Archive for Weekend Pop Culture

Weekend Culture: Sandwich Mondays

Ah, sandwiches.  In case you’ve forgotten, the goal of this weekend’s posts is to give you a little of bit of sanity during this difficult stretch until winter break.  Today’s sandwiches move from the art of Scanwiches to sandwiches as both dare and humor.

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Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, NPR’s news quiz also hosts a blog.  “What,” you say, “might this blog be named?”  Wait, Wait Don’t Blog Me of course.   Sandwich Mondays are part of an ongoing series from the program’s staff.  A hysterical mix of humor and bizarre sandwiches, these posts are perfect for teaching voice, style, humor, and argument.  Below are some good places to start.  It’s just the beginning, however, of what you can use.

Defining Sandwich

A good blog post to give students an idea of the “definition” of sandwich according to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.  Have students read and annotate.  Consider using as an intro to teaching a definition essay assignment or as an intro to a larger assignment with these blog posts.

The Marmite Sandwich” & “In Defense of Marmite”

It seems like the more disgusting the sandwiches, the more delightful the posts.  What’s perfect about this sandwich is that they give you two posts with which to work.  Have students read both posts and annotate for voice/style.  Consider using the follow up post “In Defense of Marmite” as a way to talk about writing that uses this type of title (i.e. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food).

Also consider using these posts together as a supplement when teaching Mark Twain’s “How to Tell a Story.”  If Twain’s argument is that good, humorous storytelling is an American’s way of wandering around until they have their audience right where they want them, these two posts speak specifically to that understanding.

‘The Breakfast Club’ edition

There’s just no way to pass up teaching a disgusting sandwich from a classic 80’s flick.  Have students watch The Breakfast Club clip.

Then have them read/annotate the post for style and humor.  Consider having them discuss the following areas:

  1. Why might this be a sandwich for Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me to highlight?
  2. List the sandwich components.
  3. Why would a film writer/director believe these sandwich “components” were appropriate for a teen?  Identify the argument.
  4. Where is the humor in recreating The Breakfast Club Sandwich?

Weekend Culture: Scanwiches

istockphoto.com

What is it about the sandwich?  The convenience?  The size? The mayo?  If pressed, I’d eat one every day.  And while peanut butter and jelly are fine, I much prefer mozzarella, tomato and basil.   This weekend’s focus?  The art of the sandwich.

Why you ask?  Well, for starters sandwiches are delicious.  Check out Katz’s Delicatessen if you don’t believe us.  But that of course isn’t the real reason.  It’s almost winter break.  Student engagement and interest is at an all time low, unless of course there’s a chance for snow days.  Combat those pre-holiday doldrums with high interest lessons that teach argument, digital citizenship and even a bit of humor.

Scanwiches

John Chonko, a graphic designer in New York City, turns sandwiches into art via his blog and coffee table book.  The images are breathtaking and mouthwatering.  Have students peruse his blog and examine a series of “scanwiches.”

You’ll want to look at some of his best work so be sure to include the Dagwood.  You might also have students examine the “Fanwich” contest from this year as well. Consider even having them do a much paired down image analysis specifically highlighting color and structure/organization.  Remember these are sandwiches so not all the same rules will apply.

A background video on Chonko is also invaluable.  Have students view the video and then construct response to the questions below.

  1. Chonko mentions that the day-to-day aspects of his job could be “dull and monotonous.”  What do his scanwiches argue about things that ordinary and everyday?
  2. Is the sandwich a humble “food?”  AND/OR Is the sandwich worthy of being elevated?
  3. What makes Chonko’s scanned sandwiches more like artistic renderings and less like boring old lunch?
  4. What would “scanwiches” capture the interest of the public?  What argument can be made about the effect of these images via blog and book?

Weekend Culture: Commercials

Viral videos consume us.  Surprised cats and spray bottle babies are at the heart of a technology rich culture.  But homemade videos aren’t the only videos that go viral.  Each week Visible Measures with Advertising Age releases a list of the top ten viral video advertisements.  It’s an incredible resource for the classroom.  All are ready made “arguments” for use in your classroom.

Consider having students watch any advertisement 2-3 times.

  • First viewing should be basic comprehension
  • Second viewing should focus on detail
  • Third viewing should allow them to answer guiding questions and/or create them on their own.

You may choose to have students SOAPSTone the ads by simply tweaking the category of “speaker” and changing it to advertiser/company or director.

Chipotle Commercial-“Back to the Start”

This is part of Chipotle’s anti factory farming and organic/free range campaign.  The commercial employs wooden toys to tell a three-part story.  Small farm turned factory farm turned small farm again. Willie Nelson sings a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” in the background.  Use the commercial as a perfect pairing for teaching The Jungle, Fast Food Nation and the 2011 AP Language & Composition prompt about locavores or teach it on its own.

Some guiding questions:

    1. Why children’s toys?
    2. What arguments are made over the course of the commercials?
    3. Why “The Scientist?”  Why are the lyrics important?  Why Willie Nelson and not Coldplay?
    4. What is the importance of the final phrase “cultivate a better world?”
    5. What is the significance of the title?
    6. Write your own essential big picture question.  You are so smart.  You can do it.

