Search results for Good Magazine

Analyzing Graduation Speeches

It never fails; I always cry at graduations.  I’m not sure if it is the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the feel of polyester gowns and mortarboard hats, or the foolhardy grins on the faces of seniors when they cross the stage, but I always cry.18160844_s

While I love graduations, I’m usually lukewarm at graduation speeches.  They are typically trite and overwrought with clichés while trying to impart wisdom that is rarely understood by the burgeoning youth who are only thinking about how many checks they will receive in their graduation cards.

However, there is some benefit to studying the speeches from a variety of standpoints.

They would be a great way to introduce the rhetorical situation and a rhetorical analysis can be done of some the most well-known graduation speeches. Students could be asked to do a variety of things to have a close reading of the speech.  While there are many great graduation speeches available, I have paired specific activities with specific speeches.

Consider asking students to…

  • Identify the top five lessons the speaker seeks to impart and evaluate the effectiveness of communicating those lessons.  The purpose of the graduation speech is to share words of wisdom to the listener.  This might be an activity to first use with a speech to aid comprehension and ensure students understand the message or argument.
  • Analyze the way in which the speech is unified and evaluate the use of a framing device that keeps the speech focused.  It might be content or it might be style, but effective speeches are focused and organized cohesively.  This is clearly seen in Steve Jobs’ speech to Stanford University graduates.
  • Determine which 2-3 devices or strategies are used most effectively and therefore become representative of the speech itself.  A good speech has a clear voice.  Ask students to determine what devices and strategies the speaker uses to maintain a cogent voice.  An excellent graduation speech to analyze for voice is David Foster Wallace’s speech to Kenyon College graduates.
  • Consider how the speech is tailored to a particular audience.  For this, the students might think about the immediate audience by analyzing the college enrollment itself.  Before providing the speech, ask students to provide first impressions of the university itself.  Then, ask students to read the speech, considering how the speech addresses that audience.  Consider using Joe Biden’s speech to the graduates of West Point or Stephen Colbert’s speech at the University of Virginia’s Valediction Exercises, which honors top performing students and professors the day before the official graduation.
  • Then, ask students to think about the broader audience of the speech.  Have students evaluate how the speaker addresses what is occurring socially, historically, or politically during the time of its delivery.   Bono’s graduation speech at the University of Pennsylvania does an excellent job of addressing the cultural climate of the time.

Compare and contrast speeches.  This option steps up the rigor by requiring students to have close knowledge of two speeches.

  • For example, students can analyze two speeches both delivered to Harvard.  I think JK Rowling’s speech pairs nicely with Bill Gates’ address to Harvard graduates.  Both address the nature of failure in interesting ways.  Students can draw inferences about both the speaker and the audience when comparing and contrasting these speeches.
  • Many leaders have addressed graduates multiple times.  Oprah Winfrey has made her rounds as a speaker.  Provide students a copy of her speech to Harvard University (2013) and Howard University (2007).  Students can do an in-depth look at how audience and occasion impact the construction of the speech.  They can also evaluate the consistency of style from one speech to the next.  Are there some trademarks to the speaker’s style that transcends setting?
  • Students also struggle to identify satire, so another option is to have them evaluate the humorous graduation speech.  Both Will Ferrell and Conan O’Brien  have addressed graduates at Harvard University.  Ask students to compare and contrast the techniques used by both and how those strategies enhance the purpose of the speech.
  • Lastly, if working on synthesis, provide students three graduation speeches from the same year and ask them to identify common themes that emerge and begin to consider what these speeches reveal about the time period.

Regardless, keep a box of tissues nearby to curb any tears the speeches bring to mind!

Advertising & Rhetoric

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Perhaps it’s because I can’t resist a good laugh.  Perhaps it’s because of Elaine Benes and the J. Peterman catalogue.  Whatever the reason, I love SkyMall. It’s free entertainment.  Cat toilets and portable infrared sauanas—what’ s not to love?

But if I’m truthful the product descriptions are the best part.  Anybody who can write up a product description about Skel-E-Gnomes deserves respect.  Plus with the Aziz Ansari stamp of approval there isn’t a reason to debate the importance of this magazine.

As English teachers, most of us teach visual rhetoric and advertising too. SkyMall can be an excellent way to implement some of the rhetoric studied.

