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ELA High School

Poetry and Basketball in "The Crossover"

Sports Young Adult Literature

The crossover dribble is a basketball move. But to some people it’s more than just a move, it is poetry. “The Crossover,” is a Newbery-Award-winning basketball novel by author Kwame Alexander. Students can relate in many ways to the themes in the novel, such as struggling with relationships, loneliness, and loss. In this audio story you will hear from the book’s author and hear students discuss how basketball is a kind of poetry in motion and how language and writing can capture that sense of cadence and rhythm as well. Listen to learn more about how author Kwame Alexander was motivated to write about the poetics of basketball and how readers relate to and are inspired by the tragedy and triumph in “The Crossover.”

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Current Event March 30, 2018

Debate: Are Toy Stores Necessary?


For the last few decades, the most prominent toy store in the United States was Toys R Us. Recently this toy store announced that it would lay off its remaining 33,000 employees, declare bankruptcy, and close its doors. People are reacting with nostalgia for these stores and discussing how shopping experiences have changed. Listen to the reactions of these people to the closing of Toys R Us stores and debate: Are toy stores necessary?

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ELA High School

Life in the Puritan Colonies

Gender Religion US History I Film Study

In 1630s New England, English Puritans came to the colonies to start a new life. This is a few decades before the Salem witch trials, and it’s hard to imagine living in this time and in this very particular culture. One writer made a movie that describes this experience, following one family that was struggling to survive in the New England wilderness. Learn about the social norms and unconscious fears that film explores. Listen to hear more about the inspiration for this movie and what might really scare us.

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ELA High School

Julia Alvarez and Haiti

Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her novels include “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” and “In the Time of the Butterflies.“ Growing up in the Dominican Republic, she learned about the massacre of over 20,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic in 1937. She was consistently presented with negative stereotypes of her Haitian neighbors. For these reasons, Alvarez felt too ashamed and even afraid to visit Haiti. But she made the trip and then visited again to attend a wedding after the 2010 earthquake. Listen to learn more about how Alvarez needed to cross many borders—internal, historical, cultural—that stood in her way.

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ELA High School

James Baldwin: Writings on Race, Class and Civil Rights

Race Literature Civil RIghts

James Baldwin’s legacy and words are still very much alive and relevant today. A 2017 Oscar-nominated documentary was inspired by Baldwin’s writing on race, class, and the Civil Rights era in America. The documentary, called "I Am Not Your Negro," examines the lives and work of three Civil Rights leaders: Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. At the same time, it urges audiences to consider how racial tensions and attitudes continue to influence our culture today. Listen to hear more about how James Baldwin and this documentary challenge us to work toward positive change in our communities.

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ELA Middle School

Growing Up in Revolutionary Iran

Politics Religion Culture Middle East Memoir Graphic Novels

Author Marjane Satrapi created the graphic novel “Persepolis”—later adapted as a movie—about her experience growing up during the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. Satrapi was a rebellious teenager, fighting to maintain her beliefs and individuality while living under a government that dictated how its people should live—for example, mandating that women must wear veils. Listen to hear about the Iranian government’s reaction to the movie and how others reacted to it.

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ELA High School

‘Ulysses’: One Line at a Time

European Literature

The annual celebration to commemorate the works of Irish author James Joyce is called Bloomsday and is celebrated on June 16th. While many readers think Joyce’s writing is difficult to understand, Frank Delaney has started a weekly podcast about Joyce and “Ulysses” to help himself and other readers decipher “Ulysses” more easily. Delaney’s podcast includes a rap about the events in “Ulysses”, and he hopes it will continue to be produced for several years to come. Listen to hear more about James Joyce and “Ulysses” as well as more about Frank Delaney’s lengthy podcast project.

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ELA High School

What Motivated the Author of "When You Reach Me"

Young Adult Literature

Books allow us to transcend the world we live in, but they also help us to connect to the people and places around us. In this audio story, several young students at a school in Washington D.C. talk about the plot, characterization, themes, and motifs in the book “When You Reach Me.” The author, Rebecca Stead, discusses what motivates and inspires her to write. This book includes clues to solve a puzzle, mysterious notes, time travel, and the excitement of figuring out a book as you read it. Listen to more about the novel, “When You Reach Me” as these students discuss the elements of fiction and question the author about her own creative process.

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ELA Middle School

Walt Whitman's Letter

US History I Civil War American Literature

Walt Whitman was an American poet, teacher, and journalist who was born in the early 1800s. His poetry shattered the literary conventions of his time and helped redefine the rules for modern American verse. Although highly unconventional, Whitman still had a strong sense of national pride and was deeply affected by the events of the Civil War. Although he never fought in the war, he visited recuperating union soldiers and helped them write letters to their loved ones. Listen to learn more about how Whitman helped Civil War soldiers.

