Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Tag: ELA

Putting on the Gloves

It’s Debate Week!  The week we’ve been researching and writing for in Expository Writing class.  And in every debate this week, my students have impressed me in the way they’ve stood up, made a stand, used solid statistics and direct quotes to support their arguments, and most of all, awed me with their critical thinking skills.

It all started last fall when I attended a debate workshop at our state’s speech conference.  Persuasive writing is a huge focus in Nebraska high schools, since it’s the genre used to evaluate our eleventh graders.  And rather than just teaching students to write persuasively, the debate workshop made me realize how powerful that performance activity could be.

It’s Debate Week!  The week we’ve been researching and writing for in Expository Writing class.  And in every debate this week, my students have impressed me in the way they’ve stood up, made a stand, used solid statistics and direct quotes to support their arguments, and most of all, awed me with their critical thinking skills.

It all started last fall when I attended a debate workshop at our state’s speech conference.  Persuasive writing is a huge focus in Nebraska high schools, since it’s the genre used to evaluate our eleventh graders.  And rather than just teaching students to write persuasively, the debate workshop made me realize how powerful that performance activity could be.

Before I go any further, let me say in full disclosure that I took a semester of debate class in college.  I hated it.  The stress, the conflict–I dreaded each and every debate.

So I don’t expect every student to love it or even enjoy it.  However, I recognize that many of my students thrive off it, and those who don’t enjoy it have gained argumentation and presentation skills.

The class started with narrowing topics using Google Moderator, until they finally chose the death penalty, vaccines, and ipads.  Then they researched.  We used Google Scholar and studied academic articles.

Then they wrote two papers.  The first was an informative, objective piece covering both sides of their issue–a genre they found extremely challenging.  Then they focused on their debate arguments.  We analyzed a sample position paper, highlighting the organization (specifically the heavy use of direct quotations) and then they took off on their own arguments, producing the best writing I’ve seen from most of them.

If you haven’t caught on, I’m so proud of these young people.  They’re graduating in mere weeks–days, really–and yet they’re still pushing themselves.  In fact, one group that finished debates a day early elected to have one more impromptu debate.  The topic:  ham vs. turkey.

And let me tell you, this was the most creative yet critical thinking I’ve ever heard.  It was silly and fun, yet they used statistics and research straight off the internet as they debated.  They thought on their feet, collaborated with their team, and gave me a day I won’t soon forget.

Studying Word Choice & Mood with Macbeth

For my multimedia class, I had to create a video with captions, images, and music, so I set up a tentative project for my students to choose a soliloquy/monologue from Macbeth and do a similar video, probably in Animoto.

But once  I’d made my video on the dagger scene (see above), I realized I suddenly had a quick prop for our final dagger scene wrap up day.

Using the sample video, students wrote down on post it notes the words with strongest connotations.  Here’s a sampling of what they came up with:

murder, fatal, dead, ravishing, dagger, bloody, knell, wicked

We talked about what kind of mood Shakespeare is establishing with those words–and how this can be related to other forms of reading and writing.

When students are asked about mood, whether on a test, in a college lit class, or simply while pleasure reading, one of the greatest hints to mood is the author’s use of word choice.

We also discussed how the same goes with writing.  As writers, we need to choose words with strong connotations to help express our style and tone.

It was a quick 8-10 minute lesson, but an effective one–full engagement from every student on a concept they could see visually both in language and images, hear in the music, see the patterns in our list on the board, and–hopefully–apply in their reading and writing lives.

Linking to Images in Curriculet

Martletstick spot

 

 

Curriculet is such a great resource that I’ve found to use while teaching Macbeth.  Shakespeare uses so many metaphors and allusions that students don’t understand–such as the martlet on the far top and Lady Macbeth’s reference to the “sticking point” in the lower top.

With Curriculet, I can embed those images directly into the text, so students can see and understand the reference visually.  Extremely handy!

Curriculet has become my go-to app for assigned reading.  Instead of spending classtime reading the text with the students, explaining it, and helping them with the basic understanding, they can read it on their own here, follow my annotations, answer my reading check questions, and gain that basic level of understanding.  Then I can spend class time with deeper, richer activities, such as the Institute of Play’s Socratic Smackdown that we did earlier this week.

I also love the fact that students move at their own pace.  The ones who have questions I can work with one-on-one.  I also link the PBS Macbeth film to the Curriculet, so students can view the film while reading the text.  I love how students can see the play come alive with professional actors; seeing the film version simultaneously with the text also scaffolds their understanding.

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