Mix It Up Any Way You Can

Yes, it’s called Mix It Up at Lunch Day, but lunch means different things to different schools.

Some schools may have multiple lunch times starting as early as 10:30 a.m. Students in sunny states might eat outside and spread out across campus. Does your school even use the cafeteria? Or is your lunch break so short there’s barely time to eat, much less socialize?

Your school’s schedule may have you feeling like a lunchtime activity is too complicated. But with a little creativity from students, teachers and staff, you can make Mix It Up happen.

Last year, some schools began the day with Mix It Up advisory periods or pep rallies. Other schools kept the “Mix spirit” going throughout the day by exchanging teachers or students. Some even mixed up their P.E. and art classes!

Keep your plan flexible. Can’t do lunch? Do breakfast or an after-school meal. Can’t do Oct. 28? Pick another date that works. If you can’t turn Mix It Up at Lunch into one school-wide event, host multiple events throughout the school day or over a week. 

Remember: Flexibility and creativity are your friends. Don’t let “lunch” get in the way of your Mix It Up event. If you’ve found a solution to your “lunchtime” problem, share it with us on Facebook or Twitter so others can learn about innovative options for Mix It Up at Lunch!

Catch up on more Mix 2014 info here!

The Fall Issue Has Arrived!

Fall is upon us, and a new issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine is hot off the press and making its way into schools across the country.

Equity issues take center stage throughout our Fall issue. The cover story, “Lunch Lines,” explores how some school cafeteria policies can single out and stigmatize students from low-income families. “BYOD? [Bring Your Own Device]” examines how relying on students to provide their own digital learning devices can have unintended emotional and financial consequences. “404 Error: Teacher Not Found” delves into the world of online education—a field that provides options for some students but shortchanges others.

This issue also features a one-on-one interview with The New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander, who discusses mass incarceration and why it’s important to teach about it.  

And—in case you haven’t heard—Teaching Tolerance just released a new anti-bias curriculum. The Fall issue includes a fun and colorful user guide that will walk you through Perspectives for a Diverse America. (It’s one of our favorite infographics ever!)

These feature stories just scratch the surface of this new issue. Our departments, including What We’re Reading, What We’re Watching and Ed Café, also provide resources and strategies you can use immediately.

Teaching Tolerance is published three times a year and distributed free of charge to educators nationwide. Subscribe today, and you can immediately download it on your iPad or read it online!

Avoid Disaster: Assign Seating in Middle School

First impressions mean a lot. As adults, we know it’s true. The same is true for students. That’s why I believe in assigned seats on the first day of school. 

Middle school students are fickle. They develop through various emotional and physical stages during early adolescence. The “freedom” to choose their own seats may seem like a privilege or a nice perk, but for some, it can be stressful and damaging. 

More popular students will rush to their seats with relative ease. They will then gather friends around them. This makes the seat-finding process look like it is going very well. 

“Sit by me! Sit by me!” you might hear. 

But for a handful, they are stuck. Do they dare sit next to a more outgoing student who is amassing a posse? Do they dare invade that space? Do they risk sitting in a less populated section—what if no one sits by them once they are seated? Timing is huge. Status is on the line. One wrong move and they could hear the dreaded, “This seat is saved” or “Not here!” Or even worse, they sit down and students move away to other available seats. 

Imagine this is your experience on the first day of school. To us adults, it may seem relatively harmless. To a 12-year-old, it’s devastating. It sets the tone: I’m an invader, an outsider, an unwanted tagalong. I don’t really have a place here. I don’t belong.  

Simple solution: Assign each seat a number before the school year starts. Tape the number on the corner of the desk. Hold a stack of the same numbers in your hand as kids arrive for class. Give each student a number and assure them they have a place, they belong, they matter. 

“It’s nice to meet you. You have seat #12. It has been waiting all summer for you.” (And if you didn’t assign seats when school started, it’s not too late to consider a new system.)

