Tag Archives: reading and writing skills

Middle school and up – social media lesson to share

First of all what is a parody? what is a spoof? how are they same/different?

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/a-day-in-the-life-of-pinterest

Who or what is being made fun of in this piece of writing- ? Does anyone use Pinterest? can we count the references to actual online boards? Let’s all make our own collection of boards to become familiar with internet use…I have made a number of sample boards here:

Guys, the person is suggesting only women or mainly women are the primary consumers of Pinterest- can you find ways in which guys are also using it? hint- chefs’ websites, sports, cars, guitars, movies, space… many home builders- what is soothing/ annoying about the site? Girls – which types of pins do you find yourself gravitating toward? For everyone in the room- please choose a “motivational pin” and then create your own.

How would you use it? what types of pins would you save? how would you get others to know your site exists? Does it matter? Do you think a site like Pinterest is more for “fun” and “relaxation” or for social media advertizing? why? why not? remember to backup your opinions with examples of/from other sites…

Take your time on the activity but be warned- pinning on Pinterest can become a real hobby…

Ali ūüôā

Note to educators- the original article can be offered in hard copy format to allow students to move between using a piece of printed material and reading/commenting on it and using the internet to source further material. This is an open ended project to enchance technology in the classroom and reading and writing skills.  In addition a blog posting could be created with students commenting and sharing their views about Pinterest on line.

Advertisements

Fiction-Literacy and Action

Considering my own book shelves  makes it clear that the concept of telling a story in pieces has a longer history- much pre-dating the blogging period.

Harriet Beecher Stowe so famous for the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in March 1852, first attracted readers when she published her pieces in an abolitionist newspaper- apparently as a 45 part seriesimagine (!) the excitement for readers when the whole collection was bound and then shared as a complete volume¬† – actually a two volume book.¬† Today she is credited with helping to change public opinion globally about slavery– the books having been sold and translated and shipped across the world.¬† Charles Dickens is another author whose concerns about (1836 and on) social conditions also managed to attract a large audience through the newspapers- publishing his stories in serial installments and generating what today we refer to as¬† a “buzz” or word of mouth excitement – we tweet about our favorite tv shows/movie character/ musicians, references to the character’s exploits, and -perhaps- consider the situations in reference to contemporary social issues.¬† Both Dickens and Stowe knew that their stories would only work if readers could recognize the “truth” within the stereotype and character.¬† And today?¬† we bemoan the retirement of a TV personality like John Stewart whose regular satire allowed us as viewers to poke a bit of fun at ourselves, while being made aware of very real social issues. And in installments, with each episode capable of illustrating a current concern while the big picture “story” of recognizing social justice/injustice was never far from the scene.¬†

Perhaps news as “NEWS” – social issues horrific and frightening at times not only have become almost commonplace but require the distilling through a commercial lens.¬† Can we laugh at the horror? ought we too? and if not laugh, can we empathize with the struggles of others?¬† Dicken’s famous character Scrooge, epitomizes to many what may have been lost in terms of charitable feelings when people became commodities /objects at a factory and as dispensable or replaceable as any part in a machine – but the story holds sway and stays in people’s minds because we are presented with the three ghosts and the ideal of being able to change the future through present action.¬† Scrooge actually changes and while not a fairy tale, Dicken’s story provided for this awakening, this way to merge owner and worker, in this space we call humanity.¬† Harriet Beecher Stowe not only united many in the fight to end slavery, she also united women in an amazing cross cultural and cross economic fashion, when women signed a petition to become vocal on a political level, expressing their outrage at the continuation of practices that set one group of people against another.¬† Fiction then can change lives when readers have access to the story, and opportunity to care deeply, passionately about others.

But the books and authors mentioned also brought together their personal experiences and their ability to craft a story through researching the lived experiences of others- when teaching and analyzing novels with students it seems imperative to make clear that imagination isn’t either “out there” as a thing itself, or solely inside as a personality trait but is indeed an action, practiced, encouraged, developed and extended which each student is capable¬† of accessing within him or her self.¬† Some become better at the craft of sharing this trait- the ability to design in any fashion demands imagination what ever field- the ability to care? I would like to think it is innate if not always encouraged.

Using Visuals to Enhance Writing Skills

 

Eggroll

Sometimes it is the simplicity and the symmetry that draws the eye. When students are asked to create a story, offering a picture prompt plus open brainstorming together will allow students to recognize what is meant when asking for a written ‚Äúthick‚ÄĚ description and students may create a background or plot for?

Who might be coming to dinner? Is it an ordinary occasion? Where is the setting? At home or elsewhere? Could they add a mystery/suspense to their short vignette?

