Archive for June 2nd, 2008
I’m a mix artist. That is, I will organize songs into well-flowing playlists. Usually, given my illegitimately huge music collection, there’s some overarching theme.
I’ve done a few that compile inside jokes. I’ve done decades of American history. My iTunes even has a playlist-in-progress that compiles good songs inspired by record producers. So far, I’m at Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” Cake’s “Sad Songs and Waltzes” and Weezer’s “Pork and Beans.” I haven’t gotten many more songs. I’ll appreciate any suggestions.
While that last idea stalls in mid-completion, my masterpiece is almost done. When I finally give it to a selected target, it will be a prank of proportions I find very amusing.
At first listen, this masterpiece sounds like a pretty standard, ho-hum classic rock playlist. Paint it Black. Killer Queen. Message in a Bottle. When You Were Young. Your target puts the CD on in the background while he raids around on his World of Warcraft server.
Yet as your intended target listens on, he’ll passively notice a few out-of-place additions. How did parody glam-rock band Spinal Tap make the cut, beating out The Beatles? Why “Spanish Castle Magic” when we all know Jimi Hendrix’s best chart is “Voodoo Child?” And where has he heard “The Beast and the Harlot” before? He begins listening intently, much to the detriment and frustration of his online raiding party.
Listening on, he thinks he recognizes a pattern. By the time he gets to the requisite Tenacious D selection, he’s pretty sure of himself. Before listening to the last three songs on the disc, he calls you up.
With a bemused smile on his face — you can tell when someone’s smiling while they talk on the phone — he triumphantly lets you know just as the last few notes of “My Name is Jonas” fade into the “Knights of Cydonia” preparing for a battle against a dragon-man.
Riddle to my readers: Name one other song that could have been on this playlist. There are many.
For the sake of the riddle, don’t give away the pattern.
I’ve decided to teach the bulk of 7th grade medieval and early modern history as a geography class. You heard me: geography. As in maps. I won’t ignore the standards — I’ll throw in a Holy Roman Empire here, a Reformation there — and yet the first few months or so will be purely geography.
… and that will the beginning of my job interview. It might also be the end. I’m required, you see, to demonstrate a 10-minute lesson to an small classroom of administrators.
And before those powers that be throw me out for being one of those insufferable standards ignorers, I will point to the standards. For every culture in the standards for 7th grade history, there’s a geography-related standard. Case in point:
7.2.1: Identify the physical features and describe the climate of the Arabian peninsula, its relationship to surrounding bodies of land and water, and nomadic and sedentary ways of life.
This pattern continues on, and so I feel justified in my example activity. I love how this assignment fit together so perfectly.
I will provide them with borderless physical maps of various regions in the world. Their assignment will be to place a given number of settlements, noting which two would be the largest. After this, they will be asked to estimate where the borders of their country end.
They need to know how geographic features affect human life, and so I provide this on the assignment sheet.
- Rivers and lakes supply food, water, transportation and trade. They can be a natural border between friendly countries, but are ineffective protection between dire enemies. Most major rivers and lakes are marked on your map.
- Coastlines supply food, transportation and trade.
- Plains are ideal for farming food, but are less useful the farther away they are from rivers. While they do not protect you, they do make trade easier.
- Deserts are too dry to sustain settlements, though nomads can live there.
- Mountain ranges are often natural barriers, separating you from other countries.
- For our purposes, seas are natural barriers.
There are also rules.
- The bigger your country, the harder it is to control it.
- Deserts and mountain ranges will produce very little food.
- You need fresh water. You will need lots of fresh water. (Hint: Oceans and seas do not provide fresh water.)
- Natural barriers (oceans, seas, rivers, mountain ranges, deserts) generally separate languages and cultures.
- For the purposes of our activity, your land area must be contiguous.
For modern world history and U.S. history, I would do a similar thing with tactics for my unit on wars. Always have the high ground; try to outflank your opponent; you need air cover.
If any of my 7th graders don’t know, for example, what “contiguous” means, they’ll put it on the Word Wall.
That’s my lesson for the administrators. Wish me luck.