There are lots of teachers who use movies as an instructional tool. I remember getting parental permission to show Glory during the Realism Unit in my junior American Literature English class because the movie was rated R. The story of Colonel Robert Shaw, who led the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Unit during the American Civil War, complemented “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, as both depicted the American Civil War realistically with tragic endings. For teachers interested in using multimedia in their classrooms, I would like to share a few things that I have tried over the years.
Using audiobooks over full-length movies
As a second-language learner, I listened to many audiobooks while learning to speak English. Once I became a teacher, I realized my students needed lots of help in improving their reading skills. Watching movies often did not accomplish this goal because their focus was on the pictures and the background music and not the texts.
To help my students to improve their reading skills, I recommended Lit2Go. The site features recordings of classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. In the past, I had also used The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare CDs I borrowed from a local library, but now I suggest using Free Shakespeare Plays on Audio by LearnOutLoud.com while reading a Shakespearean play.
Using song files and music videos
In a lesson about irony, I used two songs: “Short People” by Randy Newman and “Best Song Everrr” by Wallpaper. First, I had my students listen to “Short People” with their eyes closed. Then I played the song again. This time, I asked my students to write down a sentence or two from the song. Afterward, I facilitated a short discussion about the songwriter’s true intent. I played the song one more time and asked the students to create a visual that encapsulated the true meaning of the song. I repeated the process with “Best Song Everrr.” Eventually, I helped my students to understand the different types of irony by asking whether the first songwriter really hated short people and the second songwriter thought his song was the best song ever. I also explained how the use of a certain literary device such as hyperbole contributed to creating a verbal irony.
I also used the music video of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” prior to teaching the Romanticism Unit. The music video illustrates the Romantics’ love of nature, their obsession of death by drowning, and their adoration of poetry. It even has a green-covered book of Tennyson’s poems drowning in a lake! First, I played the music video for the students to enjoy. Then I played it again. This time, I asked my students to write down items they noticed. Afterward, I showed several paintings from the Romantic era and asked students to list what they noticed in the paintings. Then we discussed the common items and how those represent the Romantic ideal. I asked my students to find examples that illustrate the Romantic ideals as we read “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe or Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.
Using student-recommended materials
In addition to my own selections, I also asked my students to find great videos that they think we should use in class. This particular assignment has helped me find several useful videos, including Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” which was recommended by a student as we discussed characterization. While reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, I used this video to discuss why the author had Jane physically assisting Mr. Rochester, who had fallen off his horse when they first met, and how Jane’s physical act contributed to her strong character. I also used the same video to talk about the importance of nonverbal communication.
Showing short clips instead of the entire movie
Living in today’s media-enriched environment, our students have access to lots and lots of multimedia. That is why I avoid showing a movie in its entirety in class. I remember my students telling me that they got together on the weekend to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail after I shared a few clips in class as a way to discuss archetypes.
Today’s students need help in developing a critical lens when it comes to selecting and consuming quality multimedia. Teachers can help their students develop their media literacy by carefully selecting and using multimedia purposefully in the classroom.
Kip Glazer is a native of Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States in 1993 as a college student. She holds California Single Subject Teaching Credentials in Social Studies, English, Health, Foundational Mathematics, and School Administration. In 2014, she was named the Kern County Teacher of the Year. She earned her doctorate of education in learning technologies at Pepperdine University in October 2015. She has presented and keynoted at many state and national conferences on game-based learning and educational technologies. She has also consulted for Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning and the Kennedy Center ArtsEdge Program.
A draft of ILA’s eagerly awaited Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals 2017 (Standards 2017) will be available for public comment from April 17 to May 8. In the weeks leading up to the public comment period, we’ll take a look at the significant changes proposed in Standards 2017, which will be submitted for Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) approval in fall 2017 and published in early 2018. Once approved by CAEP, ILA’s new set of seven standards will become the ruler by which preparation programs for literacy professionals, specifically reading/literacy specialists, are measured.
Standard 2 addresses curriculum and instruction in the classroom. Lead writer Beverly DeVries, professor emerita of reading at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma, said it is closely related to others, particularly Standard 3, Assessment and Evaluation, and Standard 4, Diversity and Equity.
In other words, Standard 2 identifies the skills, knowledge, and dispositions literacy professionals need to align their curriculum and instruction with their individual students or with the classroom community.
