Take Cover, its “My Way”

It is hard to see ourselves the way we are, often times.  Its a blind spot of the human experience.  We can, however, easily judge things outside our cultural comfort zone.  Last week, the NYTimes ran a story that will challenge us to remain objective and reason like a social scientist.  In the Phillipines, where karaoke is a favorite past time, men have been killing each other over different songs, but singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is a ticket to gun play.


  • Ask students an introductory question to focus the students and connect to prior experience.  You might have them think about what are the most important past times in the United States and what does this say about us?  What do people take pride in – in the various countries or cultures you’ve visited?
  • Read the article with students.
  • Review the basics of the story:  Who is the article about? Where does it take place? Why is it important?
    • What questions do you have about this? (What would you ask to understand it more deeply?)
    • What do you think contributes to these actions?
  • What happens in your community or our country that might be seen by others, outside our culture, as strange or unthinkable?


Enciendalo! (Your Way)

What is Looting?

“Burnin’ and a Lootin’ tonight…” Bob Marley.

Some of the most powerful images from the  Rodney King Riots in LA in 1992 were of the rampant looting of stores as the area burned.  The boundaries of civic responsibility were smashed and broadcast on tv for days.  This behavior startled the country, it tips an inherent  fear of chaos and disorder.  In the last week, new outlets in the US and England began reporting that there was looting in Haiti.  There were reports of mobs attacking suspected looters and other reports countering that these were highly exaggerated.  Regardless of the degree, it raises the question, what is looting?  How is it different than stealing? or Finding? How does the context of the situation help to define this?


  • This activity surrounds reading and responding to a text – a portion of an editorial by Rebecca Solnit.  I would recommend running a text-based activity on this short reading (consider Text Based Seminar Protocol or the NSRF Text Rendering Protocol.)
  • According to the protocols, give students time to review the short text and review with each other the basic facts related in the piece.
  • Run the protocol so that students get an opportunity to probe the meaning of this editorial. Allow people to explore the ideas related in the piece.
  • Keep a chart on the board to write out characteristics and build a definition of looting.’
  • Finally, consider running a Barometer at the end of the class with reference to one framing question (such as In this case, did the media misrepresent the actions in Haiti as looting?)

In “The Nation“, Rebecca Solnit wrote this week:

“There’s something grotesque about using the word “looting” to describe what’s happening in Haiti. Following that island nation’s devastating earthquake, dozens of survivors have been filmed or photographed digging through the rubble for food, water, medicine, and other necessities. In virtually every case, the media has identified these people as “looters.’’

But are they, really? To loot is to pillage and plunder for selfish gain. That’s not what wretched Haitians are doing when they grab a box of powdered milk from a collapsed store. They’re merely trying to “salvage the means of sustaining life from the ruins of their world.”

Imagine, for a moment, that your city or town was destroyed by some natural disaster, and you and your family hadn’t eaten in days. You’d be justifiably irate at the notion that “grabbing a box of PowerBars and a few gallons of water” from a shattered storefront made you a criminal. Yet we have no trouble smugly applying that description to those in similar circumstances if they are poor and foreign—and, yes, black.”



  • Have students research historical examples of looting, based on the definition created in class today.  When did they happen?  Who was involved? What triggered the action? What effect did this this have on the nation or the community after the event?
  • Write a journal entry about how stealing is different from looting.  In what ways are these things the same? How are they different?  Under what situations could they see themselves stealing?


Great Books for Students


Exhibitions over?  Whew…or maybe Yeah! …or maybe D’oh…

Well – it’s time to get to the learning plans and start fresh. One of the struggles can be helping kids get connected and engaged in work that isn’t connected to their internship.  One of the ways to face this challenge is with the power of a great book.  (Remember when your life was changed by a book? What was that one by the way…).  You might take the advisory to a library or Borders and encourage them to read the first few pages of text – what do they like? What turns them off? (Help them consider setting, character, dialogue, diction even the look of the text and density of the words).

If your team decides to offer book groups this quarter, here are some titles that have worked well in book groups or advisories in the past 10 years:

  • Push, Sapphire
  • Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  • The Hunger Games, Susan Collins
  • The Harry Potter Books
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
  • Maus, Art Speigleman
  • A Child Called It, Dave Pelzer
  • The Hot Zone, Richard Preston
  • Nearly any Sister Soulja book
  • Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Go Ask Alice, Anonymous
  • The Things they Carried, Tim O’Brien

And a whole lot more: Download this file.