At the seat, if possible, have a few handouts in various colors: some procedures, a syllabus, a half sheet for reflecting or writing to the teacher, etc. A new pencil is a nice touch, too (just in case some students didn’t bring one). Regardless, it’s a kind gesture. 

Alleviate some of the stress of starting the school year by ensuring all students have a place of their own. If you’re noticing patterns of cliquing, unkind or distracting behavior, assigning seats is also a great way to hit the “reset button” any time during the year.

Donohue is a middle school English and social studies teacher in Monroe, Washington. He also teaches college courses in English, public speaking and education.

New Curriculum from Teaching Tolerance!

You spoke. We listened.

For years, Teaching Tolerance has provided our audience with FREE high-quality lessons, film kits and best practices guides, but we’ve never offered a full curriculum.

Until now.

We’ve spent the last three years writing standards, curating texts, and developing tasks and strategies. Now, Teaching Tolerance is proud to announce the launch of Perspectives for a Diverse America—a K–12, literacy-based, anti-bias curriculum. It’s online, it’s FREE, and we can’t wait for our community to begin exploring!

Perspectives was developed based on years of conversations with our audience. We know you want flexibility in your curriculum planning—so the modular design allows for customization and differentiation. We know you want to provide relevance for your diverse classrooms—so the texts support critical literacy through a variety of lenses. And we know many teachers in our audience are required to implement the Common Core—so we aligned to and went beyond the ELA and literacy standards, also offering the option of learning targets that promote social justice and equity.

Perspectives offers not only a wealth of resources (and accompanying PD!), it was also built to reflect backward planning. The result is pedagogi­cally sophisticated but simple to use.

Want to learn more? Read on for more details about

  1. The Anti-bias Framework. Select learning targets and write essential questions that help students engage the concepts of identity, diversity, justice and action.
  2. The Central Text Anthology. Browse a collection of short texts that meet Common Core requirements while providing diverse voices and relevant social justice content. 
  3. The Integrated Learning Plan. Engage students using classroom activities and assessments that invite them to apply their learning and translate it into action.

You can also download and share this instructional pamphlet.

Perspectives grew out of years of collaboration, and we want to keep the conversation going. So how do YOU see yourself using Perspectives

How Does the Anti-bias Framework Fit into Perspectives?

We’re glad you want to read more about the components of Perspectives for a Diverse America, our new K–12, literacy-based, anti-bias curriculum. Here’s a little more about the standards that underpin Perspectives:

Perspectives was developed to reflect the principles of backward planning. Yes, the elements align to the Common Core, but our teaching and learning specialists wanted to go beyond the CCSS and offer anti-bias standards to serve as a starting point—so they wrote their own, with the help of Louise Derman-Sparks’ groundbreaking book Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. The result was the Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework (ABF).

The ABF is a set of anchor standards and learning outcomes ideal for teachers who embrace both social justice values and backward planning. Divided into four domains—Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action—the ABF provides a common language and organizational structure teachers can use to write essential questions that guide curriculum development and drive student learning.

So how do essential questions relate to the ABF? Say you are a middle school teacher and you notice your students are struggling to stand up to bullying behavior. You might decide to base your lesson plan on the grade-level-appropriate outcome for one of the ABF Action standards, e.g., “I will speak up or take action when I see unfairness, even if those around me do not, and I will not let others convince me to go along with injustice.” Then you would craft or select an essential question that challenges students to engage this standard critically and creatively throughout each phase of the lesson. In this case, a strong essential question might be “Do individuals have a responsibility to help or defend people they don’t know?”

Perspectives provides a bank of essential questions aligned to the ABF anchor standards. Select one—or write your own!

The ABF can also be used independently of Perspectives to guide conversations with students and to communicate with professional learning communities about anti-bias teaching goals and practices. Read more about how one teacher integrated the ABF into her practice!

Read on to learn more about the Central Text Anthology and the Integrated Learning Plan.

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