Fact, Opinion and Fake – Thinking About Navigating the News

imgres.jpgI have fallen behind on my reading kids books. I am reading to many newspaper articles, magazines and blog posts and wondering how teachers are helping students make sense of the current political situation. How do you help students navigate the news – real, fake and alternative?

imgres-1.jpgHow do you share without giving your own feelings and thoughts? How do you stay in the real facts?  I am having trouble sorting what is real and what is created to make an impacted around a topic.


When teaching social studies, history and political science it is about

  • searching for facts,
  • dates when articles are posted,
  • who wrote it,
  • who published it.
  • are these people presenting opinions or factual events or research?
  • Who did the research?
  • Is it current research?
  • What was the sample size? ( 20 people or 20,000 people)

This has always been the job of social studies teachers. Really, all teachers need to teach the difference between fact and fiction. It is our job as we read the news and non fiction to search for facts and be able confirm that they are really facts.

So many questions need to be asked before we can believe and past on new information we have just learned. Information is coming at us in so many directions and from so many sources. Who and what do we trust?

An example of this was an article I read the other day about changes in the immigration laws, due to Trump, that were hurting the migrant workers. It was also hurting the tomato farmers. They were unable to get their tomato crops in because workers were scared and all the migrant workers had disappeared. They were afraid to show up to work.

Yes, I believe that migrant workers may be laying low these days but – let’s think about this. It is February, the beginning of a growing season – not harvest time for anyone here in the Northern Hemisphere. There are not tomatoes rotting in the fields now – people are planting now or maybe not even beginning to plant. When I looked a little closer the article was from 2011 – late summer. It is old news and in this situation it is fake.  If I had shared this news I would be forwarding fake news. The importances of looking at the details.

This article was later re posted with current factual information but the damage had been done. There are people who will not see the follow up article with corrections. They will either believe the old news and repeat it or they will use it as an example of people pushing fake news.

There are lots of examples in the daily news these days that we can use to help our students learn about facts, opinions and fake news. It is a big job and one that needs to be done with care and respect for all voices. Here are a few article I have been reading about helping students learn about fake news. There are many more but you need to pick and choose with care – which ones will work for your students.




What are you doing to help your students understand the difference between real and fake news?

Posted in non fiction, research, Teaching | Tagged | 3 Comments

Stories hold us together –

“Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.”  Barry Lopez

A quote used today as the staff of the school I work for meet for this first time this year. It was a gathering off site. A chance to renew the mission of the school, to meet and greet and to set the tone for the year.

The leadership team of the school did a wonderful job of allowing space for conversation. There was the standard social time with light breakfast. The first few hellos and introductions of new people and old people. It is that time when you scan the room for old and new faces.

Then we walked carefully in to meat of the morning – we did not dance around the issues of this past summer but walked right into them. We as a nation have dealt with the loss of so many black men. We have watched …

This is the start of a blog post from last summer that never got finished. It was nice, positive and was going to be up lifting. I was writing on a Tuesday night. It was late and raining. I was tired and decided it could be finished in the morning. Morning came but by then I was safely resting in a hospital bed after a heart attack and having a stint put in. A night with a story.

 The fall traveled on with more stories, an election that turned us upside down with stories. There have been protests, there are phone calls and letters written, there are marches and yet these stories are not being heard.

Today the new education secretary was voted in – another story all together. At the moment I am not feeling connected to Lopez’s quote.  I am not sure we are being held together by stories. I feel the splintering of our country, the lack of understanding by so many that stories seem to be lost in the mixing of one group working to top the other.

No one is listening – no stories are being heard. We have closed our ears, our hearts and our skills at thinking and empathy.  It is from all sides that we seem not to be listening.

Stories can only hold us together if we are listening (really listening – not just hearing). We must be listening to each other with compassion.

I am hoping in the days to come that we find that compassion on all sides. That we learn to listen carefully with empathy.

