Archive for Tiny Texts

Tiny Texts: 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 to examine what is important about reading everything as an argument.  

1.  Since our students are frequently labeled “digital natives” are they better at reading everything as a text?

Emily:  I’m not sure if “better” is the right word for it.  It certainly seems “easier” for them because they are so surrounded by text.

Aubrey: And yet, they till struggle with it.  They might be better at reading explicit purpose but they still struggle with implicit.  Frequently, I feel like the entirety of my day is spent trying to get just one person under the age of 19 to find an implicit purpose.  Something, anything.  And yet, they still look struggle.  There are somethings that never change.  


2.  What role should media literacy and digital citizenship have in the English Language Arts classroom?  

Emily:  Sometimes I am afraid it plays too large of a role and we often abandon key works or replace them with texts that are appealing because they fit into the the “media literacy” standard.  I think it is important, but I think the more important point is that we should be  be using this merely to enhance what is already exists as quality, canonical literature.

I don’t want us to divest ourselves of weighty literary texts but we do have a responsibility to teach a variety of texts/skills.  Tweets, blogs and videos can’t replace replace Hamlet or Catch-22 but if used correctly it can have an appropriate place in the classroom.

3.  What is your favorite Google Doodle? 

Emily : I’m not really sure.  Instead, I like to play the game of “guess what the doodle will be” every time I load the Google homepage.  Even though I have it saved in my toolbar so all I have to do is type my search term into the blank white space,blank white space, I still will often go to Google just to see their doodle of the day.  


Aubrey:  I’m ashamed to admit this but when they created the Pac-Man Doodle I played it for days.   In fact when you get to a certain level you’re responsible for Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man.  I’m so sad that I made the man who lives with me operate the controls for Pac-Man while I ran Ms. Pac-Man.  This resulted in a lot of fighting.  We had to give up playing the game to save our marriage.

Tiny Texts: Google Doodles

It’s usually the worst when they’re sitting in the front row.  It’s flagrant, disrespectful, and as I was digging through some of my notebooks from high school I noticed the sheer number of times I had doodled in the margins of my notes, my AP literature notes.

As much as I hate to say this, doodling has and always will exist in the classroom.  Much as Vi Hart wants to turn doodling into the Fibonacci number and math equations, I’d like to do the same for English.  Except this time I’d like Google to do the doodling.

Google Doodles are tiny little texts that we often forget about on our “way” to somewhere else.  In actuality, they are perfect for teaching students about point of view, audience and argument.  Have students start with the “About” page for Google Doodles.

After they read, consider having them use the questions below for written response or class discussion.

  • What is the significance of calling them “doodles” and not sketches?
  • Why would people be interested in such a tiny text?  What is the impact?
  • What “aesthetics” are important to create a good doodle?
  • What argument does Google make by turning someone or something into a doodle?

Then have students search the Google Doodle archives or choose from the doodles below.  They can search by year and country.  You may want to direct them to only write on doodles that have accompanying text that describes the creation process.  It helps to give background/perspective that will help them look for greater importance as they write.

As they explore give them a number of doodles to write over.  Consider using the questions below as a starting point.  I’ve also included some of my favorite doodles overall and for the English classroom.  All of these Doodles include an overview on the process, storyboarding and sometimes even video.  Enjoy!

Possible Questions for Doodle Exploration

  • What do the drafts of the doodle explain about the specific “process” of this doodle?  Be specific.
  • What argument does the creator make about their work?
  • Which elements of the doodle are the most striking?  Explain.
  • What impact does this doodle have on the event or person?   Be specific.
  • What is most striking about the doodle?


Doodles for the English classroom

Favorite Doodles Overall

Extension: Consider having students create their own doodle for a unit of study or an author’s birthday.  My suggestion?  Edgar Allan Poe or Ernest Hemingway, of course.

Tiny Texts: Book Sculptures

How do we to define a text?  Paper and ink?  12 point Times New Roman font?  Tweets via HootSuite?  In the recent past we’ve argued that images, commercials, TED talks, and presidential holiday cards are texts.  But what about art?  Or more specifically texts turned into tiny works of art?

In September 2011, I highlighted one of my favorite blogs, Krulwich Wonders. When I profiled them this fall, I included a series of posts to use in your classroom that included everything from Vonnegut’s understanding of story arcs to writing as a careful craft.   While Krulwich’s tag line reads “A Sciencey Blog,” I frequently find resources that are applicable for an English language classroom.  And that of course is where the tiny texts made of texts appear.

