Technological Singularity Lesson Plan

by Punita Rice Teaching

Technological Singularity Lesson Plan

When I was teaching, I created a technological singularity lesson plan, on how coming technological advances and changes (and the actual singularity, which I touch on at the beginning of the lesson — I’ve included an overview of the lesson at the bottom of this post) might impact the world. My seventh graders usually shared insights into what the world of tomorrow, following a presumed technological singularity, might look, in context of political systems, culture, geography, and economics. I wrote an article about their insights (and included the lesson plan), and it was published by Bullshit.Ist, an online magazine on Medium. The article is called “How the Technological Singularity will Impact the World (according to seventh graders)” (you can read the whole thing here if you’re interested).

If you read on, I’m sharing an overview of the students’ thoughts, plus a brief overview of the lesson (or, to read what my former students came up with, click here).

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Language acquisition models

by Punita Rice Culture

My younger brother and I had different language acquisition models

Did you know kids who are born in the United States (Native-born) and kids who immigrate here have different language acquisition models? In schools, we lump kids who speak English as an Additional Language together, but there’s actually a lot of diversity among them. Culturally and linguistically diverse students are, in fact, pretty diverse. Even in my own family, there’s some diversity in language acquisition models.

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When Tolerance is not Enough

by Punita Rice Culture

Tolerance is not enough

I read this great article (thanks Tim for the share), written as “an open letter to straight people” in the wake of the recent and horrific massacre at Pulse in Orlando. The article serves as a reminder that like ongoing struggles surrounding race, the LGBTQ+ battle is not over, that we as a society have not arrived at some “fairy-tale ending,” and that tolerating a minority group is not enough. A standout comment:

If you are a person who believes “tolerance” is enough, you are contributing to the problem.
Connor Doherty for Huffington Post

I thought this message would fit well into conversations about cultural competence (since culture isn’t just ethnicity, and can include sexual orientation).

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Assessing Students’ Ability to Defend Claims: A Trick

by Punita Rice Teaching

How do you assess your students’ ability to defend a claim or stance, without having them write out a paragraph every time? If you’re a writing, language arts, social studies, and/or humanities teacher, you know this struggle. Assessing students’ skills is really important. But is very time consuming. You’ve probably come up with a hundred different ways to do it (and all of them take hours to grade).

Sometimes, though, you just need a quick check-in! Here’s one way that I stumbled across while having students prepare for a major writing assignment…

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Konmari Your Writing!

by Punita Rice Career

KonMari your Writing

You can reduce word count by throwing out anything that doesn’t bring you joy (or further the point of what you’re trying to write). That’s how you Konmari your writing. You literally don’t have to read anything else in this post. 🙂

If you’re already a seasoned expert on the misery of having to implement the 5 Basics of Decreasing Word Count, you may be ready for a new approach (aka how to KonMari your writing). What if there was a better way to decrease word count that’s nothing like those 5 basics, and this way would actually significantly improve the quality of your writing? And, you’d only have to do once? (There is!)

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Surviving and Succeeding in an Online Doctorate Program

by Punita Rice Career

How to Succeed in an Online Doctoral Program

Surviving and succeeding in an online doctorate program can sometimes feel impossible! As the 2015-2016 academic year draws nearer, a new student in our program reached out to current and former students to ask for advice. Here, some colleagues from my own program share their best tips on note-taking, and long-term organization strategies for surviving and succeeding in an online doctorate program. If you’re in a program like ours (or thinking of joining one), I hope this post is helpful to you!

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An American Tragedy, 3 Years Later

by Punita Rice Culture

A Sikh Tragedy, an American Tragedy

Before reading this post, please make sure you are familiar with the Shooting at the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Wisconson.

Three years ago, on August 5, 2012, in Oak Creek Wisconsin, a man opened fire at a Gurdwara (Sikh house of worship), murdering six people, and injuring four more. For those slain or injured in this hate filled day, their loved ones, and for Sikhs (who are a minority in the United States) in America and all over the world, this shooting was horrific, heartbreaking, and a reminder that hate still exists in our country.

“For me, the mass shooting is not just about how to keep guns out of the hands of a murderous few. It’s also about my community’s sacrifice in the struggle to live as free and proud Americansthis is not a Sikh tragedy but an American tragedy.”
Today, we are all American Sikhs by Valarie Kaur

In the days that followed, I remember reading comments online (usually a bad idea, I know) and someone said something like “Sikh men shouldn’t be surprised by the prejudice some of them face when stepping out in the morning.” And I can’t accept that.

Land of the Free

To that someone, and to any other person who would raise the notion that any person should “expect” to face prejudice because of what they believe, I have to say no, in America, they shouldn’t have to expect it.