The Standard also addresses collaboration in the creation of curriculum, whether with the research from professional associations like ILA and institutions of higher education, with the Department of Education, or with local school districts.
“There has to be a connection between schools and the local universities,” DeVries said. “We believe they should collaborate on curriculum and instruction with a lot of integration.”
She said that when writing the latest revision, her team used feedback they received from reviewers, for example, incorporating more emphasis on inclusion and differentiation. She also said the diversity of her team helped inform their work.
The team for Standard 2 included the following:
Remember to review the Standards 2017 when it is posted for open public comment on April 17 and be sure to have your voice heard.
April Hall is editor of Literacy Daily. A journalist for more than 20 years, she has specialized in education, writing and editing for newspapers, websites, and magazines.
The need to belong somewhere and to be accepted by others is universal. All of us have faced the challenges of fitting in or will face them in the future. This week, we explore a variety of titles highlighting the theme of fitting in and finding a place to belong.
Leaping Lemmings! John Briggs. Ill. Nicola Slater. 2016. Sterling.
The adage “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?” comes to life in this story of Larry, a lemming who doesn’t fit in with other lemmings. He eats pizza with hot sauce and wears hula skirts and top hats when he pleases. He tries fitting in with seals, puffins, and polar bears, but he doesn’t belong with them, either. When Larry returns home, he is horrified to see lemmings about to jump off a cliff! Larry’s quick actions save the lemmings from a terrible fate and make him a hero. Themes of thinking for oneself and bucking conformity are presented in a whimsical and humorous way. The illustrations feature shades of blue and green, fitting the story’s polar setting, and the use of gold as an accent color matches Larry’s sunny outlook. Short, rhythmic sentences make this book a perfect read-aloud.
North, South, East, West. Margaret Wise Brown. Ill. Greg Pizzoli. 2017. Harper/HarperCollins.
In this previously unpublished story from the celebrated Margaret Wise Brown, the time has come for a little bird to make her own way from her mother’s nest. She travels to the north, south, and west, yet none of these places feels quite right. But when she flies back home to the east, the little bird realizes that this is where she has belonged all along. She builds a nest and starts a family of her own, and it isn’t long before her baby birds wonder which direction they should fly. The story has a quiet, calm tone, making it well suited for bedtime reading and offering a reassuring message that one will always belong at home. It can also be enjoyed on another level by young adults leaving home for the first time. The illustrations by Geisel Award winner Greg Pizzoli incorporate pastels and warm tones that add to the story’s soothing qualities.
Confessions From the Principal’s Kid. Robin Mellom. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Fifth grader Allie doesn’t know where she fits in. During the school day, she feels alone and friendless. After all, no one wants to hang out with the principal’s daughter, especially one with a reputation for snitching—and worse, her ex–best friend, Chloe, won’t speak to her. But after school, Allie is an insider, a friend to the staff and a member of the Afters, a secret club for teachers’ kids. Allie wants nothing more than to feel like she belongs in both worlds. When she has the chance to rekindle her friendship with Chloe, Allie risks betraying the Afters and must make a choice of where she wants to belong. The plot is simplistic and predictable, yet it has a lighthearted, engaging tone. Allie is a realistic, immediately likable character with a strong voice. This story will resonate with teachers’ children and anyone who has ever wondered what really happens after school is dismissed.
Forever, or a Long, Long Time. Caela Carter. 2017. HarperCollins.
Flora and her brother, Julian, have never known where they belong. Shuffled from foster home to foster home for as long as she can remember, Flora wonders if she and Julian were born or if they simply just appeared one day. After two years of living with Person (her secret nickname for her adoptive mom), the trauma of Flora’s early years still haunts her. Her words stick in her “lung filter” and come out wrong when she speaks. She sabotages her chances of passing fourth grade and constantly worries whether she will be a good big sister to the baby growing inside Person. Flora and Julian must confront the painful realities of their troubled past before they can truly understand what it means to belong to a family forever. The plot is sometimes slow-moving, but the emphasis on Flora’s worries and fears makes it a good choice for exploring the inner lives and motivations of individuals. Readers will appreciate this story’s gritty realism and melancholy beauty.
Let’s Pretend We Never Met. Melissa Walker. 2017. Harper/HarperCollins.
