Monthly Archives: June 2014

PBS LearningMedia’s Past/Present

Past Present full cast cropped

Now that summer is almost here, it’s time to get gaming! The time: May 1906. The place: The mythical town of Eureka Falls. Reach into a piece of American history with PBS LearningMedia’s Past/Present, an interactive desktop computer game and website designed to impart decision-making and critical thinking skills. Your students will impersonate one of two protagonists: Anna Caruso, a young Italian immigrant worker, or Walter Armbruster, the mill’s young manager. Set against the backdrop of growing labor struggles in an economically harsh climate, Past/Present transports your students to a tense time where labor unrest is on the rise.

As they play, Anna or Walter will make choices that determine their next action. They’ll be asked to accomplish a series of goals and objectives, solve mysteries and collect evidence to answer three big questions that will support pro and con views on key issues that can be discussed in the classroom post-game. At the game’s conclusion, they commit themselves to a position on a volatile topic: for Anna, to strike or not? For Walter, to negotiate or not? Their choices result in an epilogue tailored to their experience. Students will actually look forward to playing this creative game and the accompanying teaching materials will make your life a whole lot easier too! (Grades: 5-10)

Shakespeare Uncovered

Shakespeare David Tennant

William Shakespeare may be the author best known for his use of soliloquy. The literary device, in which characters directly address the audience and share their innermost thoughts, appears in Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and many other Shakespearean plays. Though soliloquies are often considered dense, intimidating, old fashioned and confusing, they still are used as popular dramatic plot devices in books, movies and even television shows.

In this PBS LearningMedia series of videos from PBS’ Shakespeare Uncovered, students explore the use of soliloquy as a device to reveal character and advance plot. They consider how using soliloquy perhaps more truthfully exposes character than other devices like dialogue. In addition, students focus particularly on Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech and discuss how and why the topics are best explored through soliloquy. Get inspiration from the accompanying teacher tips to have students identify soliloquy in some of today’s popular television shows such as “Modern Family” and “The Office.” No better way to tie in the new with the old! (Grades: 8-12) Open the resource here:

Anytime, Anywhere Summer Learning

logoIntroductory Remarks for Anytime, Anywhere Summer Learning
by Michael H. Levine, Ph.D.
June 10, 2014

First, what can we do across sectors to recognize a tremendous drain on our children’s capacity to learn? The fact is that for far too many kids, summer time is part of a profoundly disturbing cycle—millions of preschoolers and elementary school children have precious few opportunities to engage in enriching activities that so many of their higher income peers experience as a matter of course. These kids suffer from limited access to academically or socially valuable experiences within communities that are often distressed with high unemployment, shortened hours of public utilities like libraries, and a paucity of safe outdoor activities that nourish children’s minds, bodies, and souls. And many of the academic “summer school” programs that do exist are often focused on remedial work with limited value.

Second, can we mobilize parents—especially those who are deeply connected to their kids, but who have limited resources and education to do more? We need to reach more vulnerable parents to encourage them to offer their kids a daily dose of proven interactions to intentionally build oral language abilities, to connect them to reading and storytelling experiences at home as well as by to take advantage of fun activities in their libraries, museums, schools, and community centers.

Third, can we help break the summer slide with those community programs that are modernizing their approaches—finding cool ways to get kids and families focused on reading. Today you will hear from some great state-based and community efforts that may be ready to scale.

And fourth, how can we harness technology and well-designed educational media more effectively? Given the fact that the average 3rd grader is engaged with some media platform over 7 hours a day during the school year, according to the Kaiser family foundation—and presumably even longer hours during the summer—what will it take to encourage a new media “food” pyramid? Can we find a way to balance the many tech calories that teach children the skills of communicating with friends on Facebook or playing video games throughout the day, with new habits that certainly encourage two of the old R’s—reading and writing with three new essential 21st century skills—creating, communicating and coding? For the entire blog post, please visit: