Archive for February 29, 2012

Determining Logical Soundness of an Argument

As an extension of yesterday’s post, today will be a continuation of the visual rhetoric of monuments.  I open by asking the students to pretend they are architects and have been tasked with creating a floor plan for a department store.  I give them no other instructions in the hopes that the drawings will be varied and unique.  Then, I ask some brave volunteers to present their designs and tell us why they constructed it in the manner that they did.  The rest of the class pretends to be Read more

Analyzing Persona With Text and Images

Before I introduce the project to students, I want them to think about the connection between writing and persona.  I want them to study a well written speech and evaluate the primary argument and how it is constructed.  Analyzing the construction will help them identify the main intent and purpose of the speaker, while also helping them recognize how the style and voice of the speech is reminiscent of the speaker himself.  While there are hundreds of amazing speeches (some of which were detailed in our posts a few weeks ago), I think the “Gettysburg Address” works best to introduce this project.  It is short enough to keep students’ attention but powerful enough in argument and style to help students see how a truly great speech is written:  with concision and purpose. Read more

Monument Project: Overview

People are freaking out about the Common Core initiative.  Really freaking out.  I feel like that it is the main topic in tweets, in-services, and lunchroom conversations. And the same comments keep popping up in each venue:

“How will we prepare our kids?” 

“There are so many standards!  How can we be expected to successfully cover all of them in a year?”

“Where is the fiction?  These ‘reading’ standards are primarily about non-fiction and informational texts!”

“I don’t have time to grade all the essays necessitated by the Common Core.”  Read more

Brain Pickings: Week in Review

           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit discuss the need to supplement student reading and Lohan, Madonna and Costner.  Oh my!

 

1.  What type of reading would like your students to be able to do?  You cannot answer, “Any kind of reading would be nice seeing as how it’s February and nobody seems to reading.”

What does Emily say?Emily:  I think the most important thing is for them to be able to think while reading.  I think it is imperative they are able to read material that relates to their life and be able to make sense of it.  Realistically, in 10 years only a small percentage of our students will be reading the classics.  So they need to be able to read common, every day material but be able to see the larger importance of it, not merely dismiss it as something simple and therefore insignificant.

Aubrey: I would really like them to read complex and well written texts thatIs Aubrey right? interest and challenge.  I worry that often we want them to read only “great” literature.  Great literature has to be the anchor.  I want to teach future engineers who want to read Popular Science.  IT professionals who read WIRED and doctors who read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Asking them to read meaningful texts should require us to redefine meaningful.  

2.  Why is it so important to supplement classroom lesson plans with a variety of texts?

What does Emily say?Emily:  This is important because so many students cannot identify with the canonical texts we are required or choose to teach them.  And, realistically, these aren’t the pieces that students will choose to read on their own.  Supplementing the works allows students to see that reading takes place in a variety of arenas and helps them to find genres or types of  literature that is of interest to them.

Aubrey: They do need to understand that everything, regardless of format, requires an implicit reading.  Blogs, videos and “unconventional” texts often get them to rethink.  They require them to stretch their understanding.  

3.  If everything is an argument, what argument is made by any or all of the following: Lindsay Lohan hosting Saturday Night Live in March, Madonna’s new single “Give Me All Your Luvin” wherein she calls herself a “girl,” or Kevin Costner at Whitney Houston’s funeral.

Emily:  I think one idea that links all of them is the pursuit of seeking attention and fame at all costs, even if that means losing respect for yourself.  Can Lohan really survive a “live” taping of a show?  That new Madonna song is toxic.  And Costner’s 4-hour speech was a really just a display of his vanity.

Aubrey:  I would go so far as to call all of it vulgar.  Lohan shouldn’t be in theIs Aubrey right? public eye.  Madonna hasn’t been a girl since 1968.  Kevin Costner is a blowhard.  I long for something interesting to capture public interest.  But I worry that might include something about Rhianna and Chris Brown.  That I don’t think I can stand. Let February before over quickly so we can move more compelling news.

Brain Pickings: Posts with Video

What draws me to online resources for the classroom like Brain Pickings is the multimedia experience a single post can offer students.  While it’s true that video cannot be the only way we teach students to interact with the world, short, meaningful videos can help enrich the social commentary that student construct within their writing and discussion.

Part of asking students to become digital citizens means requiring them to consider how video, text and images overlap within writing online.  Brain Pickings offers a thoughtful way to incorporate this skill into a humanities style classroom.  The examples below are just a starting point and are meant to offer you some choices in teaching rhetoric, texts or moral/ethical debates.  You can easily find posts that better serve your needs depending on your curriculum simply by subscribing to the weekly newsletter or searching the archives.

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules Animated in Stop Motion

This post is an appropriate supplement to Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  There are several other Brain Pickings posts referenced, as well.  Consider having student explore/research the topic via these hyperlinks.  The video is a wonderful argument about food via food.  Consider the questions below for written response or discussion.

“Food Rules” by Michael Pollan – RSA/Nominet Trust competition from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.

