Tag Archive for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

QR Codes: Final Projects

Too often, I find myself trying to come up with intensively specific projects for students.  Massive amounts of two-sided, collated and stapled assignments consisting of multiple steps and checkpoints.  This intense need to plan for every single aspect is probably rooted in the very real understanding that students procrastinate.  They need guidelines. However, the level of intense project creation that then falls upon me is crushing.  Constantly tweaking, changing and revising the steps only helps to further sour me on the actual assignment itself.

What I want is a creative assignment to end a novel or a unit of study.  One that easily proves students can think critically and problem solve.  One that has them implement technology.  One that has them actually create something related to my class, that practices skill sets learned in my class and that proves them thoughtful and creative.  Did I mention that I would like it to be of their own design?

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Sigh.

This is a lot to ask of teens.  They need guidance to think outside of the test prep bubble in which they’ve existed since elementary school.  So think of this project like an assignment in creativity, problem solving, big picture thinking, writing OR like a James Bond style mission, that is of course if you choose to accept it.

Novel/Unit Project with QR Focus Basic
1.  The goal of a project like this is to give students a list of tools and a general overview of rules.  Their job then becomes creating the project guidelines and the final product.  Think Fed-ex Day but with some determined parameters/tools.  Focused on novel or unit but on any aspect the students choose.
2.  Set expectations and tools for the assignment.  If you’re going for the element of surprise, split students into groups.  Hand each group a paper bag filled with the tools they’re allowed to use.  Example:

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close QR lesson (This gives you that 007 feel.)
  • Images of tools they can use (This gives you that MacGyver feel.)
    • Cell Phones
    • QR Codes
    • Computers
    • Any other tool you want to throw in for good measure

3.  Ask that they construct an “official” assignment that could be used in a “real” course.  They should pick an idea, issue or part of the book to highlight.  Examples might include a QR Map of Holden Caulfield’s adventures in NYC or an assignment that asks students to use QR codes in

4.  Ask that they set achievable and challenging goals for each week.

5.  Provide class time for achieving these goals.

6.  Ask that they present their final project and product.

Non-Fiction: Letters of Note & Letter Writing

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In February of 2011 Catherine Field wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that argued the attributes of letter writing.  Using her mother-in-law as an example, Field suggested that while email provides immediacy, letters establish intimacy.  While true, consider the last time you actually received a letter.  Not just a birthday card but an actual letter.

Time taken on letter writing seems non-existent, yet we see evidence of correspondence everywhere.  President Obama reads 10 letters each day, often answering two or three of those in his own hand.  Carolyn Hax, a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post, responds to a variety of correspondence on a daily basis.   Most major publications allow for “letters to the editor” regardless of their format.  Still, how many of your students actually know how to craft a letter or even an email in a way that is both engaging and appropriate?

We’ve spent this entire week discussing how to use Letters of Note as a “textual” resource.  But the site itself is evidence that fan letters do get answered.  The exercise today uses the resources from of Letters of Note and the Maria Popova’s post on Brain Pickings, a resource we’ve highlighted in the past, about a high school student’s Symbolism Survey.

  1. Have students read Popova’s overview as well as original story from The Paris Review that provides a bit more background.
  2. Have students discuss what would motivate an author or any celebrity to respond to a “fan.”  Have them examine letters from fans at Letters of Note.  I’ve included a moving example below from a parent to Patrick Stewart in regards to her son’s love of Star Trek before Duchenne muscular dystrophy ended his life.
  1. Ask that students review responses to fan letters from Letters of Note. You will want to select examples in advance as some of them have language inappropriate for school.  I’ve included some examples below.  Consider having them SOAPSTone, etc.

Letter Project to a Living Author or Journalist

You might then assign students the task of constructing their own letter based on those characteristics necessary to engage a person in the public eye.  A person they believe has little chance of responding to them.  Now, that could honestly be anyone but you might want to theme your focus.  You could set limits making it a living author or writer you’ve studied.  Have them write to columnists at The New York Times or The Washington Post.  Consider having them write to Brian Williams or Anderson Cooper.  Think about having them write to David Sedaris, Jonathan Safran Foer, Amy Tan, Ian McEwan, Khaled Hosseini, Sara Gruen, Aravind Adiga, or any author represented in your course.  You might even have them write a documentary filmmaker if you’ve used any in class.  The end goal is to have students practice voice and to get a response. They should come up with a way to do this without many limits/parameters.  A “fictionalized” conversation with Hemingway simply won’t do.  They need to struggle with the idea that this could actually be read and that filling in space won’t suffice.  Finally, have them give you a copy and have them mail one.  I’d even suggest displaying the best ones with the student’s permission of course.

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

Annotation: 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 assess their innermost feelings about annotating.

1.  When did you start marking texts?  What does your personal style of annotation require? 

Emily:  I think it started with Mrs. Nell in my senior English class when we were reading Macbeth.  She asked to look for repetition of words or images.  When I started to recognize the trends I was hooked on annotating and close reading like I’m hooked on Arby’s Beef and Cheddar sandwiches.  However, one of the biggest compliments I have ever received about my annotating abilities came on a flight a few years ago.  My students were reading Kite Runner and I was re-reading and marking up the text for the stylistic patterns.  The woman sitting next to me asked if I was an editor.  My response:  “No, I’m just a really anal retentive reader.”  Still one of the biggest compliments of my life…which maybe says more about my personal life than it does my annotating life!

Aubrey: It’s funny that you say senior year because it was for me too.  Mrs. Biehl had us read “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and I can remember color-coding the entire story at my part time job on a dinner break.  Especially the suggestive bits.  I highlighted those in green.  Back then I was “highlighter.”  Now I’m obsessed with post-it notes.  Nothing makes me happier than those post-it note flags.  I can write just enough on them and also have them on all three sides of the book.  They’re so neat and tidy something that comes into direct opposition with my messy annotation.  I went to a book club once with my copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (see day one again) and the response I got was “oooooh” but not an ooooh like people watching fireworks on the fourth of July.  More like oooooh, crazy town has arrived.

Emily:  Let’s be honest.  They thought crazy town had arrived before you pulled out your book!

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Annotation: Day Three

“But,“ they entreat, “I’m a visual learner. I can’t be expected to do well with text on a page.  It doesn’t ‘speak’ to me.”  “It was cool that you rearranged the room and I could sit with my friends and I kind of even understood the annotating thing, but now we’re back to the harsh reality of being seated in rows.”

Okay.  Fine.  [Also enough with the imagined student dialogue.  Blurgh.]

Most classrooms today are tasked with creating well-rounded, “global” citizens.  If there is anything about being a teenager that screams this is a natural progression, I have yet to find it.  To be honest, how many of us were global citizens at 17? Read more

Annotation: Day One

After years of trying to teach annotating skills to students I’ve come to a fairly straightforward conclusion: they don’t get it.  While I revere marking up books, I suspect that there is a reason for this:  I’m an adult.  An adult who has spent most of my time dog-earing, post-it noting, highlighting, double underlining and all around obsessing over marking text.  I also suspect that images like the one below (my “annotated” copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) “freak” students out.  To be honest, the expectation that they will love marking up a text during adolescence is unrealistic.  More importantly, the idea that they will even know what to mark expects that they are capable of making choices and evaluating a professional’s choices.  Come on.

The "dark" side of annotation.

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