A Mockingbird Playlist

Last week I wrote blog post reviewing the Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird rewritten by Aaron Sorkin for the stage. This will I wanted to share the playlist that I put together for my students to guide their reading throughout the book.

A playlist is similar to a Hyperdoc – a digital document such as a Google Doc where the elements of the learning cycle are together and linked onto one central place. Within this document students are provided the hyperlinks to all the resources (videos, activities, websites, and more) they need to understand this concept or text. I like hyperdocs (playlists or quests) because they allow students to move at their own pace, there are multimodal including print text, digital text, videos and more for students to interact with information to deepen their understanding, analyze, and synthesize versus a teacher centered lecture or lesson.

Additionally, hyperdocs allow the teacher to spend more time working with individual and small groups of students to check in, support, and push student thinking and learning.  For my advanced student readers, I can include options and opportunities to experience deeper meaning while at the same time guide my ELLs through a chunk of text to help their English reading and make their thinking visible.

To Kill a Mockingbird Playlist

Click this link to Read the entire To Kill a Mockingbird Playlist (Hyperdoc)

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To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway

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This week I went and saw Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. My students and I are currently reading the book in class and a grade wide trip was schedule for us to attend a matinee. My students were buzzing with talk after seeing the show and our conversations about the way in which the writer, director, and producers chose to represent the novel.

The play does stay true to the novel but the story as been remixed in a creative way, some parts edited and omitted to my students’ dissatisfaction.

In a recent New York Times article,As Mr. Sorkin has explained pre-emptively, he faced a dilemma in approaching the material. He could not alter the plot significantly lest he alienate audiences who grew up treasuring the 1960 novel.”

Here are eight distinctions between the book and the play that are effective and some not so effective in bringing this novel on stage and to life.

  1. The play has been remixed and is not told in the linear fashion that Scout retells in the book. “Mr. Sorkin does away with that structure, introducing the trial almost immediately and returning to it at regular intervals. In between, he backfills the information and characters the novel frontloaded, but just on a need-to-know basis. The narration — now split among Scout (Celia Keenan-Bolger); her brother, Jem (Will Pullen); and their friend Dill (Gideon Glick) — no longer suggests long hazy childhood summers spent squashing redbugs and pondering why the world is evil so much as a Junior League police procedural.”
  2. Calpurnia has a clear voice and is the only positive female role model for Scout. In the novel Calpurnia’s words are limited and her attitude towards the trial is unheard of. In the play she has a clear and distinct voice and perspective. At one point in the play she is described as a “sister to Atticus” whereas I do not believe this to be accurate, her dedication and love towards the Finch family is clear. Throughout the play Calpurnia has conversations with Atticus about the trial and how his “seeing goodness in all people, include Bob Ewell” is not necessary when a person is as evil as he is. Calpurnia calls Atticus out on his white privilege which is central to the story.  As Jesse Green writes in the NYT, “she serves in the play as Atticus’s foil and needling conscience. Mocking his argument that Maycomb needs more time to overcome racism, she says, “How much time would Maycomb like?”
  3. In the play Calpurnia tells Scout, “I like you the way you are,” when they are sitting on the porch one night. This scene illustrates an endearing moment in their relationship. What is key about Calpurnia telling Scout “I like you the way you are” is that any other positive female role models she has in the book are omitted. Ms. Maudie and Aunt Alexandra have been cut out of the play completely.  Aunt Alexandra and Scout’s relationship evolves in the book and they seem to have some understanding post trial. The only women we see in the play outside of Scout and Calpurnia are gossip (Miss Stephanie), lying (Mayella), and racist (Miss Dubose) which leaves limited (and clearly negative) views of women central to the Broadway adaptation.
  4. In addition to the women who are cut out of the story, the characters of Link Deas and Dolphus Raymond are fused together. In the play there is more anger in this character as he tells Scout, Jim, and Dill how his son and wife died because no doctor would see him being of “mixed blood.” His wife, so distraught from the death of their son, killed herself. This character verbalizes his disgust of prejudice and racism showing the children how deadly racism is.
  5. Atticus’ closing statement is not the same as the stiff and precisely selected rhetoric we read in the book and see so clearly in the 1960s movie version with Gregory Peck. On stage we see Jeff Daniels get so worked up and passionate as he yells, “It is a sin to kill a mockingbird” repeatedly in his closing argument. This is where some of my fellow English teachers and I disagree because I felt the closing statement was somewhat impromptu and not effective.
  6. Anti-Semitism is included among the racism that is threatening Maycomb. Bob Ewell (Frederick Weller) is so effective in having the audience hate him as the evil and racist character he portrays. He embodies the rabid dog that has been omitted from the play. Ewell remarks twice that Atticus must “have Jew blood in him” to take on this case. Now in Chapter 26 of the book there is that hypocritical scene when Scout’s teacher talks about the anti-Semitism in Europe and yet racism and prejudice is abundant in Maycomb. Ewell’s remarks in the play seemed out of place or Sorkin trying to make a statement compounding racism with anti-semitism.
  7. The N Word is abundant throughout the play and my students were upset how much the N word was used. In fact, when Bob Ewell is on the stand during the trial he goes on a racist rant saying the word repeatedly (using words directly from Lee’s text) but in court would that be acceptable and accurate? The freely use of the racist slurs was distracting and uncomfortable for my middle school students. At times, I agree it was in excess.
  8. Empty Jury Seats are symbolic throughout the play. The choice to leave the 12 jury seats empty throughout the play was blatantly clear. It didn’t matter whether there were people sitting in the jury seats or not, the decision was going to be the same no matter what was said or not said: Tom Robinson was guilty because he was an African American man.

