Tag Archive for Media literacy

Songs of Summer: Viral Videos

I love the viral video.  More than that I love viral videos that parody and recreate pop songs.  Ah, the lip-syncing, the bad dancing, the crappy props.  Who can forget the soldiers in Afghanistan dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” in 2010?  I must have watched that for two days straight.

If you’re going to talk about potential songs of summer, you have to talk about the viral videos that accompany them.  It isn’t as if people (i.e. myself) haven’t been recreating songs with all the flourishes and dance moves since Michael Jackson’s Bad.  Thank God none of that was ever broadcast to the world.  Today, every video on YouTube has the potential to go viral.

If you ask your students they are the first to admit that they saw Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez’s homemade video of “Call Me Maybe” before they saw the Jepsen’s real video.  Ask them about the Harvard baseball team’s “take” and you’re bet to get most of them to laugh. Yes, the pop music, the song of summer is important but so too are the video “remakes.”

Now, imagine a whole class where you talk about the power of summer pop music coupled with viral videos.  Your students might think your crazy.   You might think you’re crazy.  Don’t worry, we’re here to help with all of that.

I’ve chosen two songs currently in contention for Summer Song.  Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know” and Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”  Don’t believe me?  Check out The Week’s list.  I’d trust them more than me, too.

Lesson

First have students listen to both songs without any video. You can do that simply by playing their videos on Youtube with the video turned off.  As they listen ask that they write down basic observations about music, lyrics, rhythm, etc.  Their goal is to quantify what makes the song catchy enough to be a summer song contender.

Next, have them watch the parodies.  Their job isn’t to compare them to the original.  They aren’t the same.  Their job instead is to look at them individually to decide individual purpose and then big picture effect.  Have them formulate essential questions for each of the videos.  Choose the best ones and then ask that you discuss or write as a class.

 

Gotye Parodies-”Somebody that I used to Know”

 The Kobe that We Used to Know 

 

SNL-Digital Short 

For yourself checkout College Humor’s Some Study that I Used to Know.  It’s hilarious but borderline in terms of appropriateness for school.  

 

Carly Rae Jepsen Parodies-”Call Me Maybe”

 

Harvard Baseball 2012-”Call Me Maybe”

 

SMU Women’s Rowing 2012-”Call Me Maybe” 


 

The Tonight Show’s “with” Mitt Romney & President Obama

Also checkout NPR’s blog The Record for an entire post about covers, parodies and more.  The title is “Dudes Act Like a Lady: ‘Call Me Maybe’ Takes Over YouTube.

 

Want to do a language study instead?  Ask students to look at Vulture’s wordle of the most used words in the “it” songs of summer.  Ask them to first construct essential questions about the word usage itself and then use one of their level three questions to construct a paragraph argument.

Songs of Summer: Essential Questions

I’ll admit it.  I listened to Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” on an infinite loop during the summer of 1993.  Keep in mind, infinite loop meant hitting the back button on a CD Walkman.  This statement dates me.  Right now my students are listening to Carly Rae Jepsen or One Direction. Last summer they were listening to LMFAO’s “Party Rock” and Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”.  But Janet Jackson?  I’m not even sure they remember her wardrobe malfunction.

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There’s something about a good catchy pop song, especially during the summer.  I can pinpoint exactly what I was doing while listening to the great ones (i.e. Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) and the horrible ones (i.e. Los Del Rios’ “Macarena”).

Whether you find the “it” song of summer better every time it’s played or so annoying that you change the station, you know them and so do your students. It can be hard to find a topic, any topic that so vividly inspires debate in students as defending or defiling the summer song.

So make use of it.  With very little prep work you can listen to a little music, engage in a bit of critical thinking and ask students to create their own “essential” questions about how these summer music trends reflect upon our culture.

Below is a list of articles that highlight songs from past summers and predict this summer’s biggest hits.  Have students read or listen to several.  Then ask that they construct levels of questions for the best one.  The goal: identify big picture issues at stake when it comes to culture and the song of summer.

I’ve attached an easily modified Levels of Questions Model that uses the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as an example.  It’s an easy assignment to translate for any passage analysis, documentary film study, editorial, etc.  They simply need to have a model before they prepare their own level 1, 2, and 3 questions.

Articles: Songs of Summer

Articles fromNPR, The Washington Post, Vulture and Yahoo Music. 

Blogs as Text: Overview

It is difficult to get 6-12th graders to read.  This isn’t even an argument about getting them to read well, closely or critically.  They just don’t read.  Sometimes they don’t even read things that they would actually enjoy like The Catcher in the Rye or The Things They Carried.  And it’s infuriating.  As teachers, we often bemoan the lack of reading our students do. But what’s to be done?  Offering student choice is important but it can be daunting even for a seasoned teacher.  Finding resources that are well written and engaging can prove exhausting.  And in light of technology’s effect on publication shouldn’t students be reading a variety of online texts?

