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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

When I taught, one way that I made it through the last few weeks of school was by thinking about the following year -- what I'd do differently, curriculum I wanted to try out, field trips I would take my kids on. And as I took down the things on my walls, I contemplated how I'd decorate for the following year.

Selecting new posters was always an indulgence. Usually I spent my own money, although there was a blip in the early 00s (is that what we call the first years of the 2000s?) when California wasn't broke and I was given funds for supplies. Such pathetic nostalgia for five hundred dollars but that's another story.

Fantasizing about decorating the walls of a classroom leads me to this post -- recommendations for a few fantastic resources to spend your precious dollars on when thinking about supplies and curriculum for next year. So here they are, in no particular order:

  • #1 For posters: The Syracuse Cultural Workers has the largest selection of peace and justice publications --posters, books, stickers, buttons, peace flags, etc. This is where you'll find beautiful art and photos of Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, and much more. Relevant for all grades. They have a new one of the Freedom Riders that's stunning.
  • #2. Rethinking Schools, a nonprofit, independent publisher of educational materials?with a strong emphasis on issues of equity and social justice. They publish a magazine (online and print) that's always full of relevant, fascinating articles. They have also published some of my all-time favorite resources for teaching reading and writing in secondary grades. If you don't already have them, and you teach grades 5-12, order now:
  • ? Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching about Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, and Teaching for Joy and Justice.

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    ? Rethinking Columbus is invaluable for teaching about Columbus' conquest of the Americas.

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    What I'm drooling over, even though I don't need it, is their new social justice teacher planner book. It's a plan book for educators "who believe their students can and will change the world." It is designed to help teachers translate their vision of a just education into concrete classroom activities. What a great idea for an otherwise boring but essential teacher tool.

  • #3. Teaching Tolerance is "a place to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools." They also publish a great magazine and have FREE materials for teachers. I have used a number of their teaching kits and handbooks and again -- they're free!
  • #4. Teaching With Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage To Teach is one book that every person working to transform our schools needs to have. The poems in this book will feed your soul and heart over and over, perhaps the one kind of sustenance we can't get enough of in this business.

That's it for now -- resources for decorating your walls, for new curriculum, and to sustain your spirit. As I have, please share with us any of your favorite resources! And happy wrapping-up the year.

Comments (3)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ryan Reed's picture
Ryan Reed
7/8th Grade Social Studies Teacher in Maine

I think this is something everyone can identify with, as our classrooms really are an extension of ourselves. You can tell a lot about the teacher just by looking at their room.

However, I do wonder if the posters we put on the wall have any effect on the kids, other than looking nice. I think they carry a lot more meaning if the same posters are made by your students and then displayed.

ChrisM's picture
ChrisM
social studies teacher from MN

Each year I try and make the room a little different. I am still trying to create the room to my likings. I have had students create things after reading stories from a novel, drawings of famous americans, settings in history, etc. Students love it and it is a great attraction for parents at conferences. I like the idea of getting "quality free materials" instead of materials that you can get for free that will just collect dust.

Judi H.'s picture
Judi H.
Special Education Teacher

I teach 4th to 6th graders in a behavioral class. I have many positive sayings around my room. I refer to the sayings often. This one saying, I had not talked about much. I wasn't sure the student paid attention, until on day when a saying was covered up by a new behavior intervention, one of my very oppositional students asked why it was covered. He referred to it by the author's name and what it said. Boy, was I ever supprised that he like it and thrilled with our conversation about it.

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