Have students examine the catalogue.  Then, ask that they write their own product descriptions.   This type of an exercise offers students the opportunity to practice rhetorical strategies in a small space.

Provide them a list of images from the magazine.  They will choose one and write its product description.  It’s important they don’t see the original.  This should be an exercise in advertising and rhetoric. You can set a word count and ask that they employ a certain amount of rhetorical devices too.  You might even end this exercise by having students work with the 2005 AP Language and Composition rhetorical analysis from The Onion.

 

Possible Skymall Products

 

Possible Rhetorical Devices

  • Anaphora
  • Epistrophe
  • Polysndeton
  • Asyndeton
  • Metaphor
  • Alliteration
  • Simile
  • Rhetorical Appeals
  • Testimonals

 

If you’re feeling very adventurous you might have them construct a product description and a satirical version as well.

Blogs as Text: Technology & Science

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It’s easy to think that all blogs are gossip driven.  Perez Hilton rules supreme.  But most major news publications today run a significant amount of blog based content. And this content is well written.  Whether these are blogs from The Chronicle of Higher Education or The New Yorker, the goal is always the same: find good writing on interesting topics that can reach a high school audience. Consider your goal with using blogs as supplemental texts as twofold.  First, you want to provide students choice and engage otherwise unwilling readers.  Second, you want students to practice assessing and evaluating textual arguments in a variety of mediums.  Don’t forget to examine yesterday’s post in order to peruse lesson plans for writing and annotating ideas in regards to reading blogs as “texts” in the classroom.

In an effort to help “jump” start this process I’ll highlight science and technology blogs today, current events/popular cultures blogs tomorrow.  My “picks” are simply a starting point for you as you make the decision to implement more blog as supplemental reading.

The New York Times is an amazing resource for blogs.  Be sure to checkout their index before beginning any blog reading assignment.

Science & Technology Blogs

The New York Times

Bits

From apps to cyber security to the online presence of celebrities, this blog has a little bit of everything for the student interested in technology, business and policy.  Often posts even discuss big picture implications and the role of technology in society. 

 

The Washington Post

Faster Forward

This blog focuses on stories about technology, specifically “gadgets.”  The writing is easy to read and posts include video and image which allows students the challenge and satisfaction of working in different textual mediums. 

 

Wired Magazine

Geek Dad

These posts are written by parents about everything from poetry to film to tech. Since the posts are written by a variety of authors, studying voice throughout is a great focus. 

Wired Science

Videos and image populate this blog.  Posts range from nature to outer space offering a variety of lenses through which students can read and experience any element of science blog writing that might engage them. 

Danger Room

A personal favorite, this blog deals with national security, technology and current events.  Interested in safety at the London Olympics?  Concerned about how military technology adapts? The posts are incredibly engaging even for an English teacher. 

NPR

Krulwich Wonders

We’ve highlighted Krulwich Wonders before.  It’s a great blog of just about everything you could ever want including, but not limited to, the science of language, architecture, nature, etc.  It will easily become a student favorite. 

All Tech Considered

Posts about tech on this blog range from information about start-up companies to the ethics of tech in modern culture.  Very readable and engaging for any student. 

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All of the contributors for this blog are comprised of professors with science specialties, as well as one philosopher.  The posts are engrossing and deal with a variety of big picture arguments that are rooted in science and philosophy. 

Poetry: Pop Culture & Media Literacy

Often, I find that I’m forced to defend the teaching of poetry—to my students.  It is as if they see poetry as frivolity, or worse, self-indulgence.  In the world of Tumblr, Instagram, and Flipboard, where does poetry fit?  Today begins our foray into resources that help teach students how poetry exists in spaces other than just textbooks and dusty bookstores.

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One of the best ways to discuss poetry, popular culture and media literacy finds its shape in The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry: Timeless Poems by Snooki, John Boehner, Kanye West, and Other Well-Versed Celebrities. In this anthology, authors and siblings Kathryn and Ross Petras use the language of politicians and celebrities to create found poetry.  The results are fabulous and humorous.  While not all poems are appropriate for use in the classroom, there are enough to make the publication a useful resource.   To begin, examine their Tumblr page.  Each day, for National Poetry Month, they are posting one poem from the actual anthology.   Then, peruse the two articles below that examine the poetry and purpose. Read more

Documentaries: Corporate Sponsorship

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If part of our task is to challenge students to weigh pros and cons, especially in their writing, discussing the idea of sponsorship and documentaries can be a powerful tool.  Have students examine just this concept via some of the trailers and shorts below.

