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Weekend Tech: Krulwich Wonders Day Two

Hopefully I peaked your interest yesterday by discussing the merits of the blog Krulwich Wonders.  Today I’m going to provide a list of posts that could easily translate into classroom lessons.

Language, Writers, Writing

“Wanna Live Forever? Become a Noun”

A can’t miss post.  Song, video and dialogue about the history of the English language as it pertains to how people become nouns.  This might be the best/most amusing of all the posts.  It also links to a Time Photo Essay of people whose last names have become nouns.  Great for class discussion, argument prompts about how our culture comes to these conclusions.  Perhaps if you’re feeling really creative, look at the song lyrics.  Read more

Song Use: Day Two

Besides being a Belieber, I’m also a gleek and have also spent an inordinate amount of ITunes downloading Glee music.  One day while stuck in traffic on the expressway listening to a Glee album when I came upon the mash-up of Beyonce’s “Halo” and Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine.” A mash-up is taking at least two different songs and “mashing” them together in a variety of fashions.  It can be achieved by taking the music of one song and pairing it with the lyrics of another or it could be taking the lyrics of two songs and mixing them—sometimes switching out stanzas or just a few lines.  Usually, there is a common theme that runs throughout a mash up.  While trying to calm down my impending road rage by listening to Glee mash-ups I was struck at the intricacies of the mixture, which made me think about how similar the process is to what we ask students to do every day:  synthesize material into one cohesive, fluid, yet meaty response. 

I began thinking about how I could ask my students to take existing material and mash it together to create a new product.  This lesson could be taught with a variety of topics and a variety of pieces; however, I used it to teach principles of Puritan poetry.  Students had been assigned to read and answer comprehension questions about one specific puritan poem (there were five total).  Then, the next day in class, we began by listening to a mash-up and brainstorming the techniques utilized in creating a mash-up.  USE THE IMAGE OF THE GIRL TALK BREAK DOWN 

After writing the list of techniques on the board, students were then jigsawed into groups with each of the five poems included.  They were tasked with creating a new and improved Puritan poem, using the lines from the existing poems they had studied the night before.  I gave them the following perimeters:

To be true mash-up it must…

  • Include lines from at least 4 separate poems from the ones assigned
  • be at least 12 lines long
  • effectively “mash” the poems, not just lift stanzas
  • have a theme that links the lines together into one cohesive mash-up



1.)    Each person in your group will read their poem to the group and then provide a summary of it.

2.)    Then, begin thinking about common themes, ideas, strands, etc. that exist amongst the poems.

3.)    Cut out the lines of the poems that you want to use in your mash-up.

4.)    Arrange the lines to meet the above criteria.  Glue them onto your paper.

5.)    On the back, describe the theme in 3-5 sentences and rationalize why you selected and ordered the lines in the manner that you did. 


I stressed to them that each person needed a full understanding of each poem and, as a group, they needed to determine a focus for their poem prior to cutting the lines.  To make things easier, I had printed color copies of the poems, using a different color of ink per poem, which made it easier to grade.  They then wrote 3-5 sentences about the theme of their poem and how it was conveyed. 

While they worked on their poem we listened to various mash-ups in the background.  The most surprising thing I learned through this lesson is just how much knowledge and interest students have in mash-ups.  While I was familiar with a few groups, they had extensive knowledge of songs and groups and techniques, knowledge they were able to apply in combining their poems. 

This activity could be used with many pieces.  I originally thought about having the students write a mash-up after studying a variety of Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson’s poems. or multiple documents from the Revolutionary period.  Yet, because of the cost for color printing, I found it easier to select five poems.  This could easily be done while studying any specific genre or author/poet.  I also think it could be done with primary source documents from time periods like the Revolutionary Era or various articles about the same topic (mimicking the AP Language synthesis question or AP US History DBQ). 

Below are some links for school appropriate mash-ups that could be used while the kids are working.  I didn’t show the videos because of questionable content, but the lyrics are fine; I just let it play in the background while they were working.

