Monday, June 29, 2020

Why Some People Don't Celebrate the Fourth of July

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." 
-- George Orwell

July 4th, Independence Day in the U.S., will be celebrated later this week.  It marks the day in 1776 when the American colonists declared their formal separation from Great Britain.  Actually, it was July 2nd when the Second Continental Congress approved the colonies’ independence but it wasn’t publicized until July 4th.

In any case, I was recently doing a close reading of the Declaration of Independence for a new resource.  Of course I was familiar with the phrase “all men are created equal” in the second section of the document and knew it only referred to white men.  Nowadays, I think lots of students are taught that the phrase referred only to a narrow slice of humanity.

But also included in the Declaration of Independence, in the final reason the colonists gave for justifying their split from the Crown, is the phrase “…the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”  It’s well-known that the colonization by Europeans of what’s now the U.S. resulted in the genocide of the Native American population.  I wonder how many teachers explicitly reference this phrase, also, when teaching their students about the Declaration of Independence.

Thoughts about the Fourth of July from Black/African-American and Native American perspectives and why it's important to teach students about two phrases in the Declaration of Independence that refer to them. | The ESL Nexus
The Declaration of Independence does not, in fact, treat all people equally; source: The ESL Nexus
So, embodied in one of the foundational documents of U.S. American history is one phrase that in hindsight is regarded as hypocritical and another phrase that is racist.  That got me thinking: What do Blacks/African-Americans and Native Americans think about the Declaration of Independence?  I found some illuminating articles online that I'd like to share with you.

Black/African-American and Native American Views of Independence Day

* Frederick Douglass gave a speech on July 5, 1852 entitled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”  Basically, he says that it doesn’t apply to him or enslaved people.  The National Museum of African American History & Culture provides background information and excerpts from the speech.  You can read the full text of the speech HERE.

* Juneteenth was much in the news recently and one of the other names for the holiday is Freedom Day.  Many Blacks/African-Americans celebrate Juneteenth as the day they became free, not the Fourth of July.  (My previous blog post has links to info about Juneteenth; please click HERE to read it.)

* This article from the National Museum of the American Indian, is enlightening.  The title is “Do American Indians celebrate the 4th of July?"  The comments at the end, by people who are members of many different Native American nations, are well worth reading, too.

* I’ll end by linking to an essay in The Atlantic written by Ibram X. Kendi, author of the book How to Be an Antiracist (which I just finished reading), “What to an American Is the Fourth of July?”  In it, he writes, “We should be celebrating our disobedience, turbulence, insolence, and discontent about inequities and injustices in all forms.”  His point is that freedom is a work in progress for many groups of people.

Why You Need to Include All Histories

Obviously, the thoughts expressed in these articles may not be what all African-Americans/Blacks or Native Americans think about the Fourth of July.  But it’s always useful and even critical to have different perspectives about important events and issues.

When teaching about U.S. American history, it’s crucial to include the stories of the people who were not in power.  Learning only a part of what happened does not serve anyone well.  Students must be taught not only history as seen and recorded by the dominant players involved but also all the other groups affected by what happened, too.  Without that wider context, it's impossible to truly understand what historical events and ideas meant and what their impact is on people today.

*     *     *     *     *

If you need a quick activity for Independence Day, you might be interested in these Word Search & Crossword Puzzles or these Boom Cards that teach vocabulary related to the holiday.

Finally, I would like to let readers know that I'll be taking a break and won't be publishing new posts on a regular basis in July and August.  I wish you all a happy and safe summer!


Monday, June 15, 2020

8 Resources That Will Help You Learn About Juneteenth

"Not everything that is faced can be changed,
but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
-- James Baldwin

In a video chat this past weekend with my sister and cousin, they both said the companies they work for have made Juneteenth a holiday with the day off for employees.  I did not learn about Juneteenth when I was in school nor did the businesses or schools I worked for designate it a holiday.  It’s great to see that times have changed; at the least, it's a start in the right direction.

But what, exactly, is Juneteenth?  It’s the day that slavery finally ended in the United States: June 19, 1865.  Although the Emancipation Proclamation had officially abolished slavery in 1863 in the states that had seceded, not all of those enslaved people knew they were free then.  Some Southerners didn’t inform the enslaved people they held captive because they wanted to continue using their forced labor.  Many enslaved people in Texas didn’t know they were free until Major General Gordon Granger made an announcement in Galveston, Texas on the nineteenth of June, 1865.

