Writing prompt: Learning tolerance through writing

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We live in a very diverse society, a true melting pot of cultures, customs, and beliefs. Now more than ever, learning to understand—and tolerate—how others see the world is the most important strategy in avoiding conflict, locally and on a global scale. There is perhaps no better time to begin these discussions than today, on International Day for Tolerance.

But what is tolerance?

UNESCO defines it as, “respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expressing, and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience, and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference.”

Education is the most important and effective way of learning how to find that harmony.

Consider the diversity within your classroom or school. Where are students from? What customs do they observe? What is unique about their culture? This is a great opportunity to brainstorm the positive aspects of diversity and to ask students to define tolerance in their own words.

Now, create a classroom scrapbook or poster collage of student writing by encouraging each student to describe in detail a custom or tradition observed in their household. Whether it’s Tuesday Taco night, or taking part in Yom Kippur or Chinese New Year, this is a great way for students to help each other learn. Reflect on how diversity is demonstrated in the school—through music? Sports? What are other ways this diversity can be celebrated?

For a longer term project, extend this cultural investigation to your local community, your country, or even the world. Research a variety of cultures, identifying key ways in which they are different and unique. In what ways can students promote global harmony among these cultures? What is one thing you can do as a class or school? Why is tolerance so important now?

The answers to these questions may stimulate engaged classroom discussion and provide additional writing prompts.

How will you talk about “tolerance” in your classroom today?

~ The Teachers Media Team  

Photo credit: “Header image: BY- Public Domain Pictures / Creative Commons

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NaNoWriMo: Embracing longer writing in the classroom

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For the past 16 years, November has become synonymous with writing—aspiring authors from around the globe dust off their typewriters and sharpen their pencils while vowing to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

What began as a small gathering of people hoping to stave off the cold weather blues has blossomed into a massive initiative that involves millions of new—and experienced—writers, and has even trickled into classrooms around the world.

Of course, writing 50,000 words in a month is likely not an achievable goal for individual students (it works out to 1,667 words a day which, as established authors can attest, is harder than it seems), but what about as a group?

There is a National Novel Writing Month classroom kit available on the official website that includes posters, pep talks, workbooks and participant badges, but even if you’re not ready to get that formalized (or you think it’s too late), there are other ways to use NaNoWriMo to inspire student writing.

Whether you’re considering a group project or simply challenging students to write a longer story (maybe 5,000 words versus 50,000), you’ll need to slot time for it. Encourage students to use this block for free-flow writing—at this stage, punctuation, word choice, and other grammatical rules can be abandoned, at least until the work in progress (WIP) is drafted. (December is unofficially, and somewhat affectionately, referred to as National Editing Month.)

It’s important that students see you write as well, so try to use allocated class time to work on your own project. It will be fun to share everyone’s works at the end of the month, maybe even as part of a holiday celebration. Encourage your students to sign up for NaNoWriMo (it’s not too late!) and to add each other as writing buddies. You can track word count, take advantage of the virtual pep talks from bestselling authors, and challenge each other to write longer, and better.

Need some inspiration to get started? Take a look through our blog archives for writing prompts and story starters guaranteed to get those creative juices flowing. And of course, young writers are often inspired by other authors. In this Teachers Media International video, Michael Morpurgo talks about the inspiration for his books and his love of writing.

And here we explore the life and writing regimes of Roald Dahl, perhaps one of the most recognisable children’s authors in the world.

Now, sharpen those pencils and…write on!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo credit: Header image: BY- www.today.com / Creative Commons

Engaging with parents: Helping parents support their child’s learning

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Hosting effective parent meetings can be tricky. Just as children have different ways of learning and communicating, so too do parents—and meeting those different needs requires careful planning.

In this Teachers Media International video, an educational expert speaks to a number of experienced teachers to glean some great tips on how to host effective parent meetings. You’re probably already aware of some of the ideas—such as establishing good relationships with parents ahead of time—but we hope you pick up some new ideas on how to best communicate student learning.

Once parents have a good idea of the work that’s going on in the classroom, they will have a better of idea of how to support their child. Further insight is provided in the Teachers Media International series, What Did You Do At School Today? featuring four videos that give parents an insider’s look into what school life is like for their children.

