Sometimes an argument is like a really good sale. You look at it. You feel it. You are enamored by its flash and pizzazz. In fact, sometimes it looks so good you have a hard time recognizing the snag in the stitching, or the small stain on the lapel, or the poor fit in the bust. Yeah. That’s what happens when we are won over simply by the appearance of it. The flaws are unseen by the common eye. While it pains me to admit it, I am the common eye and always buy the “really good deal, I promise” even if I’ll never wear the dress because color-blocking doesn’t work on my body type. Read more
Archive for Brain Pickings
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.”
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 that 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?
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 the 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.
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.
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.
- What elements of the video are the most engaging or clever? Explain your reasoning.
- What necessity is there for a visual representation of this nature? Why not simply use both audio and video from Michael Pollan?
- 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.”
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.
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.
- Why adapt this type of story from a memoir and turn it into an illustrated children’s book?
- What argument is to be found in the actual images assembled in the Brain Pickings post
- What argument is made within the post about this type of entrepreneurship and literacy? Discuss the type or responsibility being advocated.
- View the video. Discuss the mixed media is relies upon. What is the effect of using the books illustrations, interviews and real video?
- 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.
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.