Aya Academy of Excellence


Netflix: Black History Month Through Film

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I milk every ounce of the $7 I pay Netflix each month.  I scraped cable nearly four years ago and have not looked back.  A family member was lamenting last week that there was nothing on television, although she forks over a cool $70+ per month on satellite services.  I had to to fight from giving a Kanye shrug. WINNING!

Aside from Binge watching television programming like Law and Order and Frasier, Netflix provides me access to quite a few independent films and theatrical releases that didn’t last too long in the theater.

This month, there are quite a few interesting films to watch during Black History Month.  So if you have considered adding Netflix to your entertainment cadre, this would be an advantageous time to do so. When watching films with children, you can use the Story Chips tool to assist in establishing thoughtful dialogue.  Also, consider incorporating a hands-on project after viewing, such as creating a movie poster for the film highlighting one o the pivotal scenes or important themes.

 

Here’s a list of sixteen films presently available for viewing for each of the remaining days of Black History Month.

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  1. Winnie Mandela – a biopic starring Jennifer Hudson as the South African leader who triumphed over incarceration and her husband’s twenty-seven year imprisonment. The last decade shown in the film is some of the most gripping as it shows her relationship with Mandela and the ANC fractured due to her embracing militant ideals and practices.
  2. The Black Panther Mixtape – I’m watching the tail-end of this Swedish documentary now.  It’s intriguing to observe the words of Stokely Carmichael (I did not know he was Trinidadian) and Bobby Seale laced with John Forte and Talib Kewli.  The timeline format aids in understanding how events unfolded and attitudes shifted.
  3. Surviving Katrina – a documentary on the hurricane which raged through New Orleans and exposed the socio-political issues we have in our nation.
  4. Hard Lessons – Starring Denzel Washington, this drama based on real-life events tells the story of George McKenna, the tough, determined new principal of a notorious Los Angeles high school. 
  5. The Long Walk Home – A film, starring Whoopi Goldberg, about the Montgomery bus boycott from the perspective of a white woman and her black housekeeper.
  6. The Journey of August King – a film about a runaway slave during the 1815.
  7. Savannah – A film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as a freed slave during Reconstruction and his friendship with an aristocratic white man.
  8. Night Catches Us – Starring Kerri Washington, a film depicting a former Panther and his re-connection with the daughter of a former Panther leader.
  9. Salute – a short documentary on the 1968 Olympic historic moment when two champions raised the black fist salute at the medal podium.
  10. Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin – A documentary about one of the major architects of the Civil Rights Movement. 
  11. Shaft – Starring Samuel L. Jackson in the John Singleton remake based on the story created by illustrious photographer Gordon Parks.
  12. Luv, Starring Common as a man returning home after eight years in prison.
  13. A Band Called Death – a documentary about three Detroit brothers who formed the first African American punk  band.
  14. Akeelah and the Bee – A middle school girl capitalizes on her love of words to participate in the National Spelling Bee Competition. 
  15. Gifted Hands – Cuba Gooding, Jr portrays neurosurgeon Ben Carson in a biopic showing his development from a struggling student into an expert physician. 
  16. All Things Fall Apart – Under the direction of Mario Van Peeples, 50 Cents stars as a gifted college running back whose world turns upside down when a crisis jeopardizes his professional ambitions — and teaches him some life lessons.

When Angela Speaks…

When Angela Speaks...

Someone needs to do a study on why there are so many males, often jocks, who comprise the social studies departments in this country. And within that study, it would be intriguing to read how their world view impresses upon the learner the historical record of our nation and world. While I was growing up, all of my social studies teachers were male. I loved to hear their accounts of the movers and shakers of the past…all interspersed with recollections of last Sunday’s big game. But to the ‘victors go the spoils.’ Those who hold the position of telling the history of society have the ability to shape that history based on their personal perspective.

While at the craft store Michael’s after church this afternoon, my daughter showed me a magazine and asked, “Who are they?’ The front cover was an image of the Beatles from the 1960s. Quite a bit of pop culture and history dissipates from one generation to the next. If we are not careful, significant people and events will fade from memory as well.

None of my social studies teachers taught lessons or provided activities based on the contributions of black Americans…or Latino Americans…or Asian Americans. That learning came later, independently. For families who want to instill a sense of legacy within their children, relying solely on the school’s curriculum may not be the most effective recourse. So how can families impart culturally relevant teaching at home and within their community? Here are a few ideas:

1. There are some cultures which invest in half day academic and cultural studies learning. Muslim families, Asian families and those following the Catholic and Jewish faiths, send their children to classes to learn the language and practices of their culture. Find or form classes with like-minded families.

2. Living literature. Some home-school families approach the learning of history and culture through reading novels and biographies. Create a reading list with the help of your local librarian that is thematic or chronological.

3. Multimedia. This approach is similar to living literature, except that it uses music, theatrical films and documentaries in lieu of books.

4. Dialogue. Engage people in conversation who have accounts of historical experiences.

Building historical memory aids in bridging understanding between generations and cultures, sexes. It assists with helping society in getting a pulse check to ascertain how we got were we are today based on the circumstances and people of the past. There are times when I get dismayed that the younger generation carries themselves in a fashion that does not honor the struggle of the past. However, it is difficult to hold them accountable to a history they are unaware of and therefore cannot appreciate.


Teaching with Picture Books: Part 1

When I began teaching in the 1990’s I had the great fortune of experiencing baptism by fire. Although my alma mater, the illustrious Hoftsra University boasts one of the most laudable teaching preparation programs in the nation, very little can prepare you for becoming a middle school teacher in a community grappling with severe issues of poverty, drug use and crime. Every issue a community faces is reflected in the lives of its children and as a classroom teacher, these issues become ones that must be recognized and faced.

Understandably, while students are juggling immense socio-economic family and community issues, academic advancement becomes challenged. Author Eric Jensen’s Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, discusses how parental academic achievement, and specifically the areas of vocabulary acquisition and executive function, impact the learning of students. In a nutshell, parents are the springboard to their children’s learning. What parents know and the academic norms they possess, can affect how well a child will learn.

So in 1996, when three eleven year old boys ‘would not’ pay attention or participate in our guided reading activities, I had to learn through experience that their inability was attributed to the text being inaccessible. Although they were in the sixth grade, they were each reading several grade levels behind. One student could not sound out the word ‘great’ in a social studies passage on Alexander the Great. At that moment, I realized that the text was a hindrance and headed to the local library where I scoured the shelves for picture books on the ancient civilizations we were studying. By using fiction and non-fiction picture books, the content was accessible and my students were able to cull historical information about ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome.

Picture books, as mentor texts, are bridges parents at home and teachers at school, can use to provide context for science or history content. When I home-schooled my daughters, we read a few picture books each week on historic figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Mandela and Wilma Rudolph. The vivid imagery helped build engagement and the shorter passages meant that we could dive into another person’s life at least every other day.

20/20 Tapestry Curriculum Reading Selection for The Trailblazers' Lesson Plan

20/20 Tapestry Curriculum Reading Selection for The Trailblazers’ Lesson Plan

For our 20/20 Tapestry Curriculum, we have a list of picture books suited for the study of African American history. Our curriculum is divided into twenty lessons, each uncovering a specific archetype – moguls, inventors, champions, etc. During our journey of discovery of The Trailblazer, we investigate the American cowboy through the adventures of Bass Reeves, Stage Coach Mary Fields and Nate Love. Check out our video to learn how Jerdine Nolen’s Thunder Rose can be used to teach language development and history, all while engaging young listeners through an interactive approach.



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