Samsung Galaxy S II Commercial- “The Next Big Thing”
This pits the iPhone (without ever mentioning its name) against the Samsung Galaxy.  The commercial itself is a caricature of Apple fanboys and girls.  Use this to discuss the role of technology and even the importance of the “it” cell phone in today’s culture.

Some guiding questions:

1.  Identify elements of satire/humor.
2.  How are Apple consumers characterized?
3.  In comparison, how are Samsung consumers characterized.
4.  What is the significance of the title?
5.  Write your own essential question.

Weekend Culture: Advertising

If everything’s a text how do we hold students accountable?  The Common Core, under Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, requires that students be able to assess and evaluate multiple sources of information in different formats.  You would think that students, for all their “media” savvy, would know how to do this already.  And yet, they struggle.  And we struggle too.  To assess media means we have to think nimbly.

This weekend we’ll focus on some engaging and innovative advertising campaigns that can be employed to teach argument, purpose, and image analysis.

Perhaps, it’s me but Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ad campaign is sleek and smart.  There are four ads total and each one contains an image and keyword.  In smaller text at the bottom is an argument about how the word (“Viral,” “Disruptive,” “Charged,” and “Worldly”) represents the magazine’s edgy, new personality.

Consider having students read the Ad Age evaluation of Bloomberg’s advertisements as background.  While the advertisements could be used independently, the hamburger patty ad labeled “Worldly” is a perfect partner for The Jungle and/or Fast Food Nation.  In two sentences located in the lower left hand corner phrases such as “far flung,” “global food supply” and “crucial” speak to many of the big picture arguments raised by Upton Sinclair and Eric Schlosser.

Use our post on image annotations from September 2011 to have student annotate and write for any/all of the advertisements. Consider discussing how more text or images would change the effect.  You may also choose to have students create a T-chart of pros/cons to evaluate effectiveness.

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate

Yesterday’s post focused on The New York Times’ Room for Debate.  This past Wednesday, the topic of focus included 15 experts, a large number for any NYT debate.  The difference?  They were all high school seniors. Titled How the Future looks from High School, the Times asked these students how they saw their future.

Since this is a topic that directly relates to our students, consider using this “debate” in the same manner as yesterday but with some tweaks.  This is their opportunity to work on personal narratives and opening lines/hooks.

  • Have them read, annotate and create a list of observations from the Times post.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to come up with an engaging first line.  This is never as easy as it seems.  Try some of the following first:
      • List your top three favorite food memories.
      • Describe a reoccurring dream.
      • What is you most vivid memory from kindergarten?
      • Describe a guilty (and appropriate) pleasure.

The hardest thing will be for them to take this “snippets” and understand that everything/anything they see as important is largely reflective of their personalities and their future plans.

Once responses have been created, add one final step.  Have students “respond” to the “responses.”  You’ll notice that on the actual Room for Debate page it asks, “We hope readers, from high school seniors to senior citizens, will respond in comments: What are the pressures on students at your high school? What are 18-year-olds in your hometown expecting from their careers?”  If you choose to, have students respond to one of the teens who posted their future plan.

If this is too impractical, consider having them post their original response for your class in Schoology or Edmodo.  See our Favorites page for help with these applications.

  • Create a thread for this discussion and have students post their responses.
  • Require students to read and comment on two of the original posts.
  • Ask that they respond, not with simple “thumbs up” language.  Instead they should consider their response as a reflection that demonstrates understanding and thoughtful evaluation without critique.

Weekend Culture: Room for Debate


The New York Times
Room for Debate is a wonderful resource that advances critical thinking and writing.  Each week they cover several topics and invite “experts” to discuss their opinions in regards to a specific area of focus.  You can follow their RSS feed or their tweets.  Topics range from technology to education to government.

Instead of simply pitting experts against each other these pieces help show complexity of argument.  These topics are current and also of high interest to students and teachers.

Some favorites from the recent past include:

For each organizing question multiple voices in the form of doctors, lawyers, journalists, authors, students, parents, etc. weigh in forming a textual dialogue.  These “debaters” do not shout or wildly point fingers.  The thoughtfully engage in the topic based on their own experience and observations.

As a result they offer a strong foundation for helping students form their own perspectives.  It would be unreasonable and too time consuming to weigh an entire class of students down with only one topic.  Instead consider the following:

  • Create a list of past topics from which they can choose and then organize students into small groups based on topic/question.
  • Have them read, annotate, and create a list of observations.
  • Discuss in small groups and/or discuss as a class.
  • Have students take the role of an expert and construct their own short response to the topic.
    • Ask them to defend, challenge or qualify the topic.
    • Ask them to concede other points of view before beginning with their own.
    • Ask that they use their own reading, observation, experience etc. to inform their writing.

This type of exercise requires them to practice argumentation, concession, critical thinking, marshalling of evidence and organization.  It also requires them to read experts before “jumping” to conclusions that they cannot prove.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how to use Room for Debate as a means by which students can respond to their peers.  Here’s a preview of the debate topic: How the Future Looks from High School

Weekend Pop Culture: Thanksgiving

Welcome to our pre-Thanksgiving pop culture bash.  Looking for something in the spirit of Thanksgiving?  Something still rigorous?  Something that could stop the tedium of the days before a holiday break?  Look no further.  Today we review blogs, articles and infographics with all of that in mind.  Think about it as a mini Thanksgiving buffet.