Image, plot, character study, setting, use of adjectives, vocabulary enhancer- all ages/levels, writing skills

Image from La vie et Belle hollymdunning.blogspot.ca spring eggrolls, Vietnam

Shake it up!

Once upon a time, in an enchanted__________(forest, pond, stream, house, castle,garden…) lived a little______________(prince, princess, horse, pony, goat, duck…?) and this little_______________decided to join everyone around the _____________? ¬†campfire! ¬†Because campfires are good places to share stories and hot chocolate. ¬†And stories and cold juice. ¬†And stories and popcorn.

The night was clear.  The moon was bright.  Everyone was pleased to take part in the ? making of a brand new KITE! And so the ________________ joined in and discovered______________________________????

Reading involves a full body practice- peek into a kindergarten room and observe the need for movement; some of us continue to need that opportunity to use our bodies in motion while the learning process grows- yet – we have a strong image impacted of reading and writing practice being a solitary studious pursuit. ¬†If you have the time, and inclination, rummage through a children’s section at the library or the bookstore or within your own home collection. ¬†And see if you can really sit still or if at times the words on the page conjure up images that make you not only truly laugh out loud, but also seem to get you swaying to the rhythm – words on the page leaping and colliding and having fun.

Learning- of anything- is a time consuming series of repetitions and practices until a learner feels a smidgen of control, slowly leading to mastery. ¬†And which some remain determined may have less to do with “grit” or “mindset” and more to do with circumstances and options. ¬†If however, we, as educators wish to open up a few doors or at least a window into what various aspects of learning may offer, then we will be needing to demonstrate how and why skills are building blocks for movement forward. ¬†Direct communication – making time for this – becomes essential, so instead of lamenting the fast pace and disconnect of modern times, or extolling the virtues of technology and flipped classrooms, let’s remember that if we present testing or reviews in a positive frame, then the likelihood of students responding in a positive¬†manner improves.

Personalities- we each have one- and we no more wish to be lumped into a “type” then do the students in a learning environment. ¬†That is “mindset” in a nutshell; the suggestion that people may be allowed to think outside the box requires people not to be boxed in or restricted by academic labels- ¬†a label may allow for clearer organization within an institution, but at times denies the learner the very thing education is meant to encourage- growth and change. ¬†Movement: across disciplines, within communities, throughout a learning system, demands numerous skill sets including the ability to fill in the blanks, to extend the story, to make it one’s own, to develop, to grow and to become.

And so they lived…which always struck me as suggestive of more to come…

Standing desks, musical chairs, reading buddies, writing conferences, on and off line; shake it up, and find the mix that works best in your student’s frame.

12 steps for essay writing

Was preparing this set of 12 steps with a student and realized they will benefit all:
Step 1) brainstorm or thinking about all the different ideas
Step 2) putting these ideas onto paper (or the internet)- in any order
              some students make lists
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† some students draw “mind maps”
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† some students like to draw and fill in the “clouds”
                   some students even doodle or draw the things they are thinking about!
Step 3)  using point form- and a mixture of sentences Рwrite down the main points that you remember without needing to look these points up- you may reference material later.
Step 4) ¬†If you need to support your ideas with facts from research- or from the novel, or from statistics…now is the time to add those facts beside the points you wrote for step 3
Step  5)  You are ready to number your points and to join ideas so that the reader will understand what ideas go together
Step 6)   the notes you make in class or on your own- refer back to them- have you left any important point out? could you add to the writing with any other description or fact?
Step 7)   write the rough copy
Step 8)   wait at least one day
step 9)   reread the rough copy? what could be improved? what do you think will make it better?
Step 10)   type up your first draft/ read this aloud Рlisten, does it seem to tell a story? Are the ideas clear?
Step 11)  check your punctuation and spelling
Step 12) now type up the good copy to hand in ¬†ūüôā
———————————————————————-
Things to remember:
If a teacher asks a specific question- you must answer this question.
If a teacher leaves it up to you, as the student, to “create” a response- begin with asking yourself a question!

Not Censored

An adult student¬†shared with me the other day the existence of a website that features racist jokes! Now I am a believer in Freedom of Speech, and the need to not censor material- to put one’s effort instead towards educating people about the difference¬†between funny and mean. ¬†Yet I wished I could shut down such a website – initially I had thought how to interpret the joke- then realized it ought not to be explained. ¬†We live in a world that is increasingly censored- and this too is bad for too much “protection” from the way some people may be raised, the ones who were taught intolerance instead of understanding and who become frightened of the “other” members of society and therefore resort to mean- in the form of jokes, in the form of actual violent actions, in the form of joining groups that encourage violence towards others- in short, bullying on a grand scale- may result in a generation that is unprepared to fight the “bully” either in a formal fashion (voting down any bigot who chose to run for power) or in an informal fashion by declaring such “jokes” not funny.

Yes I too had moments when my children were little when I wished I could simply wrap them up in bubble paper and coat them with some type of protective shield. ¬†And teaching is a strong reminder that thinking and doing are symbiotic, and that we must expose our children to the underside of society as well as to “all things positive” if we are to be raising thinking, feeling, adults who will participate fully in society. ¬†So in spite of truly wishing that such websites as the one mentioned didn’t exist, ¬†I recognize that not only does the promise of “Freedom of Speech” allow for anyone to say anything, I am going to also be aware that when selecting and suggesting books for the YA set, that we look at what the act of censorship has over time restricted- for example why or how a book might have “enraged” a community or an individual enough to request that schools pull it off their shelves, or that libraries not feature a copy. ¬†What was in the story, the writing, the setting? what actions did the characters ask us as readers to consider?

A simple example are the writings of Samuel Clemens- aka Mark Twain. ¬†When one recognizes that Twain was asking readers to see the wrong in racism, and doing so by giving a reader a child’s insight into the adult society of his time*; or that a reading of Wuthering Heights** suggests that education and upbringing might not only challenge the status quo, but also challenges us as readers to consider in what ways social status continues to affect individual actions, then we are giving students a chance to consider for themselves what makes a book a “classic”; what messages resound across both time and space and continue to be questions that people have yet to answer fully. ¬†We may strive for a ¬†Utopian society, and may enjoy along with students the action adventure that went into a series such as ¬†The Hunger Games, while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that today’s world is not the one depicted in the dystopian*** novel. ¬†But how to continue to improve; to encourage the best in others? Reading continues to be a strong means of encouraging dialogue- and through dialogue- real freedom of speech- as in genuine communication, perhaps we are taking one step forward- I continue to hope so. ¬†¬†

*Huckleberry Finn

**Wuthering Heights – by Emily Bronte- the blurb for the novel states “Wuthering Heights was initially thought to be such a publishing risk that its author, Emily Bront√ę, was asked to pay some of the publication costs”

For a list of Dystopian literature see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dystopian_literature

Yesterday, at the library…

or why I still love Ghostbusters the original movie.   There are simply some spots which on the surface suggest stuffy or sterile yet enter and-

do the 4:00 p.m. hustle.  Hardly a seat vacant on a Tuesday evening- my local library was booming, and representative of the multinational cultures in this city could be seen people of various backgrounds congregating in a single spot; children/seniors/nannies/parents/elementary through post secondary students/tutors/ readers/writers/ moving, shuffling, whispering and laughing- and at the odd table a little bit of pontificating too! Plus now that the regulations have changed, chomping and slurping and being careful to avoid spilling; the books, newspapers, and magazines placed just out of harm from the liquids-patrons being careful to value the space and its contents.

I sat and listened enjoying the hum; Libraries to me epitomizing the concept of “Democracy” – a public reminder that a community cares about learning, growing and changing,¬† this location reflecting both ties to its past and the upgrades any institution requires to continue to be relevant.¬† I remembered a post graduate course in which we as students were encouraged to “eavesdrop” and then to write a mini story¬† -the difference becoming real between actual participant observation and creative fiction¬† (what we produced was “fiction” not ethnography).¬† Actual participant observation involves the “other” ; rather than suggesting meaning, it questions meaning, and encourages communication; a give and take to produce a shared respectful evaluation of a process.¬† And I realized it was just this shared evaluation which I had been listening for, but unfortunately still discovered to be lacking.

I put the word “together’ in my company’s mandate before the word itself had become the latest buzzword; years of training, rigor and thought provoking examples of good teaching coming together to be expressed in the concise, yet boundless way a lesson will both contain a single purpose while opening the mind to entertain further ideas.¬† Good books do this- taking us out of ourselves for an instant, allowing us to enter into another’s space; strong readers know this and read for the combination of entertainment and lessons being shared which the novelist has offered.¬† When we “teach” reading skills we must ( me- offering a prescriptive!) – yes must remember how we as readers automatically make comparisons; almost instinctively comparing a new text to one read before, a character or plot problem to another story, a joke to a similar situation; it is the combination of novel and expected that we are searching for- the familiarity of a parallel universe- the one inside the story; the one inside our heads.¬† And we must (that word again!) recognize that the students we are working with may not have either the same experiences or any referents at all-

I began this blog entry with a mention of a movie- part of popular culture? perhaps…but I could wager and probably win a bet that not everyone has seen Ghostbusters the original, or would automatically recall the inside the library scene of books floating … do watch the whole movie – it may be hard for you afterwards to consider a library as a “static” space!