Slavery and Writing Edition

discussing slavery



This past Sunday night, 12 Years a Slave was awarded Best Picture. For me, that means very little except that I’m happy to assume that by winning, it will continue to be talked about for many years to come.

When I was in grade school, the mini-series Roots aired on tv. I remember having a lot of conversations about that show, both in and out of the classroom.  It is the earliest memory I have of being taught about slavery.

I imagine many years from now, a lot of kids may say the same thing about 12 Years a Slave. Or at least they should.  Whether we think it warrants an award means nothing. What does mean something is that we should be using it as a way to discuss slavery with our children. Don’t leave it up to the school system to fit this topic into the curriculum.

Slavery is not an easy subject to talk about with your kids. Here is Janus Adams’s view on how we should bring up the subject.

What’s New at Funderstanding


Can You Impact Your Child’s Motivation?
Homework and school can become a battlefield. What can parents and educators do to improve a student’s level of motivation?


Low Tech Tuesday
When pictionary meets movie quotes, you get a funny game for the family.


Tell Me Something I Don’t Know
“The Fly” is still fiction but we do have more science facts!

Ask Funderstanding

A question via Email: My child hates to write. What can I do to encourage him to do this?

Answer: Well, the good news is that your child is well within the range of normal if he doesn’t like to write. Lots of this occurs because kids aren’t motivated by what they are writing about. Many kids will enjoy writing if they are writing to achieve a goal they care about.

For example, let’s say your son wanted to collect autographs. Have him find a list of people whose autographs he wants, and send them a letter. The addresses for most people are readily available. And I can tell you from personal experience that even kids who struggle with language will do great work in order to drive their interest. What’s important is to remember that in this case it is not the external reward – the autograph – that provides the reason to write. It is the person’s intrinsic motivation to pursue an interest.

There are lots of other ways to encourage writing but start by connecting it to an interest. Perhaps the child is socially minded and wants to support a cause. Maybe there is a relative that needs a letter. Just focus the child on the goal and not the process and the interest may heighten.

Ask us your question by commenting this post, on Facebook or Twitter or by.

Technology in Learning

Since we’re in movie mode, we wanted to alert you to a new site from Ken Burns and PBS. Ken Burns is a well known documentary filmmaker covering a range of topics including baseball, the Civil War, and jazz. Burns and PBS have created a site that allows you to immerse yourself in videos, images, and text. However, there is a robust ‘In the Classroom‘ section that has a list of lesson plans one can use, which makes the site really valuable in and out of the classroom.

G Whiz Moment

I spend at least one hour a day in public transport. There are not a lot of options of what I can do during these wasted hours. I can 1) look at these ugly teeth whitening ads, 2) be a smartphone zombie, 3) imitate the robot’s voice saying “stand clear of the closing door” or 4) use this time to be creative. I chose option 4.

I recently bought a little notebook that I can easily slip into my pocket. When I am locked in a subway car, I take it out and write. And one of my favorite things to write about are the people around me. I observe my co-passengers, try to understand who they are, where they come from and where they (this seems to be missing a word) , and then describe it in my little notebook. Since I have been doing it, I feel like I am more creative, I care more about the people around me and I see more things than I used to.

3 great links

18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

5 parenting changes you can make this year

How Digital Reading And Adaptive Learning Are Revolutionizing Education

Want to receive the newsletter directly in your email box? Subscribe to it here.