We need to listen not just hear!   It is a statement I have used in my classroom over and over again.  I know you hear my voice but are you really listening.

Listening: Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process.Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively, messages are easily misunderstood.

Are we really listening to the stories of all people??


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It’s Monday! What are you reading? Adult/YA

(A post written awhile ago and never posted.  An odd thing to do – thought I would send it out today.)

I still puzzle over the line between Adult fiction and YA fiction or teen fiction. Here is what Book Country Blog says and what The Guardian says:

Young adult literature is for readers aged between 12 and 18, although many adults are known to enjoy the genre as well. The conflicts the characters go through are relevant to teens. The protagonist as well as the majority of the key characters are in that age group as well. The protagonist is close to the experiences in the book; the story is not told with the hindsight of adulthood.


I’ve used the labels “teen” and “YA” interchangeably, but a quick straw poll of aficionados reveals two differing standpoints. Some feel they basically cover the same ground, and others think that while both refer to age categories “teen” covers 12-14, and “YA” is aimed at about 14+. For the latter, the later Harry Potter books, in which torture and murder come to the fore after the gentler series beginnings, would count as “teen”. YA, meanwhile, is more likely to deal frankly with sex, tackle challenging issues and adult relationships, and feature swearing.


The line between teen and YA I get!  It really is an age thing – teen books reaching the younger group of 12 to 14 year olds, no sex really – a boyfriend girlfriend or thinking about it but really no action is taken, no really harsh language and the relationships although complicated are not terribly challenging to sort out.

The line between YA and Adult is much thinner.  I suppose the break in the line is this – “The protagonist is close to the experiences in the book; the story is not told with the hindsight of adulthood.”

If I use this thinking – the protagonist is close to the experience, I must say the book I read this week was an adult book. The lead character telling the story is indeed looking back on events from an adult view but he puts us into the action in a way they you feel you are there with 14 year old, Kevin. I read this book thinking young adults would love this and there is a lot to think about while reading.

51C4RHampxL._SY346_I plowed through The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton. (2015) It is a long book and a very quick read. Scotton builds our interest in the characters right away.

Kevin is navigating life in a family trying to find their way back from the loss of his little brother. It is clear that Kevin feels responsible for this death. He and his mother are spending the summer in the hills of Kentucky where she grew up. This change of location is an attempt to pull her out of the deep depression she has slid into after the loss.

The family arrives in the small town and the Appalachian Mountains around them become as much of a character in the novel as the people. The hills define who they are and how this group of characters see the world. The people we must deal with are – the one who owns the mines and the lives of many in the area, those who struggle in this sharply defined environment due to their different view of the world, Kevin’s Grandfather, Buzzy and Kevin.

This novel takes us right into the early 60’s – the politics of mountain top mining, the beginning of the environmental movement to save the mountains, the issues of gay rights (at this time there were little to no rights for gays in this rural setting), the racial tension that are lying under the surface and the coming of age for one two young teens who for different reasons feel on the outside of everything.

We live and breathe the mountains in all their glory as Kevin and Buzzy hike their way in and out of the local caves and trails. We feel the horror and fear for Mr. Paul who must deal with the bullies who confront his gay life style. We learn the history of this area through the stories people choose to share. We watch as Kevin’s Grandfather helps him and lots of the town navigate the fears and threats of this uneasy time. We slide between anger and fear to the glories of boys jumping into a clear mountain lake on a warm summers day. We learn along with Kevin and Buzzy as they must answer some tough questions about themselves and the people around them.

I have to admit I have no idea how I found this book. It was on my e-reader when I was looking for a new book to read last Friday evening. I was jumping between non-fiction books about gardening, not able to get involved in the middle grade fiction book I had started, our internet was out due to a local rain storm and so was thumbing through the books already loaded on the I-Pad.

Once I began reading it was like falling into Alice and Wonderlands hole. I tumbled into the people’s lives and Appalachian Mountains. I slowly surfaced Sunday night as I turned the last page. I was sorry to see if finish, happy for some, sadden for others and in wonderment of the skills of authors who are able to take us into a story and make it real.