Begin with Morgan Spurlock.  My recommendation?  Start with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  It’s ninety minutes.    The same length as Food Inc. which I’ve already admitted I struggle to show in its entirety.  So, instead use the trailer, a Spurlock interview and some source material from the film’s website as a starting point.  This week is about making documentaries work in the classroom.  Sometimes spurring a class discussion and allowing students to explore on their own offers some well needed exposure without overtaxing your classroom time.

Have students begin by examining some of the following resources.  Spurlock gave an interview with Forbes Magazine detailing his thinking in creating a film about product placement.  Or consider having students use Ebert’s review of the film itself as a warm-up.  Better yet have them watch Spurlock’s interview with Tavis Smiley.   At around 11 minutes it’s a good way to see him in action and hear his point of view.  Questions below can be used to accompany the interview.

Watch Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

  1. What is Sprulock’s argument against product placement in TV programming?
  2. What Spurlock’s purpose in creating the film?
  3. Identify Spurlock’s argument about schools and advertising.  Defend, challenge or qualify his point of view.
  4. Spurlock argues that modern films rely on product placement because they need money to fund their creation.  Explain the moral/ethical dilemma in such decisions.
  5. Is entertainment that’s a “commercial” such a bad thing?
  6. Identify one question that should be posed to Spurlock that Tavis Smiley omits.  Explain your reasoning.

 

Then have students watch the trailer.  Ask that they consider examining it as a condensed version of the film. Several examples have been included below.

  1. Identify how Morgan Spurlock incorporates humor.
  2. Describe how Spulock’s pitches appear.
  3. Describe the trailer.  What stands out in the way it is produced?
  4. Identify the purpose of the trailer itself.  How might this differ from the film?
  5. Identify Spurlock’s argument.  Defend, challenge or qualify Spurlock’s point of view in regards to marketing.

 

If you’re looking to give them even more exposure to documentaries sponsored by businesses have them checkout GE’s Focus Forward, an initiative to highlight great ideas and filmmakers.  Included below is an example documentary from Focus Forward.  Ask that students consider whether or not big business sponsorship changes the purpose of any documentary.

 

 Heart Stop Beating 

Heart Stop Beating | Jeremiah Zagar from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

  1. What message does the film convey?  What seems to be its purpose?
  2. Identify two elements that strike you from the film itself.  Explain what make them interesting/remarkable.
  3. What has been omitted from the film that you as a viewer would like to see?  Explain your reasoning.

Documentaries: Overview

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Every year I try to have students watch all of Food, Inc.  It isn’t an innovative way to end our study of Fast Food Nation.  It’s not even a documentary on a new topic with vastly new information.  But I’ve told myself that in this world of grade level calendars and common assessments, it’s important.

And yet, every year I get within twenty minutes of the end and “run out of time.”  I panic at the amount of time we’ve spent “sitting.”  Every year, when pressed by students if we will watch the end my responses are numerous.  We have to start our next book.  We need to prep for the upcoming battery of spring tests.  We don’t have time.

Teaching in classrooms that have state tests and rigorous curriculum standards put many demands on our time.  With these expectations, it can be difficult to “find” ample time for film.  That being said, documentaries are a powerful way to teach students rhetoric, argument and bias.  They can be the cornerstones of research projects and an important way to build student knowledge on a range of topics that they would otherwise ignore or neglect.

For the last several weeks we’ve highlighted resources like Good Magazine and Brain Pickings in response to suggestions for expanding student knowledge.  This week we’ll focus on how to use documentary shorts fit into classrooms. And while it’s clear that this isn’t unchartered territory, the goal is to use smaller aspects of documentaries as a weekly staple in the Humanities classroom.

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.

Week in Review: Good Magazine

           Friday Dialogue from                What does Emily say?

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to analyze the nature of what truly is good.  Angelina Jolie or Parks and Rec?  

