Category Archives: Story Telling

Series: Elements of Structure XI: The Video Personality

Note: Some strong language is used in this video, and may be offensive.

This may be the current medium of choice among young adults, and it’s one I thoroughly endorse in format. However, examining the draw of listening/watching, the speed of discourse, and the power of convincing others of a point of view when packaged visually can be dangerous.

In a recent opinion piece by Gretchen Kelly, This Is How White Supremacy Comes to Your Neighborhood, the advent of the video link recommendations and the toxic rabbit holes children, and adults, fall into, may be cause for alarm. It’s up to us to be mindful that most of what students are receiving are not from straight, constricted text, and the act of teaching and learning contextual information is more critical than ever. Videos are visual: Tomi Lahren is visually appealing to her viewers, but even that didn’t protect her from her base turning against her when they disagreed with her stance on one issue.

Ask your second students which videos offend them, and why. We’re in the midst of embroiled discussions about gender and race (and zombies) currently, and you may find out some very interesting things. Be prepared to keep an open mind.

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Series: Elements of Structure Part 10: Top Ten (But it will go to 11…)

Not in any particular order, this is my own curated list of what I perceive as the hugely influential, double-edged swords of structure from 2016. Warning: I will not apologize for analyzing politics in this post (see #4). If you’re fed to the teeth and just want some ideas, skip over words. We’re all feeling like children whose parents are in the beginning stages of a dysfunctional divorce: still a lot of yelling, we don’t know if we want to live with mom or dad, lawyers have been contacted, and broken glass to clean up. And no one’s seen the family pet for days.

Ah, well.

  1. Twitter
  2. Fake News
  3. Click Bait
  4. Comments in Political Posts and the Great Unfriending
  5. Relabeling
  6. Repeated Article Loop
  7. Children’s/YA Literature
  8. Book Lists and Reading Challenges
  9. On-line Shared Annotations
  10. TedTalks

Twitter

Perhaps one of the most telling of all is the P-E’s use or misuse of Twitter.

Though he’s tweeted hundreds of misspelled, egregious, taunting and terrible tweets, for some reason this one sent me over the edge, well the original version, not the sarcastic People for Bernie Sanders version:

Perhaps what did it (sent me over the edge and all) was someone’s comment about how we all just need to suck it up, he’s our president now, too damn bad, stop crying, stop whining, etc.

And I need to point out — what he said, what he tweeted, clearly says he is NOT my president by HIS WORDS. He called me his enemy, someone who fought him, “lost so badly” that now I’m in a fog, whimpering and wandering around like a lost child at a county fair.

What exactly does he “Love!”?

Twitter is as high or low as humanity brings to its 140 characters. It’s been a good source for me to add to my PLN, tweet out random #haikuoftheday for fun, and things of that nature. Now I don’t know if I can look away, or look more closely. I don’t have an idea.

Fake News

At this point, there are probably fake news stories on how to combat fake news. Teach media literacy, make it relevant, make it matter. Liken fake news to a fake rumor, and how devastating that can be personally, and imagine a whole nation being harmed, literally and figuratively, by fake news on a grand scale.

The Smell Test

Click Bait

We’re all guilty of it, clicking on what we know is click-bait. That easy lure of outrageous headlines promising some juicy reward while our cheeks are pierced by sharp objects. It would be a great mini-lesson or mini-unit to have student analyze the structure of click bait and how it changes their psychological views.

You’ll Be Outraged at How Easy It Was to Get You to Click on This Headline

Comments in Political Posts and The Great Unfriending

I went to tag someone on a teacher post the other day and noticed I lost another Facebook acquaintance, and have no hard feelings. How could I? I use social media for a variety of purposes, but mostly, and unfortunately for some, it’s my ‘thinking out loud place’ and sometimes my inner voice is pretty damn loud.

We’re all going to have to set our own journalistic best practices as we move forward and be clear that our posts are ours, and if you comment, do so at your own risk. If you decided my (over)posting and sharing of information is not for you, then I completely respect that. If nothing else it is my contention that we are in control of our own narratives, and if we don’t want to blend our colors into one another’s then we should never feel obligated to do so.

But you might miss out on that great cocktail recipe. Just sayin.’ Passing up the details of my recent gall bladder surgery, well, don’t blame you.