What tips would you provide to new—or seasoned—educators about hosting effective parent meetings? Share some of your best (or worse!) experiences in the comments.

Have a great weekend.

~ The Teachers Media Team

Writing Prompt: If I Were a World Leader

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The world watched on pins and needles last night as President-elect Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in what was perhaps the most controversial U.S. election in history. Today, people all over the world have mixed emotions about the outcome.

Regardless of your personal thoughts on the election, these feelings will spill over into the classroom as students struggle to understand what this means for them, for the U.S., and for the world.

Today may be a good time to remind students about the importance of democracy, and how the elected candidate has a responsibility to uphold the promises made during the campaign.

What kind of promises would your students make if they were President? A world leader? Principal of your school?  These questions provide the foundation for today’s writing prompt.

Discuss first the important tenets of leadership with the points raised in this comprehensive article and take a look at how kids perceive leadership in short YouTube videos, such as this one.

A simple search for “kids’ perspectives on leadership” will net several links—choose the ones best for your class.

Now  ask students to write a speech that outlines the promises they’d make in their bid for leadership at the class, school, country, or world level.

For older students, this Teachers Media International video may provide useful tips on speechwriting.  For younger children, consider a template such as the one below, in which students can fill in the blanks:

If I were _________________, there would be _________________, _____________________, and ____________________. You wouldn’t have ________________________ or ___________________. I’d cancel __________________, and bring back _________________!

Of course, be prepared for cancelled homework and longer recesses—but what other important issues, locally or globally, can you highlight in the classroom today?

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo Credit: Header image: BY- White House Museum / CreativeCommons

CURRENT EVENTS: Ideas for commemorating a day of remembrance

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This Friday marks an annual memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty. Although called different names in various parts of the world—Remembrance Day in Canada, Armistice in the US, for instance—no doubt classrooms around the world will take part in a number of activities throughout the week, often culminating in a school-wide assembly.

Take a look at this link to see how Remembrance Day is observed throughout the Commonwealth.

While it’s perhaps the most recognisable symbol—thanks to a the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae— remembrance doesn’t start with poppies. The links from this website provide easy-to-understand answers to questions often asked during this week: Why remember? What should we remember? Whom do we remember? How? The information is applicable regardless of your country of origin.

As well, the following Teachers Media International videos may be of assistance as you look for different ways to teach about the significance, and importance, of remembering, even if you’re in a country that does not mark the occasion—the issues of conflict resolution, peace, and sacrifice resonate across the globe.

In this lesson-starting video, students are shown a re-enactment of the Christmas truce during the first world war.

And here, educators provide great ideas on how to teach the second world war, including a number of cross-curricular lessons that focus on drama, literacy, and design and technology.

Finally, as your class acknowledges the start of the First World War, consider using these visuals in your two-minutes of silence to commemorate the millions of lives lost.

How will you commemorate the day in your school? Please share your ideas and photos to help teachers around the world get fresh teaching ideas!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo Credit: Header image: BY- Public Domain Pictures / Creative Commons

Current Events: Citizenship & human rights hot topics in U.S. election

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Regardless of who wins a seat in the Oval Office next week, countries around the world will feel the ripple effects of perhaps one of the most controversial U.S. presidential races in history.  For better or worse, the candidates have pulled out all of the stops in an effort to present the issues to the American public (and the world)—with citizenship and human rights topping the list.

These same issues are great discussion topics in the classroom, and a way to integrate current events into your curriculum.

In this Teachers Media International video, Citizenship: The Human Rights Experience, a school for girls demonstrates how it has enriched the curriculum by introducing human rights topics throughout the curriculum. Students are encouraged to debate—rather than simply listen.

YouTube is another great place to find videos that deal with citizenship and human rights, some of which feature kids in candid discussions about the issues.

Here, young member of the Youth for Human Rights movement talk about their ideas about what must be done to protect human rights. This inspiring human rights music video is sure to capture your students’ attention—and may have them singing along, or creating their own song, rap, or poem. This is an excellent example of integration into music and language arts.

You may also want to consider following Kid President, a series that simplifies complex issues for students and talks about them in a way that is relatable for youth.

Looking for more ways to talk about citizenship and human rights issues with your students? Register for the Teachers Media International platform service, which gives you access to more than 3,500 videos, articles, training packs, and interactive—our LITE service is FREE.

