“It all starts with a story.”

Pixar in a Box is free lesson series of videos and activities from Khan Academy about storytelling and making animated videos. Here’s the Introduction to Storytelling video:

If this interests you, go back and start with the introduction video to this lesson series on the Khan Academy site. These videos have transcripts, to help your listening comprehension.

This is a free course, and you don’t have to sign up to just enjoy it, but if you want to save your progress, sign up.

If you’re unfamiliar with Khan Academy, here’s Salman Khan’s TED Talk from several years ago, when the organization was just starting out:

Filling in those boxes

The New York Times crossword puzzles are celebrating their 75th birthday. Here’s an article about why these puzzles are so popular and relaxing: “Crossword-Solving: A Search for Connections and Answers” (NYT)

“Human brains are hard-wired to fill in blanks when they see them. In difficult times, when life begins to feel out of control or when faced with an emotional dilemma, working on something that has finite answers can provide a sense of security.”

On the NYT website you can play the Daily Mini puzzle. It’s pretty easy. And there are plenty of other online puzzle sites you can play for free.

I remember spending a weekend once in graduate school making a bilingual crossword puzzle.

crossword-1 crossword-2

It was fun to make, but it took a lot of time. If I had known about this website then, I may have used it:

Crossword Labs

create puzzle

Here’s their example:

example

Type in the clues and answers, hit “generate” and you’ve got a crossword puzzle. The password you use to create it will give you access to the answer key.

There are lots of ways to use crosswords for language study. Use it to introduce key vocabulary to your discussion partners. Make a bilingual puzzle in English and another language you’re studying to help you remember your new major language and review your English. Create a puzzle around a theme or a person you’re interested in, like this one, about Lady Gaga:

lady-gaga-puzzle

Using the Find a Crossword menu, you can only browse the latest 10 puzzles, but you can search for puzzles using key words.

Other ideas? You could try creating your own game app or software. This crossword puzzle maker was created by a university student at Washington State University.

Writing prompt: Do you play games on your phone when you commute? Do you prefer games like Candy Crush or whatever is popular right now, or games that make you think a little more, like crosswords or sudoku? Do you think that both the more mindless (to my thinking) games are actually just as good for you as more challenging games? (see this quote from the NYT article above)

“When you do a puzzle, the mind becomes completely absorbed in the task at hand. There is total focus on what is happening in the moment, which is the definition of mindfulness. And we know that mindfulness results in all sorts of positive changes in the brain.”

Letters of Note

Letters of Note is a compilation of more than 900 letters, postcards, memos and even faxes, often written by famous people, and almost always thought-provoking.

Here’s a recent one, from movie director Martin Scorsese, about the necessity of diversity.

diversity

An excerpt:

Why don’t they make movies like ours?
Why don’t they tell stories as we do?
Why don’t they dress as we do?
Why don’t they eat as we do?
Why don’t they talk as we do?
Why don’t they think as we do?
Why don’t they worship as we do?
Why don’t they look like us?

Ultimately, who will decide who “we” are?


Here’s one from the archives, a 1973 letter from writer E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web), about remaining hopeful in what seems like a hopeless situation.

wind-the-clock

An excerpt:

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”


And here’s a letter from a 10-year-old to former president Obama: “Our differences unite us.” You can see his response, too.