“[Director] David Fincher, used to say that art isn’t supposed to answer questions, it’s supposed to ask them. If you walk into a theater already knowing what’s going to happen when the lights go down, you’ve walked into the wrong theater. To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t a revival. It’s not an homage or an exercise in nostalgia. It’s a new play,” states a feature article on Aaron Sorkin Adapting To Kill a Mockingbird.

Do you go see the play? Absolutely! And I will probably see it again because it raises many questions and is a catalyst for discussions about racism, justice, and lore of this book.

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How do you promote speaking with English Language Learners?

The post below was originally written for Larry Ferlazzo’s Classroom Q & A blog on Education Week. It is part of a five post series addressing the question:

How do you promote speaking with English Language Learners?

Speaking is one of the core literacy skills, but ELL students might be shy or overwhelmed to participate in a large class discussion because of their language skills. Initiating small groups discussions and one-on-one discussions is a way for students to share thinking, questions, connections, and synthesis of a text, while at the same time building language and speaking skills. Doing so also addresses Common Core State Standards, which require students initiate and participate in a range of collaborative discussions (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9- 10.1).

Technology tools can help ELL students meet the demands of the curriculum and build understanding so they can meet learning objectives. As authors Heather Parris, Lisa Estrada, and Andrea Honigsfeld (2017) explained in ELL Frontiers: Using Technology to Enhance Instruction for English Learners, “The use of digital media provides a low-anxiety environment with a focus on the traditional four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing), plus the skill of viewing, which must be included in today’s classroom. ELs need ample production opportunities to develop language skills.”

To help ELL students develop academic language, consider having students respond orally using a video discussion platform, such as Flipgrid, Recap, or Seesaw. These tools remove the stress of performance in front of the class and give students the opportunity to present knowledge and ideas orally while at the same time build verbal communication. With these video discussion platforms, you pose a question for which students can record responses. You set the amount of time that students have to respond to a question; for example, students have one minute to answer a question or ninety seconds. Students can listen to each other’s reflections to learn from them and respond to one another. Flipgrid also offers stickers, similar to those on Snapchat, for students to digitally accessorize their look on camera. For students who don’t like to show their face on camera, you could keep a collection of masks or selfie props on hand for students to use when sharing.

On Seesaw students can add written reflections and draw their responses. Students have more options for how they might share and reflect by adding a drawing to explain their thinking or their steps for solving a math problem. Students can view each other’s written responses and add peer feedback with the app. Providing discussion starters or sentence frames can help students scaffold their response and plan out what they will say before posting a response on a video  discussion platform.

