Connecting media to content literacy and content knowledge is My Thing. I’m constantly finding connections to the enduring understandings and life-long skills of my students as I voraciously consume media. Given Common Core’s emphasis on reading of media, it’s important that we consider how and when media can be inserted into the curriculum. But, I also think it’s important to find these same links between popular media and our own practice because what works for students works for teachers. So, I present to you “What Frozen Taught me about Common Core.” If you want to read more about how I’ve used popular media to introduce and assess the skills in my classroom, I’ve included some examples at the end from my 9th grade Humanities class.
But, first the Top Five things that Frozen taught me about change, Common Core, and implementing ideas!
1) We all need an Olaf on our team.
With all the media recently, it can be hard to not get weary of the Common Core. And, with the stress of the new teacher evaluations, it’s equally difficult to not feel the stress of testing, new ideas, new data teams, pre/post data points. That’s why we all need an Olaf, someone who carries the optimism for those days when you feel that with all the factors influencing your students, you just want to scream. It’s rare to find someone who can always be an Olaf for your team. So, consider those moments where you can play the Olaf for that meeting or that committee work.
2) Isolating ourselves because of fear will still do damage.
Probably one of the most important messages of the movie has to do with resisting fear, which we learn does not mean ignoring the fear in hopes it will just disappear. To resist fear means to get up close and personal with fear, learn and understand a system, and face it. Perhaps you, or a colleague, face fear around the Common Core and its implementation. To be honest, I’d question you if you haven’t had a moment of apprehension around the new standards, new testing system, and what Common Core looks like for our struggling students. But, if you refuse to do anything besides complain, vex, or scorn the Common Core, you, and more importantly your students, will be on the receiving end of the “icy blast” of fear. Like Elsa, you might not even know the damage or negative effects left in your wake.
3) Don’t be seduced by the perfect solution.
My fellow blogger shared a funny story about her colleague purchasing a book with a shiny Common Core label, which turned out to be a book she already owned with an MSP sticker and another copy with a WASL sticker. Like Prince Hans showing up at the perfect moment and being the perfect match, education has its fair share of people, companies, or organizations offering you the perfect solutions to tackle the common core. While a select few should probably be labeled snake oil salesman, the majority don’t have bad intentions. They are just aware that many of us are feeling confused about these standards and the implications upon other systems at play. Unlike Anna, when someone asks you a crazy question, just say “no” or walk away. Remember that you have the skills and experience, whether it’s your first year or your thirtieth year in education. Reach out in your building and share the awesome lessons that are already taking place. Perhaps add a level of assessment or rethink the content as Nathan wrote.
4) Sometimes we do have to Let it Go, but we have to remember to come back.
Either you love this song or you hate it by now. But, there’s no denying that we all have moments where we need to “let it go” for our sanity and for the good of our work. It’s an empowering statement that echoes in Chris’ “confession” of differentiating in her work. We see students everyday. We see the skills that they have. We know the next step we need to take. But sometimes, outside forces present ideas or directives that immediately activate our caution alarm. As a professional, we know how to make professional decisions. For example, like Chris, we sometimes need to offer our students text that are inviting and accessible. But, like Elsa had to fix her town’s destruction, we must not completely dismiss the idea being presented in front of us. If we disinvite these students from the learning table by never giving them exposure to high level content, we have essentially frozen them in their skill set like the town of Arendale. Offer them a high level text, just maybe, not all the time.
5) Repetition, action, and family like words can make a point stick.
Speaking of “Let it Go”, boy, does that song just get stuck in your head. I don’t even have kids, and it gets stuck in my head. I think part of this song’s stickiness is how it plays off of one concept repeatedly through use of repetition, associating an action with the word, and using as many similar words to Frozen/Snow as possible. Thoughts “crystalize”. A kingdom of “isss…olation”. My power “flurries”. This is where I think we need to meet the ratcheting up of Common Core skills by becoming familiar with how ideas can stick with our students. I immediately think of the strategies employed in GLAD, where students are chanting, repeating words, and performing actions with those words. When you sit down to teach a concept and embed a skill, consider how you can use the stickiness of vocabulary and action to help your students learn.
Using PopCulture Examples in the Classroom
What does this look like in my classroom practice for students? Well, my prime example is that it has become a 9th grade rite of passage to watch scenes from Chicken Run and support if it’s a revolution based on class selected criteria. Prior to analyzing Chicken Run, the students view examples of revolutionary like film scenes to create their criteria of a revolution. It’s easily accessible content that provides a formative assessment of their ideas of revolution plus a summative writing opportunity. When I learned about the idea of testing students using a novel situation in How to Assess Higher Order Thinking, I decided to incorporate media clips from Avatar on the summative assessment of my Imperialism Unit. Lastly, I often used a common, easily understood media piece to introduce harder concepts like when I think about technology roll-out. For example, when I introduced the 6 lenses of the Causes of Conflict CBA, the students had jigsaw readings on the lenses and immediately applied it to the film version of Sneetches. It’s an easy to understand story that allowed them to see a conflict from multiple perspectives and analyze a primary cause at a small level.
So, consider the popular culture that surround you and your students. How can it help you analyze your world? How can it help your students analyze and practice skills?
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