Sunday, March 16, 2014

Digilit Sunday

     I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog.  This is a growing interest for me.  I have to remember not to get overwhelmed by all the possibilities of using technology in my ELA classroom and just take one step or idea at a time and introduce it to my students.  We adults tend to be somewhat fearful of technology, but our students and children aren't - they know they can play around with it, and it won't "break."  It's also important to remember that we teachers don't always have to be the experts on a piece of technology before we use it.  This is a time of learning together.  Students are pleased to see that we can be open to new things, pull on the expertise of our students and colleagues, and experiment.  Did you see this post on 14 Things That Are Obsolete in 21st Century Schools?  It's an exciting time to be teaching and learning!

  I'm excited about using technology this week!  My sixth graders are in the midst of a literacy contract I developed around dystopian literature and the theme topic LIBERTY.  They finished reading their dystopian small group novels and independent biographies on U.S. Presidents and writing claim paragraphs and argument papers on various topics around LIBERTY.  Now we're going to explore word choice in propaganda and persuasion through advertising.  I thought this was a good time to study those writing areas because many dystopian societies in novels use propaganda to persuade people to believe they're actually living in a utopia instead of a dystopia.  I recently saw Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts at NCTE in Boston talking about their book Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts - and LIFE.  They, along with Maggie Roberts, gave a fantastic presentation.  I'm using their ideas next week and can't wait!  This blog post is a good way to hammer down my lesson plans.

Here's the plan, outlined on pages 35-38 in Lehman and Roberts's book: 

On Friday, I introduced the concept of propaganda by showing the class a You Tube video  about Alice Herz-Sommer (she recently died) who was a prisoner in the concentration camp Theresienstadt which was used for propaganda by the Nazis. I had read Milkweed aloud to them earlier, so they are familiar with the Holocaust.

Monday - Show a video of a favorite commercial from YouTube.  My students already know that I loved the Budweiser Clydesdale/Puppy Super Bowl commercial this year, but the only words are the ones in the song, so I think I'm going to go with the one Lehman and Roberts suggested - the 2013 Super Bowl truck commercial with Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" voice-over.  We'll talk about the words and images used to create a powerful message about farmers and trucks and how that sells the product.  We will brainstorm various product "themes" and the kids will be assigned to choose one for Tuesday.

Tuesday - In their book, Lehman and Roberts highlighted word clouds done by Crystal Smith, showing the differences in word choices when selling girls' toys vs. boys' toys.  Powerful stuff!  We are lucky enough to have Chromebooks in our classroom and YouTube is unblocked, so students will start watching commercials around their chosen product theme.  They even have ear buds so they will not disturb others.  We will have a short mini-lesson on the responsible use of sites like YouTube.  I know it's tricky to let them loose on a site like that, but I'm a firm believer that if we just block these sties and never address the responsibility it takes to use them, kids will teach themselves and others, and we won't like the results.  We have to guide, teach, and let them use it under our supervision.  With notebooks turned to the Close-Reading section, they will jot down words they hear used in the product advertisements, modeled for them from Monday.

Wednesday - We have shortened periods on Wednesdays due to early release, which our district uses for professional development.  I usually call this day a work day for students - they catch up on what they need to do, I conference with students and check grades/missing assignments, etc., and they can read/write if they're all caught up.  They will continue to close read the advertisements that day.

Thursday - I'm not quite sure how this is going to go, but this is how I picture it in my head.  I will need to do some run throughs myself to make sure it works.  Kids will create a document in Google Drive with their words and copy and paste into WORDLE or a similar word cloud website and create their word clouds.  We can't print from the Chromebooks, so we'll have to go to the computer lab to actually print them out.

Friday - Write reflections about their word clouds.  What words are frequently used in their product of choice?  Why?  How do those words influence consumers?  How can you as a consumer be more aware of advertising and persuasive word choice?  We may even turn these reflections into claim paragraphs.  They've done a lot of claim writing this year!

Helpful website from School Journalism.

This is my rough outline.  If you have any comments, clarifications, or suggestions, let me know!  I'll post the results on how this week goes on another DigiLit post in a week or two.  I'm excited!


  1. Holly, so many great ideas in your post today! My students love Wordle and this is such a great way to use it to connect to their learning about propaganda. I totally stole your memoir idea and plan to use your rooster story for a model for writing about animals. Can I steal this one too? Wish we could team teach. Thanks for linking up and supporting this whim of mine.

    1. I wish we could team teach, too!! You can steal anything you want. Ha. ;-) I think it's a great whim!

  2. I just referenced that 14 Things article in a conversation the other day. The educator I spoke with was lamenting about the one-size fits all PD that she's still subjected to. I told her that was "so last century" and she laughed. But it really is. I don't understand why people still think everyone should be sitting doing the same PD when their jobs, students, and/or interests are vastly different.

  3. Holly, the plan sounds wonderful, & I must say you are fortunate to have the chrome books. I agree with your stance on blocking sites. We need to teach responsible use, not just take away all the possible sites that could be dangerous. I also thank you for the 14 Things article and posted it with your name, too, on FB. There are a number of things there our school should pay heed to. Finally,using wordle, etc. to access the prevalence of words used is so good, an excellent application. Thank you for such a rich post!

  4. Holly, I love your line..."I'm not quite sure how this will go..." Good teaching is messy, isn't it. You have so many great ideas in your post. I'll be looking forward to seeing how it all goes. Have fun this week!

  5. Holly, your post is filled with a marvelous lesson that I would like to pass on to teachers.