Both sentence stems and word banks are useful tools to help support students who are new to English Language.  Here are a few sentence frames from Achieve the Core that can be adapted to meet the needs of the students in your classroom:

Analysis:

  • I anticipate that
  • I think that  . . .  will happen because . . .
  • I think  . . .  might  . . .  because I know that . . .
  • If . . .  then . . .

Explanation:

  • One reason
  • Another reason
  • At first I thought

Cause and Effects:

  •  . . is most likely the cause for . . .
  • When  . . . happened then . . .
  • I think . . .  was caused  by . . .
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Harry Potter: A History of Magic

It has been twenty years since Harry Potter enchanted a global audience and I have been waiting three months now to see Harry Potter: A History of Magic, a British Library exhibition at the New-York Historical Society in New York City. The exhibit focuses on “the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter: A History of Magic unveils century-old treasures including rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library and New-York Historical Society—with original material from Harry Potter publisher Scholastic and J.K. Rowling’s own archives.”

The exhibit showcases the of art, artifacts, and documents of traditions of folklore and mythology across the globe that influenced J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter. 95% of the magic in the books was invented by Rowling herself, but the remaining 5% was taken from folklore and mythology to embellish the stories and draw the reader in.

Enter Room One –  Alchemy, the forerunner of Chemistry. A alchemist would need to have gold and solver, “stinking water,” mercury and white smoke among other ingredients, to make elixirs. On display was the 17th Century’s Ripley Scroll. The symbols, words, and colors on this scroll gave clues to readers in medieval times on how to create a Philosopher’s Stone – something many believed could make you live forever!

Go Into Room Two – Herbology. Who was Potions master during Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts? It wasn’t Professor Snape! It was Neville Longbottom.

J. K. Rowling drew inspiration for naming herbs and potions from historical herbals, which are books about plants that often reference their medicinal properties. In this gallery real and fictional plants are displayed to cure all kinds of ailments.

Enter Room Three – Charms. A combination spell and hand movement add magical property to an object or creature like causing an item to float in midair: Winggardium Levisoa!. Charms add properties to an object rather than transforming it completely. In Harry Potter, charms also provide magical shortcuts, like summoning things from across the room (Accio!) or turning one’s want into a light source (Lumos!)

Also on display in this room was the Cloak of Invisibility.

In Japanese folklore the story of Tengu no Kakuremino describes a similar raincoat of invisibility.

Room Four – Astronomy. Luna Lovegood shares a name with the Roman Goddess of the Moon and Sirius Black with the brightest star in the night.

J.K. Rowling actually has a notebook for unusual names:

“I collect unusually names. I have notebooks full of them. Some of the names I made like like Quidditch and Malfoy. Other names mean something – Dumbledore, which means ‘Bumblebee” in Old English – so far I have got names from saints, place names, war memorials, and gravestones.” 

Enter Room Five – Divination. This is the art of predicting the future. People have used a variety of objects and methods to see what the future holds, from palm reading to gazing into a crystal ball. In this room you will find a witch’s mirror, oracle bone, and fortune-telling cup. Divination is the “most difficult of all magical arts  . . . books can only take you so far in this field.” — Professor Trelawney

Come into Room Six – Defense Against the Dark Arts is a core subject at Hogwarts. In this class students learn how to magically defend themselves against Dark Creatures, the Dark Arts, and other dark charms. The ultimate evil is “Unforgivable Curses” with the worst used to kill. No Hogwarts teacher of Defense Against the Dart Arts has stayed in the position for a year.

Go Into Room Seven – The Care of Magical Creatures

Owls, Unicorns, Phoenixes, Dragons, Unicorns and more.

A Magizoologist is a person who studies magical creatures – a field known as magizoology. A person may not need to have graduated from school to become a Magizoologist like Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts.

Outside of the exhibit there is a wall featuring the different book illustrators Jim Kay, Mary GrandPré, Kazu Kibuishi, and Brian Selznick, as well as interviews with them.

