Grades 6-8

Drowning in Words or Overflowing with Ideas?

           What do you see?

octopus writing
Is this an uber-zealous octopus organizing and editing all available options to produce mega amounts of (ostensibly) meaningful output?

Is this a clever cephalopod adeptly juggling the many creative ways one can reach out and touch the minds (and maybe souls) of others?

Is this a stressed-out sea creature twisting and straining to meet press deadlines, online demands, and report formats of all sorts?

Your answer may reveal something about how you value or apply communication as you teach & learn.


It’s both the currency and undercurrent of cross-curricular integration and critical thinking. Do a good job sharing data or design elements via any medium and you can enrich the teaching & learning of any set of topics.  Yet communicate poorly and your muddled message serves only to confuse & frustrate.

All attempts to connect ideas – be they similar or seemingly disparate – will flow or falter in direct proportion to the quality of your communication skills.  If you wield words and other communicative gizmos in a clear, sufficiently brief, and dynamic manner, then you can galvanize your audience to engage with any topics you choose to weave together.

So embrace communication like an octopus. Go deep.  Reach in multiple directions. Accept that zealous editing and stressful deadlines will hit you in unpredictable waves.  And help your students do the same.

Immerse students in options for expanding the reach, flexibility and strength of their rhetoric. They should have ample time to talk intelligently with each other, select just the right word (while going easy on the jargon), prepare tweets with a laser focus, compose eloquent or edgy extended essays, and organize multi-media presentations across subjects.  And they also can:

1. Make a statement with American Sign Language
Combine signs and fingerspelling for key terms, sub-headings, definitions, or content-rich tag lines.
ASL Web Browser , ASL Dictionaries List

2. (Re-) Name that Tune!
Convey content by changing the lyrics to familiar tunes like ‘Happy Birthday.’
Songs & Chords

3. Puzzle Power
Use facts from class notes to make clues and create a crossword puzzle.  Clever clues take skill.
Test whose best by swapping puzzles and using class notes to solve each other’s puzzles.

4. Easy as 1-2-3, Infinity & Beyond!
Create mathematical word problems from plot twists, characters, discoveries or elements of fine art.
Can you craft them so the answers confirm a plot twist, discovery or fact?

5. Find a Picture Worth 1,000 Words
Select one picture you think communicates a complicated concept, a favorite topic, or a difficult problem worth solving. Google images is fine, but also search for some high-res or far-reaching inspiration. Pass your image to classmates, community members, and kin.  Ask each person to provide one unique word that the image conveys. Can you gather 1,000 discrete words?  Does the list reflect your original reason for choosing the image?

6. Write a short story, picture book, or fable based on key facts and concepts.
– Convey cause & effect a la If You Give a Mouse a Cookie .
– Explain nature & biology with context as in Rudyard Kipling’s fables .
– Pose solutions to social/global issues like Dr. Seuss did via The Lorax & other spectacular lore.
– Present base-building concepts like scientific inquiry as I did in my mini-unit: Dogged Determination .

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