Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First day activities to start the new school year

We all want to start school off on the right foot. If you're an English Language Arts teacher here are are some ideas my English department colleagues and I came up with.
My 2016-17 advisory group by me
  • Read a favorite poem of yours, ask the students to write a response, and then share your own. My colleague Linda Simpson starts with "Being a Person" or "Just Thinking" by William Stafford.
  • My colleague Matt Vanderlaan has people Interview a partner and compose a feature like Time Magazine's 10 Questions. Here's a link to my multimedia profile assignment that I adapted from Matt's original idea.
  • In another class I have students write about what their teacher should know about them as readers and writers (see below).

My Reading History assignment

Reading is one of the most valuable things we do. As we work to develop our skills, it is helpful to understand how our attitudes have been formed. Please write a letter to your teacher about your history as a reader. Include answers to as many of the following questions as you can in your letter/personal history.

  • Favorite childhood/bedtimes stories (who read to you?) Describe. 
  • What are some of your earliest book memories? Anything funny happen?
  • Who in your home read? Parents? Older brothers/sisters? grandparents?
  • What magazines or books were in your home?
  • Who read to you in pre-school or the library? What books were your favorites?
  • What were your favorite TV shows as a child? Describe. Can you remember any favorite commercials or jingles?
  • What teacher/s taught you to read in school? Describe how they taught you. What did teachers read to you? Which books were your favorites?
  • Did you enjoy reading in school? Did you enjoy reading aloud in class?
  • In Junior High Did you read more or less frequently? Explain. Did your friends read? Did this make a difference to you?
  • Best book you’ve ever read and what made it the best
  • Worst book you’ve ever read and what made it the worst
  • Magazines or newspapers you look at regularly
  • Where and when you enjoy reading most
  • What book you are reading at the present time?
  • What books are you considering reading next?
  • If you buy books and keep them, where do you keep them?
  • How do you feel about reading in general?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Student Reporting Labs and my students work

If I've learned one thing in the decades I've been a teacher, it's that our students have powerful voices that need to be heard. Given the public discourse that's happening these days, it's more important than ever that our students have a say. The PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs provides a platform to accomplish these goals, with programs for teachers as well as students. Below are some of the resources from today's presentation at UCET 2016.

Programs for students and teachers

A great opportunity for your aspiring journalists is the all-expense paid, week-long SRL Academy each summer in Washington D.C. Although the application deadline for this year's Academy has passed, look for applications next winter. Judge student Alex Maxwell participated in this program in the summer of 2015. Also keep an eye out for the SRL Apprenticeship Program, which Judge student Mary Oliver will be attending this summer.
2015-16 Student Reporting Labs at Judge Memorial

I highly recommend the Summer Teacher Boot Camp in Washington DC, which I attended in 2014. Teachers can apply for that in the spring of each year.

Student videos

This past fall, the Outside the Box series looked at how preconcieved notions of gender and affect the lives of middle and high school students. My students contribution - Let's Dance

In the fall of 2014, Student Reporting Labs from around the country produced stories of teens who make a difference in their community. This feature by students at Judge Memorial, Serving Those who have Served, was featured on the 2014 Christmas Day PBS NewsHour show.

Last spring another SRL school was a Winner of White House Film Festival; my students video received an Honorable Mention in that same contest.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

How will you incorporate the 2016 U.S. elections in your teaching?

American flag by Delaney Barnett
How will you incorporate the 2016 elections into your curriculum?

I'm putting together resources around the 2016 election, like I did for the 2012 elections. This fall the books I'll teach are Julius Caesar, 1984 and Unspun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation. Although Unspun was written about ten years ago, the concepts are still relevant today. For example this year I had students update Unspun with examples from 2015. Here's a link to the assignment.

As far as social annotation goes, my students will participate in "annotatathons" hosted by like these great speeches by previous American presidents. We'll also analyze the rhetoric of great American documents like the Declaration of Independence. Finally a project that I'm involved in is the Letters to the Next President 2.0 initiative sponsored by the National Writing Project and others.

That's what I've got so far. I'd like to see what others are thinking.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Talking about the future of journalism

My student, Alex, and I on Utah Conversations. Link to show.
I recently appeared on Utah Conversations on KUED, and much of this episode of the show centered on the future of journalism. My class is a PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Lab, one of about 100 around the U.S., and my student Alex was fortunate enough to be a fellow this summer with them in Washington D.C. Some of the things the seasoned journalist, Ted Capener, was curious about was whether students have changed over the past few decades and how today's youth use media.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Motivation and online discussion forums

A lot of teachers have their students use online discussions in their classes. Whether you use a closed blog that's only for members of your class or whether you have a more open structure where your students communicate with students around the world, you've probably come across motivation issues.
Pages & Bits by me

One thing I noticed a while back is that when my students received a lot of unsolicited feedback from students at other schools, they were initially excited with the sheer volume of responses. I would overhear conversations like this:

Student 1: "I got 12 comments on my post."
Student 2: "I got 15"
Student 3: "I heard Larry got 22."

