Making Curriculum Pop


Editor's Note: On 12.11.09 I officially changed the playbook (sport metaphor) to the playlist (music metaphor) - you're seeing the first draft of this edit below. If you're bored, and want to read the original thoughts click here.

As some of you may know, I used to work in the music industry - first as a musician, then, marketing for a major record label and, my last gig was as a substitute DJ at a really cool NPR station in Detroit. Since I love music so much, and because I worked in the industry so long I own an obscene amount of CDs. I've been trying to move a lot of my favorite music to my computer, but it has been a slow process. Also, since you're not forced to spend a lot of time with complete albums when you download them, I've been hard at work trying to rate the 10,000 songs on my computer with an eye toward narrowing it down to only 3-5 star tracks. As of this writing, I've rated about 5,000 tracks through the party shuffle/iTunes DJ feature.

Recently, due to a crazy work schedule I found myself lacking sleep and in need of a boost. For the first time since I got OCD about track rating I decided only to play 5 star tracks. The effect of this decision was nothing short of euphoric - listening to only the finest music put a bounce in my mind that would make neuroscientists proud (see Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia and This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin). Like a brilliant conductor, musician, or DJ my iTunes now had enough information to choose a sonorous mix of magical tunes that completely altered my experience of the moment.

That is what I'm trying to do here on the Playlist page. Like a good DJ I'm collecting the four and five star of "teaching tracks" that can be used across disciplines and grade levels to give your classroom an exciting mix that "connects the dots" between learning, experience and knowledge.

I don't know about you, but I feel like I had a lot of teachers that were NOT Great DJ's...

In fact, from about 7th to 12th grade I felt like a majority of my teachers played the following tracks in one long, six year loop...
•Do a Worksheet with a Partner
•Problem Solve (mostly in math and science)
•Essay (mostly in the humanities)

It is not easy to have a truly engaging teaching playlist. We all have to work to expand our library of interesting tracks. I keep working on cool lessons / structures thirteen years into teaching. I only know this for sure - it takes a lot of rewrites, collaboration, coaching and reading to tear the roof off the classroom!

For that reason, I'll continue to pull resources together here with the caveat that this whole page is a work in progress. For my part I probably have 100 more "tracks" on the 'ol hard drive that I hope to blog about/share in the years to come.

Some of the tracks below are written solo, some with the Mindblue crew, and others have been done with my teaching colleagues - they are usually designed for use at the 6-college level. Generally, elementary educators need to simplify the existing models. You, elementary rockstars, are ALWAYS welcome to share your remixes of these plays here on MC POP. Additionally, I when MC POPPERS add strategies across the Ning, I will add them to the list below as I have done with Bill Zimmerman's and Makek Bennett's post/projects below.

I can't wait to read things other people share!

The page is partly inspired by Jim Burke's incredible "playlists" Reading Reminders and Writing Reminders.

No matter what level you're teaching at you can always dip into those texts to add a play to your repertoire. Burke runs one of the biggest education Nings, The English Companion Ning, and it is essential social networking if you're a language or ELA teacher.

One could argue that Burke is the Homer of reading and writing because great teaching "tracks" are passed down from teacher to teacher like the great epic poems. For this reason, It is hard to track down the exact origins of these teaching practices. For example, Harvey Daniels is usually synonymous with Cooperative Learning & Lit Circles but I suspect he refined existing practices. With the help of MC POPPER Debbie Abilock (editor of Knowledge Quest) I was able to learn who invented K-W-L (Check out the KQ article "Creating Contexts for Inquiry" in their September/October 2009 Issue).

Generally, it is hard to put your finger on the OGs behind these ideas (not Original Gangstas people, I'm talking about Original Generators)!

That being said, we no longer live in an oral culture, so even though Burke's books are some of the most useful texts I own - I hope his editorial team puts some additional mojo into documenting the origins of some of his "reminders" in the next editions of his books. Using the same logic, I probably have to work harder to credit the random jpegs I use in blogs.

Because of the odd, somewhat public domain, way teaching practices are transmitted from classroom to classroom, I decided to divide the playbook into categories that acknowledge the challenge of attribution. To keep things rock and roll I've broken the playbook into originals, remixes and covers.
Click here to read the playlist at present!


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