8 resources for teachers & students to learn about Juneteenth | The ESL Nexus
Juneteenth flag originally created by Ben Haith; this image modified by The ESL Nexus
Starting in 1866 in Texas, Juneteenth has been celebrated by African-Americans as a day of emancipation and independence, with parades and ceremonies commemorating its significance.  In 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas.  It is now a state holiday in 45 additional states plus Washington, D.C.

Below are some resources for you and your students to learn more about this holiday:

* From, information about the history of the holiday, with links to more information about it

* From Teaching Tolerance, an article with background information on teaching about the holiday

* From ReadWriteThink, a lesson plan about Juneteenth for Grades 5-12

* From Ducksters, an easy-to-understand explanation of the holiday that is helpful for ELLs, elementary students, and students reading below grade level

* From Mental Floss: 12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth; facts about the holiday

* From NPR, an audio recording of an interview from 1941 with a formerly enslaved person who recalls being told she was freed (Warning: Language considered offensive nowadays is heard in the recording but I thought the historical interest of hearing the recollections of someone who had been enslaved outweighed her use of outdated language)

* An article in Slate: The Black American Holiday Everyone Should Celebrate But Doesn’t; this essay by Jamelle Bouie gives the history of the holiday and explains why it’s not just for African-Americans

* An article from The New York Times: So You Want to Learn About Juneteenth?  published 6/15/20, it has information about why Juneteenth is in the news now

As people around the world face up to the effects of systemic racism, I hope these resources will help you and your students learn more about African-American history in the United States.


Monday, June 1, 2020

14 Links to Anti-Racist Resources for Educators

"When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty."
-- Thomas Jefferson
(Surfaced on Twitter by @BLACKSTEMUSA)

Over and over, again and again.  The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis a week ago is despicable, unforgivable, horrible, but it is only the latest in a long sad history of racist acts in the U.S. by authorities with power.

Racist thought and action doesn’t start in adulthood.  It’s an insidious thought-process that begins when children are infected with the poison of racism.  That’s why it’s crucial for educators to incorporate anti-racist materials and lessons into their work, starting with children in elementary school or maybe even earlier.  To that end, below is a list of resources I compiled mostly from my Twitter feed that teachers and students can use to educate themselves.  I hope you find them helpful.

Find links to 14 anti-racist resources for educators in this blog post round-up | The ESL Nexus
Useful resources for educators; image by: The ESL Nexus
* From EmbraceRace: 31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance

* From a Larry Ferlazzo blog post: Advice For Teachers Talking With Students About Racism & Police Violence

* From a list posted by KQED: Anti-Racism Resources

* Also from KQED: Faculty/Staff Recommendations for Diversity/Equity/Inclusion

* Article from KQED: How the #DisruptTexts Movement Can Help English Teachers Be More Inclusive

* From Teaching Tolerance: What White Colleagues Need to Understand

* Also from Teaching Tolerance: Test Yourself for Hidden Bias
(thanks to Mary Oemig at Boom Learning℠ for surfacing this) 

* Twitter thread about the history of racial violence in the US, by @ericabuddinton

* Free E-book from Haymarket Books: Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States

* From Medium: 5 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

* My previous blog posts:
23 Books that Honor Diversity and Have Anti-Racist Themes

22 Helpful Anti-Racism Blog Posts for Educators

Resources for Discussing Hatred and Racism with Students

* List of anti-racism books recommended by @educatorsresist (see image below)

Find links to 14 anti-racist resources for educators in this blog post round-up | The ESL Nexus
Source: Twitter post by NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE!
Regardless of whether you support Joe Biden for President or not, he is right when he says: Enough.


Monday, May 18, 2020

10 Reasons You Should Be Using Boom Cards

Boom: The sound made when a teacher discovers a 
whole new type of wonderful resource.
-- Susan at The ESL Nexus

Do you know what Boom Cards™ are?  Boom Cards are digital task cards.  Just as printed task cards can include all sorts of activities for students, Boom Cards can also teach a wide variety of concepts and include different kinds of activities.  They are great for English Language Learners because they incorporate multiple modalities for learning.

