Friday, September 28, 2012

Banananovia II

Yeah... you decide:
Who is that guy?  Mr. Frizwhitelbecker.  Bam!  And he can even snowboard.  Poorly.

We broke down the Banananovian story today.  We looked at the ingredients in its culture, and how they changed.  Most of our time was spent debating whether we should have contacted them or not.  Unfortunately, we didn't get that all sorted out.  Both sides were argued well.

We also looked at a story I came across today on CNN.  It was interesting, and related to Banananovia in a number of ways.  Sometimes people mock others - or the culture of others - and they do it without thinking, or realizing it's inappropriate.  Often, they are bringing themselves down in the act.

In order to get the extra credit for today's blog, read it and discuss it with an adult.  Some questions to ask: should it be illegal to contact uncontacted peoples?  How does globalization help and hurt smaller cultures?

When you're done, write two sentences from your discussion on a scrap piece of paper, then have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banananovia Goes Global

Well, I thought I might record the Banananovia story this year, but I didn't have time to get it all hooked up.  Hollywood, you'll have to wait at least one more year before your next big star can take off.

I've heard there are some pictures of Mr. Shaun White Frizzle floating around out there.  If I come across any I'll post them.  I did an image search on Shaun White to see if we were as similar as everybody said.  I think the real Shaun White would be highly insulted if he heard the comparisons.  So, sir: please don't blame me.  Blame the students.  They're the ones who compared us.

The Banananovia story is a look at culture, globalization, and the loss of culture.  The question for tomorrow is, "Was it worth it?"  It's interesting that this question actually comes up for Anthropologists.  The ethical and moral implications of the question: should we contact uncontacted tribal nations abound.  And as of 2010, there were over 100 "Uncontacted Tribes" in the world.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  We'll talk about that tomorrow.

We also watched the "Banksy Simpsons Intro."  When it comes to globalization, there's a lot to think about.  Yesterday I said that the search for cheap labor was the driving force behind globalization.  Perhaps the Banksy Intro is overstated (I mean, the unicorn is a bit much...)  But it makes its point - even if it's biting the proverbial hand that's feeding it and perhaps misplacing some of its outrage.

Truth be told, there are a lot of companies - American and other that outsource jobs to get around labor laws.  Nike, Adidas, Walmart, as well as many others have been accused of such practices.  Whether the allegations are true or not, they're worth talking about.

Here's the Banksy Intro in case you're interested in watching it:

Well, I think that's enough writing for today.  I'm sure all you extra credit lovers have other stuff you want to get to as well.  If you want the extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Talk about:

  • Banannovia
    • What was the story about?
    • Who were the Banananovians?
    • Was what happened to them good or bad?  Why?
  • The Simpsons Intro
    • How did that tie in with the Sweatshirt Map we looked at yesterday?
    • What parts of the intro were fake?

When you're done discussing, write two questions you have about Banananovia (or anything else we're discussing in class) on a sheet of paper.  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Banananovia Begins

One of these days, I'm going to have to tape my Banananovia story.  I was going to this year, but I'm splitting it up into two parts.

Maybe I'll still go down to the media center and get a camera.  We'll see.

Students, if you're reading this for extra credit, you'll have to tell the adult what the story is about so far.  It's just been introduced.

We also played a little bit of Jenga today.  I thought it was a nice little object lesson for globalization and interdependence.  (Our definition - or perhaps the book's definition of globalization is 'the development of a world culture and interdependent (world) economy.)

In Jenga, a point comes where every block relies on every other block for support.  All of the blocks are interdependent.

If you want extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Talk about Jenga and Banananovia.  Explain why making a sweatshirt in the U.S. would probably cost more than if it was made in China.  On a scrap piece of paper, tell me if you're looking forward to the second part of the story or not.  If you're not, that's ok.  I'll take an honest person over a sycophant any day.  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Libby's Story and Globalization

For bellwork today, we read "Libby's Story."  To tell you the truth, I have no idea where it came from or who wrote it.  A colleague of mine was using it, so I swiped it from him.  I tried to find out online, but no author is given.  (Although, lots of teachers are using it...)

The bellwork deals with globalization, cultural borrowing, and cultural diffusion.  I had students read the story and answer some questions about it before we discussed it.

This is a short post, but it's worth mentioning I'm giving students extra credit if they bring in a "Made in _______" tag.  This extra credit only lasts this week.  Also, they can only get credit for one tag, even if they bring in a box-full.