A Sikh man, like any freedom loving American, should not have to “expect” to be treated with injustice, intolerance, or hateful murderous rage, because that’s not the country we live in. Not in this day and age, and not in this place.

Having an unshorn beard and wearing a turban are things that men should just walk outside and “expect” to face consequences for having; not in the country that prides itself on such freedoms. We are a nation that defends the right to follow one’s religion (not just allows it, but actively defends it).

So, to perpetuate the notion that a man who chooses to follow his should “expect” to be treated with violence is unacceptable, and it means we’re failing as a nation. Not as a Sikh community (which is known for being non-violent and sharing with the community), but as a nation.

As a nation, and as individuals, we should not be suggesting that Sikh men and women can exercise their religious freedom at their own risk (particularly in a nation where exercising religious freedom is a fundamental right, and one of the very things our country was built upon), but instead should be working to remind others of our national values.

Americans support the Sikh community

Thankfully, in the weeks that followed the horrible shooting, Americans from all backgrounds have rallied together to show their Sikh brothers and sisters how supported they are: Without Fear or Waver (Navroop Mitter) observes the camaraderie of Americans after this tragedy, and revels in how Sikh Americans have had no cause or need for fear following this incident. The feeling in the nation is one that certainly makes clear how isolated the perception of the terrorist responsible for this tragedy is.

Americans still have more to learn

In contrast, the article “Why the Reaction is Difference when the Terrorist is White” by Conor Friedersdorf approaches America’s reaction from an admittedly more glass-half-empty perspective. The article is disappointing and frustrating, but interesting, and certainly illustrates that we as a nation have room to grow.

The bottom line is, our nation’s well being and interests are best served when Americans of all creeds and walks of life band together and give support to one another, with no tolerance for anyone who threatens our tolerant way of being.

More about Sikhism

Sikhism, a peaceful religion originating in North India, is the 5th largest Organized Religion in the world, with approximately half a million followers living in the United States. Click here to learn more about Sikhism, its fundamental beliefs, and central tenants. FYI – Wikipedia‘s overview of Sikhism is straightforward and helpful for those who are completely unfamiliar with the religion.

Stray final thoughts:

  • The shooter, Wade Michael Page, was a white supremacist who committed this heinous act out of hatred. Is this not domestic terrorism?
  • The shooter purchased his gun legally.
  • Related: Obama called for “soul searching” on how to reduce violence following this horrific incident.
  • Focusing on the differences between Muslims and Sikhs, while valid, basically “misses the point” (article by Paul Raushenbush).
    Here’s a great quote from that article, to end with:
    “Let us get to know our Sikh sisters and brothers, as well as all of the ‘others’ in our neighborhoods so that we might grow stronger as one nation, and as one global community.”

Invictus and Nelson Mandela Lesson Plan

by Punita Rice Teaching

Nelson Mandela & Teaching Invictus

In seventh grade World Studies, during our unit on culture, we talk a lot about Apartheid and modern day South Africa in class. We explore topics like cultural identity, cultural conflict, pluralism, and national identity, and try to apply them to the events that unfolded in South Africa during and following apartheid. So, at the end of the school year, we show students the movie Invictus, which tells (in Hollywood fashion) of how Nelson Mandela united his nation by getting them to ‘cheer for the same team’ (literally). Which means we have to teach about the movie Invictus and Nelson Mandela himself.

Read on for a full discussion of exactly how we teach about the movie Invictus and about Nelson Mandela himself, and about his legacy.

Teaching about Invictus and Nelson Mandela

Below is the overview for the actual lesson plan I use to teach about Nelson Mandela, about Mandela Day, and about the movie Invictus. The lesson plan I’m offering below also includes the actual objective (purpose) of the lesson plan, an agenda for how to actually do it, an explanation of what Invictus actually means and is, and a discussion of context.

Invictus Movie Day Lesson Plan

I have students do some thinking while they watch. As they watch, they’re asked to consider moments in the movie that show them something about the (1) political system of South Africa, (2) the cultural identities and cultural values there, (3) geography and how populations settle in different areas in South Africa, and (4) the economic situation of South Africa. That way, the movie ties back directly to everything they have learned during the year.

This is similar to what I have them do when we learn about the technological singularity — only there, they apply technology’s potential impacts on the four major domains of Social Studies, and here, they simply list examples from the movie that fall under each of those domains.

Lesson Objective

Students will be able to find examples of political systemsculturegeography, and economics while enjoying a movie about how South African leader, Nelson Mandela, united a pluralistic nation by uniting them in a common goal.


