Sunday, May 3, 2009

5150 Final Project

I wanted to be able to just upload the pdf file of my final project to blogger, but apparently I can't figure it out, or it's not possible to upload pdfs. Instead, I have created a wiki page and have uploaded my final project there. To see the final project, click on the link below, and when you get to the front page, click on the link that says 5150 Final Project. Let me know if you have any issues opening up or getting to my final project!

Final project!

To end the semester with a laugh, please also enjoy the following clips from the Reduced Shakespeare Company's performance of Romeo and Juliet.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Graphic Novels = Awesome.

If you were to ask me what were my favorite genres of novels a year ago, I can assure you that the graphic novel would have not been located anywhere on that list. I was never into reading comic books as an adolescent, so I never really knew much about the genre, except that I assumed that all graphic novels had some sort of Manga aspect to it. Boy was I wrong. Fast forward to spring semester of my senior year at the University of Minnesota where I was taking an Asian-American Literature class. All of the books I had read previously for that class were mostly interesting, but were only read because I was required to. One day, I begrudgingly picked up the novel that was due the next week, and when I opened it, to my surprise, the book was actually a graphic novel! “American Born Chinese” forever changed my outlook on graphic novels, and now I actually have a long list of novels from this genre that I would like to read eventually.

The following fall semester, I enrolled in an Adolescent Literature class that would go towards my M. Ed in English education, and I was given the opportunity to continue reading graphic novels with the popular “Perspolis,” and now have an ever-growing list of books that were suggested to me by my instructor and by my peers including “The Pride of Baghdad,” “Maus,” and many others. In this class, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we can use these novels in the classroom, and we were pushed to think about how we would teach our students how to read a graphic novel, as there will be students who will have never even opened up a comic book. I thought a lot about this when I brought home “The Watchmen” a couple of months ago and was trying to experience the whole novel without getting overwhelmed.

In the article “How to Teach Graphic Novel Writing,” the author said: “But the rise in interest has created a pool of frustrated talent that needs focus and direction. You step up, ready to meet them and guide them, but you don't know how. Fear not, true believer, for a few simple steps are all that keep you from guiding these poor creatures unto the greatest destiny of all.” As the “expert” in the classroom, I know that I will be expected by my students to be aware of not only how to read graphic novels, but also how to potentially write them. I will have to ask myself, “How do you decide what to draw?” What are the important aspects of the story that should be focused on?” Writing one’s own graphic novel can take more time and effort than the typical novel.

As I move on to my 4th week of student teaching for a 9th grade honors English class, I have been trying to think more about how I want to teach Romeo and Juliet to make it relevant and inspiring for my students. This will be most of the students’ first real experience reading Shakespeare and will have difficulties understanding what is going on in it due to the many allusions made to what was popular during the time Shakespeare wrote the drama. While I am going to be coming up with different ways of helping them understand how the puns were made back then in comparison to the puns they know now. I recently purchased the book “90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry” which takes 90 classic books and turns the whole plot into humorous 4-panel comics. After looking through this, I came up with the following assignment to go along with my Romeo and Juliet unit:


Partner’s name (optional):_______________________

Romeo and Juliet Graphic Novel Assignment

Due by:______________________

Now that we have finished the play Romeo and Juliet, your assignment is to create your own graphic novel version of any scene of your choosing. You may work with a partner or as individuals.

1. Pick a scene that you would like to turn into a graphic novel. Once you have done this, come to me and have me sign-off on your scene choice.

Teacher initials__________

2. Chose what type of medium you want to use for your graphic novel. Your options are:
  • By hand (drawings must be clear for me to understand what is going on)
  • ComicLife computer program
  • Comic Book Creator computer program

3. You will each be required to post individually on your own blog about your experience turning this classical text into a more modern format. What did you learn from this? Did it help you better understand the play? What (if anything) was lost between the transformations of Romeo and Juliet as a graphic novel? What are some pros and cons for doing this activity? This response must be at least 300 words long.

4. If you worked on this project with a partner, please write a summary of what each partner contributed to this assignment. This will only be seen by me, and must be turned in on the same day that your graphic novel is due.

There is a rubric that I created to go along with this assignment, but since I couldn't get it to format properly I will be willing to email it to interested people if they comment on my blog asking for it!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

“Because music is a vital component of youth’s popular culture preferred over even movies and television, the teacher’s understanding and application of popular music can be a powerful tool for teaching and learning in social studies education” (p. 111). This quote from White and Walker hits right at the center of the topic of popular culture. While this article seems to focus on the social studies aspect of using popular music in education, as an English teacher, I have been able to find many different ways to use popular music in my own classroom with my future students. Since popular music is always changing, it can be hard to keep up with what is popular at the current time, so it is important to keep up on it to keep it relevant for my students as the years go on. Here are a few ways I have thought of to incorporate popular music into my English classroom:
• Poetry Unit- During a poetry unit, it would be a great idea to have each student come to class with the lyrics to their favorite popular song. The students could pair up and then find all of the conventions that we have learned regarding poetry (i.e., simile, metaphor, personification, rhythm, meter, rhyme, etc.) and analyze the lyrics together. What issues does this song bring up? How does it compare to the poems we have read together as a class over the last few days? It would probably be a good idea to do a sample one with the class and compare it directly to a poem that we have studied.
• Creative Writing Unit- Since students are constantly listening to music and are surrounded by it at almost all times (whether they choose to listen to it, or if they are shopping in a store playing music, or driving in the car with the radio on), so it would be fun to allow students to take time to write their own lyrics for a song. There would have to be guidelines as to what is acceptable, but to allow them to express themselves in a way that is already familiar to them would most likely increase their interest in a creative writing assignment instead of having them write poetry (but little do they know, us sneaky teachers are actually tricking them into writing poetry because music lyrics can definitely be seen as poetry!)
• Popular Culture Lesson- it is important to make sure that students are aware of how popular culture effects literature. When one reads older texts, often times there will be allusions to the popular music that was present during the time the story takes place. This can be confusing for some, but once they understand the importance of how popular music can tell us something about the time period, it should make them more conscious of the popular culture they read in today’s novels. Have students find music that contains references to older pieces of literature (i.e., Taylor Swift's current popular song "Love Story")