Mary GrandPré is famous for illustrating the American editions of J.K. Rowling’s book. She designed the covers for all seven of the main books in the series, made the chapter illustrations, and invented the famous lightning bolt-styled logo that’s still used today. Her images were the first images people had for what Harry Potter looked like, years before Daniel Radcliffe was on the scene.

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J.K. Rowling has said Deathly Hallows is one of her favorite book covers. Throughout the exhibit are Rowlings notes and illustrations. To see her writer’s notebook and her schedule for writing are enlightening.

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“You have to resign yourself to wasting lots of trees before you write anything really good. That’s just how it is. It’s like learning an instrument. You’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot. That’s just part of the learning process. And read a lot. Reading a lot really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on.” – J.K. Rowling

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Make 2019 Magical!

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JK Rowling says, “Something magical happens when you read a good book.”

Tisha Richmond’s book Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom is a book that will inspire and ignite. I first met Tisha through the weekly #XPLAP Twitter chat and was always enamored with the pictures and ideas she shared on Twitter regarding gamifying her culinary classes. I was honored when she contributed a chapter in my book Gamify Literacy (ISTE, 2017) on the culinary missions her students embark on each semester. Her passion and commitment to education is contagious. Taking cues from Mary Poppins and Mr. Rogers, she shows us that play, laughter, and fun is necessary for learning.

Make Learning Magical is filled with amazing magical learning experiences. She sprinkles joy and love in all that she creates. The seven components she writes about in her book and ones that I will continue to adopt in my own teaching include:

Memorable Beginnings – Warm welcomes, entertaining hooks, passion and enthusiasm are important in creating a classroom community. I love that Tisha has a coffee bar in her classroom and rewards students with a trip to the coffee bar for winning special challenges.  Think about the vibe in your classroom and what kinds of activities you can do in your classroom to build a spirit of community and belonging.

Authenticity and Agency – Kindness, gratitude, and passion are important, even more so, giving students voice in the classroom. Teachers need to provide more hands-on activities and connect with students to personalize learning.

Gamified Experiences – Immersive learning happens in Tisha’s culinary class. She has gamified each of her classes from Masterchef and the Great American Food Truck Race. She uses Mystery Boxes and mini games to promote learning and critical thinking. She deconstructs basic games and shows you how to design them into content specific learning opportunities.

Innovation – “Thinking about things differently, shaking up the status quo, and devising new and better ways of teaching – is how we make learning magical.” It is about being open to using technology in innovative ways and adapting existing things (and even lessons) for new purposes.

Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity  – Creating missions for students to demonstrate their learning and go above and beyond the required curriculum is another gasified element in Tisha’s classroom. She allows students to create videos and other artifacts to showcase their learning and talents.

Authentic Audience – School today is about real and relevant. The assignments that students create should help them not only get a grade in the class but also give them skills and knowledge they need to succeed outside of the classroom. Meaningful learning experiences are key. Students aren’t only creating for the teacher but for a wider audience and build connections.

Legacy –  “Every day we have the power to transform students’ lives.” How do you celebrate student successes and how can you help your students realize they have worth?

The new year has just started and our resolutions are in place to be better in the new year. Transforming our classrooms into a magical space where students feel valued and heard is important in building community and making learning happen. Tisha’s book has give me some new ideas how I can adapt my current practices and games in my classroom to spark magic, play, and meaning everyday.

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The Teaching Factor’s 18 Highlights of 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, I want to reflect on the highlights of this past year. I was out and about presenting and learning from amazing people around the United States. Attending and presenting at conferences allows me to grow as a teacher and bring back to my students and colleagues best practices. As a teacher one should never stop learning. I look forward to another year of growth, professional development, connecting, and evolution as an educator.