1.  Is it difficult to teach students to be global citizens?

Emily:  I think you are correct in your post this week when you say that we expect a lot out of students.  I know I was not even remotely as globally aware What does Emily say?as the students are now.  However, I think there is also something to be said for the relatively quiet period in which I grew up.  The only major thing that happened when I was growing up was the Gulf War.  Then, a bit later, was the Bill Clinton scandal, which, let’s be honest, most adults didn’t even fully understand at the time because of the semantic firestorm.  Maybe it is also because I was raised in a Republican household (go Mitt!).  Also, technology has made knowledge so much more accessible and relevant to students.  One of my favorite things this week was having students tell me they were reading tweets while watching the State of the Union….yeah, that’s a good sign for education!

Aubrey: I think that I wasn’t aware because nobody held me accountable for that type of knowledge.  While I do think technology makes it easier for students to access information I would disagree that this makes them more knowledgeable.  They know more then I did at their age, but not by much.  Unless of course we’re talking about cable television programming.  They seem to know quite a bit about that.  

2. Do you believe it’s important  tests like the SAT and AP expect students to marshal knowledge from a variety of sources?

Emily:  Yes.  But what frustrates me is that it seems as though the evidence they are looking for now isn’t literary or historical examples.  I know that using Angelina Jolie as an example for philanthropy is great, but c’mon.  Angie?  Whatever happened to Rockefeller?
Is Aubrey right?
Aubrey:
This actually doesn’t bother me.  Don’t get me wrong I would prefer Ida B. Wells or Kate Chopin as examples.  However, I have read some very thoughtful essays that discuss reality television stars and how their behavior reflects social norms.  Okay so I made up the “social norms” bit but they did “sort of” talk about cultural significance.  

3.  In Tuesday’s post the lesson focused on having students define the idea of “good” in a variety of ways.  Identify what you consider to be “good.”  Explain whether or not you think individuals have the responsibility to do good.

Emily:  I think it is pivotal for students to understand “good” humor.  For example, I am funny.  Parks and Recreation is funny.  Wearing brightly colored shoes without tying the laces is funny. Boys wearing skinny jeans are funny, not cool.  This is an important lesson for them to learn to better the lives of those who have to look at them.

Aubrey:I like that you’ve skipped answering the heavy “does the individual need to do good” bit of the question.  If I were grading your response it would be a 4.5 out of nine for only answering half the prompt.  And now, after my rebuke, I would like to not answer the question by saying the following:  it is important for students to understand what is NOT good.  Racer back tank tops in January with no cardigan/hoodie, band-aid skirts and telling me how this “is the worst book [they’ve] ever read.”  As if.

Good Magazine: Infographics

The argument for using infographics is simple.  They’re cool.  Data and statistics never looked so good.  That’s what they said, anyway, and by “they” I mean people between the ages of 14-18. The glorious part of the infograph is that it can serve as a multi-layered argument as well as supplemental text.

Infographics are a bright idea for building student knowledge.

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One of the best resources for introducing infographics in class comes from The Learning Network at The New York Times.  Their blog post from August of 2010 is a valuable resource when introducing infographics to students.  We’ve also discussed implementing infographics when partnering Transcendentalism with Occupy Wall Street.  They are powerful classroom resources that engage students and teach them critical thinking.

One of the best features about Good Magazine is their incredible collection of infographics, both static and animated.  Teach novels about war like The Things They Carried?  Create a modern tie-in by using an infographic about Women & Combat Readiness.  Teach the American dream via The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye?  Use an infographic entitled “The United States of Unhappy Campers.”  Infographics easily partner with core texts and can also supplement student knowledge for those pesky writing prompts that require outside information.

Below are some of the most useful infographics from Good Magazine along with some ideas for how to implement them.

Infographics to teach explicit/implicit argument

Life on Less than $2 a day

Good infographic to implement when teaching current events or A Long Way Gone.  You can also use it when teaching a prompt about the moral or ethical debate about charity, such as questions three on the 2005 AP Language and Composition exam.

Have students view and annotate the infographic.  You may use the following questions as a starting place for their annotations and/or your class discussion.

  • What is the implicit argument about poverty and tourism?
  • Identify two trends you see in the infographic based on the data.
  • Explain what data you would be interested to see linked to the infographic’s discussion of poverty and explain your reasoning. Think education, jobs, skills, disease, etc. 

Educating The Future

Good infographic to use when asking students to argue about the responsibility of education. You might consider pairing this with novels like The Catcher in the Rye.