Infographics

What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving Infographic-The New York Times

Even though it’s from 2009, this infographic is still interesting commentary.  It reviews the most searched Thanksgiving recipes and then provides state statistics.

Questions for Discussion:  

  • Identify the argument about the intersection of technology and Thanksgiving.
  • Identify the argument made about location and food preference.

Articles

Restaurants on Thanksgiving: 14 million Expected to Dine Out this Year  The Huffington Post

A short article with visual about the reasons behind dining out for Thanksgiving in 2011.

Questions for Classroom Discussion:

  • Identify the argument(s) about modern Thanksgiving celebrations.
  • What does this suggest about American culture and dining out?
  • Does dining out change the Thanksgiving experience?

Note to Self: You may even want to use The New Yorker’s cover from this past week since it’s a Thanksgiving meal inside of a cafe.

Read more

Weekend Pop Culture: Thanksgiving

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Regardless of what anyone says, nothing tops Thanksgiving.  Nothing.  In light of the holiday this coming week it seemed appropriate to pull some Thanksgiving related materials for you to use in class.  We’ll even throw in some Black Friday material too.

Thanksgiving Political Cartoons

We posted on image analysis during the month of September.  Treat political cartoons similarly.  The National Archives has a ready to use cartoon analysis form. Here are some general ideas for political cartoons:

  • Give students choice.  It’s hard to guarantee similar knowledge base from all students so offer a range of topics.
  • Have students consider political cartoons in the following categories:
    • Format: Describe the background/foreground and speak to simplicity/complexity.
    • Point of view: Character appearance? Nice/kind or ugly/grotesque?
    • Text: How do labels/speech (balloons/captions) convey ideas?
    • Purpose: Serious message or Entertainment?

Some Thanksgiving Cartoon Resources:

“The GOP run amok” by John Cole

The Thanksgiving Deficit Duel” by Daryl Cagle

“Occupy Plymouth Rock” by Rick McKee

The Cagle Post Thanksgiving 2011 by varied cartoonists

 

The Week and The Cagle Post are both great resources for political cartoons for any “occasion.”  You may even choose to have students construct a precis paragraph over a cartoon or series of cartoons to synthesize viewing, discussion and writing.

Check back tomorrow for articles, blog posts and infographics!

Weekend Tech: Tweets are #funny

Twitter is funny.  Actually, The Onion’s tweets are funny.  And idislikestephen, and monkeysee, and David Pell, and…you get the point.  I troll Twitter looking for my humorous “tweet” fix on a semi-regular basis.  I’m not sure it’s as bad as my coffee problem, but it’s a habit.

The New York Times ran a story this past Sunday entitled Writer’s New Form: Tweet-Up Comedy.  It’s a great read about how writers for late night talk shows use Twitter as their testing ground for zingers.  It is entirely possible, after reading it, that I spent several hours on Twitter scouring these types of tweets while snorting in an incredibly unattractive way. Read more

Weekend Pop Culture: Starbucks and Create Jobs for USA

To recap, yesterday we discussed Starbucks’ initiative Create Jobs for USA.  Yesterday’s post was all about how to use the language of the website,

infographics and video to analyze images, argument and language.   Today will be a conversation about how to use the media’s coverage to teach media literacy and practice critical thinking and writing skills through synthesis.

Pose the following synthesis question to your students:

What moral or ethical considerations should be part of a movement like Create Jobs for America when partnered with a larger corporation like Starbucks?

 

Before having them construct an persusaive paragraph or thesis statement have them review the different perspectives below.  You might even consider using QR stations with the information below if you feel so inclined!

 

WYNC Q&A with Schultz

Insightful Q&A that examines point of view and argument from Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz. .  For a more detailed discussion of how to introduce Q&A’s in class see our post about the NBA lockout.  See the excerpt below.

 

Questions to pose for discussion and/or written response:

  1. Identify Schultz’s primary argument.
  2. What is evident about Howard Schultz based on his responses?  What do you know about him as an individual, a CEO and an American?

NPR-Starbucks Hopes to Kick-Start Job Creation

NPR provides a useful overview along with several interviews from microfinanciers and economists.  It offers a perspective that is not only driven by the voice of Starbucks.

Questions to pose for discussion and/or written response:

  1. Discuss the importance of including Mark Pinksy’s point of view.  What impact does it have on the story?
  2. What is the argument identified about private corporations and responsibility to the American public?

Huffington Post-Small Businesses to Lawmakers: Give Us Some Credit!

A Pro-Create Jobs for USA piece with a distinctive voice/tone.  It’s a great piece for students in terms of identifying point of view, argument and how language contributes to tone.

Questions to pose for discussion and/or written response:

  1. Identify the tone of the author.  Identify three words that contribute to this tone and explain their role in constructing his point of view.
  2. Discuss the author’s argument?  How does informal language and “anecdotal” evidence help to strengthen his claim?