  1. What elements of the video are the most engaging or clever?  Explain your reasoning.
  2. What necessity is there for a visual representation of this nature?  Why not simply use both audio and video from Michael Pollan?
  3. Identify Pollan’s argument via the narration.  Identify the video’s argument via its content.

You may even consider including the Brain Pickings post entitled “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption.”

Six Vintage Inspired Animations on Critical Thinking

Teaching logical fallacies can be difficult.  Students struggle to understand where/when they exist because they are inexperience and often believe most information is true.  This particular post includes a series of animated videos that teach logic and logical fallacies.  The non-sequitur and straw man videos are especially clear in teaching and could easily be posted for students to watch.

Non-Sequitur 

Straw Man 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

This post is a convergence of teaching the importance of empathy, action/volunteerism, entrepreneurship, global citizenship and literacy.  Use this multimedia post to teach students about the importance of literacy and personal action.  Questions below consider all aspects of the post.

  1. Why adapt this type of story from a memoir and turn it into an illustrated children’s book?
  2. What argument is to be found in the actual images assembled in the Brain Pickings post
  3. What argument is made within the post about this type of entrepreneurship and literacy?  Discuss the type or responsibility being advocated.
  4. View the video.  Discuss the mixed media is relies upon.  What is the effect of using the books illustrations, interviews and real video?
  5. Discuss the purpose of the video.  Does it accomplish that goal?

Encourage students to explore the We Give Books website.  Much like Free Rice, students, teacher, parents, etc. can read books online and then have books donated for no personal cost to several charities.

Brain Pickings: Posts about Authors

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One of the things that draws me to Brain Pickings is the website’s constant focus on authors.  Each week, posts examine unusual and unexpected aspects of those writers that I “spend” much of my time teaching.  Featured in letters, illustrations, stop motion, book reviews, etc., these posts enrich and supplement daily lessons.

Calling upon text, images and video, these posts do more than merely disseminate information.  They are miniature pieces of “clickable” art.  They can serve to simply improve the daily grind of being a classroom teacher and brighten some of your more difficult days.  However, it is easy for students to see literature as simply a number of chapters due on any given day.  These posts remind both teacher and student that literature is something more than reading quiz followed by class discussion.

Consider using Brain Pickings in two ways: as an extension or supplement to a lesson on a specific text or literary term and as a way to have students write/discuss how we view the writers.  Below I’ve highlighted one post to show how to implement written response, classroom discussion and small group collaboration.

Writer’s Houses Illustrated

Questions to consider after reading/exploring:

  1. Why are we fascinated with where “creators create?”  What about their homes and personal lives would be of interest to us?
  2. Why would this project start with these authors’ homes?  What argument is made by illustrating these homes?
  3. What value is there is a project of this type.

Small Group Project: After examining this project, have students create an author driven project that they will pursue.  Encourage them to highlight at least 2-3 of the authors you studied thus far.  Ask that students work in small groups and create a working proposal that they “pitch” to you before they proceed.  Consider this to be part research paper, part cross-curricular learning and part creative presentation.  Steer clear of PowerPoint, Posters or other expected/tired assignment formats.  Give them guidelines but also challenge them to construct an outcome unlike their peers.

The project should identify the following:

  • An argument about writers in popular culture both past and present
  • A creative means via technology, art, social media, etc. to display this project.

Two other posts that can serve as powerful resources for discussing writer’s on their own craft are “From Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury Iconic Writers on Truth vs. Fiction” and “Advice on Writing From Modernity’s Greatest Writers.” Consider using the author statements in these posts as the basis for creating essay prompts.

Brain Pickings: Weekly Newsletter

 

Subscribe to Brain Pickings Weekly Newsletter

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Brain Pickings, the cultural website curated by Maria Popova, is a trove of valuable and engaging classroom resources.  With several posts each day, the breadth and depth is remarkable.  One of the best things you can do is subscribe to the weekly newsletter.  An overview of the best stories from the week with added bonuses, it can help guide your reading and your students’ research depending on how you choose to implement this resource.

Because most Brain Pickings posts are complex conversations, you may want to pick and choose some of the videos, images, text, etc.   You can always have your students research the weekly newsletter itself and have them choose a post for themselves.  As with anything, I would recommend the use of SOAPSTone and/or précis paragraph writing in an attempt to have them look for argument/bias in all forms of writing.

Since there also exists a Weekly Newsletter Archive , you can quickly review the past several months of posts, too.  While I’ll spend the next two days highlighting specific posts, let me suggest one of my favorite newsletters.  A majority of the highlighted posts are easily accessible and incorporate video/photos to help students examine argument via different media and formats.   See ideas for incorporating the entirety of the newsletter into class discussion/writing below.

Weekly Newsletter-10/30/2011 – 5 Unsung Heroes Who Shaped Modern Life, a Pixar animator reimagines Hindu deities, and more

1. Have students read the “5 Unsung Heroes” post.  Ask that they, based on knowledge solely from the posts, construct an argument for or against the order in which the heroes are listed.

  • Have them examine the Henrietta Lacks section specifically.  Consider asking them to assess how video and multiple images make her seem a more convincing choice for number 1 of 5 most important.