I love Girl Talk and 95% of his songs are school appropriate; however, you might want to preview them yourself so you can skip through/stop playing when it becomes inappropriate.  In most cases it is just one word and is easy to edit. united states of pop 2010 united states of pop 2011

Weekend Tech: Krulwich Wonders

I suspect it’s more than likely the tagline of “An NPR Sciency Blog” is what originally made me stop clicking and start reading.  Whatever the original reason, I’m hooked, and as a result I religiously read Krulwich Wonders one of National Public Radio’s blogs.  I’m not particularly drawn to science, and the sheer complexity of scientific thought causes me a middle school like anxiety but Robert Krulwich is different.  He takes science and makes it fun.  Really Fun.

Read more

Weekend Tech: ITunes U Part 2

Yesterday I profiled a teacher treasure:  ITunes U.  A scholarly resource equipped with videos and podcasts that are appropriate for and accessible in classrooms through a teacher’s ITunes account.  Even though ITunes U has material for every discipline (history, religion, art, music, etc.), today I’m going to profile some of my favorite outlets within the site and some ways they can be used in the classroom. These can be found through doing a search in ITunes.


UPenn’s 60 Second Lectures:  During the spring and fall UPenn’s School of Arts and Sciences invites professors to give a guest lecture to the campus on their favorite topics.  However, the professors are limited to sixty seconds.  Imagine summing up a topic as sweeping as the Crusades in one minute while making it witty and enjoyable to the majority.  Not an easy task.  Yet the professors manage to accomplish it with flair and precision.  Even though they are sixty seconds and prepared by ivy league professors, the material is widely accessible to students of all ages and abilities.

Read more

Weekend Tech: ITunes U

I have joked that I would marry my IPhone if I could.  I love it more than any other material good (and probably more than most of my family members–just teasing, Mom).  Reminiscent of the sage Jerry Maguire , my IPhone ”completes me.”  While there are many great things that an IPhone can bring to your life (or any Apple product for that matter), one of the best has to be ITunes…but not just the standard “I want to download music and episodes of Saturday Night Live ITunes.”  The “I want to be smarter and learn about the ways of the world” ITunes.  Have no fear; there is a way to leave the ITunes Store with an increase in your IQ and without a decrease in your wallet.   It is known as ITunes U, a website found in the ITunes store that offers educational materials for learners of all ages.  Apple markets the site as a “powerful distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours.”

Read more

Photoblogs Part 2: Classroom Use

Yesterday we provided you an overview for two photoblogs: The Burning House and Every Day Carry.  You looked through them.  You thought they were great.  But where’s the bridge between photoblog and classroom-ready lesson, you thought?

It’s right here. Read more

Weekend Tech: Photoblogs

Unique photo blogs are everywhere.  The problem is that in terms of execution very few construct incredible images.  Even fewer are underpinned by a good idea that’s classroom ready.  So that’s what makes a good photoblog a treasure.  They are strangely personal.  Hauntingly so.  That’s where this weekend’s posts come into play. Don’t worry.  You’ll see.  Here are the basics. Read more

The Weekly Drill

Each week we will explore a common classroom practice.  Just keep in mind we are English teachers.  This means that we’re prone to reciting Whitman and extolling the virtues of Hemingway.  It also means that many of the posts will reference specific literature that can be partnered with the suggestions we’re offering. It doesn’t mean that these ideas are only practical for English teachers. You know, quite well, that teaching requires common practices across the curriculum.  We hope that all teachers might be able to use our research and tech posts. We also hope that you, our audience, might be able to find some use within your own classrooms that we can’t even begin to imagine.   So, with that in mind here is our weekly format. Read more

Birth of the Blog

Where the Classroom Ends is the result of a long distance partnership between Emily Richardson and Aubrey Ludwig.  Six years ago both women were first year teachers of AP Language and Composition and, how shall we say it, scared senseless.

What they both realized quickly was that their collaboration was more than just a partnership built out of necessity.  They liked each other. And that was a good thing because both of them turned out to have intense personalities inside and outside of the classroom.  They could be described as slightly dramatic.  Emily about Ohio State Football (don’t cross her) and Aubrey about indie music (yes, she is a music snob). Read more