Activating Advocacy

In this issue of Inspiration for Innovation: students use their voices to speak out against gun violence, Pechakucha presentations, service-learning lesson plans, and demonstrating we care!

Current Event (Magnet Tie-in)

Click the image below to take you to the NPR article. Side note: NPR has both the audio files and written transcripts for most of their stories. Screenshot 2018-02-27 at 6.16.49 PM

While I don’t want to get in a debate about gun control, I’d like to use this article as a framework for this post. An important effect of the most recent school shooting has been the attention that STUDENTS are getting in the media with respect to their voicings on current gun laws and changes that they want made. I think it is essential that we encourage our students to not only find passion and drive, but also work to constructively and safely advocate for the causes that inspire them.

Potential lesson/talking points:

Tech Tools

The Power of Presentations – Pechakuchas using Google Slides

No, not Pikachu.

Screenshot 2018-02-27 at 7.10.13 PM

Too often, students see what teachers use as presentations as the examplar for their own presentations. However, they fail to realize that often, teacher presentations include A LOT OF TEXT so as to aid students after we are done speaking or help absent students  access the same material (notes). Unfortunately, students don’t get to see good presentations very often. That’s not to say that we teachers aren’t master presenters, but rather that our audience is different – i.e. students that are half paying attention, half conscious, bored, or maybe (hopefully) super-interested. They aren’t necessarily there to hear what we have to say, so we make concessions in our visual aids for the possibility of not being heard.

For a tech tool tie-in, I’d like to share my favorite presentation method for students from the past couple of years: Pechakucha! As the website tagline states, it is “the art of concise presentations.” The format is simple, 20 slides, 20 seconds of speaking per slide for a total of under 7 minutes per presentation. I wanted to share this as a presentation method because it could also be used as a format for public service announcements or soapbox/lightning talks to raise awareness about a cause.

I have been using these for assessment crash-reviews (including a presentation rubric from presented by students in my science classes and they have been surprisingly effective. Students are expected to create a 20 slide Google Slide presentation and an accompanying script or speaker notes. They present in a small group and are expected to have seamless transitions and maintain a fast-paced presentation. They are not allowed to use more than 10 words on a slide and should only have 1-3 images per slide.

Differentiation for students that struggle with typing: Voice-type the speaker notes (see below)!

Screenshot 2018-02-27 at 7.43.25 PM

Differentiation for introverts or students with severe stage-fright: In my linked assignment above, you can see that I also encourage students to make videos if they are not willing to talk to the room. There’s even a way to add voice-over to Google Slides (but it’s kind of a pain).

Teaching Strategy

Service Learning

Through my teaching career, I have developed a stronger desire to advocate for those that need it. I want to model being an upstander for my 6 year old daughter. As I’ve reflected deeply about what defines me as a person, wife, mother, and educator, I’ve discovered that I am most passionate about three things: mental health, food insecurity, and tolerance.

When I started as STEM coordinator, I wanted to encourage students to find their passions and actually do something about them. Working closely with one of our former English teachers, John Davis, we developed a 10th grade project around the theme of social advocacy to tie in with their curriculum of world literature and human geography. I love the idea of the project, but it has definitely been a struggle to get students to come up with original ideas for advocacy campaigns. They feel that it is too daunting a task and don’t know how to get started. This year, I am also working on building upon our partnership with Duke Energy to look at how they encourage their employees to pursue service projects and community outreach.

In researching this topic further, I stumbled across a plethora of lesson plans from the NY Times focusing only on service learning and charity! I know it is from 2010, but there are so many ideas here, I thought it was still worth sharing. Also worth mentioning is that the NY Times continues these types of posts and lessons so there are more to find, just not as such a thorough compilation. I hope you will take a moment to look through them and see if there are any lessons that support YOUR passion, or better yet, your students’ passions!


Demonstrating Caring

When it comes down to it, encouraging students to enact real change in the world depends on developing positive teacher to student relationships. Here’s the first chapter, titled the same from the Educator’s Guide to Preventing and Solving Discipline Problems. 

I’d like to especially point out section 1.7 that has strategies to show you care.Screenshot 2018-02-27 at 6.49.04 PM

I feel like any decent teacher already does these things, but I wanted to stress its importance with respect to the previous sections in this post. The only way that we can encourage students to get involved in causes that matter is to get to know them! Especially important are inquiring about their lives and listening intently and sincerely. Hopefully, if they do confide in us about things that bother them or affect them adversely, we can help them find constructive outlets to address the issues that matter to them the most.



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