Conferences:

Learning & the Brain Conference; Boston, MA

CECA CASL; Foxwoods, Connecticut

Scholastic Reading Summit; Greenwich, CT

ISTE Annual Conference; Chicago, IL

Summer Spark; Milwaukee, WI

Publications:

Mockingbird Should Be Part of a Larger LessonSchool Library Journal 10/2018

Personalized Reading: Digital Strategies & Tools to Support All Learners; ISTE, 06/2018

4 Ways to Personalized Reading for All Learners; ISTE Blog, 4/2018

4 Interactive Tools to Help Learners Build Reading Skills; ISTE Blog 3/2018

Teaching Highlights:

Nonfiction Journalism Quest

Literary Menu Summer Reading Assignment

Sonnet Project

WWII Multi genre Writing Project

More To Look Forward to in 2019:

New Realms for Writing to be published June 2019

More Virtual Reality and Maker Space

Innovative Literacy

Evolving and Expanding Gamification

Digital Citizenship as immersive curriculum

10 Professional Titles that Inspire & Change the Trajectory of Teaching

I am one of those people who has a stack of books overflowing on my nightstand next to my bed, another pile taking over my desk, and an Amazon wish list twelve books deep what to read next. Professional books are ones that I read closely with a pen to annotate and bring back to my classrooms. This past year I have read ten professional books that I have blogged about in detail and here are a few more worth mentioning.

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180 Days by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle (Heinemann, 2018)

After sitting in a round table session with both Kittle and Gallagher at NCTE back in 2017 I was awaiting this book to see an inside look at how both these amazing high school teachers planned the year in their classroom teaching reading and writing. For any English teacher, this book is a must read because it gives an honest perspective to the demands of teaching reading, writing, and critical thinking.

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A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts (Heinemann, 2018)

I have been lucky enough to take a week long class with Kate at Teachers College Reading and Writing Institute more than ten years ago and have followed her because of her ideas and energy. What is great about this book is how she balances book choice and whole class novels in the reading and writing workshop. She seems to teach reading units in small 2-3 week bursts but that helped me to look closely at how long I may be drowning my students in a reading unit. I am more selective about what I choose to spend time teaching with each whole class novels so that my students can enjoy the books we read together.

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Workshopping the Canon by Mary Styslinger (NCTE, 2018)

Another recommended title for my ELA and Literacy colleagues. This book demonstrates how to partner classic texts with a variety of high-interest genres within a reading and writing workshop structure, Mary E. Styslinger aligns the teaching of literature with what we have come to recognize as best practices in the teaching of literacy.

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Shake it Up Learning by Kasey Bell (DBC, 2017)

When I ran into Kasey Bell at #ISTE18 we swapped books and I sat in the airport awaiting my flight home reading her book. Her ideas are straightforward in helping to create learning experiences for students that empower and ignite curiosity and critical thinking. Her book is accessible to all and she has practical ideas to shake up your teaching and student learning.

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Sparks in the Dark by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney (DBC, 2018)

Lead with Literacy by Mandy Ellis (DBC, 2018)

This summer I wrote a longer post about the key ideas that I took away from these two books. If the title states or suggests anything to do with literacy, I am going to read it. Both these books are filled with literacy activities that help support the reading and writers in our classrooms and Mandy’s book is all about building a culture of students who love literacy.

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Be Real by Tara Martin (DBC, 2018)

Tara has this infectious personality that is so authentic. After spending time with her at SPARK and ISTE this past year, I am a follower and fan. From #booksnaps and building relationships, Tara is all about “you be you and know that you are awesome.”

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Make Learning Magical by Tisha Richmond (DBC, 2018)

I consider Tisha a friend ever since we connected through Twitter four years ago. She is an amazing person and always inspired me with the wonderful things she did with her high school culinary students. I am so excited that she has published her first book. Laughter, fun, and gamified experiences can make school a place where students are inspired, empowered, and immersed in learning–and it doesn’t require illusions or smoke and mirrors. The actionable techniques Tisha shares will equip you to put your students center stage in their learning experiences. You want to be in her classroom after reading all the great things she does with her students.

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Hacking the Writing Workshop: Redesign with Making in Mind by Angela Stockman (Hack Series, 2018)

I am on a Makerspace quest and thinking how the writing process and design thinking process of the maker movement parallel each others. I have been doing research and a lot of reading how I can bring making and writing together to boost students writing and creative thinking. Angela Stockman’s book was the start with some key ideas to help me on this quest.