Have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo credit: “Header image: BY- SAYFC / Creative Commons

WRITING PROMPT: Spark student creativity with fireworks

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There’s something magical about a fireworks display—the lights, the sounds, the way colour feathers over a dark sky like a sparkling rainbow.

People across the UK will witness this in full force, 5 November, in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day—that’s the day when Britons everywhere will set fire to things and let things off. Wonder why?

Guy Fawkes Day commemorates the failure of the November 1605 Gunpowder Plot by a gang of Roman Catholic activists—a plot that would have obliterated the Houses of Parliament and a 500-meter surrounding centre with the force of its anticipated explosion.

Even if you’re not British, you can appreciate the significance of the celebration, and it gives you an excellent reason to talk about the science—and magic—of fireworks with your students.

In this Teachers Media International video, suitable for secondary students, a teacher gives a series of firework demonstrations not easily performed in a classroom lab.

Flash powder mixes, Chinese firecrackers, rockets, conical fountains and more—there’s a wealth of chemistry and physics to be learned here, and it’s the kind of research that might lend itself to a few great writing prompts.

What might life be like for a professional pyro-technician? What would happen if the science behind one of these fireworks creations was a little off? What chaos could occur if firecrackers got in the hands of the wrong people?

Similar themes are explored in this video, in which experts explain the explosive chemical and physical reactions behind fireworks. Great fodder for a sci-fi adventure, perhaps?

For younger students, consider Inside Science: How Stuff Changes. Students will explore the non-reversible changes that lead to various materials—including fireworks.

And if the science isn’t enough to spark student creativity, this video prompt is guaranteed to do the trick. Six different types of fireworks demonstrations are the perfect way to stimulate descriptive writing.

Brainstorm instances in which students have watched fireworks—New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, at the end of a long day at Disneyland?—and the feelings associated with that memory. Are the colours bright? Which one stood out the most? Does the sound of a firecracker start your heart racing—or stop it with fear? Ask students to describe their favourite—or least enjoyable—fireworks display. You may even ask them to draw or paint a memorable fireworks experience.

What other ways can you use “fireworks” to spark your students’ imaginations? Share ideas—or student work!—in the comments. We’re excited to read it all!

~ The Teachers Media Team 

Photo Credit: Header image: BY- kuopiotahko.fi / Creative Commons

Halloween around the world

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When most students think of Halloween, they think of trick-or-treating, parades, bobbing for apples and other family fun activities—a time of celebration and superstition. But do your students know the true origin of the holiday?

Halloween is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared 1 November as All Saint’s Day, a time to honour all saints and martyrs. The evening before was known as All Hallow’s Eve, and later Halloween.

Over time, Halloween has evolved into a secular, community based event that is today highly commercialized—at least in some parts of the world. In others, Halloween looks a little bit different.

In Ireland, kids do dress up and go trick-or-treating, but parties and games are also popular. A favourite is called Snap Apple, in which an apple is tied to a door frame with a piece of string and people try to bite it. Fruitcake is a popular treat.

Food is also an important Halloween staple in Austria, but perhaps not quite in the way you’d expect. Before Austrian’s go to bed on Halloween night, they place bread and water on the table and a light a lamp to welcome dead souls back to earth.

Known as Yue Lan in Hong Kong, or Festival of the Hungry Souls, pictures of fruit or money are burned to offer comfort to the ghosts in the spirit world—which are believed to roam the earth for 24 hours.

If you don’t think that’s a long time, consider Alla Helgons Day in Sweden, where the holiday is celebrated with activities throughout the week. On Halloween day, schools lets out early so kids can trick-or-treat.

In Mexico, Spain, and other Latin countries, Halloween is a three-day festival known as El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. The celebration includes parades and costumes—perhaps one of the most popular parties for the deceased.

But Germans are not so trusting. It is custom there to hide all of the knives on Hallow’s Eve to avoid being attacked by a walking spirit.

Japan doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but bright red lanterns are hung and placed on rivers to float during the Obon Festival. The lights are believed to guide the ancestral spirits. And in Korea, Halloween is known as Chuseok, a time to thank their ancestors for all of their sacrifices. But you won’t find Koreans at family graves in October—their Halloween is celebrated in August.

Regardless of where you are in the world today, we wish you a safe Halloween!