 Students: if you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, you have to (I'm sure you'll find this shocking) read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Here are some things you may consider talking about:
  • What was Libby's Story about
  • What is a "world culture"
  • What does interdependent mean?
  • Do you use anything that comes from a different culture?
When you're done, find a piece of scrap paper and write down three words from the discussion you had.  Have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper, and turn it in in the extra credit tray.  (As always, make sure your name, date and hour are on there as well.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cultural Borrowing?

Continuing on with the theme of cultures, we read about cultural borrowing and cultural diffusion today.  The bellwork asked for examples of another culture that have made their way into our culture.

Some classes noted that Native Americans probably didn't speak too much English prior to 1492.  Or 1592.  Or 1692.

I tried to differentiate between Native American culture and present-day American culture, but I'm sure some of that was lost.

We went over the quiz.  I was surprised how many students got tripped up over the map section.  You may want to ask them what was different about it, and why it was different.

Here's the real question though: what does borrowing mean?  If you borrow something, what does that imply?

Yet, cultural borrowing is when something from one culture makes its way to another culture: i.e. pizza coming from Italy, Spanish moving in from South America and Mexico, K-Pop arriving en force within the past couple of weeks.  Are these cultures expecting it back?  Is Pizza Hut going to have to stop selling pizza in 2015?

As always, if you want extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Maybe come up with a better way of phrasing "cultural borrowing."  Then, when you're done, find a scrap piece of paper and write down your favorite piece of "borrowed culture" that's made its way to America, and why it's your favorite.  Then have the adult that you discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ingredients of Culture - Pictures

So, the students created some visual representations of the ingredients of culture for homework last night.

I thought you all might like to see a couple.

I will say I was bummed out because several students with really awesome pictures didn't turn in their work because they weren't finished.  Oh well.  As a college prof. of mine always used to say, "Perfection is the enemy of done."

(Also, I generally don't grade for spelling.  So, if you notice spelling errors - just ignore them.)

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

To get the extra credit, discuss the pictures with an adult.  Tell which one is your favorite and why.  Explain what you think they are trying to show - and how it comes across.  Discuss ingredients, and how each one of these goes into making a culture.

When you are finished, describe your favorite picture on a sheet of scrap paper.  Have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Turn it in on Monday.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homework? What Homework?

That's right folks, you all had homework in social studies today.  (Ok, 2nd hour is exempt... so parents, if your kid is in my 2nd hour class and says, "I'm not lying, Mr. Habecker didn't assign it to us," he's telling the truth.)

At any rate, if that's not finished, it might be a good idea to finish it up as soon as you're done reading and discussing the blog.

Today in class we wrote the second part of the cultural ingredients story, I spilled the beans on yesterday's blog/facebook secret, and then most classes worked on the cultural ingredients chart.  (If you were absent, you can download it by clicking on the link.)

If you want the extra credit, you have to have read and discussed the blog with an adult.  Some topics you may consider discussing: the ingredients of culture, how your pictures turned out, the story you wrote...  I don't know.  Discuss whatever you want.  It's your life.

When you're done discussing the blog, write two sentences.  One should describe the picture you drew to represent "food."  The other should describe the picture you drew to represent "customs."  Then, have the adult you read it with sign the scrap of paper, signifying that you really did read and discuss the blog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cultural Ingredients Story

Remember, if you want the extra credit you have to read and discuss this post with an adult.

It's interesting how our culture permeates all aspects of our lives.  The technology you are using to read this right now is an example of our standard of living.  You're reading it in English - proving that you are both literate (another indicator of a high standard of living) and that you can speak this language: another ingredient of culture.  The fact that you are reading it tells me you care about your education (or the education of your child) which indicates your values. 

Ah, social studies, how I love thee.  You are my North, my South, my East, my West.  My working week and my Sunday rest.  You are everywhere, and I don't know where I would be without you.

Most classes finished up the list of cultural ingredients today.  You can ask them about standard of living.  We talked about cars, and tvs, but we also talked about more complex examples like infant mortality rate and literacy rate.  See if they remember what these are.  It's ok if they don't remember, it was just introduced.  If you're up for it, and you haven't spent too much time reading this, you could click on those two links.  They'll take you to the CIA World Factbook.  It lists countries with the highest and lowest infant mortality rate, and shows literacy rate alphabetically.  There are also definitions.

The students also started a story today.  It could have been about anything, but they had to include 5 of the ingredients of culture.  I saw a lot of good ones.  Some were non-fiction, but we also had some from the perspective of aliens, dogs, dolphins, and pirates, of course.