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The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection by Colby Sharp (Little Brown, 2018)

Speaking of creativity, Colby’s book is filled with creative writing prompts that published authors shared with him and answered other people’s creative prompts. These are great prompts to read and complete with your student to inspire creative thinking and growth mindset.

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New York Times Op Docs Incredible Teaching Tool

The New York Times website has great resources for teachers. There are gems throughout the website that can be used as teaching tools, texts, and learning opportunities all teachers need to know about. One of these gems is Op-Docs.

Op-Docs is a short documentary series begun by The New York Times Opinion section in 2011. Today it comprises more than 270 short, interactive and virtual reality documentaries. Each film is produced by both renowned and emerging independent filmmakers.

As the Times states these documentaries are, “films driven by the creative and journalistic interests of the filmmaker and that will also challenge the New York Times audience to see the world in new ways. Op-Docs spark conversations, tell memorable and astonishing stories, introduce powerful and unexpected individuals, make thought-provoking arguments and give viewers unforgettable cinematic experiences.”

Documentary film, done well, can engage and instruct through storytelling. But a film can’t stand alone as an instructional method. Watching the documentary should only be part of the process. Discussion questions and related readings need to be included in the mix to prompt reflection and to illustrate the topic more completely.

The Op Docs have so much potential in our classroom for teaching critical and close reading to writing different text types for different purposes.  So many of these short films showcase aspects of life that are hidden or unspoken.

I was moved by San Quentin’s Giants about the San Quentin prison baseball team. This Op Doc showcases how baseball is a vehicle for reform, reflection, and purpose for the incarcerated players. When the film begins the images show men playing baseball, one might think it is a local or community baseball team until the camera zooms out in the background the viewer sees the barbwires around the buildings and the people on the periphery wearing prison jumpsuits.

Again, these documentaries are used to inform viewers about the people, places, and things presented in the film. Some might describe these types of films as a “slice of life” that presents an angled representation of a subject.

If we asked students to create documentary films what might they present on film with research and narrative?   Whereas San Quentin uses storytelling and interviews, the Op Docs A Conversation with . . . about race are interviews and testimony with people about race, racism, and perspective. The testimony of the people interviewed are a catalyst for classroom  discussions. Think about what these same conversation might look like and sound like in school. From our students’ perspectives what will they say about race, class, or gender in their school and community.

 

After watching a number of these Op Docs with my students and discussing the research and filming elements involved, I asked students to research and investigate the issues that are hiding in our school. Who are people worth shining a light on their life? Wright’s Law really puts into perspective how much we might not know about someone.

When I posed this question to my students some students wanted to address bullying, a common theme in schooling today. Whereas, another group researched video game playing and addiction among young people because of the influence of Fortnite. In completing this project students had to gather relevant data from multiple sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information in documentary film writing.

First, research is conducted, then students have to decide how they wanted to string together the facts and testimony. The Op Docs blends a bit of narrative with information and argument writing.  We studied closely how to start the documentary by visually hooking the audience right from the moment the film starts. This might be a statistic about the topic presented in the film or a sound bite from an interview conducted with a member of the school community. Then, students introduced the topic and elaborated by including both visual and audio footage to offer perspective on the topic. This, in turn, is like support material in an essay or research paper. Students are still working on their projects and I should share some finished films soon. 

Any person can actually submit a op-doc to The New York Times and this can be an authentic assignment for students to create as a project based learning opportunity. The New York Times is looking for “films that are driven by the creative and journalistic interests of the filmmaker and that will also challenge the New York Times audience to see the world in new ways. Op-Docs spark conversations, tell memorable and astonishing stories, introduce powerful and unexpected individuals, make thought-provoking arguments and give viewers unforgettable cinematic experiences.”

