Tag Archive for Michael Pollan

Documentaries: Resources

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Finding documentary resources can feel an insurmountable task. To find appropriate and engaging content can take hours.  It can also be difficult to determine how you will assess students’ interaction with these films.  Simple viewing questions can only go so far.

Today’s post will offer some resources for both of these areas in the hopes that you will be able to gain a foothold on how to implement short documentaries into your classroom.

 

Reading in the Reel World-John Golden

A must-have text if you want to implement better viewing and critical thinking strategies.  Golden argues that documentaries are non-fiction texts.  As such, students should SOAPSTone them as well as create their own essential questions while watching.   He also explains and models using levels of questioning to use in tandem with documentary viewing. A sample chapter is available via NCTE.

PBS POV

This website is a treasure trove of all types of documentaries.  The best part is that they have an entire educator’s resource center.  You will want to look specifically at the short films.  To get to them, search “short documentaries.”  Some of my favorites include:

 

Utopia Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall

A good piece to teach consumerism and personal folly.  Use this 13-minute documentary to teach argument and purpose.   Most definitely have them SOAPSTone the piece and create their own essential questions.  Consider having them tweet those questions while watching.

Watch Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall on PBS. See more from POV.

 

Trash Out

This is a good documentary to use when discussing the death of the American dream.  Consider having students use at the end of The Great Gatsby as Nick is watching Gatsby’s house stand empty or as a stand alone to teach argument in regards to how we see accomplishment and loss.

Watch Trash-Out on PBS. See more from POV.

SnagLearning

An offshoot of SnagFilms, it’s a great resource for documentaries from National Geographic, PBS, and a whole host of other resources.  There are some simple lesson plans posted but for the most part you’ll want to create your own following Golden’s ideas of how students should interact with documentaries in writing.

The New York Times Learning Network has also partnered with them and has created some useful documentary “film festivals” that are worth a look.  The9/11 documentary lessons are especially helpful if you’re teaching Bush’s speech at Ground Zero or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

You’ll want to examine their documentary shorts specifically.  Titled Media that Matters, they have a range of films short documentaries between 5-10 minutes in length.  Some of my favorites include:

Alienated: Undocumented Immigrant Youth

A great short film that profiles one young woman specifically who works as a nanny/housekeeper.  It’s perfect to partner with The Jungle and the later chapters of Fast Food Nation.

Young Agrarians

A short film about young people/students involved in organic farming.  It would be a perfect pairing for anything by Michael Pollan or as a supplement to Fast Food Nation.  You might also use it to teach AP Language students the synthesis essay about locavores.

Night Visions

This documentary short focuses on one soldier’s experiences after his tour.  The short would serve as a good companion to The Things They CarriedAll Quiet on the Western Front and Catch 22.

Brain Pickings: Posts with Video

What draws me to online resources for the classroom like Brain Pickings is the multimedia experience a single post can offer students.  While it’s true that video cannot be the only way we teach students to interact with the world, short, meaningful videos can help enrich the social commentary that student construct within their writing and discussion.

Part of asking students to become digital citizens means requiring them to consider how video, text and images overlap within writing online.  Brain Pickings offers a thoughtful way to incorporate this skill into a humanities style classroom.  The examples below are just a starting point and are meant to offer you some choices in teaching rhetoric, texts or moral/ethical debates.  You can easily find posts that better serve your needs depending on your curriculum simply by subscribing to the weekly newsletter or searching the archives.

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules Animated in Stop Motion

This post is an appropriate supplement to Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser or The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  There are several other Brain Pickings posts referenced, as well.  Consider having student explore/research the topic via these hyperlinks.  The video is a wonderful argument about food via food.  Consider the questions below for written response or discussion.

“Food Rules” by Michael Pollan – RSA/Nominet Trust competition from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.

  1. What elements of the video are the most engaging or clever?  Explain your reasoning.
  2. What necessity is there for a visual representation of this nature?  Why not simply use both audio and video from Michael Pollan?
  3. Identify Pollan’s argument via the narration.  Identify the video’s argument via its content.

You may even consider including the Brain Pickings post entitled “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption.”

Six Vintage Inspired Animations on Critical Thinking

Teaching logical fallacies can be difficult.  Students struggle to understand where/when they exist because they are inexperience and often believe most information is true.  This particular post includes a series of animated videos that teach logic and logical fallacies.  The non-sequitur and straw man videos are especially clear in teaching and could easily be posted for students to watch.

Non-Sequitur 

Straw Man 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

This post is a convergence of teaching the importance of empathy, action/volunteerism, entrepreneurship, global citizenship and literacy.  Use this multimedia post to teach students about the importance of literacy and personal action.  Questions below consider all aspects of the post.

  1. Why adapt this type of story from a memoir and turn it into an illustrated children’s book?
  2. What argument is to be found in the actual images assembled in the Brain Pickings post
  3. What argument is made within the post about this type of entrepreneurship and literacy?  Discuss the type or responsibility being advocated.
  4. View the video.  Discuss the mixed media is relies upon.  What is the effect of using the books illustrations, interviews and real video?
  5. Discuss the purpose of the video.  Does it accomplish that goal?

Encourage students to explore the We Give Books website.  Much like Free Rice, students, teacher, parents, etc. can read books online and then have books donated for no personal cost to several charities.

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.

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?