It’s no wonder we struggle.

My argument is not that we do away with Heart of Darkness or The Scarlet Letter or even the glorious Light in August.  Students need to be challenged and held accountable.  But I do want students to read texts they find enjoyable without sacrificing journalistic and literary merit.

So many educators argue the need for students to critically analyze a variety of texts.  And so many more argue the importance of using blogs in the classroom.  But frequently those two arguments don’t overlap in a way that identifies blogs as texts to supplement student reading.  In all fairness, it can be difficult to find blogs that students can read consistently for style, argument and substance.  And yet, they do exist.  It is the goal of this week’s post to identify them and discuss how to use them in classroom.  These posts will consider a variety of student interests (i.e. science, technology, cars, pop culture) without sacrificing quality in hopes that as an educator you can have students spend a “unit” or even a quarter towards studying and reading blogs.

Poetry: Billy Collins & Media Literacy

Billy Collins is my favorite poet.  This is neither unique or of great, vast insight.  To deny Billy Collins is to deny the art of poetry, poet laureates and Poetry 180.  But part of what truly makes me love Billy Collins is his role in shaping popular culture when it comes to poetry.  Since this week’s posts examine poetry through the lens of media, Billy Collins is a worthy focus.  More than anything else he is a poet in the public eye.

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Collins is well-known.  See his You Tube highlights or any of his featured spots on A Prairie Home Companion if you don’t believe it.  But what makes him an appropriate topic for our focus this week on poetry and media literacy has to do with how we see his poetry “interpreted.”

Consider using the lesson below to supplement a poetry unit that already focuses on Billy Collins.  Or, use one of his pieces of poetry as a starting point, and after introducing his work, use this lesson to raise larger questions about poet, media and culture. Read more

Brain Pickings: 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 discuss the need to supplement student reading and Lohan, Madonna and Costner.  Oh my!

 

1.  What type of reading would like your students to be able to do?  You cannot answer, “Any kind of reading would be nice seeing as how it’s February and nobody seems to reading.”

What does Emily say?Emily:  I think the most important thing is for them to be able to think while reading.  I think it is imperative they are able to read material that relates to their life and be able to make sense of it.  Realistically, in 10 years only a small percentage of our students will be reading the classics.  So they need to be able to read common, every day material but be able to see the larger importance of it, not merely dismiss it as something simple and therefore insignificant.

Aubrey: I would really like them to read complex and well written texts thatIs Aubrey right? interest and challenge.  I worry that often we want them to read only “great” literature.  Great literature has to be the anchor.  I want to teach future engineers who want to read Popular Science.  IT professionals who read WIRED and doctors who read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Asking them to read meaningful texts should require us to redefine meaningful.  

2.  Why is it so important to supplement classroom lesson plans with a variety of texts?

What does Emily say?Emily:  This is important because so many students cannot identify with the canonical texts we are required or choose to teach them.  And, realistically, these aren’t the pieces that students will choose to read on their own.  Supplementing the works allows students to see that reading takes place in a variety of arenas and helps them to find genres or types of  literature that is of interest to them.

Aubrey: They do need to understand that everything, regardless of format, requires an implicit reading.  Blogs, videos and “unconventional” texts often get them to rethink.  They require them to stretch their understanding.  

3.  If everything is an argument, what argument is made by any or all of the following: Lindsay Lohan hosting Saturday Night Live in March, Madonna’s new single “Give Me All Your Luvin” wherein she calls herself a “girl,” or Kevin Costner at Whitney Houston’s funeral.

Emily:  I think one idea that links all of them is the pursuit of seeking attention and fame at all costs, even if that means losing respect for yourself.  Can Lohan really survive a “live” taping of a show?  That new Madonna song is toxic.  And Costner’s 4-hour speech was a really just a display of his vanity.

Aubrey:  I would go so far as to call all of it vulgar.  Lohan shouldn’t be in theIs Aubrey right? public eye.  Madonna hasn’t been a girl since 1968.  Kevin Costner is a blowhard.  I long for something interesting to capture public interest.  But I worry that might include something about Rhianna and Chris Brown.  That I don’t think I can stand. Let February before over quickly so we can move more compelling news.

Brain Pickings: Posts about Authors

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One of the things that draws me to Brain Pickings is the website’s constant focus on authors.  Each week, posts examine unusual and unexpected aspects of those writers that I “spend” much of my time teaching.  Featured in letters, illustrations, stop motion, book reviews, etc., these posts enrich and supplement daily lessons.