You're probably reading this because you want extra credit.  In order to get the extra credit for reading and discussing the post write a couple sentences on a scrap piece of paper.  Tell me how the discussion went, and maybe what all you talked about.  And tell me what your parents/grandparents/foster-parents/etc... thought about your bellwork story.  Then, have them sign the paper.  Adult-type-people: by signing the paper you're saying, "yes, we really did read and discuss this."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another Short Post

We are steadily working our way through the ingredients of culture.  This is the list so far:
  • food
  • dress
  • language
  • the arts
  • religion
  • ethnicity
  • government
  • customs
There are only two more on our list, and we'll hit those tomorrow.  From here, there we'll start looking at specific ingredients of culture - the more complicated ones: government and religion.

In order to get the extra credit points for reading discussing the blog today,  write down the following quote on a scrap of paper: "Sic transit gloria." (Of course it goes without saying that this implies you did discuss the blog.  If you didn't, spend 3 minutes or so discussing it - or today's social studies class in general.)  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.  Make sure your name date and hour are on there as well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Making a Better Cultural Cake

On Friday, we started looking at the ingredients of culture.  I think we made it as far as food, dress and language.  Today we made it a little farther, getting through religion, the arts, and customs.  So, I guess that puts us up to 6 of the 10 I list for class.

I entitled this post, "Making a Better Cake" because if you don't have enough of the correct ingredients, the cake is probably not going to be that good.  Our view of culture is expanding. 

Most importantly, we studied ethnocentrism in a little more detail.  Ethnocentrism is not limited to racism.  Any of the ingredients of culture can be subject to prejudice.  Generally speaking, any time we are offended, it can be tied to our culture.

In order to get the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog today, students should discuss the following questions with the adult they read it with:
  • How important is it to be culturally sensitive?  Why?
  • Has negative ethnocentrism ever been directed at you?
  • Have you ever been ethnocentric?
  • What is the difference between showing preference and being ethnocentric?  (For instance, someone might prefer Indian food over French food - does that make them ethnocentric?)
When you're done, write 3 sentences/ thoughts from your discussion on a scrap of paper.  Have the adult sign the paper.  Put it in the extra credit tray tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Intro to Cultures

We started in on the ingredients of culture today.  The bellwork question asked about American culture.  What are some things that make Americans who they are?  What do Americans like to do?  What do they speak, eat, play, wear?  What are some qualities they have, and what do they value?

There were a lot of questions along those lines.  I was impressed with the student responses.  Ultimately, we got the idea that America is extremely diverse - and yet we have a distinct culture that we can identify as "American."

I brought up the point that America is interesting in that anybody can become an American after 5 years.  If they choose citizenship, they will be as American as I am.  As American as my mother and father.  It's not the same as if I went to China, or Eritrea.  I could live there 20 years and not be "as Chinese" or "as Eritrean" as my neighbor.

We started the discussion with food - we'll go through a list of 10 ingredients of culture...  The list is definitely not exhaustive.

We also discussed ethnocentrism - which is the belief that your culture is superior to or better than other cultures.  We discussed it in regard to food, but of course, it goes deeper than that.

If you want the extra credit points for reading and discussing the blog with an adult, here are some questions I'd like you to discuss with them: what does the picture at the top of today's blog mean?  What is the point?  Give an example of something American culture took (or borrowed) from another culture and made it into it's own.

Adults, please remember that by signing the half sheet of paper, you're saying that you really did discuss the blog.  Please don't just sign the paper.  (Even if you only discuss it for 5 minutes.)

In Language Arts you probably learned about the Simple 6.  (If you haven't, you will.)  One of the Simple 6 is "challenging vocabulary."  On a scrap piece of paper, I want you to write down 3 challenging vocabulary words from this post, along with their definitions.  (Yes, you may have to look them up, but hey... you're online right now.  Just google search define:__________________ and the definition should come up.)  When you're done, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reasons and Embassies

Maybe this has happened to you: someone tells a joke - and you don't get it.  But everybody else is laughing.  What do you do?  I'm betting it depends on the amount of energy you have, right?  Sometimes you'll fake it and laugh along, not wanting to look stupid.  Sometimes you'll roll your eyes and act like you're above the joke.  Occasionally, you'll look confused or stare blankly at the person telling the joke.

Nobody wants to be on the outside.  People don't want to feel stupid.