Relabeling and Code Switching

This is one structural/literary choice/device that needs to be examined much more thoroughly. This is Orwellian doublethink at a mastery level.

  • Alt-Right means NazSupremacistsemicists/Domestic Terrorists.
  • “CITE EVIDENCE” means “I’m firing my misdirection shotgun to make you try to spend the time to prove something I’m not going to believe anyway.”
  • Mansplaining: A misandric term meaning when someone patronizingly “helps” to fill in the background knowledge for someone else. It is observed by a man or woman who explains to another woman what is happening.

Repeated Article Loop

The repeated or republished article is an interesting device– I included it in this structure series because while reading any narrative, flashbacks and foreshadowing are regular solid tools to move a reader through a narrative–and the repeated article, and I’ll include Facebook’s “Shared Memory” device, does the same purpose. This can be good and not so good, especially not so good when it plays house with Fake News. Some stories are repeated so often, and intentionally they use an old photograph from another incident.

Note to social media and big mega software folks: Please bring back i-Google. Okay. That’s never going to happen. But invent an organized way people can read an article, and then share it to an album and organize it, and it won’t go back in their feed. Yes, something like bookmarks, and folders, but in that media source.

Children’s/YA Literature

Lest you think I’m all doom-gloom (hey, I didn’t make this mess!) I have some heartening news, too. Turns out my master’s thesis of using children’s literature to engage students wasn’t too far off the mark. (Insert a mini-eye roll emoji here.)

Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy

How Reading Literature Cultivates Empathy

Book Lists and Reading Challenges

I have fallen in love with BookRiot and Nerdy Book Club. The format and structure of these sites are simple: curate lists of books that a reader might love. This type of literary world-wide book club is dangerous for my budget, though, because I want all the books!

The word choice of “challenge” is interesting to me, as well as the choice of ‘lists.’ Challenge and lists implies plowing through, and not necessarily joyfully. I use these words, too, but wonder if there will be another approach that is less perfectionistic, completism, or competitive.

My students’ Reading Road Trip got a flat tire this year, punctured by too many tests, agendas, and chaos. But I have Mrs. Darcy’s list again, so we’ll see!

See above link.

On-line Shared Annotations

As we move toward bigger and grander conversations, it’s my hope we use our technology for idea and question sharing — stil think Genius and other on-line share annotation tools and sites are pretty cool.

And annotations on real books — too.

Annotated Bible

TedTalks

TedTalks, Crash Course, VSauce, etc, are specific structures that have become my second life in terms of the lecture hall with great professors.

Yes, please. And thank you.

These ten formats are all worthy of some analysis and thought: we’re speaking in shorthand more than ever, and being adept at all forms of communication are going to be critical.

And getting good recipes for cocktails. Want to see my surgery scars?

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Series: Elements of Structure Part 9: Parody & Satire

I think I would cease to function if I didn’t have my sense of humor.

Everyone thinks they have a sense of humor, but…

Humor is one of the most difficult mediums to write. One way to allow students to access their natural silliness is to introduce them to parody and satire.

Parody: intended to spoof by using humor based on an existing piece/genre

Satire: intended to criticize something or someone, often with humor, but not necessarily.

Is Monty Python Satire? (Click for a PDF)

Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Revisionist History (did I list that one, too!?) did a show on satire. The upshot is we Americans do a pretty terrible job at satire–it’s McWeaksauce sometimes–but is still important. I wonder what it says about the nation who invented stand-up can’t do satire as well? Hmm. 

Media Literacy: Middle School Kids Love Parody

How would we go about introducing students to parody and satire? They are well-versed in memes and Youtube channels that provide so many examples and are masters at consuming media/humor. But how to create content? Perhaps I would pose the question to them: what angers, frustrates, or annoys them, and how would they like to create their own parodies? It’s important to point out parodies are not mean-spirited or bullying. What rules do they think are silly or goofy (I think the beloved yellow safety vest hall pass might their first target)?

And yes, while I think this is terrible, from a jester-level sense of humor, it is kind of funny:

Article Link in Cosmopolitan

From a historical standpoint, how has parody and satire changed the world? And it has, no doubt. Mocking rulers, institutions, sacred cows and laws, parody and satire help us all laugh so we don’t cry. And that makes us stronger.

