Saturday, April 7, 2012

Film Review: The Jesus Film (free and in 1,120 Languages!)

 This film about Jesus is an evangelistic tool shown around the world to about 6 billion people in many venues, frequently outside. It has been translated into 1,120 languages! It appears about 300 languages or more are available to view online at this link.

Lots of folks are interested in Jesus, and as mentioned in a previous blog, He is respected by major religions, philosophers, and human rights leaders.

Here is a convenient, inexpensive way to see the simplified version of His life and message. For His followers and fans, it is always an inspiration to hear those marvelous words spoken again.

This is an interesting link describing the creation and mission of this film, which is meant to change lives.

More info on the creation and distribution of this film.

Here is some Gospel music from an amazing choir and Gospel music leader, Donald Lawrence. I think it beautifully expresses the curiosity and confusion of the times concerning the mysterious preacher, Jesus. And it is some wonderful music.  
Donald Lawrence & The Tri-city Singers-Stranger

Here are the lyrics:

So--blogbuddies--let's go "Love one another."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Arrrggh! All Direct Instruction All The Time

To quote Charlie Brown...
Uh-oh, the third kid from the left has his legs crossed at the ankle.
Of course, students of all ages need to sit at attention, postured uniformly at their seat with feet parallel under the table or desk, one elbow gently touching the edge of the table or desk top, eyes respectfully resting on the instructor (with micro-second glances at the projected image, perhaps; but just a micro-second), sharpened pencil placed precisely between first and second digits, balanced by the thumb awaiting the split second cue to write Cornell notes on a precisely organized five-subject notebook. MOUTH CLOSED, face with respectful attitude. Second graders can do this; and middle-schoolers, and students in rural areas, and urban areas; students from 8-18 years of all economic levels, all ethnicities, ESL kids, they all can do this for an hour, every hour, all school week; all quarter, every semester, K-12. All direct instruction all the time.

OK, yes, holding the pencil correctly is important.
Yeah, that'll create successful kids.  ARRRGGH!

I am being sarcastic; but I have really had it with the lack of knowledge concerning how kids learn among those who should know and care how kids learn. For the teachers' own self interest, and effective testing, classroom instruction cannot maintain too many consecutive direct instruction minutes. Even if the students comply and don't riot out of boredom, you can't check for understanding if there is no unique student product to demonstrate what they are thinking and comprehending. ESL kids need to use language in groups to reinforce their language acquisition. That's not even touching upon the sense of isolation a kid may feel when there is no teamwork or comradery in the class. Students can gain important confidence, validation and social skills in groupwork.

This is a review of John Holt's book, "How Children Learn."

This is part of the author's opinion of what we need to address as kids learn.

 " Fear of failure, punishment and disgrace, along the with the anxiety of constant testing, severely reduces students’ ability to perceive and remember, and, thus, drive them away from learning."

Students could be considered non-compliant if they don't succeed in Direct Instruction directives, ending in failing grades and discipline.

Could this be part of the story of low test scores?  Kids need to have the opportunity to be accepted and succeed according to the appropriate methods for their age and needs.

There are many methods and activities to increase learning and create confidence in the classroom. And these are actually not too much trouble to implement. (I think the teachers that overuse Direct Instruction are concerned about losing control of the class with any movement or talk among students.)

Man, I would really love to be in this class! And I don't even know what they are doing.

I can't say as a classroom teacher I ever have been extra fancy or super organized. But I have been privileged to collaborate with fine teachers, from whom I have stolen ideas. So I would begin class with the kids' in groups facing the front, the board, which also was the upfront lecture area.. These are 7th graders. (You may show awesome respect now or maybe whisper a little prayer for all 7th grade teachers. ) They had bellwork (also called seatwork) and after @5 minutes of their working individually and then explanation and recognition of their seatwork, I would tell them it was time for Direct Instruction/notetaking. They had been trained to recognize what that meant. The agenda for the class was on the board, so the anticipatory set was all ready to go. Technically, lesson plan-wise, when we got to guided practice, that's when the desks moved to groups. The kids just stood up and moved the desks in a preordained, teacher-approved team facing each other. If your kids are at tables, figure out a way they can have a clear view of the teacher for Direct Instruction and notetaking, and then a way they can physically change their environment to be a team. It is important for students of all ages to not just sit.

