would like for you to each read the article and when you finish write down what resonated most with you in this article. Try to capture this in a single word. This word will be your tag. Try to connect with the article. Consider the following questions as you read this article:
  • The Pen Is Mightier Than The Blade

    1. 1. The Pen is Mightier than the Blade by Sabrina Maria Harris<br />Changing the world by providing literacy instruction that promotes civic responsibility, social justice and awareness in our students.<br />=ity<br />Just-us?<br />+NRG<br />
    2. 2. Why I Chose this Topic<br />I have a unique group of students that I need to reach.<br />I work at an IB elementary school and this topic is immediately relevant to the goals of my school and the IB program.<br />I want to my students to realize that they read and write for many reasons and that satisfying an assignment and preparing for a test are the least of these reasons.<br />I am enthusiastic when I am teaching to empower my students and this is why I teach.<br />I think this is a valuable and relevant approach to teaching literacy.<br />
    3. 3. How can teachers utilize literacy to ignite and facilitate social justice and civic responsibility? <br />Teachers can turn books into experiences of authentic inquiry.<br />Teachers can invite and challenge students to grapple with moral dilemmas through reading age appropriate literature. <br />Teachers can connect good books with social responsibility.<br />Teachers can use literature to promote attitudes of empathy and caring.<br />Teachers can use literature to awaken consciousness in learners.<br />Writing is commensurate with reading. Likewise, teachers can design writing experiences that deepen understanding and allow students to engage in further inquiry. Students can write to express their views and developing values. <br />Teachers can set up a classroom learning environment that supports literacy as a fundamental human right. <br />Teachers can develop comprehension questions and writing tasks that directly examine the deeper messages of a text as opposed to limiting comprehension strategies to the ability to recall and ultimately regurgitate information. <br />(Reading for a Better World, 664)<br />
    4. 4. “Once you learn how to read, you will forever be free.” –Fredrick DouglassLiteracy instruction does not need to be limited to comprehension strategies and skills and grammar. Literacy instruction can propel the IB Action cycle, empowering students to participate in our democracy and initiate progressive actions that will positively impact society. Literacy instruction should promote a sense of freedom and a desire to free others. (Talking Walls, 464)<br />As an IB teacher, I can use the IB Action Cycle as a gauge to determine the effectiveness of thematic units. As inquisitive instincts develop, students will apply this action cycle to all facets of their learning and lives. The IB Action cycle will foster the establishment of personal and authentic values in each child. Thus the IB Learner Profile and Attitudes come to life in each child.<br />
    5. 5. Change Begins with Me: Uncovering and Examining Personal Beliefs and Values and the Connection to Social Justice, Awareness and Civic Responsibility<br />Students must know who they are and what they stand for. They need opportunities to examine and evaluate their own values and beliefs. <br />As students connect with their own values, they are equipped to grapple with broader issues from the classroom community to the international community. <br />
    6. 6. Hip Hop to Connect with Self and the World<br />Hip Hop Includes:<br />Rapping<br />Break Dancing, popping, Locking<br />Graffiti<br />Fashion<br />Hip Hop is socially<br />conscious. It is a whole culture<br />Students are interested and enthusiastic about hip hop. They are knowledgeable about hip hop and they can directly connect and relate to the culture. It is an international movement. It is a powerful approach for teaching youth. <br />
    7. 7. Tagging is a social practice with its own rules and codes. It is one aspect of Hip Hop. Crews disseminate signature monikers, slogans, protests and messages through simple and elaborate tags. Graffiti is like hieroglyphics in the sense that many times the writings on the walls are indecipherable to an untrained eye. Graffiti is a form of expression. There are often deep and poignant messages embedded in each piece.(Tagging as a Social Literacy Practice, 355)<br />
    8. 8. Graffiti is a social practice engaged in by youth and young adults all over the world. Graffiti artists often belong to a crew. They use spray paint to tag up walls, train cars, bridges, highway underpasses etc. Graffiti is usually regarded as vandalism or misassociated with gangs. Perhaps you have noticed graffiti in a student’s notebook and reprimanded him/ her for being off task. A different view of graffiti is that it is a literacy practice in which young people tag either a signature moniker, slogan, protest, message, or occasionally a lengthy tribute. Other taggers respond to the tags of their crew members and non-crew members with tags. If you could tag one word over a busy thoroughfare or expressway, what would it be? <br />SABER is a graffiti artist from Los Angeles. He is considered to be a global legend.<br />