~ The Teachers Media Team 

Photo Credit: “Header image: BY- Pexels / Creative Commons

Writing Prompt: Spooky ideas for Halloween

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You may find your classroom overfilling with uninvited guests this Monday—from vampires and ghosts, to the whole cast of the Marvel comics, and everything inbetween. Want to control the guest list? Why not propose a “literary” Halloween bash around the works of some of your students’ favourite authors and characters—Harry Potter, for instance?

Speaking of literacy, Halloween is the perfect time to scare up some spooktacular student writing. Whether you’re gearing them up for National Novel Writing Month (starting November 1), or demonstrating the mechanics of poetry, we’re sure you’ll find something ghoulish and fun in some of the creative writing prompts we’ve curated from teachers across the globe.

This site, for instance, features brilliant (and funny!) examples of epitaphs, like this classic ode to an unfortunate poetry teacher:

Here lies poetry that all children hated.
The last person who taught it, we decapitated.

While we’re on the subject of classic: what is the controversy surrounding Stephen King’s cult classic, Carrie? That’s one of the books up for debate in this Teachers Media International video where popular authors such as Celia Rees delve into the world of horror fiction.

Prefer something a little more visual? An eerie underground dwelling is discovered in this Teachers Media International video starter—and it seems to be haunted!

With My Pumpkin Story, younger students use an online tool to “carve” a pumpkin, and then write a story about it. And in Spooky Adlibs, students use a spreadsheet to answer questions, then fill in the blanks to weave tales of ghostly adventure.

Good old fashioned writing prompts are an effective way to get students writing. Consider these quick story starters, which are suitable for all ages and are limited only to kids’ imaginations.

  • The mad scientist was creating a new monster that could…
  • I got an eerie feeling when I heard…
  • The Halloween pumpkin turned into a…
  • The large cauldron of purple liquid started to boil when…

Be sure to encourage students to use sensory detail, describing not just the sights, but also the smells, sounds, and textures around them. Atmosphere is important, and it’s perhaps best explored through video, such as in this Teachers Media International writing prompt, where your class will discover ghostly events, gates mysteriously opening, and footsteps being heard—even though no one is there.

Inspired? Great! Now get those students writing! Reading their work aloud might be the perfect activity for Halloween Monday—after that recess game of Quidditch with your team of Harry Potters, of course.

Have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo Credit: “Header image: BY- TheRoughRider / Creative Commons

LESSON PLAN IDEAS: Halloween as a cross-curricular experience

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Boo!

If you jumped at that, it may mean you’re not quite ready to celebrate Halloween in “spooktacular” fashion. In just a few days, ghouls and goblins, princesses, knights, and a plethora of Pikachu will be swarming the streets—and quite possibly gathering in your classroom Monday morning.

Not sure what to do with them? Teachers Media International has curated a few lesson plan ideas from our video archives, as well as drawn inspiration from teachers across the globe.

Halloween is a fun time for mathematics. Use pumpkins to estimate and measure weight and circumference. Discover the math woven into a spider’s web using angles, or create graphs based on the candy and sweets students anticipate receiving during an evening of Trick-or-Treating.

In this Teachers Media International mathematics video, a teacher turns herself into a witch to encourage her class to measure different volumes of coloured elixers, in order to make 500 ml of their very own magic potion.

This pumpkin candle holder is a great art assignment for younger students, or consider introducing your class to this monstrous project featuring “monster” sketches from students around the world.

Did you know that Ireland is considered the birthplace of Halloween? Dive into more legend and lore of the season with these 10 facts, sure to impress your students. A simple Google search will net hundreds of trivia about Halloween—more than enough material for a “spooky” pop quiz.

Music and Science come together in this Teachers Media International video, where the song Dem Bones inspires a class to discover basic anatomy while matching the appropriate scientific terms. Students are then given a puzzle of paper bones, which they piece together to make a human skeleton.

Looking for an alternative to Halloween? Why not celebrate Historical Figure Day with 10 lesson plan ideas that help students bring the past to life?

Be sure to check the blog this Friday, where we’ll scare up a few great writing prompts guaranteed to spook your students’ imaginations into action. And as always, we’d love to read about your ideas—share in the comments!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Note: “Header image: BY- http://plusquotes.com / Creative Commons