Friday, September 25, 2009

New Google Earth Layer Added

I've just added a new Google Earth news layer to my living textbook. It includes links to stories about the following topics:

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Ref.

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Earning Her Stripes in College Football." The article states, "Thomas, 35, is big-time college football’s only female referee. She has grown accustomed to startling players and coaches on Saturdays but says it does not occur as often as one might think."

It continues, "Neither Thomas nor those who work with and supervise her believe it is odd that she has found her avocation amid big games and marching bands. She always loved sports and became the first athlete ever at Pascagoula High School to earn a letter five times in a sport, softball. She received a basketball scholarship to the University of Mobile, helped the team make the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament and earned academic All-American honors."

Questions for Younger Children
1. Do you think that there is anything that a boy can do that a girl should not do? Is there anything that a girl can do that a boy should not do? Explain!

2. Do you think it would be fun to be the only boy in a room full of girls or the only girl in a room full of boys? Why or why not? (Note: It's funny that you can ask young children some questions that you might not want to ask older students.)

3. What is your favorite sport? What do you like about this sport? Do you think that this is a hard sport to play? Why or why not?

4. Do you think that it might be fun to watch people playing a sport to make sure that they play by the rules? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students

1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Lilting; Avocation; Intrigued; and, "In Concert".

2. What do you think would be the hardest part about being a woman referee in college football? Why?

3. If you could ask Sarah Thomas one question, what would you ask her? How do you think that she might respond?

4. Why do you think that the New York Times would run an article about Sarah Thomas on the home page of its website? What does this say about the way that the New York Times thinks about news? What can we learn about the N.Y. Times' readership from the placement of this article? Explain!

Cuban Missile Crisis

As you might know, I develop core curriculum resources using Web 2.0 technology. This is a picture of a unit that I have developed on The Cuban Missile Crisis. Students use a Google Earth layer to investigate the crisis. This particular picture explains the Berlin Blockade. Students develop an understanding of the difference between the embargo of Cuba and the blockade of West Berlin. There are many things that they have to do throughout the unit, using technology. For example, they use the tools of Google Earth to draw a barrier around West Berlin. This hopefully helps them conceputalize the isolation that occurred. The large project for the unit asks students to imagine that they are the only person in the world who is friends with both Khrushchev and Kennedy. Using the information that they learn in the unit, they must develop a proposal for world peace. Students use the Google Earth ruler to compare the distances between the Soviet Union and Turkey and the United States and Cuba.

I'm certainly not planning on giving up on the current events questions that I've been writing on this blog. However, I'm also trying to find a way to let people know about the units that I'm developing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama's Color

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "As Race Debate Grows, Obama Steers Clear of It." The article begins, "President Obama has long suggested that he would like to move beyond race. The question now is whether the country will let him." The article reports that "His goal, Mr. Obama has told both camps, is to be seen as a president who happens to be black rather than the nation’s first black president."

Questions for Younger Children

1. Think of five ways in which people can be different from one another.

2. Why do you think that black people and white people are sometimes treated differently? Other than their color, do you think that they are different? Why or why not?

3. Have you ever been afraid of anything? If so, what? Why do you think that you were afraid of this? Was there any real reason to be afraid? Explain!

4. Some people dislike others simply because of the color of their skin. If you could say one thing to these people who dislike others, what would you say? Why?

Questions for Older Students

1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Civility; Disavowed; Tenuous; and, Tinged.

2. Do you think that a large number of opponents of President Obama's policies are likely racist? Would there be any way to tell which opponents are motivated by non-racial issues and which are motivated by racial issues? If so, how? If not, why not?

3. Do you think that President Obama's color is influencing his style of governance? Explain!! If you wanted to develop a more sophisticated response to this issue, what questions would you ask? Why?

4. Why do you think that racism exists? Do you think that it will ever be possible to eliminate all forms of racism from society? Explain!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Troops to Afghanistan

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Military Chief Says More Troops Needed for Afghan War." The article begins, "The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told Congress on Tuesday that success in Afghanistan would probably require more troops and certainly much more time, a position seconded by a top Republican but challenged by a leading Democrat."

The article continues, "The intense dialogue, at a morning hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, previewed the sharp national debate expected over coming weeks as the White House considers how best to pursue its new strategy in Afghanistan in the face of growing skepticism from members of President Obama's own party."

Questions for Younger Children
1. Have you ever worked really hard at something only to find that it was very dificult for you to finish the project alone? What were you working on? Were you able to finish the project with somebody's help? Explain what happened!