2. Have students examine “The Phantom Tollbooth at 50” post and watch the accompanying short documentary.  Ask that they determine what, if any, the importance is between storyteller and illustrator.

3.  Have students examine the images included in “Visual Storytelling.”  Read and assess Popova’s argument about the book and images included.  Then have students parse the images discussing the following:

  • Image argument
  • Role of data
  • Role of aesthetics
  • Need for this type of visual storytelling in today’s culture

4.  Have students read/examine the post detailing “The Little Book of Hindu Deities.” Next, instead of giving them the essential questions have them create them.

  • Ask that they do more than just identify aspects of the post/images.  Ask that they also include moral/ethical debate questions that focus on the overlap popular culture and religion.

Brain Pickings: Overview

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Several weeks ago I posted a series of ideas about how to use Good Magazine to help enrich student knowledge, teach empathy and consider moral/ethical debates.  However, every teacher needs an arsenal of resources to expand student knowledge.  Common Core Standards in regards to Integration of Knowledge and Ideas for reading standards require evaluation of tone/rhetoric in sources presented in different “media or formats.”

When budgets are tight and classrooms are large, a variety of “formats” can be a difficult task.  Some of my favorite resources to supplement expanding student literacy can be found online.  Easy to access via computer, Smart Phone or tablet, online magazines, newspapers and blogs offer an infusion of options.  Students have the ability to choose topics that interest them, and educators have at their disposal texts that fall in line with Common Core expectations.   Yet, teachers are often unaware of those resources.

To that end, this week’s posts will focus on Brain Pickings, a website that “curates” culture.  The website is the brain-child of Maria Popova and partners with The Atlantic.   On its own, the site is a wonderful resource for a harried teacher who simply wants 10 minutes to remind themselves that classrooms are microcosms.  From the perspective of curriculum enrichment, Brain Pickings is a vast resource of information on Charles Dickens, Jackson Pollack, Bicycle Art, Vintage Valentines Day Cards, even a scales of income walking tour by the percents.   It is, in essence, a site that demands that we see how science, math and the humanities overlap.  As such, it is an elegant way to build student knowledge while improving critical thinking skills.

Presidents’ Day: Toyota’s Dancing Presidents

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The focus of this weekend’s impromptu posts is Presidents’ Day commercials highlighting the following key terms “presidents” and “dancing.”  Silly?  Yes.  Disturbing?  Most Certainly.  Opportunity to teach cultural point of view and highlight how silly we can be?   Absolutely.   Hopefully this weekend’s post can help you add social commentary, media literacy and humor to the classroom.

There is a chance, however small, that yesterday’s Value City Furniture “Dancing Presidents” commercial simply did not satisfy your need to see our founding fathers break it down.  Never fear.  Today, we’ll give you one more commercial featuring our newly minted back up dancers President Lincoln and President Washington.

Toyota Presidents’ Day 2011 Commercial –“Presidents Care”

At 30 seconds, this is a much more standard commercial.  Have student consider the patriotic elements as well as the highly choreographed presidents.  You may have students compare this “dancing presidents” commercial to the Value City Furniture commercial highlighted yesterday.  Questions for viewing, written response and discussion are below.

  1. Describe the reason that Toyota would feature “pseudo” hip hop music and dance moves in this commercial for car sales over President’s Day weekend.  What argument does this make about the audience they’re trying to reach?
  2. What patriotic elements are included in the commercial?  Explain their purpose?
  3. Again, why dancing presidents?  What difference does it make that these Presidents are choreographed and wearing tuxedos?
  4. Of the two dancing presidents commercial, Value City & Toyota, which is ultimately more effective?  Explain your reasoning.
  5. Considering that you’ve viewed two commercials that prominently feature dancing presidents, what argument could you make about society or culture?

Presidents’ Day: Dancing Presidents

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They do the cabbage patch, the hustle, the shuffle and the running man.  They shake their “booties,” point their fingers and click their heels.  No, these are not your students at homecoming.   Instead, they are great bastions of American history.  Monuments across the country exalt their greatness.  The History Channel profiles their lives, and when we celebrate Presidents’ Day we hold them up as the greatest examples of what has been good, just and fair in American politics and government.

And yet, each year, both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln seem to dance their way across our TV screens in Presidents’ Day Commercials.  Why dancing?  Why horrible, horrible dancing?

It would be a grievous mistake not to profile, in brief, Presidents’ Day via popular culture this weekend.  In light of this past week’s focus on presidential speeches, it only seems fair to discuss how presidential images and patriotism are employed in advertising.

Watch if you dare, the first of our dancing presidents below.  More importantly, employ, if you dare, in your classroom these lesson plans for the coming week.

Value City Presidents’ Day Sale-“Dancing Presidents”

At 15 seconds this commercial is incredibly short. Consider having students watch and answer the questions below.

  1. What effect does a “dancing” president have on the impact of the advertisement?
  2. Discuss the commercials’ length. Why so short?  When most commercial are 30 seconds to a minute what might be the strategy in airing a commercial that is significantly shorter.
  3. Culturally, why might we see this type of commercial?  What draws us to this type of advertising?
  4. Is “appropriating” the image of a president, or any famous historical figure, appropriate for a business or company?