Day 1 Activity: Who gets to inherit our intellectual traditions?

In the many dinner table conversations we have around education, my husband and I like to parse out what lasting impressions our different high schools left on us.

My husband attended one of the region’s prominent Quaker schools, so he knows how to sit and reflect and reach consensus. In terms of the humanities, teachers also clearly communicated to him — explicitly and implicitly — that there was a direct line between the great thinkers and doers of eras past and their own classroom.

Now, there are plenty elitist reasons why private schools naturally impart this message, and some aspects of their structure (small seminar-style classes, courses in Greek and Latin) that reinforce it.

And yet — in talking to him, I realized that while I believe my own students are equal inheritors of the global intellectual tradition, that fact is not something I do a great job of communicating in my classroom. And as a result, perhaps my kids were missing out on the empowered mindset that helps us grow into (and trouble, and challenge, and blow up) the adult world of thought.

So, today I made sure my first-day slide show included some explicit discussion about the tradition of writing, reading, and thinking that exists in our world — examples of the people that got together and hashed out some insightful, important, and entertaining documents that have shaped the course of literature and history.

Here’s a few examples.

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And here’s the prompt that lead to our first-day sticky-note activity:

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Phase two was “How did this work impact your life?” Phase three will come later, and will lead to the generation of new topics and ideas for writing.

Day 1 and we already have a rich collection of suggested reading for the class, and themes that can serve as a springboard for writing. And it all came from sharing our own positions in the larger tradition of reading and writing.


2 thoughts on “Day 1 Activity: Who gets to inherit our intellectual traditions?

  1. Tanya Woodward

    I love to read your blog and feel so inspired. I want to make my own ELA classroom more like this. I love the day 1 activity. would you be willing to email it with your materials for me to replicate? Or send a lesson plan?


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