The cars we drive say a lot about us.
This spring I did something for the first time. I traded in a car before it was ready for the junkyard. My norm is to drive a car for at least ten years, till it’s held together with duct tape and leaking so many fluids I fear I’ll be getting a call from the Environmental Protection Agency.
But this time I traded in a car that was only three years old. I’d always bought Hondas in the past — not an exciting car, but certainly reliable. I decided a few years ago I was in a rut, so I tried a different brand. And it has been an exciting three years, if you find sitting in the dealer repair shop for hours on end enthralling. That place looks like the deck of the Starship Enterprise. So much activity! So many people! I decided that from now on when I shop for a car, I need to peek into the repair shop before I buy anything. If it doesn’t look like a scene from one of those old Maytag repairman commercials, with a couple guys sitting around looking very bored, I’d best look elsewhere for my wheels.
When I was talking to the Honda car salesman about trading in my car, I explained how I’d done my research before when I’d tried a new brand — not just reading safety guides, but talking with friends who loved the car I was abandoning. He responded, “Well, that brand inspires passion. A lot of people love it. And some people are like you, who end up hating it passionately. That’s not true of Hondas. No one gets too excited about these cars.”
Growing up, I was always a plain vanilla ice cream gal. Others loved the fancy flavors and lots of add-ins — but I liked my dependable and delicious vanilla. No wonder I’ve loved Hondas for so many years. It’s a plain vanilla car — no drama, no fuss, it just starts every day and gets me where I need to go.
The older I get, the more I appreciate plain vanilla. The friendships that go on and are renewed year after year, decade after decade, with no histrionics or fuss. I like the dependable and kind colleagues, who ask for little yet give so much. My trainer, who week after week, year after year, is always in a cheerful mood. After 11 years, the Big Fresh newsletter is plain vanilla for lots of subscribers too — nothing to get too passionate about, but dependable for a little insight and inspiration every week.
So here’s to reliable over passionate, steady over temperamental, plain over fancy. These days, I appreciate calm, uneventful days at home and in schools more than ever.
This week we explore visual learning. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Andrea Smith explains why infographics are more useful than ever in the age of the Common Core, and provides many links to free infographic resources on the web:
Gretchen Schroeder finds visual essays are a fun and appealing option for her high school students to present what they have learned:
The New York Times feature “What’s Going on in This Picture?” is a wonderful tool for teaching history, current events, and inferring skills:
Here are 100 stunning photos (none of them altered with Photoshop) to share with students. They are sure to spark some interesting conversations:
Stacey Shubitz revisits heart maps and discovers that they are a visual tool for writing topics that pays dividends for months:
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Heather Fisher finds the key to independence for many first graders is lots of visual reminders in classrooms:
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills work with eighth graders who struggle to articulate big themes in literature. A breakthrough comes when they have the option of sketching their thoughts:
In this week’s video, Melanie Meehan works with a small group to talk through how nonfiction text features might enhance their informational writing:
Mary Lee Hahn is skeptical about how her fifth-grade students might use graphic organizers. But once she tries them alongside students, she begins to see their utility:
In an encore video, Sean Moore confers with second grader Teague, encouraging him to sketch as he reads:
That’s all for this week!
Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.
We look at ways to improve student groups in this week’s Big Fresh.
We look at learning words in this week’s Big Fresh.