2. Have you ever disagreed with somebody else as to how something should be done? Explain what you wanted to do? How did you think it should be done? How did the other person think that it should be done? In the end, how did you end up doing it?

3. Do you think that its ever OK to hit somebody else? What if the other person is going to hurt you if you don't hit them? Do you think that it's better to use words or fists? Why?

4. Have you ever listened to two people, maybe your parents, as they made a decision? What were they deciding? When people are working together to try and make a decision, is it more important to talk or listen? Perhaps it's important to both talk and listen? Explain!!

Discussion Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Sharp; "Frame the Debate"; Lauded; and, Dysfunctional.

2. Do you think that it's appropriate for the United States of America to continue to send troops to Afghanistan? Why or why not? What if the Taliban could regain power if the United States left?

3. Do you think it will ever be possible to win the war in Afghanistan? Why or why not? Describe what the political climate in Afghanistan would look like if the United States wins the war, or perhaps peace, in Afghanistan?

4. Senator Levin argues that "accelerated efforts to train and equip Afghan security forces should precede any deployment of American troops beyond those already committed by the Obama administration." Explain his argument in your own words. Do you think that his strategy could succeed in enabling the U.S. to win the war? Why or why not?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kanye West at MTV

The London Times is running an article entitled, "Kanye West Spoils the Show at MTV Awards." The article states, " US rapper Kanye West stole the show for the wrong reasons at the MTV Video Music Awards last night when he invaded the stage and interrupted a winner (Taylor Swift) to say that the award should have gone elsewhere."

The article explains, " Russell Brand, the controversial British comedian who hosted the event, reminded the audience of the drama as he closed the show, offering Swift "a shoulder to cry on...But the teenager, who was the US's best-selling artiste after Michael Jackson this year, had already left to record a video of her single You Belong With Me in a subway station."

Questions for Younger Children
1. If you could give an award to the best television show/video game/singer (you pick it) to whom would you give the award? Why? What do you like about this show/game/singer?

2. Have you ever played a game and lost? How did it feel after you lost? Why do think that it felt this way? What does it mean to be a fair loser?

3. Have you ever wanted to say something but known that it would be mean or bad to say it? Why would it have been mean or bad to say this? Did you feel good about not saying it? Why or why not?

4. Have you ever seen somebody go somewhere where they should not have gone? Mabye into a teacher's lounge or into a room that says private? Why do you think that somebody would go somwhere they should not go? Would you consider such an action rude? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Humiliated; Umbrage; Consoled; and, Allegations.

2. If you could have said one thing to Kanye West last night after he wrote his appology, what would you have said? Why?

3. Madonna explained that most people turned their backs on Michael Jackson after he encountered difficulties in his life. Do you think that this is typical human nature? Why or why not? Is this kind of behavior appropriate? Why or why not?

4. Thirty years from now, if you were to tell your children about the most significant cultural contribution made in the later part of the First Decade of the Twenty First Century, what do you think that you would tell them about? Why? Do you think that this contribution will be remembered? Why or why not?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fortress of New York

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "A Fortress that Didn't Come to Be." The article states, "It was a city humbled and scared, where the possibilities of destruction had been recalibrated. It was Sept. 12, 2001. The day after...New York would become a fortress city, choked by apprehension and resignation, forever patrolled by soldiers and submarines. Another attack was coming. And soon."

The article explains, "Eight years later, those presumptions are cobwebbed memories that never came to pass. Indeed, glimpses into a few aspects of the city help measure the gap between what was predicted and what actually came to be."

Questions for Younger Children
1. Do you think that it is possible to know what is going to happen tomorrow? Why or why not? What kinds of things can we know will happen tomorrow? What kinds of things won't we know until tomorrow comes?

2. How do you think that this school will be different ten years from now? Come up with as many different ideas as possible?

3. Do you have an imaginary friend? (Have you ever had an imaginary friend?) Tell us about your imaginary friend? Why do you think that kids soemtimes create imaginary friends?

4. Have you ever been afraid that something would happen? Why were you afraid of this thing happening? Did the thing end up happening? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Humbled; Incoherent; Novelty; and, Mandated.

2. According to the article, "Christopher Gravagna didn’t feel right that people had to buy their patriotism (when they bought flags). 'That was ridiculous,' he said. 'Why should people capitalize on flags at that time?'” Do you agree with Mr. Gravagna? Why or why not? Try and argue the question from both perspectives.

3. Why do you think that the expectations that people had of New York City on September 12, 2001, did not come true? Do you think it says anything about the nature of the American people that New York City did not change as much as people expected? Why or why not? Is it good, bad or perhaps both good and bad?