Yesterday on facebook, there was a lot of talk going around about the attacks on the Libyan Embassy .  Sometimes I have students ask why they need to learn "this stuff."  I asked them about the joke - mentioned above, and asked how many of them have facebook.  Certainly, at their age, most are probably not commenting on Libya.  But the idea is the same: it is important to be informed and stay informed, and (in general) nobody likes looking stupid.  If I didn't know a little bit about Islam, Muslims, Libya, the Arab Spring, etc... I would have been an intellectual outsider.

In class, we transitioned from the 9/11 attacks (and the reasons for them) into a discussion about foreign policy - that different countries have different cultures, customs and laws.  We discussed Islamic extremists and the Westboro Baptist Church.  We talked about embassies and ambassadors.

I used the embassy discussion to jump into the topic of cultures.  We'll spend a little bit of time on this.

If you want the extra credit for reading the blog today, you have to read it and discuss it with an adult.  Maybe discuss why Osama Bin Laden attacked the U.S.  What are Navy SEALs?  What is an extremist?... Bring up those types of questions.

When you're done, write two thoughts or questions from the discussion you had.  Then, have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

EC Survey

Chances are some of you are reading the blog today because of the Extra Credit Survey I passed out.  I'll be interested in the results of the survey, and I'm planning on using it to inform my teaching and use of this blog in the classroom.

We finished up our 9/11 stations today - and for the most part wrapped up our discussions.  We may talk about it a little bit tomorrow as well, but we're probably ready to move on.

We did watch a time-lapsed video of Freedom Tower being built.  I had a lot of questions about that yesterday.  I think I gave some of my students some incorrect information about the tower today.  I said that I didn't think it was completed yet, but wikipedia says it was "topped out" in August, due to open in 2013.  ...I'll have to make sure I clarify that tomorrow.  My brother lives in Brooklyn and often works in Manhattan.  He was supposed to get me some original pictures of it.  Come on man.  Seriously, bro.

By the way, here's the video in case you're interested:

If you want the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog with an adult today, discuss the following question: what would get more students to read the extra credit blog, or play the extra credit geography games?  After discussing this, write the following quote on a piece of scrap paper: "We should never have lived like we were skyscrapers."  Then, have the adult you read the blog with sign the paper.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Stations

Today students walked around the room looking at political cartoons dealing with 9/11.  All the cartoons had spiral questions, starting with the obvious and leading to a deeper understanding of what the artist was trying to say.

I'm off to grade them, so you're left with a short post again today.

In order to get the extra credit for reading and discussing the blog, describe two or three of the pictures from today to the adult that you read the blog with.  When you're done, write the description of one of the political cartoons on a sheet of paper, and have the adult sign it.

Don't forget to put your name, date, and hour on the paper.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Who's Michael Jordan?

Tomorrow is the anniversary of 9/11.  Most of us probably don't remember that at the time Michael Jordan was considering coming out of retirement.  In fact, that was the news of the morning. 

I asked my students today how many of them knew who Michael Jordan is.  Almost all of them raised their hands.  They said things like, "Who doesn't know who Michael Jordan is?!?!" with something like contempt in their voices.

"It's crazy," I said, egging them on, "Seriously, I have students who don't know who Michael Jordan is."

Guffaws from the class.  "You can't really blame them, because most of them were barely alive in 2001.  This is after his prime, when he came back out of retirement.  Isn't it weird though," I continued, "that I have students who don't know who he was?"
Resounding consent from the classroom.

"So, you can imagine how I feel when I tell you that the majority of my students have no recollection of 9/11.  I'm neither shocked nor saddened - they were barely alive at the time.  But it is a strange feeling.  How can they not have heard about the single most important historical event of my lifetime?"

That may be extreme.  The majority of my students have heard about 9/11, but they know very little about it.  I don't blame them, but it is a surreal feeling.  I feel like I'm on the HMS Firebrand. I see the rocks ahead - I know that the students are going to know less and less about this event - but I can't turn the ship around.

Maybe this is even worse, but I think it's the last year I'll teach the lesson.  It's not in our standards, and there is such a push to teach to the test.  But I still feel like it's important.  It's worth it.

At any rate, if you read and discussed the blog and want the extra credit, discuss 9/11 with the adult you read the blog with.  See what they remember about it.  Then write down some of their thoughts (at least three sentences) and have them sign the paper.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Graded and What Not

I know I'm a little late putting this post up.  Sorry to those of you who were hoping to get a ba-jillion extra credit points.  You'll now have to settle with 5 less than that.  (Unless you're checking this after 7:30 PM Sunday night.)

