Tag Archive for Student Knowledge

Blogs as Text: Sports & Pop Culture

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As a continuation of yesterday’s post, today we’ll focus on using pop culture, sports and current events blogs in the classroom.  It’s easy for me to sell any teacher on the idea of implementing blog reading that delves into current events; students need to be global citizens.  But pop culture and sports blogs can tricky.  Students need to gain more than the latest gossip and team scores.

While TMZ and Perez Hilton have their place, the blogs I’ve chosen to highlight today cover all of the same issues but with the type of style and “smarts” that makes them attractive to classroom teachers and still engaging to students.  As with anything you aren’t simply looking to entertain your students.  While offering these blogs can be part of a reading “choice” program, expectations should still remain high in terms of the social, political and cultural commentary students construct in response.

Ultimately, all of these blogs offer up “news” in varied formats but more important, they provide commentary.  Often the arguments they formulate are both relevant and engaging.  It is this type of writing that enriches student reading and knowledge.  The fact that it’s a blog simply makes it a tech forward and readily accessible choice.  Don’t forget to see our lessons for writing and annotation extensions.  They are ready to implement along with any blog driven reading assignments.  And remember, all of these are simply suggestions and starting points.  Always check The New York Times blogs for more choices.

The blogs overviewed are the best choice for offering content and commentary.  Also included but not overviewed are blogs that provide substantive information on the areas of focus and less commentary.

Current Events

Analysis & Opinion-Reuters

Anything dealing with current events demands that students read and choose based on their interests.  Reuters’ blog about current topics spans the globe and offers lenses through which to interpret the news they provide.   While posts can be challenging, they will engage students in online opinion pieces that debate global politics and the role of the U.S.

Don’t forget to examine The New York Times Room for Debate site.  While not a blog it is still an incredible useful supplement for students.

Information driven blogs include: The Two-Way, The Lede, Global Spin

 

Sports

Sporting Scene-The New Yorker

I can’t think of a better scenario.  The New Yorker, with all its style and grace, creates a sports blog.  Every post is so well crafted you will think you stumbled upon a non-fiction treasure and your students will never stop thanking you when you tell them that they can supplement their reading with a sport blog.

Information driven blogs include: The Early Lead, ESPN Sports Blogs

 

Pop Culture

Monkey See-NPR

This is by far, one of the best pop culture blogs to use with students.  Post include thoughtful commentary on TV, film, literature, and everything else popular culture.  These blog posts don’t just identify current trending topics.  Instead, they evaluate the usefulness of these trends.  Nothing is better for teaching students argument evaluation and the larger implications of pop culture.

 

Information driven blogs include: Celebritology 2.0, Media DecoderThe TV Column

Blogs as Text: Technology & Science

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It’s easy to think that all blogs are gossip driven.  Perez Hilton rules supreme.  But most major news publications today run a significant amount of blog based content. And this content is well written.  Whether these are blogs from The Chronicle of Higher Education or The New Yorker, the goal is always the same: find good writing on interesting topics that can reach a high school audience. Consider your goal with using blogs as supplemental texts as twofold.  First, you want to provide students choice and engage otherwise unwilling readers.  Second, you want students to practice assessing and evaluating textual arguments in a variety of mediums.  Don’t forget to examine yesterday’s post in order to peruse lesson plans for writing and annotating ideas in regards to reading blogs as “texts” in the classroom.

In an effort to help “jump” start this process I’ll highlight science and technology blogs today, current events/popular cultures blogs tomorrow.  My “picks” are simply a starting point for you as you make the decision to implement more blog as supplemental reading.

The New York Times is an amazing resource for blogs.  Be sure to checkout their index before beginning any blog reading assignment.

Science & Technology Blogs

The New York Times

Bits

From apps to cyber security to the online presence of celebrities, this blog has a little bit of everything for the student interested in technology, business and policy.  Often posts even discuss big picture implications and the role of technology in society. 

 

The Washington Post

Faster Forward

This blog focuses on stories about technology, specifically “gadgets.”  The writing is easy to read and posts include video and image which allows students the challenge and satisfaction of working in different textual mediums. 

 

Wired Magazine

Geek Dad

These posts are written by parents about everything from poetry to film to tech. Since the posts are written by a variety of authors, studying voice throughout is a great focus. 

Wired Science

Videos and image populate this blog.  Posts range from nature to outer space offering a variety of lenses through which students can read and experience any element of science blog writing that might engage them. 

Danger Room

A personal favorite, this blog deals with national security, technology and current events.  Interested in safety at the London Olympics?  Concerned about how military technology adapts? The posts are incredibly engaging even for an English teacher. 