Let's git er dun.
Yes, it takes quite a bit of energy to wrangle a 7th grade class in activities. But it is worth it, and not all 7th graders are rascals, only about 25%.

More information on the definition of cooperative learning.

Team activities don't have to be sophisticated. They might just be collaborating on guided practice leading to homework. But there are so many interesting and fun activities that create learning and serve as an effective review of the material. I believe if teachers recognized team activities as the very effective review of material that they are, class would be more fun and test scores higher.
This is for you visual learners.
Collaborative learning can hit all styles of learning and learning gates for a more thorough saturation of the subject in the student's mind. Kids will retain the information they review in teams because it is a different venue. It engages their emotions in a positive way (if teacher is supervising properly) adding value and import to the experience.

                                                    Anansi of the Many Stories
                                                                  (this is a great link)
 You don't have to spend money on this. One schoolyear to review the week before State tests, I found all the humorous selections in the English textbook. We did one selection a day, reviewing the genres, characters, plots, even parts of speech and sentence structure with various games and activities. Because the topics were essentially relaxing, being humorous selections, discipline was lighter (and that year was a hallmark of rascals, too.) We had the best CST scores in the District that year. Thank you Bill Cosby, Shel Silverstein, and Anansi the Spider.
Sarah Etc. avoiding chores.

Fat Albert and his cooperative learning group.

Spencer Kagan's organization has tons of ideas for group learning. Our district has been exposing us to these forever.

This is a summary of their philosophy:

 Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members:
  • gain from each other's efforts. (Your success benefits me and my success benefits you.)
  • recognize that all group members share a common fate. (We all sink or swim together here.)
  • know that one's performance is mutually caused by oneself and one's team members. (We cannot do it without you.)
  • feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement. (We all congratulate you on your accomplishment!).
Maybe that quiet teacher uses these.

Your colleagues also probably have many successful activities.  Especially that quiet teacher that never says anything at staff meeting. She might just be a marvelous creative resource. You never know until you ask her.

Remember we can incorporate the arts across the curriculum. Let's be using both left and right brain!
Here is an excellent group to check out for support in bringing the arts into all classrooms.

The Arts Education Partnership.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Quoting Quotable Quotes

Stating the obvious.
These are some of my favorite quotes from various tweets about education over the last few months:
                                                                           'Reading Is Not Optional'

"With the help of their teachers, students can develop the skillsets needed to solve problems that have not yet been recognized, analyze information as it becomes rapidly available in the globalized communication systems, and to skillfully and creatively take advantage of the evolving technological advances as they become available."

"Children’s reading scores improve dramatically when their parents are involved in helping them learn to read."

 "Teachers, more than any other feature of a school, determine how well students learn."

"Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined."

'There is as much cause for hope as for horror. As David Orr said, “Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.”

 The following are from a kids' book about Dr. King's famous quotes:
You are as good as anyone.
Dr. King as a boy.
When I grow up, I'm going to big big words, too.

                                            Everyone can be great.

Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
I have a dream...

This is my favorite--

 "Think of oppositional behavior as an ingenious attempt to actually contribute."

I believe this is a child actor, but I have seen that expression more than once on a kid or two.
Now, class, if you can go through my past blogs and identify where these quotes came from, I'll give you some extra points for your quarter grade.

Also, teachers, don't forget Frame-a-Quote, and website with thousands of famous persons' quote, and/or topic. The kids can also frame and print their own quotes. Its great.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tweets of the Week: Let's Graduate!

Lots of good information on helping kids graduate from high school.

This group, The National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson has a wonderful site, and if you choose to join, they mail so much information about every six weeks. There are also conferences at many major cities.

