Tag Archives: current events

NYT offers Free, Common Core Aligned Content

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times blog, the Learning Network, is up and running for the new academic year. If you’re unfamiliar with this tool, the New York Times offers free lesson plans and content for Social Studies and Humanities teachers covering current events. Every week, they post a new Common Core aligned lesson plan include multi-media resources (all entirely free). They also offer monthly “Text to Text” lessons “in which [they] pair an often-taught work in history, literature, science or math with a piece from The Times that illuminates it in some way.”

In addition to lesson plans, they provide a variety of interactive features (quizzes, student contest, and more) for educators and students. All of this material is offered entirely free for educators and students.

Check out the inaugural post “How to Use This Blog” for the NYT Learning Network, or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

PBS News Hour Launches 2013 Zeitgeist Competition

Zeitgeist Courtesy of PBS

Zeitgeist Courtesy of PBS

PBS Newshour Extra launches its annual Zeitgeist competition for 2013. Looking back at the major events of the 2013 year, students are challenged to create an multimedia experience highlighting the ups and downs of the past year. This year, they partnered with Google and  Meograph to help students create dynamic presentations. You can see an example on their website.

You can view the complete contest rules here and the press release here. The deadline for submission is December 14 (less than a week away) and the first prize winner will receive a Google Nexus 7 Tablet!

The Importance of Teaching Students Public Speaking Skills

My career as an educator and educational consultant requires that I speak in front of people – regularly. I have to speak in front of adolescents, peers, colleagues, etc. Not to toot my own horn, but I often get compliments on the ease and comfort that I exude while talking in front of groups. And honestly, I do feel quite comfortable being the center of focus in a room – I have long gotten over the anxiety and nerves that come with talking in front of a crowd. However, it was a long journey to get there.

There was a time that speaking in public filled me with dread, loathing, and fear. The first time I spoke in public, I was 22 years old in graduate school at UCLA. I was TAing a class on Ancient History that had an enrollment of 381 students. We met in one of those large theater-type classrooms. You stood at a podium in front of the students, raised up on a stage, and spoke over a microphone. My professor had directed all of the TAs that we would be giving at least one lecture that quarter. On the day that I was up, I was frazzled and exhausted (having not slept at all the night before). I didn’t eat breakfast as my stomach was turned in knots. I spent a full ten minutes before going up on stage throwing up in the bathroom. To this day, the talk itself was a blur… blocked by some psychological protective mechanism I am sure.

I always tell my students that story. One, it’s a good story and quite funny. But also, I think it highlights the importance of their learning public speaking skills. I chose a profession that required it. And most of us, if only a limited capacity, need to speak in groups (large and small) at some point. The great moral of my story: don’t be like me; don’t learn the hard way; learn to speak in public now – and we’re going to do that in class.

You see, public speaking is one of those skills that you only improve through practice… in other words, you need to speak in public. This is one of the reasons why I highlight public speaking in my classes. I do not teach public speaking or a speech class. I teach History and Art History. Still, every week, my students stand up in front of the room and give a very brief (1-2 minute) report to their classmates. Every year, when I announce this assignment, my students look at me wide-eyed with terror. The first time they stand up in front of the class their nerves are palpable – they stammer, their fidget, they say “um” or “uhhh” every few words. However, every week, it gets a little easier and by the end of the year, they comfortable stand up in front of their peers and give their presentations with a casual stride.

As a teacher of history, it’s a lot easier for me to incorporate public speaking into my lessons and class. It’s one of the myriad of skills that my students will use in the ‘real world.’ Below, find the prompt and instructions for what they present in class.

As you can see, the focus is a ‘current events’ type of presentation with a bit of a twist – the current event must be about history. Stories on archaeological excavations, fights over cultural artifacts, new discoveries in history and art history, there is no shortage of topics.

I am often asked by colleagues why I limit the number of words in their slides – that is to ensure that they do not read off of their slide (I have seen students literally turn around and read an entire presentation off of a PowerPoint slide).

At the end of every school year, because of this exercise, my students are never afraid to speak in public. They are confident, assured, and practiced at a challenging art.