Posted in Book Review | 6 Comments

Hold Space for someone..

images.jpgWhat does it mean to “hold space” for someone else?

“It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control. “(http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/)

In these days of swirling news and alternative news, in the days of wild changes and disappointments, the days of fear and sorrow we need to stop and consider what is needed to keep going. What do we personally need but also what do the people around us need?

Ours/Their needs and fears may be politically based, it might be a death of a friend or family member, it could be a health problem – the hard journey’s of life keep coming no matter what is happening in the bigger world. So we need to pause and reach out.

Sometimes the need is a physical need – a drive to the store, a smile and cup of tea or a walk with someone to settle ones thinking. It might be a phone call just to say hi – not to discuss the issues at hand – a just a “checking in” chat. There are so many little things we can do to help others and in so doing may also help ourselves. A moment spent thinking of others.

Sometimes it is a more emotional need – person with a listening ear, a person who is just willing to sit beside them so they are not alone.

So as your week moves along who can your reach out to? Who might need just a little help with something?  Who have you not talked to or spent time with lately? Can you reach beyond your group of friends to those who may not have resources or people close by who can support them?

We need to open our hearts and souls, to reach out!

Who are you holding space for?


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

It’s Monday! What are you reading? A Newbery winner

imgresI was about 1/2 through The Girl Who Drank the Moon  but Kelly Barnhill when the book awards came out this last week.  It had been sitting in my e-book reader for about a month. I am usually a big fantasy fan but this one just didn’t catch my interest.

It has interesting characters and an ok start but something just didn’t make it for me. I just kept going to other books. I have wondered what was stopping me. It was one of those stories that just wasn’t hitting home.

So after the awards and it won I was happy and surprised! It was great to have another Minnesota author in the know but now I wondered what was I missing. I returned to reading it and hung in there. At some point on Friday night I was hooked. The interesting characters now seems to be good friends I cared about. The plot was twisting and turning leading us to see how the history and stories of this village shaped the people and their thinking.

This story played out how fears and sorrow can lead us to misunderstandings. It showed how a few with an idea and positive thinking (a sense of caring) can change the world. In all the swirling negativity it was hope that pulled them through.

It was hope and a willingness to listen and learn from others that changed things. There were points when anger was on the edge of taking over but each time a character stopped, reflected (if only for a second) and realized that hatred was not going to help. There were moments when love and listening helped them understand why someone choose an action that they did not agree with.  It was realizing we all have stories to tell and until we know those stories we can not judge a person. We need to listen.

Does this sound like issue with the school yard bully? Does this sound like the fears that are taking over our country as new people and different cultures join us?

This little fantasy has so much to offer but it took a while for me to see it. It is one of those stories you need to read to the end. Remember the child in your classroom who gives up on a book after a few pages. Tell them to keep reading, tell yourself to keep reading.  Maybe read it out loud to a group – I would love to hear the connections that kids would make with this little gem!

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Scattered thinking

Yesterday I was sure of what my post would be today. I had thoughts about sharing the process of getting ready for spring. I reviewed all my old seeds yesterday to get ready for ordering new ones. A great light post after all the dark politics.

I also had so many wonderful thoughts of the March on Saturday here in Minnesota. There was a strong feeling of support – it is amazing to stand among 100,000 people who support the rights of all woman – well, really all people. It is lovely to see a crowd as peaceful and friendly as this one. It was great. Energy was everywhere.Womans march.JPG

But the late night sleeping scattered those thoughts. It was an evening of ghosts. It happens from time to time that our personal history comes back to visit in the night. My preference for those historical reflections would be to have positive events in my life show back up.

Ah but our unconscious does not do the bidding of our conscious mind. It chooses on its own which events we will visit, which people we recall or what pains we might experience once again in the wee hours of night.