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ELA High School

Edgar Allan Poe Still Captures the Imagination

Poetry Horror Mystery

Edgar Allan Poe, poet and American master of the macabre, was recently celebrated in Baltimore, Maryland where he sometimes lived. It was the 200th anniversary of his birth, and it was celebrated with readings of his works. Hear from actor John Astin, who played Gomez Addams in a television series, about his lifetime appreciation for Poe. Listen to find out why Baltimore played such an integral part in Poe’s life, and what types of items are left at his grave each year.

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ELA High School

Hillenbrand and 'Unbroken' World War II Hero

World War II

Serving in the military during a war can lead men and women to experience events that affect them for the rest of their lives. Louis Zamperini was one example. Laura Hillenbrand wrote a best-selling novel, “Unbroken”, which tells his story. It is set in World War II where Zamperini fought for survival on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean, was held as a POW by Japan, and later struggled in civilian life to deal with his war memories. This story, told at the time of his death in 2014, is a previous interview with Hillenbrand, where she recounts Zamperini’s story of survival during the war and his struggle to find closure in the decades following his return home. Listen to hear this extraordinary story of courage, despair and redemption.

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Hunger games and reality

ELA Middle School

'Hunger Games' and Reality

Civics/Government Fiction Dystopian Fiction

In Suzanne Collins’ "The Hunger Games" Trilogy, an all powerful Capital controls and exploits the districts of Panem for resources. The inequality and concentration of power in Panem has struck a nerve for readers, reflecting on their lives and their governments. Heroine Katniss Everdeen has become a symbol of resistance adopted by political parties and protest movements across the globe. Why and how does this dystopian novel reflect the real world? Listen to learn more about the link between “The Hunger Games” and our world today.

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ELA Middle School

Life on a Reservation: Native American Identity in Literature

Race Education Culture Fiction Young Adult Literature Autobiography

"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," tells the story of Arnold Spirit, a young Native American who leaves the reservation to get a better education. In this semi-autobiographical book, author Sherman Alexie discusses big issues including choosing your identity, figuring out where you belong and the hardships American Indians face living on reservations.

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Current Event March 20, 2018

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks Inspired Young Poets

Gender Poetry

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950. Her poetry and writing was well known by many African-Americans who read a paper called the Chicago Defender. After winning the Pulitzer Prize, her writing became known by white people as well. She influenced and inspired other writers such as Toni Morrison, and funded programs and prizes to encourage people to write poetry. Listen to this story about the life of Gwendolyn Brooks.

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Current Event March 15, 2018

March Madness Basketball Corruption

Sports Money

Money, secret deals, and big names in college basketball are involved in an ongoing federal investigation. Coaches, sneaker executives, and others are being investigated for bribery and fraud at the start of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, or March Madness. Ten men were arrested on a variety of charges including taking bribes and using money to place players in certain colleges. This illegal activity has been going on for decades and there are questions about whether these investigations will change the culture of men’s college basketball. Listen to learn more about these corruption charges.

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Current Event March 14, 2018

Happy Pi Day!


Happy Pi Day! March 14 is celebrated in different ways in cities across the country. Pi, or 3.14, is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, and has been calculated to over one trillion digits. It was named for the Greek letter Pi, which corresponds with the letter ‘P’ which stands for the perimeter of the circle. Pi is an irrational number whose decimals continue infinitely, but it is also a delicious dessert. Listen to hear more about celebrating Pi Day.

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ELA High School

How “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” Promoted Change

Race Literature Civil War

Published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” changed the way Americans viewed slavery and was a driving force that steered the political direction of the country during the 1850s as well. For many Americans, the characters in the novel are familiar, although their names have taken on new and unexpected meanings, and the novel’s theme still resonates today. Listen to learn more about the cultural impact of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in America and discover Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspirations for writing the novel as well as how the novel still reminds us of what “freedom” means today.

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Current Event February 23, 2018

Listening Olympics: QUIZ


It’s time to go for the gold!

Click the assign quiz button in the top right corner to assign the Listening Olympics Quiz to your students!

The quiz will be open until Friday March 2nd. Remember, once students start the quiz they cannot pause it and can’t take it twice.

Good luck!

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Current Event March 2, 2018

Debate: Should All Kids Get a Trophy?

Psychology Sports

Many kids receive a trophy, medal or ribbon for participating in sports, science fairs, or other competitions. Some think it’s sending a dangerous message to kids, telling them that they will be rewarded regardless of their effort or success. Some think the trophies are an important marker of participation and they mean something to kids. Listen to experts, as well as the reporter, as they describe their thoughts on giving trophies for participation, and then debate: Should all kids get a trophy?

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Current Event March 1, 2018

The Black Panther Movie

Race Entertainment

The movie about the superhero Black Panther is a phenomenon. The stars of the movie are black actors and it takes place in a fictitious African country that was never colonized by Europeans. The Black Panther has characters who are rulers of kingdoms, inventors, creators of advanced technology, and fierce women warriors who protect the king. Crowdfunders across the U.S. are raising money to take entire groups of kids to see this movie. Listen to this story to hear the reaction of fifth grade students after they saw the Black Panther.

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