Tag Archives: research

Anne Frank’s Diary

anne-frank-diary-openOn June 12, 1942, Anne Frank received a small red and white diary as a present for her 13th birthday. The diary, which she named Kitty, was her companion for just over two years. Frank’s last entry in the diary was dated August 1, 1944. Her family’s secret hiding place was raided three days later, on August 4. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February or March of 1945.

Explore the ways that eyewitness reports shape our understanding of events we can’t see first-hand. Introduce students to this topic using a lesson (adapted to your grade level), such as Through the Eyes of a Refugee, which examines the first-hand reports of a Syrian refugee, or Evaluating Eyewitness Reports, which examines first-hand accounts of the Great Chicago Fire.

Then have students break into small groups for an end-of-the-year research project. First, provide an outline or list of the main topics you’ve studied during the year. Or, have students use their textbook as a reference. Have each group select an event to research, taking care that topics are not too broad, such as “World War II.” Using primary source documents, have students research the event using eyewitness accounts. A good source of primary documents can be found at the American Slave Narratives website. Finally, have each group present their research to the class, for an end-of-the-year review session.

How else can a diary be used in the classroom?

Teen Tech Week 2017

ttw17The Young Adult Library Services Association sponsors Teen Tech Week to draw attention to the importance and availability of various technologies in libraries. Besides offering technologies such as audiobooks, DVDs, electronic games, computers with Internet access, and more, libraries also have librarians with expertise in using many of these resources effectively. This year, Teen Tech Week (March 5-11) celebrates the teen-selected theme: “Be the Source of Change.” The 2017 theme encourages teens to take advantage of all the great digital resources offered through the library to make a positive change in their life and community. Here are resources to support that change:

Teens as Change Agents
Books featuring teens as change agents call attention to young people who are lobbying for change in their schools, communities, and the larger world. Tune in to this podcast episode to hear about teens who work for change by participating in political campaigns, defying social hierarchies, and even going to war.

Making Memories: An End-of-Year Digital Scrapbook
Students reflect on their school year, creating a digital scrapbook consisting of images and text to present to their school community.

Exploring Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing
Students investigate issues of plagiarism, fair use, and paraphrasing using KWL charts, discussion, and practice.

Copyright Law: From Digital Reprints to Downloads
Students investigate how and why copyright law has changed over time, and apply this information to recent copyright issues, creating persuasive arguments based on the perspective of a particular group.

Copyright Infringement or Not? The Debate over Downloading Music
This lesson takes advantage of students’ interest in music and audio sharing. Students investigate multiple perspectives in the music downloading debate and develop a persuasive argument for a classroom debate.

Digital Reflections: Expressing Understanding of Content Through Photography
Striking images can leave lasting impressions on viewers. In this lesson, students make text–self–world connections to a nature- or science-related topic as they collaboratively design a multimedia presentation.

How will you recognize Teen Tech Week?

The 100th Day of School

100The 100th day of school is celebrated in schools around the country, usually near the month of February. The 100th Day of School is usually filled with activities, crafts, and math exercises based on the number 100. Here’s an idea for combining the school celebration with history.

Invite students to investigate what life was like 100 years ago. Using multiple sources, have students read and talk about the clothing that was worn during that time, who was President (or Prime Minister, King, or Queen), what inventions weren’t around then (computers and television, mobile devices, hoverboards, video games, etc), how many states were in the United States at that time (and what the US flag looked like then). Ask the students to find and share other surprising differences between now and 100 years ago. They can record their discoveries using a Venn Diagram.

To take this idea a step further, engage students in researching various aspects of a setting’s decade.  Then using the information they have gathered, students communicate their findings via a presentation tool. Through the sharing of their findings, all students gain an understanding of the historical decades. This understanding can be transferred to historical novels or other studies of history. After all students have presented, students will write a paragraph explaining which decade they would have like to have experienced firsthand.

How do you celebrate the 100th Day of School?

What Teachers Can Learn from Web Designers

digitalwritingTeachers who want to engage students may be able to learn from successful websites. The Internet is rife with digital forums where people interact. These forums thrive on user-generated content, yet only a few visitors choose to create that content. Many visitors simply “lurk.” Websites, however, can be designed in ways that nurture active participation, and so can lesson plans.

In the current issue of College English, writing professor Rebecca Tarsa offers research on how a website’s interface affects visitors’ decisions to return to the website and to transition from lurkers to active participants. She interviewed 30 students at two colleges about their Web surfing and drew some interesting insights.

One conclusion Tarsa reached is that visitors’ decisions about whether to return to a given forum were driven more by the visual appeal of the forum than by the content. “What students remember most vividly about participatory spaces they no longer visit is how they looked,” Tarsa reports. “If an interface makes a bad impression, what it presents hardly seems to matter.” As one student she interviewed told her, “It’s not that I can’t figure it [the website Reddit] out. It’s that I don’t want to because I look at it and it’s so boring.”