I’d heard about Boom Cards a few years ago but didn’t look into them until very recently.  But now that teaching has been transformed and distance learning – or remote learning if you prefer – has become the norm for so many, I took a deep dive into what they are.  Read on to learn more about Boom Cards and why you should use them.

Learn what Boom Cards™ are, why they are great for distance/remote learning, and how ELLs can benefit from using them | The ESL Nexus
There are many advantages to using Boom Cards; source: The ESL Nexus
Hosted on the Boom Learning℠ teaching platform, each Boom Cards resource is called a deck.  Get it – like a deck of cards.  (It took me a while before I figured that out.) There are quite a few free decks available.  Of course, you can also purchase decks.  Unlike on TeachersPayTeachers and elsewhere, you must first purchase a certain number of points, then you use those points instead of money to buy the decks.  The more points you purchase, the bigger a discount you get.  For example, if you buy 225 points, that costs US$3.00 but if you buy 10,000 points, that costs US$98 and saves you 27%.

Benefits of Using Boom Cards

* They exist only online: You’ll save paper because you don’t need to print them.
* They are visually appealing: Since they are digital, they are in color and you don’t have to worry about using up printer ink.
* They are low-prep: You’ll save time because students just need an internet connection and a device to use them.
* They are self-grading: You’ll save time assessing students’ work because the cards automatically indicate right and wrong responses.
* They are interactive: Students must engage with the cards in a game-like manner, which helps keep them motivated.
* They are self-checking: Students will immediately find out if their answers are correct or incorrect.
* They can be used as a whole class activity on an interactive whiteboard or individually if students all have a device.
* You can assign Boom Cards with Google Classroom™ as well as some other platforms.
* Depending on the type of your Boom Learning account, you can get reports that track how your students did when they use decks.
* They work on computers, tablets, and smartphones which offers greater access if you don’t have enough computers for each student; it also means they can be used at home as long as students have access to a smartphone.

Types of Boom Learning Accounts
There are 4 different account tiers:
* The first tier is the free account, called Starter; it’s for a very limited number of students and you can only create 5 decks yourself. 
* Next up are the Basic and Power tiers which are reasonably priced (currently US$15 and US$25 per year, respectively) and have more functionality. 
* The highest tier is the Ultimate level, which is the most expensive at US$35/year but has the most options available and also enables you to sell decks in the Boom Learning store.

Right now, Boom Learning is offering free membership to qualifying educators through June 30, 2020.  I took advantage and have been creating decks that complement my TpT resources.  I’ve been focusing on making decks that teach the vocabulary words in my holiday word search and crossword puzzle resources.  I’ll soon branch out and create other decks as well.  All my decks so far have audio added so they can be used by ELLs at lower levels of language proficiency who might have a hard time reading the text on some of the cards.

Learn what Boom Cards™ are, why they are great for distance/remote learning, and how ELLs can benefit from using them | The ESL Nexus
Different types of vocab cards in my Boom resources; source: The ESL Nexus
FastPlay allows teachers to assign decks to students for a limited number of days.  All 4 account tiers have access to FastPlay.  Both free and paid decks can be played with Fast Pins, which are the codes you need to use FastPlay.  For a comprehensive explanation of what Fast Pins are and how to use them, I recommend watching this free short video from Della Larsen’s Class.

Navigating the Boom Learning Website
Once you are on the platform, at the top of screen you’ll see icons/links for the following: Classes, Library, Reports, Store, Studio, and Help.
* Classes is where you input a list of your students in each class.  This is also where you can assign decks for students to do and where you can see data about their work (if you have a paid account).
* Library is where all your free and paid decks are located.  If you create any decks, you will also find them there.
* Reports is where the results from students’ work with decks can be found.
* Store is where you can search for decks to use.
* Studio is where you can create your own decks.  You can keep decks you make private or publish them to the Boom store for others to purchase if you have the Ultimate membership.
* Help is where to go if you need support with an aspect of Boom Learning.  There is a FAQ section and you can also send an email to them if you can’t find an answer to your question in the FAQ section.

Since one of the major advantages of Boom Cards is the minimal amount of preparation needed to use them in your classroom, they are ideally situated for remote (distance) learning.  You can find my Boom Cards in my Boom store or in my TpT store.  Each resource has a Preview that lets you see the first few cards in each deck.  Take a look and give them a try!