NPR

Krulwich Wonders

We’ve highlighted Krulwich Wonders before.  It’s a great blog of just about everything you could ever want including, but not limited to, the science of language, architecture, nature, etc.  It will easily become a student favorite. 

All Tech Considered

Posts about tech on this blog range from information about start-up companies to the ethics of tech in modern culture.  Very readable and engaging for any student. 

13.7

All of the contributors for this blog are comprised of professors with science specialties, as well as one philosopher.  The posts are engrossing and deal with a variety of big picture arguments that are rooted in science and philosophy. 

Blogs as Text: Assignments

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.

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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

  1. Have students read and construct a SOAPSTone chart and précis paragraph.
  2. Ask that students annotate using a tool like awesome highlighter or Evernote.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. After having read several posts or for several weeks asks student to do a style analysis of their author.
  6. 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.

Brain Pickings: Weekly Newsletter

 

Subscribe to Brain Pickings Weekly Newsletter

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Brain Pickings, the cultural website curated by Maria Popova, is a trove of valuable and engaging classroom resources.  With several posts each day, the breadth and depth is remarkable.  One of the best things you can do is subscribe to the weekly newsletter.  An overview of the best stories from the week with added bonuses, it can help guide your reading and your students’ research depending on how you choose to implement this resource.

Because most Brain Pickings posts are complex conversations, you may want to pick and choose some of the videos, images, text, etc.   You can always have your students research the weekly newsletter itself and have them choose a post for themselves.  As with anything, I would recommend the use of SOAPSTone and/or précis paragraph writing in an attempt to have them look for argument/bias in all forms of writing.

Since there also exists a Weekly Newsletter Archive , you can quickly review the past several months of posts, too.  While I’ll spend the next two days highlighting specific posts, let me suggest one of my favorite newsletters.  A majority of the highlighted posts are easily accessible and incorporate video/photos to help students examine argument via different media and formats.   See ideas for incorporating the entirety of the newsletter into class discussion/writing below.

Weekly Newsletter-10/30/2011 – 5 Unsung Heroes Who Shaped Modern Life, a Pixar animator reimagines Hindu deities, and more

1. Have students read the “5 Unsung Heroes” post.  Ask that they, based on knowledge solely from the posts, construct an argument for or against the order in which the heroes are listed.

  • Have them examine the Henrietta Lacks section specifically.  Consider asking them to assess how video and multiple images make her seem a more convincing choice for number 1 of 5 most important.

2. Have students examine “The Phantom Tollbooth at 50” post and watch the accompanying short documentary.  Ask that they determine what, if any, the importance is between storyteller and illustrator.

3.  Have students examine the images included in “Visual Storytelling.”  Read and assess Popova’s argument about the book and images included.  Then have students parse the images discussing the following:

  • Image argument
  • Role of data
  • Role of aesthetics
  • Need for this type of visual storytelling in today’s culture

4.  Have students read/examine the post detailing “The Little Book of Hindu Deities.” Next, instead of giving them the essential questions have them create them.

  • Ask that they do more than just identify aspects of the post/images.  Ask that they also include moral/ethical debate questions that focus on the overlap popular culture and religion.

Brain Pickings: Overview

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Several weeks ago I posted a series of ideas about how to use Good Magazine to help enrich student knowledge, teach empathy and consider moral/ethical debates.  However, every teacher needs an arsenal of resources to expand student knowledge.  Common Core Standards in regards to Integration of Knowledge and Ideas for reading standards require evaluation of tone/rhetoric in sources presented in different “media or formats.”

When budgets are tight and classrooms are large, a variety of “formats” can be a difficult task.  Some of my favorite resources to supplement expanding student literacy can be found online.  Easy to access via computer, Smart Phone or tablet, online magazines, newspapers and blogs offer an infusion of options.  Students have the ability to choose topics that interest them, and educators have at their disposal texts that fall in line with Common Core expectations.   Yet, teachers are often unaware of those resources.

To that end, this week’s posts will focus on Brain Pickings, a website that “curates” culture.  The website is the brain-child of Maria Popova and partners with The Atlantic.   On its own, the site is a wonderful resource for a harried teacher who simply wants 10 minutes to remind themselves that classrooms are microcosms.  From the perspective of curriculum enrichment, Brain Pickings is a vast resource of information on Charles Dickens, Jackson Pollack, Bicycle Art, Vintage Valentines Day Cards, even a scales of income walking tour by the percents.   It is, in essence, a site that demands that we see how science, math and the humanities overlap.  As such, it is an elegant way to build student knowledge while improving critical thinking skills.