Ms. Chappele’s Student Site

Examples of Satire in Candide/Seattle PI Education Site

And of course: (PG 13 language)

This is something I’m going to try on very soon. We all could use a good laugh.

But sometimes it doesn’t feel good to be the butt of a joke.

 

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Series: Elements of Structure Part 8: Zines and Chaps

From SheRa
From SheRa

Zine magazines and Chapbooks – two formats that have specific structures that speak to the urgency of getting something out there, fast, with beauty.

In this recent post, The Resurgence of the Zine Culture, the writer makes a strong case for zines returning popularity.

“It’s as simple as folding some paper and letting your creativity flourish. Splatter paint on it, write words haphazardly across the page, photograph everything. You can write about cats or “Doctor Who” or the ways media is suppressing black voices. There are no rules and no limits.”

Seriously: the potential for this!! Students crave a balance between making things and screentime, though these can be published on- line too, and distributed to a wider audience.  But how intimate and urgent is the passed note, the quick shout?

I am curious, though, what would be the learning target and success criteria wording?

Something to the effect, “SWBAT…

I mean, just how do I translate “But, as Rookie Magazine said, “Zine-making isn’t about rules or knowledge; it’s about freedom and power.” to a learning target?

Magical paraphrasing will come to me, no doubt.

In any case, I’m thinking this is a great idea to spark January or add to my Burning Questions unit (whenever that happens…).

But maybe that’s the point of a zine: it needs to happen right now. Maybe I’ll make one this afternoon.

 

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Series: Elements of Structure Part 7: World Building

Open Culture: Annotated Map
Open Culture: Annotated Map

Recently my arrival at some conclusions has left me feeling a bit off, beginning with my inability to make decisions or plan, as if I thought I knew what my destination was, only to find out I am on the other side of the rails. In conjunction with the dawning light that while I work at a Title I school, my judgment, motivation, professionalism and even integrity will always be criticized at worst, and questioned at least. Can I build up my students’ learning with the help of colleagues and collaboration, or will continue to be singled out?

Which is why I’m sitting here questioning if this idea is a good one or not. If I’ll get support or buy-in, or not. And if not, does it matter? Not all ideas are good ones.

*Inner voice: “Stop. Stop writing about your process. Just spill it: what’s the idea?”*

Okay: World Building.

Think about it.

This unit would cover every single content area, including health/fitness.

  • Social Studies: What better way to understand the world and history than to create one from scratch?
  • English/Language Arts: What better way to familiarize oneself with archetypes, monomyths, plot, setting, structure and creativity?
  • Math: What better way to understand how the boundaries and shapes of things influence our lives? Productivity, consumerism, population and exponential thinking and real-world problems?
  • Science: What better way to look at the impact of disease, oceans, pollution, land masses, air to breathe and inventions influence culture,
  • PE/Health: What better way to explore the kinetic movements of cultures, tribes, groups, cities, as well as health and well-being? Do you think for one moment Thorin Oakenshield wasn’t buff?!

(Just needed an excuse to post a picture of T. O.:)

thorin-oakenshield_in_the_hobbit

  • Exploratory: Cooking, making, building, music, technology: all the ways we’re connected and engaged.

fifth-season

I read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin recently, and it’s amazing. It does have some graphic sexuality, so wouldn’t recommend for anyone younger than 17-18. Her world-view and creation are sublime. It took me some time to understand what was happening, but once I fell into the setting it felt like I had lived there forever, and now. And isn’t that the true beauty of a new world, a fantasy world? It feels more truthful than the real one and helps give context to what’s known and believed.

And please: don’t forget women in your world.

I often tell students that the best thing about writing is getting to play god/goddess: you create the world and control the characters, and this is empowering. At this writing, I’m not sure what the end product will be, or the essential questions/enduring understanding. Units weren’t built in a day, you know.

One idea to help students get started is to take a few ‘micro’ pictures of land, and see if they can create a world from it:

Except for the giant beastie's leg, this might be a good place to start.
Except for the giant beastie’s leg, this might be a good place to start.

So, as I’ll map out my ideas later. The essential piece is the questions, and take a page from creation and origin myths. What needs to be made first, and how to make it?

If you have any ideas to share, please do so.

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