Early in the year, I wanted my students to look at different forms of media and see how they’ve evolved. I mean, some forms of media seem so new, but what preceded them and how did it influence society? So my students looked at: music, video games, photographs, and TV shows. Anyway, it was such a good time to figure out what they knew, how they researched, and get to know their skills in general (along with their interests). It’s one of the things I love the most about projects, honestly.

Here’s one of the results, a timeline on music:

A first project by a pretty good student.

It’s been a while since I posted student work. That whole thing with Halloween (and other coordination work) really caught me off-guard, killing my ability to get things posted. So here are a few things that I needed to post since school started.

We started with thinking about values and how we view the importance of different elements of our life.

How do you place value on something? Some of my kids’ responses.

When discussing needs/wants, I wanted my students to figure out what the difference was and explain them. I wanted everyone to really discuss this (or try). This was meant to build into thinking about the upcoming peer tutoring program.

Needs aren’t always different from basic needs, but it’s good to see if students perceive a difference.

This built into later parts of the unit, where students had to work on making a peer tutoring program for the school’s study hall. (Note: The program proposal is completed, and I need students to join.) I loved a lot of the conversations here because students started considering their personal experience as a student with teachers or with having helped people, figuring out what they should have as part of the peer tutoring program’s guidelines.

I really wanted to hone in one what do people need in a peer tutoring program.


My ninth grade English class has been tasked by the school to create the school newspaper. Originally, we started as a replacement for the school newsletter, but it’s been growing in ideas. (In reality, I’m hoping to turn it into a Study Hall club because we’ve got some really talented students throughout MYP who should contribute.)

One of the sections that people have requested (and the students suggested) is something that lets everyone get to know the staff. What better way to do that than to have the kids profile them?

So I threw the kids a bit of rubbish:

Scrunched up paper balls that I was able to throw at my two teams in English Language & Literature.

On each slip of paper, one of the steps for the interview process was written. In two different groups, students had to put them in what they thought were the correct order. As they did this, they were asked to explain why they thought that this was the correct order. (Admittedly, though this is for Language & Literature, I realised later that my phrasing sounded like I was in a job interview instead of interviewing someone for a news piece. Oops. Seriously, it was about interviewing people.)

Two different groups have responses for the order of an interview process.

But it was so nice to see the logic behind what each step was about and their justifications. (It was even nice to see that ‘assessing’ the person you’re interviewing ended up in two locations for different reasons.)

One of the units that I plan to teach is titled Conflicts, Disagreements, and Solutions. This unit, in my head, should start in the spring; I want to make sure I’ve accumulated enough sources in order to teach it well, especially since I currently don’t have a textbook to use as a backbone. I’m collecting resources right now, and one particular resource jumped into my social media feed: They’ve Always Been Watching Us.

Protesters are often targeted by state agencies. In general, most protest groups are trying to enact changes to policies or institutions that benefit an overwhelming majority of people. Civil rights movements, in many countries, have often been infiltrated by state agencies in order to watch over them or out of fear. This has happened in so manyinfiltrated by a Metropolitan Police locations: Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement was officer prior to The Troubles, digitised editions of the New York Times show that the CIA recruited members of the Black Panther Party in order to “neutralise” them, the infiltration of the CIA into the National Student Association to “fight communism” by cataloguing students who were anti-war, and so many more. It’s so prevalent that there’s a term for this: Agent Provocateurs.

This is largely because many people at the top, either in government or institutions (private and public), are likely to lose something. Power, money, resources… And so they use agents to infiltrate and break up movements, even those that we initially believe as being ethically correct.

And this is something that I really want for everyone to recognise: The work of activists who are working to better the world is often derailed at the hands of people who fear they may lose something and, as a result, seek to discredit the movements.

It’s been a while since I did this lesson, but I’m still finding the pictures in my school iPad or on my phone to upload (I take tons of pictures with my school iPad so that I can make sure most of my kids are up-to-date on notes or lessons and I won’t lose most of the good ideas, which are going to be coming out soon because we’re finally working on the more service-related components).

So this lesson was done while we were discussing the differences between countries and how values aren’t always the same everywhere; I asked them to choose two places and describe them. Obviously, as we’re in Italy, everyone decided to include that as part of the assignment. However, it was interesting to see which countries were selected as the one they were going to use for comparison. It was also interesting to see what they believed to be true.

Comparisons of Italy with Malaysia, Cuba, and the USA.

TED often has a lot of really interesting talks about how we relate to information. Here are some of my favourite that could help in class, especially with regards to credibility.

  • Graphicacy, like numeracy and literacy, is one of the many skills that we need to acquire in today’s world. How do we read images? How do we understand graphs and charts? Tommy McCall discusses this when he shows that good graphics can give us a lot of information at once and make things clearer.
  • We find it easy to recognise that, when someone’s trying to sell us something, statistics can be rubbish; however, when we start getting statistics coming from government agencies, we find it more difficult to find bad statistics (or understanding how governments play with numbers). Mona Chalabi gives some tips for recognising bad stats.
  • Alisa Miller talks about how the news shapes the world. As our world becomes more and more accessible, the news we’re able to access seems to decrease. The media focuses so much on a few items that it becomes difficult to really recognise what’s going on in the rest of the world.

In Verona, a street artist who goes by the name Cibo takes it upon himself to cover up graffiti that is clearly fascist, anti-Semitic, and racist. Instead of leaving something horrible and hideous, he covers it up with something beautiful and delightful to see. He uses his art to make places more beautiful and interesting while also covering up hateful symbols, many of which that leave disenfranchised groups of people feeling even more uncomfortable.

Also, his work is simply amazing.

What motivates you? Abraham Maslow once tried to figure it out and, through the research that he performed (which focused heavily on one demographic, by the way), he came up with a pyramid of needs that must be met in order to ‘move on’ to the next (though, it was understood that context and culture played a part). The original pyramid looks a lot like this:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, found at Alexandria Heston’s Reality of Design.

But there are problems with this pyramid. First, if I suddenly find myself feeling hungry, do I lose all of my friends? If I find myself without work, will I always lose the desire to advance to something else? These needs overlap a lot more often than we recognise, even though fields like education continue to look at things through Maslow’s original lens.

SciShow Psych made a video that we can consider as we continue our unit on How to Contribute to Society, which provides a bit more information about how Maslow’s pyramid could be seen today and whether or not psychologists genuinely still use it:

Sometimes it’s difficult to think of all the things that are part of our own world. What is a society? What’s a community? How do we understand identities? What would we even want an ‘ideal society’ to look like? And can we, as a whole, even manage to agree on any of these things?

That’s a lot of what we’re looking at right now in our current Individuals & Societies unit, How Do We Contribute To Society. The ideas of the class are quite interesting, and it’s been delightful to see so many different ideas from the students:

Some student brainstorming ideas of what a society looks like.

Some brainstorming about what communities they belong to. I might question some of them, though.

Students worked to brainstorm different kinds of identities. They hit on a lot of them.

What’s an ideal society? Here are some of the ideas ninth grade had; they even had a lot more during the review today, too. (The reference to the falling bridge is to Genoa.)

The background image for this design was found here and is by Sergey Nivens.

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