At the end of October & November, Krulwich posted about a “library phantom” who left lovely little sculptures made out of books in various libraries and museums around Edinburgh, Scotland.  Each sculpture included a note of thanks for libraries, books, words, etc.  Now Krulwich’s narrative is captivating enough for a good pick me up mid-January, but the sculptures are truly exquisite.

These tiny little texts coupled with Krulwich’s text are an easy way to teach students about media literacy, argument, tone, digital citizenship, etc.  Below are Krulwich’s blog posts, a Scottish Blog with high resolution photos and some questions you might consider posing to your students.  If you’re looking for a BYOD activity this might certainly be it.  Since students could use iPads, smartphones, or iPod Touches to view the material if you have limited computer access.

Kruliwch Wonders

“The Library Phantom Returns!”

“Who Left a Tree, Then a Coffin in the Library?”


High Resolution Photos

This is Central Station


Possible Questions for Discussion

  1. What type of argument does each book sculpture make?  Do they differ from sculpture to sculpture?
  2. Is the level of detail necessary to make the argument substantial?  Why?
  3. Are the “aesthetics” of the sculpture important in establishing its argument?
  4. What is the importance of size?
  5. Why is it important that these were left anonymously and secretly?
  6. Why might the media follow this story?  Why might this captivate an entire nation?
  7. What does it say about Scotland and their media, that ultimately they would rather keep the “phantom’s” identity anonymous?

Tiny Texts: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

Between blog posts, tweets, and RSS feeds, I find myself swimming in a sea of “tiny” text.  While all of them are informative, I’m not always certain that this hyper reading makes me a better reader. As with anything that we consume, sometimes it’s necessary to stop and reflect upon style and craft.

The amount of work that goes into tiny “texts” is evident when you examine Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hitRECord, an “open collaborative production company” where together a variety of artists collaborate and create.  You can join and collaborate or simply browse the “layered” art in mid construction.

Have students watch the actual background video on Gordon-Levitt’s project as a way to get them thinking.  Consider using the questions below as a starting place.

  1. What is the argument Gordon-Levitt makes about the difference between social media, exhibitions, and studios?
  2. What is his argument about business and collaboration?
  3. What is the value in this type of project?  How does it differ from something like a Turntable app?

Among these creations is The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, sixty-seven “tiny” illustrated texts that cleverly tell amusing and endearing stories.  It’s useful for several reasons.  It’s a great way to have students read for detail/language and sometimes even “pun” in a very small space.  They can’t get distracted or sidetracked because of the size.  hitRECord offers several examples that you might show your students.  Either discuss the value of this type of project or think bigger.  I’ve included an animated version below to further the idea of what is possible!

  • It’s also a perfect model for students’ own unit projects.  Partner the above exercise with authors or texts that use sparse style, i.e. Hemingway’s In Our Time or Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and have student mimic these authors’ styles with their own tiny, illustrated stories.
  • Use it as an assignment to finish a study of The Glass Castle, Hope in the Unseen, or Unbroken.  Have students write memoirs or personal essays in conjunction with our Twitter Memoir assignment.
  • Consider having students take slim but weighty texts like The Awakening, “The Yellow Wallpaper” or Heart of Darkness and choose the most significant portion of the text and create their own stand-alone tiny story from that “moment.”

Tiny Texts: Overview

Books Don’t Take You Anywhere” is one my favorite articles from The Onion for classroom use.  Under 400 words, it is tiny in comparison to the heft of All

the King’s Men or The Grapes of Wrath.  It can be used to teach satire, SOAPSTone, and argument.  I also use it as a warm-up before using the AP Language and Composition’s 2005 rhetorical analysis taken from The Onion and have students use it to construct AP argument and rhetorical analysis prompts.

What isn’t there to love about a text that argues our reading never physically transports us to “evil witches, messianic lions or closet portals to other universes”?  Hah.  Even fifteen years later it holds up.  This is not the moment where I make the argument that this is a more important text or where I suggest that students will actually laugh out loud while reading it.  But it is where I argue that small texts are important classroom supplements.

As we enter mid January 2012, it seems appropriate that we deal with a series of small and unusual “texts” that make arguments about… well, texts.  Why?  Text, in all of its various forms, drives us to teach.  Sometimes, too, it’s nice to be reminded in the “bleak mid-winter” that small texts can be just as powerful and meaningful.  This week we will help remind you of just that with lessons highlighting Tiny Stories, book artists and phantoms, and Google Doodles.  Our hope is that somewhere during these “darker” days you finding something meaningful in something small.