So, the reason I didn't update the blog on Friday was because I was updating your grades instead.  There's something to be said for extra credit, but there's something even more to be said for timely feedback.

If you want to check and see how you did on that quiz, it's on STI.  Go ahead and look.  I hope you aced it.  Yeah, you.  The reader reading this right now.  ...If perchance you're not in my class and you happen to be reading this, I hope that you ace the next test you take.

In case you're wondering what we did in class on Friday, we read an excerpt from Dava Sobel's book: Longitude.   Then the students had a little quiz.

In order to get extra credit, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  (Maybe tell them what happened in the story from the bellwork...  I'll give you a hint: Shipwreck.)  When you're done, write the following quote on a scrap piece of paper: "Another hour flying by, and if you told me I was wonderful I probably would wonder why."  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign the paper.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I don't get to see my kids too much these days.  I coach volleyball and have games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so generally speaking they're in bed before I get home.  The rest of the week we have time for dinner and story, and then they're in bed.

My wife sent me a picture of Gwennie - she had her first day of preschool today.  Apparently, she had some advice for my students:

Well Gwennie, overall the students are doing a good job.  They come in and start working right away.

While they were working on their bellwork today, I gave my first binder check.  Remember, organization is the key to success in junior high. 

The bellwork asked if they knew what caused the earth to have seasons.  (Students, you can check and see if the adult you're reading this with knows the answer.)  Then we watched this short (2:18) clip:

So, did you know the answer? 

Finally, we worked with globes in the classroom.  I gave out coordinates, and students worked together figuring out the country.

If you want credit for reading and discussing this blog with an adult, write a short explanation of why earth has seasons on a scrap piece of paper.  Then, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.  Make sure your name, date and class hour are on the paper.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You Know It, But Can You Find It

*EDIT*  I couldn't insert this picture from school since the website's still blocked.  I'm putting it at the beginning rather than the end, that way if you read this earlier and you're coming back to it, you'll catch it.  Hopefully you figure out why I put it on here after reading the whole post.


The past week we've been doing a lot with latitude and longitude.  Today we put it what we've learned into practice on a map.  Students had to use latitude and longitude to find various countries on a map of the world.

Here's a list of the coordinates I used in the class.  If you were absent today, it might be a good idea to check it out.  You'll have to find a map of the world online somewhere since I only have a classroom set of National Geographic Maps.  Maybe try THIS ONE.

We also broke out the globes and used latitude and longitude to find places on them as well.  I also pointed out why maps are not perfect representations of the globe.

I should probably mention how much time bellwork took.  I want my students to gain a spacial understanding of the world in here.  Granted, I think that true appreciation of this comes with age and travel - but I have them draw a map of the world once a week.  Eventually, they should be able to get one relatively quickly - under two minutes.  Today, I let them look off another map so they could better get the shape and scale of each continent.  Many students had ovals or circles for the continents on the first day - and they were in the wrong spots.  The students were were really supposed to focus today.  The maps didn't have to be perfect, but no circles.  Sometimes it helps if they imagine the continents as something else.  I always see a cat when I see Australia.  (No offense if you're Australian...) 

Remember, to get the extra credit, you have to read the blog with an adult, and discuss it.  If you did this, see if you can draw a map of the world from memory in under two minutes and have the adult you discussed the blog with sign it.  Do not take more than two minutes on the map.  If you want to practice drawing  them, that's fine... but make sure your math and language arts homework is done.

I should probably also say that the original (pre-cat) map/picture came from THIS SITE.  I'm not sure if it matters, and the copyright expired in 2010.  But credit where credit is due.  I like to think that I'm adding value, although the mapmakers may disagree.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Day, A Shorter Prep...

It's crazy that 5 minutes can make all the difference, but I have to cut this post short.  If you're wondering what we did in class today: we looked at some more latitude and longitude problems, played one last game of Latitude and Longitude Battleship, and looked at the globes for a while.

Tomorrow we'll use the globes most of the hour.  We'll see how it goes.

In order to get the extra credit today, plot out the following on the chart below: (10°N, 5°E) and (20°S,15°W).

Parents/Adult reading this, ask whoever you're reading it with how they got to those points.  If they could adequately explain it write: "RIGHT ON!" on a piece of scrap paper and sign it.  If you feel like they couldn't adequately explain it, write: "We'll get em next time" on a scrap of paper and sign it.