Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Connecting with Authors via Social Media

While many will vilify social media and focus only on the posts where folks are acting inappropriately or unprofessionally, social media is very powerful tool for connecting regular ol' folks like you and me with experts in a field.  I use Facebook to share photos of my girls with family who live elsewhere and to keep up to date on what some of my favorite authors are up to.  I've had a guest post by author MJ Fletcher, and I've written before about connecting with Shakespearean actor/director and author David Blixt via Facebook and this week I had the opportunity to converse briefly with Diana Gabaldon.

Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is at the top of my must-read list if you like historical fiction/sci-fi/fantasy/timetravel books. Her work is really knows no bounds of genre, and it so wonderfully well researched and written. Much to the delight of her fans, Gabaldon's novels have recently been turned in to a TV show on the Starz network sparking a whole series of blogs and websites dedicated to all things Outlandish which Gabaldon frequently shares the links to such sites via Facebook. One such site, Outlander Anatomy, is a fascinating read about the science of anatomy using the characters and events in the TV series as inspiration for the posts.  Gabaldon also shares excerpts from her novels and current projects, and she will even share HOW she writes.

As an English teacher, I deconstruct and analyze texts with my students, and often I am (and every English teacher out there is) accused of close reading too far into the text. My students will question, "How do you KNOW that Poe is using irony in "Cask of Amontillado?"  "How do you KNOW Shakespeare intended to invert the gender roles in the balcony scene of Romeo & Juliet?" My defense often involves supporting my opinion with proof from the text and, if available from the author, researched explanations. We also have a discussion about who creates meaning in texts: the writer or the reader? The answer is both.

I also use literature as a means for modeling writing for students.  We examine the techniques used by acclaimed authors and students attempt to use the same technique in their own writing. We examine Richard Peck's use of literary devices and motif in "Priscilla and the Wimps," Poe's use of narration, verbal irony and dialogue in "Cask of Amontillado," and Richard Connell's use of ellipsis and characterization in "The Most Dangerous Game". We analyze each author's style, diction, sentence structure, and I challenge students to attempt using these same techniques in our Create a Hero project. The students draft a profile of a hero they create, map out the storyline following Joseph Campbell's monomyth/hero's journey, and write a scene as if ripped from the pages of a larger novel. Students are now sharing their scenes and talking about the choices they made in crafting the story. So not only have we discussed how an author writes, but the students take on the role as authors and showcase how/why they wrote the scene they way they did.

Thanks to Facebook and the power of social media, I can share with students an example of how one author crafts a story and makes intentional choices when writing.  Take a look at these screenshots of Diana Gabaldon sharing an excerpt from her novel, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, complete with annotations explaining the scene. The original post is much, much longer, so you will have to go to Facebook to read the rest.

And if I didn't think Diana Gabaldon sharing her work was cool enough, she also REPLIED to my comments on her post validating how I teach writing through literature. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

PBL & Flipped Learning at Home using Rainbow Looms

My daughters are 8 and 6 years old and they have gotten into the Rainbow Loom craze.  In the melee of doing laundry and catching up on stuff during our November break, I realized that flipped, project based learning was going on in my own home. My girls are intrinsically motivated to create their bracelets and often refer to YouTube videos for how to create them. Through the process, my daughters are practicing counting skills, recognizing and following patterns, hand-eye coordination, and organizational skills.  My girls are also demonstrating search and evaluation skills as they scour YouTube for videos that work well for them to follow, and (thank heavens) interpersonal skills as they work together.

This got me wondering about how the Rainbow Loom craze could be brought into the classroom. Not only could students work on all of the skills (and more) that I mention above, but they also could practice writing skills creating how-to manuals and digital literacy skills by creating their own video tutorials. I would love to read/hear/see if/how folks are incorporating Rainbow Looms into their classes.

I just snapped pictures of my girls, and my 6 year old first-grade daughter counting her pink bands and laying them out in pairs, declaring, "I'm counting by twos!"

Look closely for the pairs of pink bands laid out on the carpet and don't mind Charlie's photobomb.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Flipped Learning Podcast: Tools for Assessment

I had a great conversation with Troy Cockrum and Joan Brown about tech tools for assessment on the Flipped Learning Network's Podcast. I look at edtech as a vehicle for learning and a way to leverage the workload for teachers.

Check out the conversation: