Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Political Parodies

Kristin, I have followed your lead using movies in English. In thinking about The Canterbury Tales and what I wanted my students to gain from it, satire and societal commentary were two topics of importance. I visited with Karl throwing around ideas related to a Code of Conduct students could create using various orders of knights for their structure. This seemed to be an ok plan, but it still was quite clear in my head.

Bouncing ideas off of Lauren, she too agreed what was important to her was Chaucer's satirical comedy and the cultural observations he made. We wondered how we could assess this in a new format, but was not certain the movie element would work. We worried that students would create Saturday Night Live-style parodies instead of satire in its truest form where it is often hard to find the humor unless you know the background, the politics, etc. It uses its original form to create a serious product.

An idea then came: using the political ads as our foundation, students could take a pilgrim and bring them into the 21st century. They could research political propaganda, a certain office, and infuse Chaucer's details about the pilgrim: physical features, habits, vices and virtues into the advertisement. We both loved the idea. Lauren thought that students could work in small groups to create 3 ads that respond to eachother, all running for the same office. We want the students to look at the various classes and know which pilgrim fits into where in our money-driven society.

I created the first video; I feel it worked well using Windows Media Player. I don't even have a microphone and my little ThinkPad picked up the music and the voice quite well. I know the students will take my example and create even more powerful pieces.

What I liked about using technology was not that I'm using it, but thinking about objectives for teaching this piece of literature, assessments that seem to capture not only one or two aspects of the literature, but many key criteria. And, I know for job interviews and applications, the question is always asked what computer software, programs, etc. do you know? Students will now have another piece to add, plus a sincere understanding of satire.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Using blogs to analyze thesis statements--continued

Having fun with thesis statements seems to be an oxymoron of sorts. I have never been able to get regular English seniors, as a whole, to stretch their thesis ideas to the next level. They often remain at the observation level in where they discuss a symbol, but don't argue what that symbol causes for the protagonist, the reader, and/or theme relating to life. I was thrilled this weekend to log onto blogger to give feedback to students on their thesis statements. Even from discussions I had with them in class, I can tell they really thought about their task--trying to make a literary leap by answering the seemingly pervasive 'so what'.

I appreciated the AP Lit models as it gave my students insight into the thinking that goes into a thesis. They realized it doesn't just magically flow from their pens, nor does it just appear because they have an innate understanding of literature. They too, needed to digress, ask questions, and challenge themselves and others to reach a persuasive level. I know as I continue to do similar thesis discussions, their focus will strengthen.

Here's the specific link with their thesis statements and my comments to them: http://ahslifeofpi.blogspot.com/2006/10/post-your-thesis-statement.html#comments

Please email me any comments regarding a message missed to a student, an overall message missed that you saw in their thesis statements, etc. I would love to have feedback.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Another use for blogs--analysis of thesis

Today I am revisiting thesis statements with my seniors. I was sharing information I learned at an AP conference this summer; the premise was that we create our thesis statements backwards. We ask our students to generate this debatable idea, one that is creative and fresh. We assume that our students think long and hard about this, generating notes, questions, ideas--all resulting in a thesis statement that came forward from inductive thinking. What the AP institute speaker said that he has found in 28 years of teaching is that our students do not go through this natural step that we do. They instead struggle with trying to create this and essentially create a lot of cursing of the material instead of creating material. Makes so much sense. I used the analogy that if we were to make a decision on whether a sweater was worth keeping because it was comfortable and warm, we wouldn't just throw in on our desk and make a quick decision about it. We would try it on, look at the types of materials used, we might test the sweater out in the cold, we might have several people try the sweater on for comfort, we would ask questions regarding the idea of comfortability and warmth. The kids got the analogy and quickly applied it to thesis.

I then put up the AP Lit teachers' blogs and showed them the posts where the teachers asked their students to discuss questions they had in regard to their independent reading book, possible thesis topics, or even actual thesis statements they were considering. The blogs also had comments from the teachers back to the particular students explaining what was working, but more importantly, what was weak, what they needed to consider, etc. My kids were thrilled, cheered and one kid said, "It's like the holy grail! The secret of theses has been revealed!" Hilarious, yes, but also really struck me. How can I take this discovery one more step?

I decided that on Monday, I am going to have the kids pull up the site and choose one student's thesis, look at the AP teacher's comments, and then "fix" the thesis statement. Make it better, address the comments, and create one that they think answers the questions posed by the teacher.

I am so excited that the kids liked seeing these students' ideas; a shout out to the AP Lit teachers for sharing this thinking process.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just discovered Gabcast

If you don't have podcast capabilities, audioblogger was an option I knew about. But, audioblogger is going "out of business" so to speak. If you log onto their site, they list several other options. One that I checked out is www.gabcast.com. It is free in the US with an 800 number--how nice! So, you can create your "channel" and then call the number login with a numeric login and password, record, and voila! They even give you a way to put it on your blog. I haven't tried this yet, because my cell phone, *#^!!, kept dropping words, so I deleted the post. I am going to try again from a landline. I'll check in and see if it works tomorrow.