If you have a Supercalendar, look in the back at the pages that give some examples of Autobiographies.

Other Resources:

What are some of your favorite books for kids?


Banned Books

D’oh. I missed it. Banned Books Week was officially September 28 – October 3rd.  But isn’t it always time to consider the examples of censorship and free speech in our society?  What are the limits of free speech in writing?  Are there topics that shouldn’t be broached in school? If so, what are they and why?  Are there topics or voices that shouldn’t be represented in a library why or why not?

  1. Great Map: Banned Books Map.  It shows many local examples of banned books and local disputes.  Are there any in your area?  Click on a few, have you read these books?  Do you agree that they should be banned?
  2. What is the policy about books in your district? Are there any banned books?
  3. Nationally, what are the most banned books?
  4. What are the most used reasons why people ban books?
  5. Historically, what are the other
  6. Why would there be a movement to highlight banned books week? The American Library Association has a proclamation about it -why do they feel this fight is so important?
  7. The banned book issue comes down to an issue of free speech.  Like all personal liberties, there are limits to them (like yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater.
  8. Article V of the Library Bill of Rights states, “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” The “right to use a library” includes free access to, and unrestricted us of all the services, materials and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.  – What do you think about this?
  9. Are there any books, ideas, content or voices you think should be censored or banned? Why?
  10. What is your belief that people should do when they run into controversy of any kind?  How should we seek to resolve it?


Making Meaning from Texts – Writing Projects


What does it mean? (Just giving this picture to a group and asking them to write about that might be interesting….

Yes as a species, we are on a constant search for meaning.  More to the point, (and as teachers and advisors, we have to get right to the point), we are often looking for opportunities for students to document their learning and reflection and practice and develop skills.  So, as advisors, we often help students design products to create in connection with their reading and learning.

  • Generally, the more real (to the world and the kid) the better.
  • Choose a product that explores skills students need to learn or practice.
  • Get creative!

For evidence at exhibitions, you should complete a project for each book you read.  Here are fifteen products that can help students make meaning from the texts they read that focus on the skill of writing:

1)    Book Review – Write a two page book review reporting on significant aspects of the book and outlining your ideas about what makes it worth reading or not.

2)    Character to Character Letters – Write a short series of correspondences (4-6 letters, cards, or emails) between two characters that have unfinished business, characters who have something important to talk about, but who do not talk about it during the course of the book. 

3)    Write an Epilogue / Sequel – Write a final chapter to the book that takes place 15 years after the action of the story and serves as an epilogue or sequel to the book.

4)    The Letterman – Write a fictional (but plausible) interview that the main character might have with David Letterman, Barbara Walters, or Katie Couric. Write the interview up in script format; performed the script should span 5-8 minutes.

5)    Setting Report – Write a short report that investigates the setting of the book.  Using at least three sources, research information about the geography, government, history, climate, culture, customs, dress, and unique aspects of the setting.

6)    Character Sketch – Character Profile/Bio Poem – Write a 1-2 page explanation of and description of the character.  What kind of person is this?  Use examples from the book to show what you mean.

7)    Web Page – Create a web page that outlines the plot of the book, explains the main characters, discusses a theme of the book, and gives your recommendation about the book.

8)    Reflective Essay – Write a two-page essay on how the book changed you or taught you something.

9)    Personal Narrative – Recall and write a personal narrative about an experience that you have had that was similar to a main character’s experience.

10) Outline – Write a complete and detailed outline of the plot of the book.

11) Compare/Contrast Paragraph – Write a short paper to compare and contrast two important characters in the novel or book.  (Use the Venn Diagram as prewriting).

12) Brochure – create a poster or brochure for this book to market it to more readers? Who is the audience you are targeting? What would they respond to? How can you create a brochure or poster that will persuade people to explore plot, characters and or theme of this book.  Work with a local library or bookstore to see if you can create a display for the book.

13) Editorial – take one of the main themes of the book (make sure it is a controversial one) and write an editorial to the newspaper – choose a side to the issue and argue your opinion.

14) Picture Book – synthesize the book into its main elements, and writing your own children’s book based on the text.  Draw or craft pictures to go with the text for each page.  Work with a local elementary school to read your version of the book to them.

15) Found Poem – have students go through the book and write down the 10 most important words and phrases.  Arrange these works and phrases in a poem that expresses an idea, action, or character in the text.