It appears I had some ghost pains to deal with during the night – shoulders and back pains that put me in mind of a recent heart attack, an achy wrist and thumb that brought racing memories of a past student, suffering through sexual abuse issues, that nearly broke my thumb, the fears of our current politics that roll in and out of my dreams. There are more but you understand. Our minds are wondrous things that can lead us down many paths. Those paths can be sources of delight or of fear and anger.

This morning I am a bit scattered after so many harsh feelings that were released in the night but the word release is the key here.

  • No, it was not fun.
  • No, I don’t feel like I slept much.
  • Yes, my heart rate was going up and down.

What I do know is that I can either complain and fight those ghosts knowing this means I will hold on to them for a revisit or I can think of this as a release. They were a visit so that I can let them go – breathing out my fears and worries. I can say yes this happened, what do I learn from it, what am I changing and then send those thoughts away instead of wearing them in my joints and muscles as aches and pains.

It is not an easy process and for some those evening ghosts hold even more powerful fears. It is where we can use help. The comfort of a friend who can just listen as we talk through those times. A counselor may be that friend as well. A steady pattern of yoga, walking, the gym that helps us physically move through our emotions and release them.  Taking time to eat well – good healthy food and drink makes it easy to process the emotions that swirl around us. Taking time to enjoy our selves, family, friends and the world around us.

Our world, personal and global, will have lots of powerful ups and downs in the coming months and years. We need to learn not to hold on to anger and fear. We need to find health and peace so that we can activate change for the good. We need to work from the positive not from the fears and ghost of the dark.

So today I am taking my scattered self for a long walk, eat a good meal and chat with a good friend. Tomorrow I will be back to fighting the good fight with a more positive attitude! grasslake walk.JPG

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And so I begin my winter read …

Her body moved with the frankness that comes from solitary habits. But solitude is only a human -presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot; every choice is a world made new for the chosen. All secrets witnessed.”  

– Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

It is mid January – the 17th to be exact. The northland winter surrounds me, the city life holds me tight within the cold days and white abounds. Although people are everywhere one hears the quiet of the cold. There is only the crunch of feet on snow and ice. A cracking in a limb as ice in the veins of the tree break the branch lose from the trunk. No words pass between hurrying souls as they run for the bus or the heated car. We are wrapped in the solitude of winter.

imgres-1 It is this same time each year that I go seeking a different solitude. I begin my preparation for spring. This comes with the tasks of sitting alone reading last years garden journal, sorting through old and dirty seed packets, eyeing the bright colors of new crisp seed catalogs and planting as few seeds to watch them spout under lights. This last step gives me bits of green to rest my eyes on while waiting out the long final months of winter.

This time also includes curling up on the couch with Kingsolver’s book Prodigal Summer. It is a re-read for me each winter. Of all her books it may be considered a sleeper. I don’t know who else has read it or what kind of attention it received. It does not carry the weight of Poisonwood Bible. Yet for me it reaches a deep place in my soul. It is a story of understanding families and neighbors. It is about a relationship to the land and the natural world around us. It is about holding on to and letting go all at the same time.

This story walks you through the heavy springs rains with lines like

“She loved the air after a hard rain, the way a forest of dripping leaves fills itself with a sibilant percussion that empties your head of words.”  

Then moves us in the ripeness of spring –

“Everywhere you looked, something was fighting for light, the kiss of pollen, a connection of sperm and egg and another chance.” 

With time we are reading deep into the green of summer – the fireflies, the smell of Honeysuckle floating in the air and the chores of keeping a farm running  – the “old” chemical treatment vs. “new’ organic ways.

Kingsolver always has her cause laid deep within the core of descriptive phrases. She hands us the issues of our forests, farming and families wrapped in struggles, tears and love.

It is a book that feeds the naturalist farmer in me. It takes me back to my family farm and long walks in the woods. It is a book of the color green, the sounds of rain and the moth flicker on the window screen on a summers night.



Posted in Reflection | Tagged | 4 Comments