  1. Reflect on the four lenses for understanding Social Studies (2–5 minutes)
  2. Watch the movie Invictus!
  3. Add one example from the movie to the board* in any of the four categories.

*This sucks, but I completely forgot to take a photo of the board after the last class finished this! 🙁

Overall, the approach is great, because it gets them to do some content-related thinking during the movie, but it’s also a low-demand activity that lets them kick back and enjoy.

Also, this isn’t listed on the agenda, at some point I try to address the most common question:

What does “Invictus” mean?

A lot of people think Nelson Mandela came up with the poem Invictus. This is not the case.

“Invictus” is actually the name of a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903) that’s used throughout the movie.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul

The Victorian poem “Invictus” by the poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

And the answer to the question of “what does Invictus mean” is this:

The word “invictus” is Latin for “unconquered.”

And of course, the idea of being “unconquered” itself has some amazing significance in the movie.

Context for the Movie

My students don’t need to have a ton of information on Nelson Mandela or the story of South African apartheid recapped right before we watch the movie, because we cover all of this pretty extensively earlier in the year.

BUT, it would be pretty ideal to have the entire thing happen near or on Freedom Day, April 27th (it just doesn’t make sense to do it this way for me) or on Mandela Day, July 18th (which doesn’t make sense because it’s summer… but maybe this would work for summer school!).

Either way, next, I’m offering some valuable background information on the man, Nelson Mandela, and on Mandela Day itself. So, if you’re interested, read on.

Who was Nelson Mandela?

Invictus and Nelson Mandela - Teaching about Nelson Mandela & Invictus
Nelson Mandela & Teaching Invictus

Nelson Mandela grew up in apartheid South Africa, and grew up to fight the institutionalized racism in his nation. He was thrown in prison for decades for fighting apartheid and for his activism. And when he was eventually released, rather than seeking vengeance, he forgave the people who imprisoned him.

Then, he ran for president.

And won.

In spite of apartheid being officially over when President Mandela took office, the nation was still tense and full of conflict — but Mandela worked toward making his homeland a “rainbow nation.”

Nelson Mandela followed these three rules in his life:

  1. Free yourself.
  2. Free others.
  3. Serve every day.

Nelson Mandela does not just represent conviction, dedication, faith, and forgiveness; he also represents the power. of an individual person to affect change in an incredible way. Nelson Mandela was a man who transformed his life, and his world.

About Mandela Day (July 18)

Mandela Day is not a public holiday, but a day to honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela. According to the official Mandela Day website, the formal goal of Mandela Day is:

“To inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better and in so doing, to build a global movement for good.”

The “Mandela Day” Website, on the purpose of Mandela Day

Today “belongs to everyone and can take place anywhere, at any time” and urges everyone to “find inspiration for their contribution in the legacy of Nelson Mandela and to serve their fellow humans every day” (via Mandela Day). The Mandela Day campaign aims to unite people around the world in the fight against poverty, and to promote peace and reconciliation.

This day is a global call to action for citizens of the world to take up the challenge of following in Nelson Mandela’s footsteps, and serving others. Today celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world.

Mandela Day has been celebrated since 2009, and was formally recognized by the United Nations in 2010.

Powerful Nelson Mandela Quotes

On the importance of education:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela, on the importance of education

On persistence and perseverance (also great for growth mindset):

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.”

Nelson Mandela on persistence and perseverence

On standing by your convictions and having strength of character:

“I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience… If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who dares call himself a man.”

Nelson Mandela, on convictions and strength of character and self

On tolerance and love:

“People must learn to hate and if they can learn to hate they can be taught to love for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”

Nelson Mandela, on tolerance

On faith and persistence (this one is up in my classroom!):

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Nelson Mandela, on perseverance and having faith in yourself

On making a difference in others’ lives:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nelson Mandela, on how to make a difference in others’ lives

On the responsibility of having freedom:

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Nelson Mandela, on the responsibility of having freedom

The last two quotes seem the most valuable, especially to use in a classroom setting; it’s not just enough to be alive, and healthy, and well (or even grateful for all of those things): freedom comes with a responsibility. To live in such a way that “respects” the freedom of others seems manageable enough for most people who make an effort to live consciously. But to live in a way that “enhances” the freedom of others is a much bigger undertaking, and requires soo much more conscious effort. Very inspiring, very powerful stuff.

Links to Learn More about Nelson Mandela, Mandela Day, and Living Consciously

Because I’ve put together a lot of resources about Nelson Mandela and also about Mandela Day, I’ve rounded a lot of those up and am sharing them below.

Below are some links to learn more about Nelson Mandela:

Some links to read more about Mandela Day:

Some links about living consciously:

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