These comparisons would go on until the students started reading the comments. Once they critically examined the comments they received, the conversation then focused on the quality of those comments. I recently published a study in the Journal of Educational Computing Research that examines the relationship between motivation and the quantity and quality of comments my high school students received on their Youth Voices discussions. I looked at motivation through the lens of Self-Determination Theory, specifically how comments affected students' sense of relatedness, perceived competence, interest, and value.

I found that while the quantity of comments received was related to two motivational factors, the quality of the comments was related to all four motivational comments. As a teacher what I've learned in practice and through this research study is that I think it's best when my own students comment at least twice as often as the actual posts they write. And more importantly, I've learned that teachers need to be clear in their conversations with students about what makes good comments. Some traits my students mentioned most frequently: the commenter took the time to understood the writer's perspective, the commenter took the writing seriously and was viewed as competent, the comment addressed specific aspects of the post, and the comment extended/added to/challenged the writer's thinking.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Live for you

An audio essay and song about a key to happiness. Been meaning to mix them together for a while now.

Reading and writing the web

For the past year I've been doing a bit of writing around tools that facilitate reading and writing on the web. In an article I wrote for the International Literacy Association, Annotating Online, I do some reviews of applications like Citelighter, Diigo, Crocodoc, and Mendeley. They all have their strengths for helping students write and collaborate while they conduct research

Another article I wrote for the ILA, Online Peer Reviews Improve Literacy Instruction, is about how I use Eli Review in my classes. In the article I also cite decades of research that have found that peer review not only helps writers improve, but even the act of peer review helps students improve as writers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson in the classroom – today and beyond

A former student of mine, now in education herself, posed this question on Facebook: "Teacher friends, tomorrow is the day before a vacation [Thanksgiving]. How are you addressing the [Ferguson] grand jury announcement."
Still from Carlos' upcoming video

My response is longer than seemed appropriate for a Facebook comment box, so here goes...

First of all, I'll reframe the question: how have I been and how will I address the issues around Ferguson in my own media studies classroom? It really began on the first day of school this year when a student asked me if I'd been keeping up on "what was going on in Missouri." That student's question and a Teachers Teaching Teachers show with Dr. Marcia Chatelain prompted a piece that I wrote for the Guardian. PBS NewsHour also published How to talk to students about Ferguson written by Dr. Chatelain that's a great resource for educators.

Speaking of NewsHour, since we're a Student Reporting Lab my students' work was also featured on the NewsHour segment Teens reflect on impact of Ferguson unrest. Their work and that of the other schools in this segment shows thoughtful, student-produced commentary. So, in addition to addressing the opening question, I think it's important that educators not only discuss these kinds of issues in schools, but also share the wisdom that's generated by our youth with a larger audience. Our students have perspectives that need to be included in our civic dialogue.

An amazing resource for educators to bring timely civics issues like Ferguson into the classroom is KQED Do Now (if you're a science or arts teacher, there are also relevant activities for your students too). The weekly Do Now discussion for September 26, Should the members of a police force reflect the larger population? had approximately 600 comments from students from around the country. My students summarized that discussion for a Do Now Round Up in October, Diversity and police departments.

For many years I've collaborated with Paul Allison on, which hosts the discussions of students in the classes of teachers mostly associated with the National Writing Project, but open to all educators. If you want to get a look at what teens are thinking, here's a sampling of the Youth Voices discussions about Ferguson and related issues.

One of the things I try to stress in all my teaching is the idea of perspective taking, where students consider complex issues from multiple angles. Harvard's Visible Thinking protocol, Circle of Viewpoints, is one way to foster productive discussion around sensitive issues like Ferguson by considering the perspectives of many different stakeholders.

For example, a student of mine has interviewed members of our local police department to find out how they are responding to incidents like the Mike Brown shooting in our own community (e.g. Dillon Taylor, Darrien Hunt). By the way, this student journalist I'm talking about is the one I mentioned in the third paragraph, the one who asked about the events of Ferguson on the first day of school this year. While his classmates race out the door at the end of the day today for Thanksgiving holiday, he'll stay after school to finish his video.

These curricular conversations have been happening over the Ferguson issue and other important ones throughout the year and will go on long after the media storm passes. To me what's important is the role that media creation and productive online discussion has in the lives of our students, our future leaders.