    9. 9. There are a number of ways in which we can use graffiti to engage our writers, especially our male writers and other hard to reach writers. Graffiti is definitely a means of being free through writing and sharing ones views. <br />What’s Up?<br />You roll with the KMWP SI Crew. Several local crews (APS, PCSD, CCSD, COBB, RCS and others) have stepped to us. They want to know who we are and what we represent. Design an authentic tag that reps who you are. <br />As you develop your tag consider:<br />(Establish rules for your students such as refrain from using profanity, nudity/sex, violence and “put-downs” in your tags.)<br />penmanship style<br />types of lines<br />colors <br />the energy flowing from your tag<br />perhaps your tag is edgy or outspoken<br />For this activity your tag must represent you.<br />Don’t be a punk! You are the CEO of your classroom! You are an excellent teacher!<br /> (jdilla)<br />
    10. 10. Crack-Open Your Tag and expound on what this tag says about your beliefs, values, culture, life experience, family, and so forth.<br />1st: Pre-Writing Option<br />Write your tag name in the center of the paper and begin to brainstorm all of the things that your tag says about you. Next, go deeper and examine each of these broad aspects of yourself.<br />Figurative language, adjectives, adverbs, vivid verbs would all be addressed at this juncture of the lesson. <br />2nd: Using your tag, write an “I Am” poem<br />In “I Am” poems you will introduce each aspect of yourself with “I Am.” You determine your rhythm. <br />Extension: Genre switch and allow students to write short bios from the “I Am” poems.<br /> Says)<br />
    11. 11. Tag an Article<br />Read: Oil Spill Addressed from the Oval Office<br /><br />Create a Tag in response to the article. Next, crack-open your tag and expound upon your tag response to this article. <br />Step 1: Create a Tag. Think about what resonated with you most as you read the article.<br />Step 2: Now, write a blog post articulating your concerns regarding the oil spill disaster. <br />As you respond think about the following:<br />How does the oil spill affect you? What are the long term implications of this disaster? What needs to happen in order to prevent this type of disaster in the future? What lessons do we learn, as American Citizens and world citizens, from this disaster? You are not limited by the above questions.<br /> (John Mayer)<br />
    12. 12. Hip Hop, Spoken Word, Lyrics, Poetry <br />Listen to : “Times A Wastin’” by Erykah Badu<br /><ul><li>What messages are in this particular song?
    13. 13. What are some deterrents that young men and women face in this society?
    14. 14. What are the implications of “taking your time”?
    15. 15. What does “taking your time” look like in this context? Why?
    16. 16. Who or what might you run from and why?
    17. 17. How do you take out the demons in your range?
    18. 18. Can anyone relate to the lyrics and the messages in this song? How so?
    19. 19. Who is the audience?
    20. 20. What is the artist’s purpose for writing this song?
    21. 21. How could this song impact society?
    22. 22. What is the artist’s style and voice in this song?</li></ul>Spoken word is an ancient art form rooted in the griot oral traditions recognized in Africa, Bardic tradition of Europe and the Middle East, the Tamil poets of India and singers in South America. Spoken word was intrinsic in every ancient society on this planet at some point. Spoken word today is a rhythmically based performance of poetry that is born from these ancient traditions. <br />Hip hop is a musical genre that is a part of the hip hop culture. One element of hip hop is rapping. Rap can be divided into different categories including gangster, hip hop, political, dirty south and commercial rap. Various regions of the United States have unique styles of rap. Hip hop is generally underground and it is definitely international. (Aceyalone)<br /> (Erykah Badu)<br />
    23. 23. Let’s Battle!<br />Task: <br />Read: Drilling Ban Blocked; U.S. Will Issue New Order—New York Times<br /><br />Write a rap arguing either for the 6 month ban of off shore drilling or against the ban of off shore drilling. Support your position with relevant details and research. Your rap should be no longer than 2 minutes.<br />The Battle: Divide the class according to positions. Pairs of students will present their raps, battling each other. The rapper with the strongest argument and most creative lines will win the battle. The team with the most points in the end will win. <br />Other options: assign each student a point of view from which to write and give them the task of writing a rap regarding this ban from the assigned point of view. ( Possible POVs include: birds, whales, fisherman, ice houses, oil rig mechanics, residents of Gulf, a child, BP executive, other oil executives drilling in the area, a scientist, etc.)<br />Extension: Do additional research on your position and write a persuasive essay or letter either for or against a suspension of off shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. <br />This task can further evolve into a triptych in which the rap is on one panel, persuasive piece is on the middle panel and a haiku is on the 3rd panel.<br />