Calling upon text, images and video, these posts do more than merely disseminate information.  They are miniature pieces of “clickable” art.  They can serve to simply improve the daily grind of being a classroom teacher and brighten some of your more difficult days.  However, it is easy for students to see literature as simply a number of chapters due on any given day.  These posts remind both teacher and student that literature is something more than reading quiz followed by class discussion.

Consider using Brain Pickings in two ways: as an extension or supplement to a lesson on a specific text or literary term and as a way to have students write/discuss how we view the writers.  Below I’ve highlighted one post to show how to implement written response, classroom discussion and small group collaboration.

Writer’s Houses Illustrated

Questions to consider after reading/exploring:

  1. Why are we fascinated with where “creators create?”  What about their homes and personal lives would be of interest to us?
  2. Why would this project start with these authors’ homes?  What argument is made by illustrating these homes?
  3. What value is there is a project of this type.

Small Group Project: After examining this project, have students create an author driven project that they will pursue.  Encourage them to highlight at least 2-3 of the authors you studied thus far.  Ask that students work in small groups and create a working proposal that they “pitch” to you before they proceed.  Consider this to be part research paper, part cross-curricular learning and part creative presentation.  Steer clear of PowerPoint, Posters or other expected/tired assignment formats.  Give them guidelines but also challenge them to construct an outcome unlike their peers.

The project should identify the following:

  • An argument about writers in popular culture both past and present
  • A creative means via technology, art, social media, etc. to display this project.

Two other posts that can serve as powerful resources for discussing writer’s on their own craft are “From Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury Iconic Writers on Truth vs. Fiction” and “Advice on Writing From Modernity’s Greatest Writers.” Consider using the author statements in these posts as the basis for creating essay prompts.

Presidents’ Day: Toyota’s Dancing Presidents

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The focus of this weekend’s impromptu posts is Presidents’ Day commercials highlighting the following key terms “presidents” and “dancing.”  Silly?  Yes.  Disturbing?  Most Certainly.  Opportunity to teach cultural point of view and highlight how silly we can be?   Absolutely.   Hopefully this weekend’s post can help you add social commentary, media literacy and humor to the classroom.

There is a chance, however small, that yesterday’s Value City Furniture “Dancing Presidents” commercial simply did not satisfy your need to see our founding fathers break it down.  Never fear.  Today, we’ll give you one more commercial featuring our newly minted back up dancers President Lincoln and President Washington.

Toyota Presidents’ Day 2011 Commercial –“Presidents Care”

At 30 seconds, this is a much more standard commercial.  Have student consider the patriotic elements as well as the highly choreographed presidents.  You may have students compare this “dancing presidents” commercial to the Value City Furniture commercial highlighted yesterday.  Questions for viewing, written response and discussion are below.

  1. Describe the reason that Toyota would feature “pseudo” hip hop music and dance moves in this commercial for car sales over President’s Day weekend.  What argument does this make about the audience they’re trying to reach?
  2. What patriotic elements are included in the commercial?  Explain their purpose?
  3. Again, why dancing presidents?  What difference does it make that these Presidents are choreographed and wearing tuxedos?
  4. Of the two dancing presidents commercial, Value City & Toyota, which is ultimately more effective?  Explain your reasoning.
  5. Considering that you’ve viewed two commercials that prominently feature dancing presidents, what argument could you make about society or culture?

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

Radiolab: Media Literacy and Listening Skills

One of the best ways to employ Radiolab in the classroom is to treat it as a text.  The difficulty?  This text requires students to listen and respond without visuals.  This means a bit of explanation and modeling upfront.

A good opener is a Ted talk by Julian Treasure: 5 Ways to Listen Better.  In under eight minutes Treasure highlights the value of listening and skills to become better listeners.

During the video, have students watch, listen, and take notes on the following questions:

  • Identify two of Treasure’s arguments about modern society and listening.
  • List two things Treasure identifies as making listening difficult.
  • List the ways in which Treasure claims we can become better listeners.

After the video, have students examine Treasure’s arguments again.  Now, have them evaluate via writing and then discussion the validity of these arguments. Read more

Radiolab: Overview

 

On a Sunday night several years ago, I was held captive by an episode of Radiolab.  The episode, which examines “the line between music and language,” has a particularly engrossing segment about Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Within the segment hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad discuss how The Rite of Spring changes in the span of 30 years from a piece that causes audiences to riot, to an accepted form of classical music, to the score for Fantasia.  It’s at that moment that you can clearly see multiple overlapping arguments about society, the role of music, the passage of time, etc. Read more