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Haiku: Teaching Japanese Aesthetics Through Its Poetry

An old pond:

A frog jumps in —

The sound of water.

by Matsuo Basho (translated by Harold G. Henderson and Geoffrey Bownas

Many students have been introduced to the poetic form of haiku in elementary school. It is a deceptively simple form which constructs an entire poem with only 17 syllables organized in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. Typically, if you ask students of any grade or ability level what they know about haiku, they will tell you about the 5-7-5 structure. Perhaps they will have some idea that many haiku are about nature. I like to start a haiku lesson or unit of study from that point from the students’ perceptions that haiku are mostly about their form, to the reality that haiku are perfectly distilled representations of several aspects of Japanese aesthetics: an appreciation of simplicity, of impermanence, of suggestion, and of nature.

Criteria for Haiku:

17 Syllables

3 Lines

5-7-5 Form (traditional Japanese haiku poets count “sounds,” not syllables. 

Doesn’t rhyme

Usually about nature (not required)

Shows change or contrast

Can go from the general to the specific or vice versa

Very Condensed form: suggests rather than tells

Seems simple, but makes you think or evoke feeling

Emphasizes impermanence, the quality of things which do not last. 

Almost all haiku contain a seasonal word or phrase which indicates the season, like “spring rain.” In Japanese, this seasonal word is called a “kigo.” Additionally, the poet usually introduces an image in the first line which he then illustrates or contrasts in lines two and three, or he develops an image in lines one and two which he then summarizes or contrasts in the final line. Haiku cluster the image at the beginning [5-7]-5 or the end 5[-7-5] of a haiku. This technique of “cutting” – the Japanese term for switching from the general to the specific, or from one image to another related one. Haiku are written in present tense. A haiku freezes one moment in time the way a snapshot does. There is no firm rule regarding capitalization and punctuation in English haiku nor as to whether haiku comprises a complete sentence. These things are decided by the poems themselves, on a poem to poem basis.

Haiku began in Japan during the 17th century. A haiku should share a moment of awareness with the reader. Peace, sadness, mystery – these are only a few of the emotions that evoke haiku and which we can feel when we read haiku. The key to our feelings about the things around us and to the feelings we have when we read a good haiku, is the things themselves. The things produce emotion. The words of the haiku should create in the reader the emotion felt by the poet, not describe the emotion.

Before trying to write haiku, it is a good idea to look over some examples. Think about each one. What makes the moment it talks about special? What word or phrase tells you the season? How does that affect the meaning of the haiku? Notice how many haiku create emotions by connecting two or more images together in a strange, new way.

Because haiku have an alive now quality, most haiku do not have any metaphors or similes. For the same reason, haiku poets do not use rhyme unless it happens accidentally and is hardly noticeable. In making haiku, try to present something in the more direct words possible. Haiku are about common, everyday experiences and avoid complicated words or grammar. As one expert on the Japanese haiku called it “a poem recording the essence of a moment keenly perceived in which nature is linked to human nature.”

between the pages

of a favorite book I find

squashed fruit crumbles

— Annie Wright

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Get Happy with Hyperdocs

Authors of The HyperDocs Handbook, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis define HyperDocs as

a transformative, interactive Google Doc replacing the worksheet method of delivering instruction, is the ultimate change agent in the blended learning classroom. With strong educational philosophies built into each one, HyperDocs have the potential to shift the way you instruct with technology. They are created by teachers and given to students to engage, educate, and inspire learning. It’s not about teaching technology, it’s about using the technology to TEACH.”

I love that with hyper docs students are able to work at their own pace to learn and showcase their understanding. I think of hyperdocs as roadmaps or game boards for learning input and output. When creating hyperdocs for literary analysis in my middle school English classroom, I consider the important elements that I want students to take away from the text and what are different or differentiated ways that students can showcase their thinking about reading.

Since my students are reading different dystopian texts, I have created different hyperdocs specific to the books they are reading to help build background information about the texts, for students to keep track of their thinking while reading, and to showcase their thinking about the reading by writing a thematic literary analysis essay.

Animal Farm HyperDoc

To check out the HyperDocs with links and activities, click here.

Hyperdocs come in different formats and layouts. This teaching tools allows students to work at their own pace and gives me more time to conference and work with students in small groups or individually. They are multimodal and offer blend learning opportunities.

For more examples of hyperdocs that I have shared on this blog click here.

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