    24. 24. Haiku My View<br />View the short slide show of photos. Respond to the slide show in a Haiku style poem. Remember, the pattern of a Haiku poem is 5-7-5. Your poem should consist of 3 metrical lines. The first line will have 5 syllables, second will have 7 syllables and the last line will have 5 syllables.<br />ie: I walk across sand<br /> And find myself blistering<br /> In the hot, hot heat<br />If you finish your haiku early, write another one or go ahead and “crack-open” your haiku and let it take your ideas and into another piece of writing. <br />Other options: Provide topics for your students to respond to in the form of a Haiku. The topics may be related to things in the classroom, the community, or the international front. <br />Extensions: Students can use the Haiku as a prelude to another piece of writing. The Haiku’s can always be “cracked open” and developed into some other genre of writing. <br /> (BP Oil Spill Slide Show)<br />
    25. 25. Statistics and Facts<br />“In 2000 only 40% of 18-29-year-old Americans voted; in 2004 only 49% voted. In 2006?with a war raging in Iraq only 24% voted and some states had as little as 17% (Young Voter Strategies, 2007). Early analysis of the 2008 U.S. presidential election had 18-29-year old voter turnout at about 52%. While this is a small increase from 2004, it still means that nearly half of America's youngest voters are not voting (Circle, n.d.). In a survey of 3,000 students at New York University, 20% would sell their next vote for an iPod and half said that for one million dollars they would give up their right to vote forever (Quateman, 2007).” (Reading for a Better World, 2009)<br />Clearly, the research reflects that civic responsibility and social awareness need to be addressed. The purpose of education is more than to acquire skills and knowledge to for a career. We each have a responsibility to participate in our democracy. <br />
    26. 26. Summary<br /> As teachers, it is imperative that we help our students to read deeply. Literacy is freedom. Our literacy instruction must evolve to reflect such freedom and cease to limit reading to basic comprehension skills and strategies. When we probe and stretch the minds of our students with higher order questions that are connected to social and civil responsibility and awareness, then we are in fact planting and cultivating seeds of change. Regurgitation of facts and details is a waste of the amount of energy and time that is devoted. Teachers must approach and teach text differently. We must “conceive of [text] as a series of encounters with meaningful problems for which there are multiple solutions.” (Muldoon, 1990) <br /> Furthermore, we must develop the writing skills of our students, while at the same time helping them to infuse their treasure chests of values, experiences and beliefs into their writing. Therefore, we need to allow and guide students through exercises that will help them to connect with their identities. Character education must penetrate deeply into our students and the only way that this will occur is through their personal ownership and subsequent authentication of the various character traits we seek to instill, whether it’s the IB philosophy or some other philosophy of education. Finally, student engagement and a safe classroom environment are the ultimate pre-requisites for a classroom in which literacy is a fundamental right. <br /> Hip Hop, poetry, and spoken word are three approaches for inciting and maintaining student engagement. Additionally, these text forms are very compatible with social and civic responsibility and awareness work. They are not as confining and allow students a beautiful avenue for truly expressing their souls. Sometimes, traditional writing genres are difficult and intimidating for students because there are so many rules and it may be more difficult for them to find their voices. Hip hop, spoken word, and poetry is a great launch pad into other genres and it is comfortable for many young writers to switch from a more free form genre such as spoken word into a more formal writing genre. <br /> Ultimately, we want our students to grow up and vote, make a difference in the community, lead others, navigate this earth responsibly and thrive. Quality literacy instruction will help to ensure that our students are successful, productive, and progressive throughout their lives. <br /> (Aceyalone)<br />
    27. 27. Works Cited<br />Ciardiello, A. Vincent. “Talking Walls: Presenting a Case for Social Justice Poetry in Literacy Education.” The Reading Teacher 63 (2010) : 464- 473.<br /> <br />MacGillivary, Laurie, Margaret Sauceda Curwen. “Tagging as a Social Literacy Practice.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 50 (2007) : 354-369.<br />Wolk, Steven. “Reading for a Better World: Teaching for Social Responsibility with Young Adult Literature.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult literacy 52 (2009) : 664-673.<br /> (Aceyalone)<br />