". . .the word of God is not bound." II Tim. 2:9b

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Who Is My Neighbor? Better Information Means Better Compassion

But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:29


nonfiction 2017 book reading Europe Syria
The New Odyssey
Just finished reading The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis. Patrick Kingsley's reporting goes beyond information to find the heart of the story, the individuals and families who seek asylum from political upheaval and terrorism.

In addition to telling a captivating story, this book is a vital handbook to response for elected officials, students, humanitarian volunteer workers, prayer warriors, donors, voters, and people who simply want to be better informed about their world. Teachers of current events and world history in public high schools should consider making this book part of the curriculum.

Reading this book did not change my mind about what I think my own response to the refugee crisis ought to be. It informed my thinking and (although it is not a religious book) reinforced my belief that Christ calls us to compassion more often than to safety. If my neighbor is in need, I hope to be a Christian who shares what she has, rather than one who shuts the door and ignores my neighbor's knocking.

Who is my neighbor? The example of Jesus and the parables He told reveal that we must sometimes cross cultural and religious "borders" to help our neighbors. If biblical precedent is not enough, may books like The New Odyssey help believers everywhere to set aside their fears, cross borders, and offer aid to the world's most vulnerable.

Link Love
Follow Amy on Goodreads.

On March 8, read Amy's guest blog post "Getting To Conflict: The Absolute Necessity of Unpleasantness in Fiction" on The Artist Unleashed.

Sit in on Amy's narrative writing session at the Idaho Federal Programs Conference at the Boise Centre April 7. Teachers will learn how to use Choose Your Own Adventure story structure to teach ELA standards in narrative writing. Hyperlink your story's alternate endings using Google Docs and you have a current take on a 1980s reader favorite that inspired the gamebook genre.

Monday, February 20, 2017

New Tab: Autism Resource Links

"I will give thanks to You, 
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well."
Psalm 139:14 (NASB)


We've added an Autism resource tab to the top of the Christian Teacher, Public School blog. This small effort won't lead to the most exhaustive list of Autism Spectrum resources on the Web. Instead, I hope it helps readers of this blog form connections at crucial times in their journeys with autism (whether as parents, teachers, or as people on the Spectrum themselves) and to help others along the way.

Interested in writing about autism in the public school setting? I would like to connect with guest bloggers who are teachers or who are parents of public school children on the Spectrum. On the Spectrum yourself? Even better.

Here are some tips on writing about Autism for Christian Teacher, Public School:

  • Be clear: Who are you and why are your writing about this topic? What's your point? What are you helping/asking readers to do?
  • Be current and accurate in your research, citing sources as appropriate
  • Explain acronyms on the first use
  • Be personal, revealing actual perspectives of real people on the Autism Spectrum, not assumptions
  • Obtain permission, change names as appropriate, and be accurate in your representations of others
  • Connect readers to resources (lesson plans, accommodations, blogs, books, local chapters of Autism organizations, support groups, conferences, etc.)
  • Keep a positive and constructive tone
  • Be original (only your own work that hasn't appeared online before)
  • Keep the audience in mind. We exist specifically for Christian teachers who teach in public schools, although others may find us helpful. Our preferred content is uplifting, spiritually-relevant, and biblically-literate. We believe that God created all neurotypes as a reflection of His creativity, uniqueness, power, glory, and love. We celebrate autism as a gift from the creator. Not every article need express this perspective overtly, and "preaching" is not wanted. Just let your light shine.

How to Submit
Please query before sending submissions for consideration. Contact Amy Ballard by email at amy (at) amyballard (dot) com. Nominal payment may be available for quality content on Autism in the public school, especially if written by teachers or students (current or former) with Autism. We'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stepping Stones: Children's Books on Immigration and Refugees

"And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."  Matthew 10:42

In keeping with my recent readings about the refugee crisis, I thought I would pass along a superb roundup of children's books about refugees. Jen Gann at NYMag.com's The Cut praises titles such as Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey by Margriet Ruurs for help with "explaining to children that the heart and soul of America is to welcome others to our country who need a safe place to make a home."

Stepping Stones


How can teachers use books like Stepping Stones in the classroom?
  • Read aloud and notice how illustrations enhance the narrative
  • Make predictions about what will happen after the end of the story
  • Pair with art lessons; allow students to illustrate part of the story in a different art medium
  • Conduct a Socratic seminar using the book and related texts to explore the facts and controversies of the refugee crisis
  • Give an art show displaying student interpretations of the story in art and poetry
  • Pair with current news articles and photos
  • Create a classroom newspaper with students' articles about the refugee crisis
  • Springboard to writing assignments like song lyrics, diary entries, letters, and research essays

From the blurb for Stepping Stones on Amazon.com: 

This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, discovered by chance by Canadian children’s writer Margriet Ruurs. The author was immediately impressed by the strong narrative quality of Mr. Badr’s work, and, using many of Mr. Badr’s already-created pieces, she set out to create a story about the Syrian refugee crisis. Stepping Stones tells the story of Rama and her family, who are forced to flee their once-peaceful village to escape the ravages of the civil war raging ever closer to their home. With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. Nizar Ali Badr’s stunning stone images illustrate the story.