Mattie is distraught when her parents move their family from North Carolina to Philadelphia in the middle of sixth grade. It means leaving behind her best friends, Lilly and Jo, and the only home she has ever known. Mattie worries about fitting in at her new school and hopes she will become just a little bit popular. When Mattie meets Agnes, the girl next door, who happens to be in Mattie’s class, things begin looking up. Although Agnes is odd and kind of immature for a sixth grader, she hatches some fun ideas. But when winter break is over and Mattie starts at her new school, she realizes the other kids think Agnes is a freak. Mattie fears their relationship will jeopardize new friendships, especially with Finn, a cute boy who seems to like her. Caught between her friendships with Agnes and more popular students, Mattie must decide where her loyalties lie. In this fast-paced story, Mattie’s problems are realistic, and her decisions may be instructive for young people navigating the complexities of the middle school social scene.
In a Perfect World. Trish Doller. 2017. Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.
Just as Caroline is poised to become captain of the soccer team and start her first job at Cedar Point, an amusement park, her mother lands a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity and moves the family to Egypt. Living in an apartment building overlooking the Nile and the bustling streets of Cairo is nothing at all like Caroline’s life back in small-town Ohio, and she wonders if Egypt will ever feel like home. Things begin to change for Caroline when she meets Adam Elhadad, a handsome Muslim boy hired to drive her family around Cairo. As Caroline and Adam’s hesitant friendship blossoms into romance, Caroline must confront the sharp differences between Adam’s culture and her own and decide whether their relationship is worth the disapproval of his family, friends, and Cairo society, especially as reports of violence against foreigners in the Middle East pepper the daily news. The story demonstrates the differences between Adam’s culture and religion and Caroline’s identity as a Catholic from America’s heartland, but it also highlights common human values and the possibility of forming genuine, lasting friendships across cultural boundaries. Readers will enjoy the tenderness of Caroline and Adam’s romance and may learn a thing or two about Egyptian history from the history-rich Cairo setting.
Blood Family. Anne Fine. 2017. Simon & Schuster.
Until Eddie is discovered at age 7, much of his childhood is spent locked in a room where he is forced to witness the abuse of his mother at the hands of her partner, Harris. Eddie is taken to a loving foster family and later adopted by a well-to-do couple. Although he seems remarkably well-adjusted, Eddie often feels like an outsider and is picked on by other children. The adults in his life wonder if the trauma of his past will catch up with him, and Eddie’s turning point occurs when he is a teenager and learns that Harris is his biological father. Eddie begins to fear he will become a monster like Harris, and his fear spirals out of control as he turns to drugs and alcohol and destroys his relationships with the people who love him. Not until Eddie hits rock bottom does he realize that he—not his blood family—is in control of his choices. Eddie’s early circumstances will pull at the reader’s emotions, evoking empathy and outrage. At times, the motivations of characters are difficult to discern, yet readers may enjoy piecing together inferences from facts shared by multiple, alternating narrators. The story is dark, but the theme of finding strength in oneself offers a hopeful message.
City of Saints & Thieves. Natalie C. Anderson. 2017. Putnam/Penguin.
Tina, a self-described thief and member of the notorious Goondas gang, doesn’t belong to anyone but herself. After her mother was murdered, Tina lived alone on the streets, nursing a grudge against Mr. Greyhill, her mother’s former employer and one of the richest, most corrupt businessmen in the Kenyan city she calls home. When Tina and the Goondas hatch a plan to steal data from Mr. Greyhill’s hard drive, Tina can’t wait. She has long suspected Mr. Greyhill of murdering her mother, leaving her orphaned and separated from her beloved sister, Kiki. But on the night of the burglary, inside the seemingly empty Greyhill mansion, Tina’s plan is foiled by Michael, Mr. Greyhill’s son and her estranged childhood friend. Tina and Michael cut a deal: She will return the data if he helps her prove his father murdered her mother. Soon Tina and Michael, along with Tina’s business partner Boyboy, embark on a dangerous journey taking them deep into war-ravaged Congo. As Tina, Michael, and Boyboy uncover the dark secrets leading up to the murder, the loyalty of her friends and unexpected help from a figure in her mother’s past teach Tina what it means to be loved and to belong. Riveting, action-packed, and with a touch of romance, this story will holdthe reader’s attention until the final page.