This is their philosophy:
  • Goal 1: Increase the awareness of policymakers, administrators, and practitioners about dropout prevention, reentry, and school completion.
  • Goal 2: Increase the number of states that set and meet reasonable and rigorous performance targets for State Performance Plan (SPP) Indicators 1 and 2.
  • Goal 3: Help State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) develop and improve data systems to track students at risk of dropping out.
  • Goal 4: Help SEAs and LEAs implement and evaluate effective, comprehensive school-completion models, practices, and systems for students with disabilities. 

  How can we coordinate our efforts to help high school kids? Here is more information from the Education Commission of the States' High School Database:

 It's never too late to improve basic skills.

Encouraging the kids to be the best they can be, and article "Academics and School Life: The Importance of Character," another great article from Edutopia.

Although this article is primarily aimed at younger students, parent involvement is always an effective aid.

Facing the future in a cap and gown.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Tweets of the Week

This is cool--students with not-that-great reading skills doing a whole book together as a class!

Here are some highlights:
Framing the project. The students recognize this ritual as the beginning of a personal literary journey.
My italics.
 Providing reading time and support. The key is to make students feel part of a group process without getting in between them and the text.
 Tracking progress. Some of my struggling readers choose to write Post-it notes on almost every page of the book.
 Creating group mini-projects. Students collaborate to expand their understanding of what they read without interrupting the subjective, immersive nature of their experience.
 Discussing literature. By the time the due date arrives for completing the reading, students are usually dying to discuss the book.

I say, hats off, to this persistent educator in leading the kids through the trek of an entire book. What a gift she has given them.

 Fiction can help kids become more caring individuals. A writer can allow a reader to enter into the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of a character in a way that the real world cannot. Et voila! empathy.

Living through literature. What would it be like if...

Here is the quote of the week: "Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined."

(Naturally from an English major.) What a surprise, great literature develops your brain!

Here is the article this is from: 'Your Brain on Fiction." Great Title!

Wyeth's illustration of "The Last of the Mohicans." You just can't tell me Nattie Bumppo wasn't real!

Uncas, Hawkeye , Chingachgook

Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans

Dad and son (Perseus and Helius)
Lots of dynamic CG! And I saw it in 2D because I'm not really that cool. The themes of the film were worthy (love conquers all, etc., Dad loves son) but this film won't enhance anyone's knowledge of Greek myths. It just mixes them up. All that action was actually sort of confusing. I guess I'm just used to very clever Greek heroes who analyze the situation and outsmart the villains. There was not a lot of plot revealing dialogues, or broad hints or foreshadowing as to what well-known monster would show up next. I really wanted the Cyclops to say something funny, like "Where's Odysseus?"  And why was there a minotaur in Tantarus? Had it moved from Crete? Why is Perseus so dazed and confused?  Perseus himself  had outsmarted Medusa the last time around, but this time success looks like a huge, impulsive accident.

Pegasus was awesome, sort of a winged Clydesdale. Agenor is the character with the most development and something in the script to work with.  While the other characters may express regret, ask for forgiveness, or state they don't wish to end up in oblivion, they really aren't motivating enough to care about. The spark of personhood that makes a viewer care is only there for Agenor, the ne'er-do-well demi-god with the almost clever lines.

Perseus could have communicated his grief over his lost wife; his extreme concern about his boy. His interest in Andromeda. He is one of the prominent characters in Greek mythology. Maybe the writers should have stuck with the real lit, then the melancholy and mystery of Perseus would have come through to his desperate, manipulative heroism. But it is just not there.

I did like Agenor. Maybe the next film in the series will be about the Navigator. As long as they're making up Greek myths.

Movie Review: Films About Jesus

Jesus is honored among all major religions as a teacher, ethicist, prophet, or mystic. This is Holy Week for those who believe in the orthodox principles of Christianity, in the deity of Jesus and remembering His passion and resurrection. There are also many groups of Christians who may not agree on all the details of this faith, and their kids might be in your classes. It takes a delicate touch to provide respect for all kids' beliefs during discussions of major religions.

We respect the rights of all people to have beliefs. I am not recommending showing films about Jesus or not showing them in your class; that is a decision for your school.

