Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A New Endeavor Across An Ocean

Through reading the Fischbowl Karl was contacted by a teacher from South Korea that is willing to work with teachers worldwide to create a "blook"--a blog filled with stories, a book on a blog! It's like a donut on a stick...but much better for you.

I just got my account on Skype and tried out the instant messenging this morning. It was 6:45 am here and 10:45 pm in Korea. Clay Burell ( and I traded ideas, asked questions and held a free, international conversation all 15 minutes before my English Lit class started. The world has just gotten flatter in my little world.

Clay's idea is to have students read portions of the Arabian Nights and have them then, write stories about their culture, their lives, starting with truth and bleeding into fiction. The premise is a frame story (an alien has landed and you've been asked to explain our world). Students will create a Thousand and One Flat World Tales, a storybook online...students of all grades, from around the world. We'll focus on 6+1 traits, fiction techniques, and hopefully our students will see a common thread between all the stories. Maybe they'll have a bigger perspective of the world (sometimes hard to create at age 13 & 14) and leave English 9 a little more focused on their dreams, their future.

I always have grandiose ideas and jump in without really knowing where I'm headed. However, with all the projects and units I've tried so far with my kids, I haven't been disappointed. They have created such meaning from literature and really tied it to their life, and then even better: they tied it to the global community. As always, I'll have a story to tell and I'll add it to the Flat World "blook."

Wish me luck! Na-jung-e bwae-yo!

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Nothing Like Starting on the Run!

I'm tired. I'm tired. I'm tired. Ok...wake up and Go! We were truly starting class so cold: no copies, classrooms that were dirty, books from last semester left, and yet, a new semester began. I am tired, but feeling refreshed and ready to forge constructivism in a new way really trying to relate English to my students' lives.

I started with my 9th graders today showing Fisch's Did You Know presentation; apparently many other teachers showed it today, too. However, we had a great conversation and kids then wrote about their ideas, what they wondered, how they will be prepared, etc. I then discussed their research project. Normally, our 9th graders research controversial topics, choose a side and write about it. What I've been thinking about is how to get kids motivated about their future. Freshmen think that graduation is so far off---it's just a mere 7 semesters away. And, many do not know that for the 2 large state schools, they need a 3.4 GPA. Nor have they considered such requirements like 4 years of math to get into an architecture college (yes, many are requiring you to apply for the college of your choice 2nd semester of your freshmen year). So, my students are doing a career research project. I'm wondering if for our students of the 21st century, will they find research that is helpful truly for their future? We won't know immediately, but I hope at the very least, they will be a little more motivated. I would love to have them compile their final analysis in some sort of media presentation. Karl, any ideas?

For seniors, they are creating movies that showcase the World in Which We Live where they capture values and lifestyles of America. All this is to prepare them for satire in Brave New World. I want them to be able to compare and contrast our world, so they first need to do some thinking about their world, their values, their choices. It should be interesting as well.

Here's another thought I'd love feedback on: pay it forward. Anyone seen the movie? Oprah did a segment on this idea last year and I've been mulling it around ever since. I want my students to come up with a pay it forward project to give back to society. My idea is that at the end of the Brave New World unit, after we've discussed how this prophetic novel has come true in ways and is getting too close in others, I want to challenge students to come up with an idea to give back---to find a way to make a small difference, so our world doesn't become the dysfunctional, sex-craved, emotion-less society. Will the kids buy into this? Or, will they just fulfill the assignment for a grade. I even give a grade? Will they do it if I don't? I'd love feedback.

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