If a Web forum looked appealing, visitors might linger and discover engaging content. But to participate in that conversation and add their own content, users usually had to create an account, an inconvenience visitors were only willing to endure when properly motivated.

Once users were motivated to create an account, did they jump into posting content? Not usually. There was still one thing needed for most visitors to make the transition from lurker to content provider: a stepping stone form of participation.

The most successful Web forums have such stepping stones in what Tarsa calls “qualitative affordances.” These are features that allow visitors to easily register their appraisal of the content they find. On Facebook, it’s the “like” button. On Twitter, it’s “retweet.” On Reddit, it’s “upvote” and “downvote.” Each of these forums offers some way that users, with a mere click or two, can applaud (or in some cases, can boo) the content someone else has provided, and this offers new users an easy way to begin participating in this new environment.

Not only is clicking “like” less work than typing out a full comment, it is also less risky. When you write and post content, you risk negative reactions. If you try to share information, you risk the embarrassment of being caught in a mistake. If you share an opinion or just try to make a joke, you risk being viewed by this new community as insensitive or oversensitive or biased or illogical or weird. There is less risk to simply clicking “like.” Even if people hate the comment you like, the brunt of their criticism will fall on the author of the comment, not on you.

These ”entry-level forms of participation” lead lurkers in the direction of fuller participation. Nearly all the students Tarsa interviewed created accounts in forums for the purpose of voting on content but then later came to add their own content as well. She concludes that “qualitative affordances … create higher levels of comfort with and investment in a site overall; and that students who displayed such investment wrote more often and more spontaneously than those who did not.”

These lessons can be applied to the structure of an English class. If we want students actively engaged, Tarsa suggests, we should give them low-stakes ways to respond to literature: “Create more opportunities for interactivity that fall between consumption [reading] and production [writing]. Allowing students to contribute content they come across in other contexts to a class compendium, for example, that would then be collaboratively curated into a digital bibliography for the course themes.“

Those working to engage students in reading and writing can learn a few lessons from those who have succeeded in getting Web surfers to read and write on their websites.

To explore this idea in greater depth, read Rebecca Tarsa’s complete article “Upvoting the Exordium: Literacy Practices of the Digital Interface.”

Grounding Our Teaching in Research

When we ground ourselves in the research of teaching our practice begins to grow.The following excerpts come from an article entitled Grounding Our Teaching in Research: Implications from Research in the Teaching of English, 2009–12 in the July issue of English Journal. The article was written by Jessica A. West and Cheri Williams and features their synthesis of the findings of research published in RTE between 2009 and 2012 to support the professional development of preservice and inservice English educators.

The best teachers never stop being students themselves and, in particular, they are students of their field. Knowing the field of English education is essential to being a strong English educator. We cannot hope to transform the discipline without considering what we presently know, and do not yet know, about the teaching and learning of the English language arts…

As part of our efforts to support the professional development of preservice and inservice English educators, we recently examined current research published in RTE. Our goal was to synthesize the findings of that research to help practitioners develop a clearer “reading” of the current state of the field, which could inform their pedagogy and practice…

We organized the major findings into five categories that reflected the most commonly examined topics: identity, writing pedagogy, new literacies, English language learners, and the teaching of literature.

(These are some of the findings West and Williams explore in each topic. Click on the author links to read the full articles that informed these findings. You will need to use your NCTE member login.)

  • Identity: Classroom literacy activities can engage students in reflection related to their social and cultural position and identity in the world and foster compassion for peers’ unique experiences (Camangian; Wilson and Boatright; Wissman).
  • Writing Pedagogy: The ways in which high school students’ talk about model essays that are used to prepare for high-stakes testing takes on a performative function as the students discuss aspects of the essays that they consider to be most important given the ideological context, and that these comments were often clichés. This finding suggests that teachers need to more consciously look at the use of language in writing instruction and not assume that students hold a shared vocabulary for talking about writing (Samuelson).
  • New Literacies: [Participants in social media are using] multimodal composition forms, such as social networking sites, fan-based sites, video production, and Instant Messenger (IM), to create nontraditional compositions to represent ideas in ways not possible with traditional print-based compositions (Black; Bruce; Buck; Haas and Takayoshi; Roozen).
  • English Language Learners: Knowledge of ELL writers’ extra-textual identities, informed by watching a short video of the writer, affected raters’ assessment of their writing, suggesting that knowledge of and interactions with students are likely powerful influences on classroom teachers’ assessments of students’ voice in their writing (Tardy).
  • The Teaching of Literature: Eurocentric and Anglo-centric literature and texts of US origin dominated the curriculums of both US and Canadian schools and did not equally represent the historical and contemporary backgrounds of the students in the schools (Skerrett).

To be strong English educators, we must be engaged in continuous improvement of our craft. Good teaching is dynamic, as is our profession, and we are responsible for staying abreast of current developments in our field. Being aware of current research findings, such as those presented in this article, and the implications of those findings for one’s pedagogy and practice is essential to learning to teach well and to meeting the needs of our students.