Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Living on One

The WIDA ACCESS testing window opened this week.  I scheduled my fifth period students to take the exam first thing in the morning and by the time they reached my class in the afternoon, they were drained.  While I do not believe in wasting class time, I do keep a bank of educational films available for testing days.  There is a whole world that can be discovered through film and my students enjoy learning new things from a source other than a book or my mouth.

A colleague in the social studies department stopped me in the hall a few weeks ago and told me that she showed her class Living on One.  This documentary follows four Americans as they attempt to live in rural Guatemala for two months on a dollar a day (the typical wage of a person living in a third world country).   It had a powerful impact on her students and she recommended that I  consider showing it to my class if I could find time to do so.  This film can currently be streamed through Netflix.

After viewing the film at home, I decided to take my colleague's advice and show it to my students. Like my colleague's class, this film had a powerful impact on my students as well.  The majority of my students' families hail from Central America and this film led to a rich discussion comparing their lives to those of kids living a short plane ride away.  The students reported that their parents often tell them that they should feel grateful to be growing up in the United States, but the film made them realize what was meant by that. Several students reported that they discussed the film with their parents when they got home.

As testing season continues for the remainder of the year (benchmark exams, Scholastic Reading Inventory, PARCC, you name it), I will continue to search for educational films for my students.  After all, if I cannot control the amount of testing that takes place, I can at least control my students' experience in my class.  Rather than complain that testing days are wasted, I will turn them into positive learning opportunities.

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