What is America, Ink Think through SPRITE & the power of possibilities

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Ink Think in Action- video link  http://www.twitvid.com/F3VQN

In beginning my first semester of this school year I found myself stuck with anticipation and hope. I knew where I wanted to go, I knew the topic I wanted to jump into, I just wasn’t sure how to begin it. The essential question my 11th grade American History class will be asking and then pursuing this semester is WHAT IS AMERICA? I jumped around the idea of how to frame the question by throwing out several possible questions to fellow educators via twitter. I knew that I wanted students to discover and create their own definiton of America, but also knew that the question I kept coming back to “can America be defined?” did not quite do the project’s purpose justice. A special thanks to Nate Everett  and Molly Smith for jumping aboard on this project’s endevors and not only helping frame the essential question, but also shedding light on the power of this project! Thanks to the power of social networking in connecting like-minded, passionate educators we will be co-planning and collaborating on this project throughout the year through Skype, Twitter, & Google Docs.We will be connecting our students to eachother and eachother’s stories in multiple ways to support the project and eachother in this pursuit of historical and individual discovery. Feel free to follow the hashtag #defineAmerica to see where we are at and where we are going with the project throughout the semester. Nate is based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Molly in Baltimore, Maryland , & I in Birmingham, Alabama. We are all educators of American history and equally anticipating the possibilities of this project, not only within our own classroom but within eachother’s as well. The power of the youth of this country defining this country for themselves in the pursuit of creating a deeper understanding and connection to it has power beyond measure. The purpose of this question is to support each individual student’s discovery of what America means to themselves by studying the immense complexity of what America means to other people throughout not just this country, but the world. The project’s specific focus will be on the voices of THE PEOPLE, including and often focusing on OUR STUDENTS VOICES and their voice’s ability of reaching a wider audience and sharing the stories they have discovered, as well as stories within themselves. We will not be focusing on the winners of America, nor the ones in power, not the ones with the largest pockets, or those living politically correct way of life, but rather the people who TRULY LIVED and are STILL LIVING all that is America. Those that are more than their label, those that stood up in the face of adversity, those that were truly effected by the decisions made by those in control, and those that stories have not been heard enough. My hope is that my students will be able to create an ongoing digital story of their findings, definitions, discoveries, etc. and in the end will be able to reflect on all the complexity that is  America, Citizenship, Global Connectivity, Change, and the power of the Human Voice in ways that they could not have forseen before this project began. One of the main sources I will be using is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History and the The Zinn Education Project. I highly recommend both of these sources as a way to give a voice to the voiceless of American History, as well as, giving your students a fresh and relatable perspective to create a deeper connection to the history of America’s people- ALL of America’s people to be exact. 

 

One activity that proved to be powerful during the third week of school and in preparing for this project was INK THINK. This activity can be found in the book Thinking Through Quality Questions by Jackie Walsh and Beth Sattes. The basis of this activity is that students work in cooperative groups to create a visual analysis of a particular issue, question etc. This activity supports deeper thinking and helps students to develop new patterns of thought. The specific topic my students analyzed through INK THINK was SPRITE as the lens in which we will look at history throughout this class. Students were broken into groups and first did an individual reflection on one aspect of SPRITE (social, political, religious, intellectual, technological, economic) in their evernote, then discussed their individual reflection with their group, and after discussing jumped into the SILENT Ink Think activity. Yes, I said silent. I was first skeptical of this aspect of the activity, but after watching my students complete this activity silently and reading back the deep analysis they went into through the Ink Think I cannot imagine them being allowed to discuss through the activity. The silence during the activity also created an energry of wanting to share vocally all of their ideas which opened the floor to an even more powerful post-activity discussion. I created a couple google docs about how I did the SPRITE INK THINK in my class that you are welcome to check out and tweak for your own class. I highly recommend this activity for its abilitiy to generate deep understanding and connection, purposeful discussion and debate, quality questioning, and endless ideas that have sprang from it. It is also very powerful to keep the Ink Think finished products up in the classroom as both a reference and a reminder throughout the year. I have attached several images and a video of the SPRITE Ink Think in my class that you are welcome to view/use. I did this activity with teachers this summer and used the images to help students visualize how their final product should look after the Ink Think is complete, and you are welcome to do the same with the images provided above. For the after activity students went back with their groups and starred the 5 most thought provoking ideas on each Ink Think topic and then were asked to chose one to respond to, connect to our study of American history, and reflect on in connection to their life through the Schoology discussion platform. These reflections will then be used as a reference for part of the student’s digital ‘What is America’ portfolio and story. 

The power of collaboration and cooperative learning is the support that individual thinking needs to truly grow and activities like Ink Think allow students to take their thinking and questioning to the next level. Stay tuned for more updates on the Define America project and feel free to contact me on twitter if you have any questions about how to implement the Ink Think activity! Also check out Molly’s latest blog post on What is America? here and check out Nate’s History by Everett site here

 

“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers” 
— Howard Zinn

 

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