Monday, May 6, 2019

Would you free solo up a mountain?

   Recently, my husband and I watched a documentary on Alex Honnold, a 33 year old professional rock climber who was the first and only person to free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park . Have you ever heard of free soloing? Until this documentary, I didn't. You see, I'm not a very adventurous person.  The closest thing to "adventurous" I ever did was go zip lining in Costa Rica. It was terrifying. I hope no one ever makes me do it again. 
Image by: Jimmy Chin

    According to a very reliable source, free soloing can be defined as "a form of rock climbing where the climber (or free soloist) performs a climb alone without using any ropesharnesses or other protective equipment. Forcing them to rely entirely on their own individual strength and skill to scale a wall or mountain. Unlike in bouldering, free soloists climb above safe heights where a fall would result in serious injury or even death." UMMMMMMMM, PEOPLE DO THIS WILLINGLY?! No thanks.

     At this point, I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with speech and language therapy. I was watching, I couldn't help think that my students would be really interested in this guy. We know that nonfiction text is super important, and it doesn't get anymore nonfiction then this guy. I was dying to know if they'd think he was cool? a legend? crazy? all of the above? Would they ever risk their lives doing something like this? Do they think it's worth it? So many questions! I thought of all the different skills we could target while reading or watching videos on Alex Hannold.

   Below, I'll share some materials you can use in your sessions and some areas of language/skills that can be targeted. 

Step one: Write "mountain/rock climbing" and "free solo climbing" on the board. Ask your students what they know about each activity. Likely, they'll be able to tell you about mountain or rock climbing. Ask them what gear they think is required. What is the purpose of the gear? This is great pre-reading/watching activity! You can also show some pictures of mountain climbing/free soloing as a visual aid.

Step twoDo you want to show your students a video or read an article? In theory, you can totally do both. I would start with a video....reel them in ya know ;)

Here are two videos that I thought were pretty good:

1)Background on Hannold and the documentary: Lots of cool scenes from the climb.
2) Alex Hannold TED Talk: This is great because he tells his story and how he came to climbing El Capitain

1) NewsELA: Different levels for all your different groups!
2) NatGeo: I love this article because of its complexity, but it's too long and maybe challenging for some students. If you're adventurous, maybe you can shave some of it down.

If there's anything you want them to do while watching or reading, let them know. For the videos, you can use Edpuzzle to add in comprehension questions.

Once you choose the route you want to go (e.g., video/article), you can target SO many different goals. I will list some, but don't feel limited to just these:

Character Traits: As you read the article or watch YouTube clips- how would you describe Hannold? Is he brave? A risk-taker? Would you say he’s impulsive? Have a vocabulary chart ready to use for your students. Remind students to use evidence :)

Emotions: Working on labeling emotions is such an important skill for all of our students, especially adolescents. Discuss the roller coaster of emotions Hannold must have been through before, during, and after his climb. As with the traits, a list of emotion words would be helpful here.

Compare/Contrast: Spend some time comparing/contrasting free soloing to regular rock/mountain climbing. You can find info on what other climbers have done vs. what Hannold attempted to do.

Comprehension: Ask questions before, during, and after reading. You can ask literal or inferential questions here. My students have been working on using the GIST strategy so we’ll be applying it while reading the NewsELA article

Articulation: You can pull out words/sentences or highlight sounds within the article to have your student read off.

Vocabulary: Many tier-2 vocab words can be found within the article or used in the video. Pull them out prior to starting!

Writing: Really you can do so much here. Have students respond to prompts after reading/watching, provide their opinions, make connections, generate different types of sentences, write paragraphs. Whatever the goal is, use the videos or articles to guide you.

Remember....don’t feel pressured to get through this activity in one session. I can easily see this taking several sessions. I would try to stretch it to 4 because....MAY.

I hope this helps! Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions/comments.

9 comments on "Would you free solo up a mountain?"
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