Know of a good book to help children understand current events? Have a strategy for teaching current events through nonfiction? Share!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nonfiction Book Pick for 2017: The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley

Nonfiction Book syria europe migration refugees
The New Odyssey
In my senior English class, I always assign students to read a biography or other nonfiction book of their choosing. The greatest benefit of the assignment may be that students find for the first time the unexpected thrill of enjoying a book.

Secondary benefits they experience include:

  • learning new things, 
  • "traveling" from the comfort of home,
  • becoming an expert on a person, 
  • finding a hero, 
  • having fun conversing with their peers about their chosen books,
  • and understanding the world around them better than they did before. 


Biography, more than other genres, imparts wisdom to the willing reader.

The assignment has its downside, too, though. Vivid memories of desperate conversations with librarians about overdue inter-library loans come to mind!

Unbroken
To help my students along, I always read a nonfiction book at the same time. One year, it was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I chose it because it was highly praised by critics and was being made into a movie, and because I had read and enjoyed Seabiscuit: An American Legend by the same author. Still, in a sense I was taking a gamble. It paid off.

All the benefits I hope my students will enjoy, I enjoyed. I learned about the Pacific War, I became an expert on Louis Zamperini (a man I had never heard of before picking up the book), I found a hero (both for his will to survive and for his eventual faith in God), I enjoyed chatting with a student who had chosen the same book and with the class as a whole about our book picks, and I understood the world better for my reading.

nonfiction book wwii japan atomic bomb paperback buy amazon common core standards
Hiroshima
Additionally, I built on prior knowledge about the War in Japan that I had gained from reading Hiroshima by John Hersey. Unbroken presented another element of the story.

This year, I wanted a specific type of book to read. The nonfiction book I wanted would teach me about the lives of refugees, the facts of the related current events, and the culture of the countries refugees call home. As a bonus, the book would reveal needs that compassionate Christians could help meet.

I found what I was looking for in The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis by Patrick Kingsley. After reading a glowing review by Christianity Today's Bethany Hoang, I immediately went to Amazon to purchase the book.

I'm partway into The New Odyssey now, and it's every bit as spellbinding as the review indicated. It's my nonfiction book pick for 2017 because it's opening my eyes to the reasons why refugees are fleeing their home countries and to the problems facing the nations who take them in (or choose not to). By interspersing chapters about a real Syrian refugee among chapters about the refugee crisis as a whole, Kingsley puts a human face on the story. The book hardly mentions the religious aspect of the situation, but as a Christian, it's helping me to view refugees with greater understanding and compassion. As a teacher, it's giving me much-needed background knowledge I can share with students as we learn about our world.

More to come as I continue reading!

In the meantime, what nonfiction books do you recommend—for students and for teachers? What biographies and other nonfiction works have influenced you the most? How so? Please share in the comments!

Further Reading:
Leadership in Band of Brothers Unit
What Happened When I Interviewed Hip-Hop Artist MK Asante (And a Truck With a Confederate Flag Drove By) (By the way, it looks like MK will be back in Idaho soon for the Federal Programs Conference! You won't want to miss his keynote!)
Balance and Boundaries: An Interview with Dalene Vickery Parker

Monday, February 6, 2017

Idaho Coaching Network Offers Resource-Filled Blog For Idaho Teachers

This week brings a wider audience to my recent blog post, "Shoveling a Path Through the Snowdrifts for New Teachers." I'm privileged to share my thoughts on teachers as mentors on the Idaho Coaching Network blog. The blog is a helpful resource for Idaho teachers, especially in the ELA content area.

Christian Teacher, Public School also offers links to helpful resources for Idaho teachers. Check out the Idaho tab at the top of this page. Know of other Idaho education resources? Please share in the comments!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Triple Entry Journals for Character Analysis in Lord of the Flies



Need resources for Lord of the Flies? I've just created a character analysis tool that will get students talking and writing about the text. Triple-entry journals are fun and easy, and they put the focus where it should be—on the text. The journals in this pack are designed for each of the four main characters in Lord of the Flies, but here's an open version you can use with any novel to analyze any aspect of the text.


Visit my store, Brevity, on Teachers Pay Teachers for more resources that are aligned with the standards you need to teach!