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.
Questions to consider after reading/exploring:
- Why are we fascinated with where “creators create?” What about their homes and personal lives would be of interest to us?
- Why would this project start with these authors’ homes? What argument is made by illustrating these homes?
- 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.