Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lesson Plan: StoryCorps Interviews

Every Wednesday our 8th graders have what's called "Self-Directed Learner" Day where the kids rotate in one hour blocks and do supplementary activities that are related to what they are working on in their core classes. I taught my first series of these last month.


Since the kids are gearing up for a giant research project due in April, I wanted to do something related to that. One component of the project requires them to interview a mentor or someone in the community who is an expert in the field they have chosen for their topic. I thought of the "StoryCorps" interviews broadcasted every Friday on NPR and did some research to find out if this could be developed into a lesson plan. If you haven't heard these interviews before, visit NPR's website or the StoryCorps site, where you can listen to truly great interviews of ordinary and extraordinary Americans.

Sure enough, right on the StoryCorps website, there are free, downloadable lesson plans. They even come complete with suggestions of which interviews to play and an awesome "Great Questions" list to help the interviews along.

I ended up have the kids listen to 3 or 4 interviews (about 3 minutes each) then had a brief discussion about oral traditions, the purpose of the interviews, and what makes a good interview. Then they broke off into pairs and came up with a minimum of 10 interview questions to ask their partner. I borrowed some Ipod Nanos from our computer lab so the kids could record their interviews. The next week, when we reconvened, the kids got a chance to listen to some of their friend's interviews, which they loved, and finished up recording their own.

All in all, it was a fun experience, however there were definitely some problem areas. Some of the kids did not want to interview or had a bad attitude about their interview partner, some kids finished really quickly and didn't have anything to do, which created the dreaded "dead time." Next time, I would have them do a worksheet or something else, while half the class did their interviews, then switch.

The best part of doing this lesson was listening to the interviews they did of each other. The class was immediately engaged when I played the recordings of their peers, no matter who the recording was by, which led me to believe they were developing some appreciation for the diversity of their classmates. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Veggie Sandwich: Double Dose

While looking for recipes that included Kabocha squach and avocado (both of which were stocked in abundance in my kitchen), I came across this recipe for a veggie sandwich. Squash on a sandwich, I'd never thought of that! Below are a couple spins on the veggie sandwich idea.

Kabocha Squash and Avocado Sandwich
Serves 2

4 slices bread
1 cup steamed and sliced Kabocha squash (or any hard, winter squash will do)
1 cup spinach (substitute for lettuce or cucumber if you like)
1/2 of a large avocado
1/4 cup or less crumbled bleu cheese
1-2 TBL olive oil

Steam the squash and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. I did a big batch the night before, which will keep in the fridge for about a week. Toast bread in a pan with the olive oil (or in a toaster if you don't want to bother). Mash the avocado in a bowl with a little salt and pepper. Stack slices of squash on toasted bread, then stack with raw spinach. On the other slice, spread some of the avo mash, then sprinkle some bleu cheese slices on top. Put the two sides together and yum, you got a great veggie sandwich even meat lovers will enjoy.

Caramelized Onion and Kabocha Squash Sandwich
Serves 2

4 slices bread
1 cup steamed Kabocha squash (or any hard, winter squash)
1 yellow onion
1 cup spinach (or lettuce or cucumber)
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
2 TBL olive oil

Steam squash and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Thinly slice the onion and and caramelize by cooking in olive oil over medium heat in a heavy pan (this takes about 30 minutes). When onion are brown and cooked down, toast bread in the same pan. Stack one slice of bread with squash and spinach, stack the other side with onions and bleu cheese. Press together to make the best veggie sandwich I've ever had!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Huevos Ranchitos

For a healthy spin on Huevos Rancheros try this easy, fast, and dern good recipe. I made this for dinner, but it could be breakfast or lunch, too.

Photo from Closet Cooking

Huevos Ranchitos
Serves 2

4 corn tortillas
1 cup torn, fresh spinach
2 tbl feta cheese (or whatever you like)
1 can tomato sauce
1 tsp chili garlic paste (Sambal Oelek)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 ripe avocado
2 tbl oil
4 eggs
salt & pepper to taste

This seriously takes about 20 minutes to whip up. Heat a large pan over med-high heat. Add a little oil to the pan and heat up the tortillas (don't crowd them, you may have to do 2 at a time). Meanwhile, open the can of tomato sauce and pour into small sauce pan over low heat. Add the Sambal Oelek and cumin to the sauce. Flip the tortillas and evenly distribute the spinach and cheese over the tortillas while they are still in the pan. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the spinach is wilted down. Place the tortillas on a plate. Cut up the avocado and place slices over the spinach and sprinkle with salt. Fry the eggs in the same pan, I like them over-medium. Place the eggs on top of your spinach and avo laden tortillas. Top the eggs with about 2-3 spoonfuls of the tomato sauce and that's it! Salud!

Substitutions: adding the Sambal Oelek was my way of adding quick flavor to the plain tomato sauce, you can add whatever spices you have around the house to make it great, some chipotles would be very nice. For the sauce itself, you could use salsa, green chile, or enchilada sauce, whatever sounds good to you. Use flour instead of corn tortillas. Use any green you may have in place of spinach, and as always, if you don't have one (or many) of the ingredients in the recipe, just get creative. The main idea here is an open faced quesadilla with an egg on top.

Additions: oh the possibilities! Mushrooms, onions, jalepenos, mild green chiles, cilantro, sour cream, beans, refried beans...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


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