Tag Archive for Argument

Documentaries: Overview

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Every year I try to have students watch all of Food, Inc.  It isn’t an innovative way to end our study of Fast Food Nation.  It’s not even a documentary on a new topic with vastly new information.  But I’ve told myself that in this world of grade level calendars and common assessments, it’s important.

And yet, every year I get within twenty minutes of the end and “run out of time.”  I panic at the amount of time we’ve spent “sitting.”  Every year, when pressed by students if we will watch the end my responses are numerous.  We have to start our next book.  We need to prep for the upcoming battery of spring tests.  We don’t have time.

Teaching in classrooms that have state tests and rigorous curriculum standards put many demands on our time.  With these expectations, it can be difficult to “find” ample time for film.  That being said, documentaries are a powerful way to teach students rhetoric, argument and bias.  They can be the cornerstones of research projects and an important way to build student knowledge on a range of topics that they would otherwise ignore or neglect.

For the last several weeks we’ve highlighted resources like Good Magazine and Brain Pickings in response to suggestions for expanding student knowledge.  This week we’ll focus on how to use documentary shorts fit into classrooms. And while it’s clear that this isn’t unchartered territory, the goal is to use smaller aspects of documentaries as a weekly staple in the Humanities classroom.

Weekend Culture: Scanwiches

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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 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: Starbucks and Create Jobs for America

So I was in Starbucks this week.  Actually I’m in Starbucks every week.  It’s somewhat dismaying and comforting that the woman behind the counter sees my car pull up and starts making my drink.  Anyway, as I was waiting, I noticed that among the “freebies” was an infographic on newsprint about creating sustainable jobs.  I couldn’t help it.  I took one of the pamphlets and put it in my purse.  As a result, I’ve been engrossed by the coverage of this topic for the entirety of this week.

Create Jobs for USA is a partnership between Starbucks and the Opportunity Finance Network to create and sustain jobs.  They work with a microfinance corporation that lends to small businesses that are in need.  And while, it’s interesting that a corporation like Starbucks is donating 5 million towards this initiative and having customers donate too, but let’s get back to the marketing.

The infograhic is a remarkable source for classroom exercises.  Think: image analysis, language analysis and evaluating argument.  The good news?  If you don’t frequent Starbucks or don’t want to be seen taking the pamphlets out of the store by the “purseful” some of the best graphics are available online at the Create Jobs for USA website.  Today we’ll start by looking at the language/images of the organization itself.  Tomorrow we’ll examine the media blitz that surrounded the initiative.

For the “panels” below determine if you’ll project them or have students works individually or in small groups to examine, assess and respond. These are only two examples of what you could use check the website to find others.

Create Jobs “Infographics”

Infographic Panel-Visibly Indivisible

Questions to pose for discussion or short response:

  1. Discuss the use of the phrase “visibly indivisible.”  What is the connotation?  Why employ this “play on words” mimicking the pledge of Allegiance?
  2. Annotate the image.  Pay particular attention to the primary focus on blue/white.  Explain why the “visibly indivisible is in read and placed on top of the flag itself.
  3. Read the paragraph on the right.  Explain the effect of repeating “we.”

Infographic Panel-9.1% of the U.S. Labor Force are Unemployed

 

Questions to pose for discussion or short response:

  1. What is implied by both the size and placement of 9.1?
  2. Examine the color scheme and image choices.  What impact do they make on the argument you identified above?
  3. In the paragraph, discuss the repetition of the word number.  Explain the impact on both purpose and audience.
Create Jobs for USA Advertisement
Similar to the “infographics” the advertisement is brief and relies primarily on graphics and succinct text.

Questions to pose for discussion or short response:

  1. Listen carefully to the music used.  What is its purpose?  When is there a shift in the soundtrack and how does it reflect the tone of the advertisement?
  2. What is the impact of no narration or dialogue?  What is the purpose in those omissions?
  3. What images, statistics or language stands out to you the most?  Explain your reasoning and describe the effect.