Noteworthy. Riley Redgate. 2017. Amulet/Abrams.
Jordan begins her junior year at the prestigious, hypercompetitive Kensington-Blaine Academy for the Performing Arts while still reeling from an unexpected breakup. To add to her troubles, she isn’t cast in the school musical yet again, and money and health problems plague her family back home in San Francisco. When a spot opens in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s most-lauded a cappella group, Jordan sees a chance for redemption. But the Sharpshooters are an all-male group. Undeterred, Jordan dresses in drag and auditions. No one is more surprised than Jordan when the Sharpshooters select her as a tenor. Now she must be one person belonging to two worlds: Jordan Sun to her classmates and Julian Zhang to the Sharpshooters. When the Sharpshooters have the chance to win a spot on an international, career-changing tour, Jordan becomes even more desperate to keep her identity a secret. Her problems catch up with her and threaten her future at Kensington just when triumph is within her reach. Although copious descriptions of the setting occasionally slow down the pace, Jordan is a dynamic and believable character. An enjoyable read for fans of Glee and Pitch Perfect, the story is thought-provoking in its examination of the fluidity of gender boundaries and identities.
Danielle Hartsfield is an assistant professor in the Teacher Education Department at the University of North Georgia in Oakwood.
These reviews are submitted by members of the International Literacy Association's Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group (CL/R SIG) and are published weekly on Literacy Daily.
Using video production in the classroom is no longer the expensive, intimidating approach to student engagement that it was 20 years ago. As a result of Web 2.0, digital tools are seemingly ubiquitous. With more freedom to use mobile devices in the classroom and increased Internet access, video creation and collaboration has expanded beyond the traditional broadcasting or English language arts class.
Since 2014, I have attended the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island and have had the good fortune of spending a week learning about best practices for using digital tools in the classroom alongside other K–16 educators. As a result, I have learned different methods for including video tools in my practice without the added stress and expense of purchasing cameras, tripods, and editing software.
Creation and asynchronous conversation
Though our world is huge, we can help our students engage in conversations that go beyond a 140-character tweet or an abbreviated post on social media. Flipgrid is one of the tools that I have leveraged in my classroom in order to engage students in conversations with people with whom they might not normally communicate. This year, as my ninth graders stepped into my classroom, I knew they were my first group of students who had no memory of the events of September 11, 2001. I wanted them to hear firsthand what others had experienced. To do that, I created a Flipgrid, which started with friends and grew beyond people I knew. The interviewees used Flipgrid as a video tool to respond to a prompt about their own memories of September 11. I shared this Flipgrid with my students, who not only watched but were able to create their own video response to posts that resonated with them. Flipgrid offered my students an opportunity to have a dialogue with others through the affordances of connected learning. (Note: If you have a memory of September 11 that you would like to contribute to my Flipgrid or continue a conversation with one of the people who posted to this grid, I would love for you to share it here.)
Leveling the class participation playing field
Another creation tool I stumbled upon in its infancy and that I now use frequently with my students is Voki. Voki is a speaking avatar program that allows users to choose an avatar, make it unique by adding clothes and finding hairstyles and accessories, and add a voice through three methods: microphone, telephone, or a text-to-speech device. Certainly, the avatar design is what draws students in, but one of the most powerful aspects of this tool is that it gives students a platform for expressing themselves. Students can comment on a topic important to them or simply share what they’ve learned. Voki is also excellent for formative assessment. Though I didn’t realize this tool’s power at first, students who are often uncomfortable talking in class or who are physically unable to talk get the opportunity to engage in classroom discussions. The avatar does the talking for them through the text-to-speech option. There are many other ways to use Voki in the classroom; for instance, I’ve had students comment on politics or create advertisements for a product they were trying to promote. Teachers can also use Voki. For example, I have used the Voki Presenter option to teach elementary-aged students how to spell word family sounds. It’s a versatile tool, and many of the options are free to students and teachers.
As a veteran teacher, I know that when students are engaged, they love learning. By providing instructional approaches for developing student expression that go beyond the traditional multiparagraph essay (which typically is not read by anyone other than the classroom teacher), digital media has the potential to be a powerful approach to education. Not only does video production allow students to communicate with a broad audience, but it also provides them with an easy means to become civically engaged citizens.
Kara Clayton is the media studies teacher at Thurston High School in Redford, MI.
This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).
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