Have students view and annotate the infographic.  You may use the following questions as a starting place for their annotations and/or your class discussion.

  • Identify two implicit arguments about education over the last forty years.
  • Construct an argument about the two highest and lowest wage earning fields based on the data.
  • Explain what data you would be interested to see linked to the information provided.  Think personal satisfaction, money earning potential, hours per week worked, etc.

Animated Infograpics

Using animated infographics will require students to watch and pause the material several times.  You may decide to do this together as a class or have them do it individually on their smartphones, itouches, etc. with headphones.

Many of the SAT/AP prompts ask students to consider the moral “responsibilities” of the individual.  An infographic of this nature can help “grow” their knowledge base.

“The Volunteers”

The Volunteers from GOOD.is on Vimeo.

Have students view and annotate the infographic.  You may use the following questions as a starting place for their annotations and/or your class discussion.

  • Identify one argument each about the following categories: age, type of volunteering, number of individuals involved.
  • What data would like you to see included?  Explain how this information would enhance understanding.    Think specific types of volunteering examples, number of hours worked, etc.

Good Magazine: The Daily Good

There are days when all I’m really looking for is something that will spark 10-15 minutes of solid classroom discussion.  In a perfect world that “perfect” discussion would always be followed with students constructing short written arguments.

The Daily Good is a daily email you have to read.

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Now, I’m well aware that I don’t live in a perfect world.  Instead, I teach Puritan literature, help students prep for SAT tests, grade museum projects, and read weak writing.  It’s easy to feel trapped with no new ideas in sight.

But what if each day you could open your inbox and find a story that might actually spark that perfect discussion?  Moreover, what if you could almost ensure that you could turn these emails into those “perfect” written responses?  Interested?  In need?  Desperate for a better way to engage students in critical thought, persuasive writing, evidence building?

Each day Good Magazine sends email subscribers what they call The Daily Good, their “one good thing a day.”  It seems like such a small thing.  Email can easily be lost and forgotten in your inbox.  But there’s just something about these emails.  The stories aren’t about dysfunctional politicians or economic recession.  They are little reminders of the human condition.

Past Examples of The Daily Good

A 375-year-old French Bank Forgives Debts of Paris’ Poorest

  • What does the article imply about the quality of life and societal institutions?
  • Why is this story like this of such interest in today’s society?

Answer the following prompt in your journal:

Prompt: Do societal institutions have the responsibility to care for the social welfare of their clients?  Use specific evidence from your knowledge, reading, observation, etc.

Snoball Links Life’s Passions to Charitable Micro-Gifts

  • Is charitable giving something that people need to tie to other experiences in their daily lives?
  • What is the article implying about social media, charitable giving and the individual?

Answer the following prompt in your journal:

Prompt: In what way should technology and social media influence charitable giving?  Does this diminish the purpose of donating?  Use specific evidence from your knowledge, reading, observation, etc.

“Letters in the Mail” Turns your Favorite Author Into Your Pen Pal

  • What art is necessary in writing a good letter, email or (dare I say) text?  Why do we desire personal communication?
  • Define what a good, old-fashioned letter should be.  Is it ethical to pay a monthly “subscription” fee for letters?  What is significant about the fact that these letters will come from writers?

Answer the following prompt in your journals:

Prompt:  In the age of social media, 4G networks, and Skype does the role of letter writing still have any worth?  Use specific evidence from your knowledge, reading observation, etc.

How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts*

  • What responsibility do prison inmates have in “giving back” to their communities?
  • What argument is made about “enlightenment” or learning as it relates to knitting?

Answer the following prompt in your journals:

Prompt: Is it the responsibility of the individual to give back to society regardless of where their life has taken them?

* Knitting Behind Bars was also highlighted on the Kojo Nnamdi show if you are interested in extending the actual class discussion or including a podcast.

Consider collecting several over the course of the week and making them part of classroom writing/discussion.  Perhaps even give students their choice depending upon varying interests.  While you can always have students SOAPSTone the articles and write précis paragraphs, you might also consider having students identify implicit arguments in each and then argue the pros and cons of these big picture perspectives.  They can become excellent practice for persuasive writing.  Use the questions above as a flexible guideline for how students might discuss and compose their writing.