It seems that the expectations assigned to English teachers becomes larger and more nuanced with each year. Teach technology. Read a variety of texts. Create global citizens. Nurture critical thinkers. Produce analytical writers.
Implementing blogs as “texts” is an easy way to address all of these issues at once. You might consider having students read blogs daily, weekly or 2-3 times per quarter depending on your time constraints. Since many English teachers implement an exploring the issues, or a follow the columnist assignment adapting such an exercise that focuses on columns/editorials could easily be adapted for a blog reading assignment.
When students can actually choose a credible author with journalistic presence and style who blogs they win. Instead of one column per week students could follow their “blogger” each day or several days a week via your classroom. Even better, students can follow a blog that focused on a certain type of content that they find highly interesting. The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired, The National Geographic all have blogs. Well written and small in size they are easy for students to “digest” and they provide thoughtful writing and meaningful content.
By following a respected blogger students can become experts and global citizens. We complain about their lack of knowledge and their inability to assess arguments and style. Reading a blog of merit is a means towards achieving this goal. Below are some basic ideas for you to implement along with a blogs as text unit. Tomorrow I’ll provide a list of blogs to give students as choices
Reading Blogs as Text Assignments
- Have students read and construct a SOAPSTone chart and précis paragraph.
- Ask that students annotate using a tool like awesome highlighter or Evernote.
- Ask students to identify explicit/implicit arguments in the blog post. Even ask that students identify the values/morals of the writer based on their voice.
- Instead of summarizing ask that students construct a list of essential questions as they read. These questions should identify the big picture arguments of the author and pose them in the format of moral/ethical questions.
- After having read several posts or for several weeks asks student to do a style analysis of their author.
- Ask students to construct argument prompts in the fashion of the AP Language and Composition test or the SAT based on the moral/ethical arguments consistently raised by their “blogger.” Provide them with a list of ideas or a starting point for prompts based on the debate topics Emily’s previously identified in her GRE post.
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.
Teaching students how and where to research can be painful. They struggle to evaluate credibility and they chafe at the amount of time real research demands. In reality, students should be engaged in some form of research all year. The thought of this makes most teachers shudder, myself included. Constant research, large or small, is a classroom necessity and not just because the Common Core Standards demand it.
Research makes students better thinkers and better writers. So the question arises: How can students be engaged in constant research without struggle or burden for all involved?
The answer? Twitter.
Now I know how this potentially sounds. Lindsay Lohan updates and trending hashtags about #basketballslang don’t really inspire teachable moments. But what can easily get lost in celebrity updates is Twitter as a significant resource for current events. Every major publication tweets—multiple times a day. What results is a brief overview of a topic and a link to a story. It is in essence a ready made “feed” for student research.
1, Determine how students will access tweets that allow for research/reading on current issues and topics.
- You may decide to use your own Twitter account for the classroom and retweet a series of “stories” from which students can choose. This offers you more control over what they read.
- Or you may ask that they follow a series of reputable publications. From the tweets of those “teacher sanctioned” publications they may do their own current events research.
Some publications for classroom use:
- Have students explore tweets and articles. You may choose to do this inside or outside of class. Consider asking students to read and evaluate several articles if time allows.
- Have students favorite and retweet topics of interest. For each favorite/retweet, ask students to post a follow up tweet. The “follow up” should be an argument for the value of the professional article.
4. Consider this as a constant exercise much like journaling. You can use it to produce a 60-second speech or a research driven project/paper.
Tomorrow: Twitter as Essential Questioning Tool
So you’re not quite sold yet on QR codes. They seem complicated and time consuming. Let’s make this easier. Let’s start with their role in society. Today’s post will provide you some resources for analyzing the role of technology, specifically QR codes, within society. Each “piece” offers a different opportunity to have students read or view, annotate and critically think.
QR Codes as Art
Cnet, the tech website, offers a brief article about using the QR code as art. They provide several photo and a cost range for QR codes framed and on canvass. The article is great for:
- Discussing the intersection of technology and art
- Debating the idea of art
- Discussing QR codes influence on popular culture
See Mashable’s list of QR codes that offer functionality as well as beauty for an extension. Read more
While I considered using Weekend Tech to discuss Zanesville, Ohio and exotic animals, I decided against it. It was too bizarre, and even though I laughed when NPR used “Pumped Up Kicks” as background music to discuss this story, I knew it was because I’m a bad person. The Occupy Wall Street movement seemed like a more versatile idea, especially since The Onion had some incredibly humorous tweets this week. Everything from infographics, to image analysis, The Onion to literature tie-ins is in store this weekend. What more could you want? Aside from some appropriate background music of course.
Occupy Wall Street Infographic
Last year The Learning Network at The New York Times created a “starter” kit for using infographics in the classroom. It’s a valuable resource if you’re not familiar with infographics or how to implement them. What do I like about infographics? Well they are everywhere. Newspapers, magazines, even The Onion creates infographics in jest for public consumption.
The website Visual.ly is a vast resource for infographics. The infographic titled, “The State of American Discontent” is a perfect supplement when discussing this movement. It fills the role of media literacy and still teaches argument, purpose, tone, etc. Amending the SOAPSTone format slightly here is useful because the same categories still apply. Use it even as an argument analysis. Analysis could include: types of data presented, organization of the information, even images used to convey the data.
Occupy Wall Street to teach Image Analysis and Transcendentalism
I’ve posted before that The New Yorker has fantastic blog resources. What caught my eye this week was the blog Photobooth. The series of images taken of protesters at Zucotti Park is remarkable. What makes the “slideshow” thought provoking is that each protestor in the series is photographed alone. Their cardboard signs are the central focus of each shot. Representing a range of ages and occupations it’s a great way to practice some of the image analysis techniques we’ve previously posted about. It’s also a great physical representation of Transcendenalist ideals, especially Emerson’s Self-Reliance and Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience.
Category: Weekend Tech
Tags: Argument Analysis
, Civil Disobedience
, Foster the People
, Henry David Thoreau
, Media literacy
, Occupy Wall Street
, Pumped Up Kicks
, The Onion
I find it helps to organize books and units around one “principle.” This principle will be modeled and practiced throughout the entirety of the unit from a variety of angles. It’s always my goal to then have students “produce” that skill on their own or in small groups by the end of our study. Today I’ll provide two different approaches. The options for today all focus on culminating activities that measure writing ability.
It seems to me that many of the books we give our students are meta “texts.” Novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, All the King’s Men, even The Scarlet Letter include a series of speeches, sermons or courtroom arguments that have their own “life.” Books that include other “texts” within them offer a range of opportunities for end projects.
Category: Novel and Unit Projects
Tags: All the King's Men
, Arc of Justice
, Fast Food Nation
, New York Times
, Nickeled and Dimed
, The Ethicist
, The Scarlet Letter
, to kill a mockingbird