4. If you could go back in time to September 12, 2001 and tell something to the worried people, what would you say? Even if they truly believed that you came back in time, do you think that you could say something to make them feel better? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama Talks to Congress

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "With His Top Priority on the Line, President Reframes Critical Debate." The article begins, "After a month of angry town hall meetings and dire predictions about the state of his top domestic priority, President Obama moved forcefully Wednesday night to take the initiative on health care -- and in the process rejuvenate his presidency and unite his fractious Democratic Party."

The article further states, "It is rare for a presidency so young to have so much on the line. No single speech can create consensus on health-care legislation, and in that sense this was not the make-or-break moment described by some commentators. But Obama has staked his presidency on this issue, and his advisers knew it was long past time for him to assert himself in a more demonstrable way or risk seeing the entire enterprise slip away."

Questions for Younger Children
1. What do you think is the nicest thing that somebody can say to somebody else? Why?

2. Describe a time in which you have asked somebody else to help you do something? What did you ask them to do? Did they help you? Why or why not?

3. Do you think that it's important to learn to speak in front of other people? Why or why not? Do you think that there is a nice way to ask somebody else to help you do something and a way that isn't so nice? Explain!!

4. Have you ever interrupted somebody else when they were in the middle of talking? Why did you interrupt? Have you ever been interrupted when you were in the middle of talking? How did it feel to be interrupted? Why?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to discuss: Domestic; Fractious; Liberal vs. Moderate Wings; (if you want to see some strange looks) Dickering.

2. Do you think that there are significant differences between the skills needed to win a Presidential election and the skills needed to be an effective President? Describe the differences. During this legislative negotiation what one skill do you think that President Obama should use from his campaign expertise to support his Presidential agenda? Explain!

3. Though only alluded to in the article, Rep. Joe Wilson interrupted the President last night, during his address. In England, it's common for members of Parliament to heckle the Prime Minister during addresses. Do you think that the President deserves the respect of Congress? Does the Prime Minister deserve the respect of Parliament? What can we learn about culture from the fact that a behavior that is acceptable in England is frowned upon in the U.S.?

4. What three questions do you have about the current health insurance debate? Why do you think that these questions are important? Go ahead and find the answers to these questions, to the best of your ability.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Cost of Cards

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Overspending on Debit Cards is a Boon for Banks." The article states, "Banks market (charging customers to spend more with their debit cards than they have in their accounts) as overdraft protection, and the fees it generates have become an important source of income for the banking industry at a time of big losses in other operations. This year alone, banks are expected to bring in $27 billion by covering overdrafts on checking accounts, typically on debit card purchases or checks that exceed a customer’s balance."

The article continues, "...The price is enormous. According to the F.D.I.C. study, a $27 overdraft fee that a customer repays in two weeks on a $20 debit purchase would incur an annual percentage rate of 3,520 percent. By contrast, penalty interest rates on credit cards generally run about 30 percent.

Questions to Consider for Younger Children
1. Describe a time in which you either earned some money or somebody gave you money? Do you like having money? Why or why not?

2. Have you ever wanted to buy something for yourself and found that you did not have enough money to buy it? What did you do? How did you feel? Why?

3. Do you think that somebody else should always give you money to buy whatever you want? Why or why not?

4. Have you ever borrowed money from somebody? Why did you borrow it? When somebody else loans you money do you think that it would be fair to pay them back the amount of money that they loaned you plus a little more? Why or why not?

Questions for Older Students
1. Vocabulary terms to Define/Discuss: Cover (financially); Overdraft; Federal Reserve Bank; Federal Regulations.

2. What is the difference between credit and debit? In what situations would it make more sense to use a credit card than a debit card? Why? In what situations would it make more sense to use a debit card than a credit card? Explain?

3. Do you think that banks should be allowed to charge fees, around $35, if somebody spends more with a debit card than he/she has in a checking account? Why or why not? Now, to challenge your thinking skills, develop an argument for the other side of this question.

4. Do you think that the New York Times should have run an article about overspending on debit cards on the first page of the newspaper? Is this really a current event? Why or why not?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Barack Obama will Address Students

As you might have heard President Obama is set to address students across America on Tuesday, the first day after Labor Day. I'm guessing that many students have already returned to school - but Tuesday is traditionally the first day back. He'll be on C-Span and education channels. Some conservative individuals are complaining he should not be taking up school time. For example, take a look at this article from the Homeschool Examiner. My friend Vicki Davis posted this link to a set of resources to help students understand and think about the speech, posted by the United States Department of Education.

The resource suggests reading a book about American presidents or Obama.