But beginning in Middle School, at least in the State of California, there are many passages from the Bible, and the New Testament in particular, that are considered worthy of literary consideration. The Book of Job, the Psalms, the Sermon on the Mount, parables. The King James version, which last year celebrated its 500th birthday, is considered a masterpiece itself. It is said Shakespeare made a contribution to it.

And this is a pretty good time of year to show portions of the Jesus story if you're going to. Even the History Channel, liberal bastion of cable TV, frequently shows the television film of "Jesus of Nazareth" in entirety, Jesus being a central person of historical interest. That's why this is the year 2012.

Mary, the mother of Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ."
Jesus, although He was Jewish,  is usually portrayed looking like a European, generally with a British accent, except for "The Passion of the Christ," which was in Aramaic (the Hebrew spoken at the time of Jesus) with subtitles. That's a pretty amazing idea and accomplishment, if you can find it in you heart to forgive Mel Gibson for being a flawed human and all after he produced that remarkable movie. The production has accuracy in costuming, music, and portrays basic Catholic theology, except possibly about Pontius Pilate, the Roman who deserved no sympathy for his decision.

"The Passion of the Christ" 2004
"The Passion of the Christ," is bone crushing in the accuracy of suffering. The perspective of Mary the mother of Jesus is unique in this movie version, and serves to present why many Christians have a special devotion to her. What age of child should see this? I can't say, but it is very intense, particularly when Mary flashes back to Jesus falling as a little boy as He carries the cross. Use your own judgement.

"The Kings of Kings" 1961
"The Greatest Story Ever Told" 1965

Several Bible-themed movies came out in the sixties with blue-eyed Jesus actors quoting the King James Bible. Jeffrey Hunter was in the "Kings of Kings," a remake from the Cecil B. DeMille's 1927 version. 
Max von Sydow played Jesus in 1965 in "The Greatest Story Ever Told." The films are sympathetically presented, especially toward poor little misunderstood Judas, who is frequently the most interesting character. These films have a respectful mood if not accuracy, and for the viewer who is looking to connect with the words of Jesus quoted in the Bible, these films are very effective. Children who are familiar with the story should be okay with the crucifixion scenes which are not too graphic, but kids have to be prepared.

As children watch a film about Jesus, it is very intense. Jesus is a lovable and sympathetic character whether He is considered in a religious sense or not. Kids really have to be prepared for the story to transpire. I was invited by a friend to a theatre full of viewers from her Baptist church to see "The Passion of the Christ." All adults, all in tears (both men and women) by the end. It is just a really tough and sad story for both believer and non-believer.

"Jesus of Nazareth" miniseries 1977

My preferred film about Jesus to view with children is the television miniseries, "Jesus of Nazareth." (1977). It is frequently on television at the Christmas and Easter seasons. Visually, there are lots of references to famous works of art, and the music is sort of mysterioso in a supernatural sense that a good something, maybe a miracle, is going to happen; that something supernatural isn't always sinister. Jesus is compassionate, powerful and somehow one-of-the-guys while being divine. Peter is great with his bumbling, yet strong and sincere personality. Mary was a little young being portrayed by Olivia Hussey. Judas was indecisive until he was creepy and betrayed his best friend. I personally don't think Judas was sorry after he did that. Laurence Olivier portrayed Nicodemus.

Nicodemus quoting Isaiah 53 as Jesus is on the cross.
 Being a miniseries, the important parts of the story are portrayed because there is time for them. The Sermon on the Mount is well worth sharing with kids, particularly since important modern leaders such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King reference this, and other portions of Jesus' statements. One of my very favorite scenes from any film is this portrayal of Jesus giving a parable (which are also part of the standards for literature.) Peter and Matthew the tax collector also have a moment.

Jesus hangin' with His homies, for which He was criticized severely.

Here is the Prodigal Son, put up on youtube.

 The person who put up this video also included a little music, not from the film.

I would like to share a song that I still find marvelous. This was written during the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s and presents the case for Christianity at its most basic and radical. Which pretty much describes the Jesus Movement, and how Jesus happened in my life then, too.  Enjoy.

"Jesus Is All That We Need."
 Gary Arthur
The Way

Good ole fashioned Jesus music from good ole fashioned Jesus People @1972