Friday, July 4, 2014

Big Time Blogging Challenge: Favorites

Today's Big Time Blogging Challenge prompt by Big Time Literacy is about favorite subjects and lessons to teach, here goes:

When people asked me about my favorites as a child, I could carry on forever talking about the reason I had multiple favorites of something.  Eyes would glaze over, or a look of regret for asking would creep across the face.  Never did it hinder me from espousing my list of favorites!

As an adult, I can't say that I've changed too much.  I have had very few moments in my classrooms that I haven't enjoyed.  I've taught a lot of lessons, and guided in a lot of inquiry that made my heart sing.  However, looking back over my eight years in education, I've picked one lesson that I've really enjoyed every time I've taught it.  I hope they are something you can be inspired by!

Martin's Big Words

I've always loved the I Have a Dream speech by MLK, Jr.  His passion is palpable as you listen to this words.  I've used the speech when talking about delivering speeches with my students.  I've used it when thinking about how they picture an improved society.  I've used it for one of my favorite lessons, big words.

When I teach the big words lesson, I always read Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (check out her other gorgeous books).  It tells the story of MLK in an accessible way, that is also engaging in upper grades.  This book introduces the concept of big words.  The students and I always have a discussion about what the author means by big words.  Does she mean length of a word?  No.  What does she mean?  She means the strength of the word, the size of the idea.  My kids have had some amazing ways to describe big words.

After this discussion, we listen to his speech.  Throughout the speech, students are listening for and writing down the big words/ideas that MLK uses as he addresses his audience.  This has been cause for some really engaged listening.  Once we've listened through, we discuss what he was saying.  What he wanted for the future.  Another amazing discussion!

We then use the words to make a word cloud.  I have the students look at their list, reflect on the speech, and choose the five biggest ideas they think he was conveying in his speech.  The students read their words aloud while I (or another student) plug the words into a world cloud generator.  I've used Wordle and Tagxedo in the past to make my clouds.  Once we've added our words and generate the cloud, we have a cloud where the big words that stuck out to the students the most are the largest.  They usually gasp with excitement when it finally shows up.  Here is an example of what we created two years ago:

Their excitement and their contemplation in this lesson are thrilling.  I usually display the word cloud on a bulletin board after I have students illustrate portions of the speech that they feel are a great visual.  

Overall it's a very powerful lesson, and I absolutely love it!


  1. I love, love, love that word cloud. Such great themes for your students to be learning about. Thanks for sharing your inspirational favorite!

    1. Thanks Leah! I definitely enjoy exposing them to new ideas, and new ways to look at things they may already be familiar with. Thank you for stopping by!