I was actually a little surprised to read that it is music that is really the number one aspect of popular culture. I was always under the impression that it would be either television or movies that would be at that number one spot (considering how many hours a day students spend in front of the television or watching movies), but now that I think about it more, I can see how music was ranked at the top of the list. I have just stared my student teaching this week, and over the last five days, I have had the chance to mainly observe and get to know the students in the classes better. I was shocked to see how many students would come into the classroom with their white earbuds connected to their iPods. I was even more surprised when I noticed that most of these students would only take out one of the earbuds, and keep the other one during class. I over heard some other English teachers in the department discussing their opinions on this phenomenon and they have taken to allowing the students to listen to their music during work time as a reward.

Katy Perry-


Chamillionaire- Ridin' Dirty

vs. Weird Al's White and Nerdy

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fake News

Before I first started to go to the University of Minnesota, I had had very little interaction with fake news in comparison to real, factual news. In my mind, fake news really only included the tabloids that were present at the check out lines when at the supermarket. The only “news worthy” articles that I saw pop up included: the end of the world quickly approaching, the coming of Jesus, or Bat Boy.

Every once and a while my dad would bring home one of these hardcore tabloids, and I would take time to look through it. To be perfectly honest, as a kid I was pretty naïve and had not ever been explicitly told that these “newspapers” were fictitious. Because of this, I found myself getting scarred at night because I really thought that the very creepy-looking Bat Boy was on the loose and that he would somehow make his way into my house and terrorize my family. My early experiences with fake news centers on the fact that I actually believed these articles and should be a warning for all future and current educators that they need to give their students the skills to figure out biases and what is true and what is not true (especially as they go on to write numerous research papers throughout their academic career).

While I lost much of my innocence concerning fake news and how to identify logical fallacies, though high school I never had to come into contact with it much, until I started my freshman year of college. Stationed at nearly every corner located at the University of Minnesota, there is a newspaper box for The Onion and after spending a lot of time waiting for the bus with nothing to do, I started reading the ridiculous articles written for this fake newspaper. My interest in the fake news increased as the political issues arose and really enjoyed reading the twisted articles for my entertainment. Over the course of the last year, I found myself really wishing that I had cable for the soul reason that I wanted to be able to watch The Daily Show and other parody news shows.

While I have never been a big fan of politics, these fake news stories really helped ease me into keeping up with what was going on in the world, because in order to be able to find the humor in the articles, I had to have a basic knowledge as to what was going on in the real world.

My feelings are that I am not the only one who has had this experience with fake news (especially from when I was an adolescent), and that with today’s influx of published unreliable news articles mixed in with the real thing, the youth may be having a difficult time differentiating be what the real stories are versus the fake ones. As an English teacher, I have been thinking a lot about how I can help my current and future students sift through the correct information that they will need to get through while doing many different types of papers, and how I can use examples from the Onion to get my point across. Some areas that may be causing students trouble with fake news is that it is presented in the same format as the real news. The fake news (when paired with the real articles) can really help students realize that you cannot always take what you read for it’s face value and see that knowing the source of where the news comes from is just as important of a step in the research process as everything else. Students know that they should be wary of Wikipedia articles when digging for information about their particular topic, so they should also start figuring out what print resources are reliable and which one are not. Not only could these fake articles help students with research papers and learning about logical fallacies, it can also enhance a journalism lesson on the conventions of newspaper writing. The Onion is written in such a ways that makes it hard to distinguish what is real and what is fake because it’s conventions match that of high quality newspaper writing. An assignment that could work with journalism students (or in any class where they need to journalistic style writing) to show them the best ways to write a newspaper article is below:

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be learning what it takes to be a great journalist. At the end of the semester we will publish and distribute the school’s biannual newspaper “The Rebel Riot.” Before we can start writing stories, we need to learn the conventions of newspaper writing.

With a partner, take a look at the following news articles:

On the backside of this paper, compare and contrast the two articles and include information regarding the conventions of how the articles were written, and the set up of the website that the article is on:
• What did you notice?
• What were some similarities?
• What were the differences?
• Find anything surprising?
• Comment on the voice of each article

After the class has finished combing through the articles, we will come together as a group and discuss our findings.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I want TOYS!!!

This weeks readings have really hit close to home for me. I have been working with younger kids ever since I was 12 years old when I started to babysit for my neighbor’s three young boys. In the last ten years, I have also worked as a t-ball coach for four, five, six, and seven year olds, as a camp councilor for kids in elementary school, a park supervisor, and most recently I have been employed as a nanny for three kids (ages five, six, and eight). At one point during my undergraduate experience, I had considered getting my teaching license in either elementary or early childhood education. Now that I have made up my mind to teach adolescents and teens, sometime I wonder how much “kid culture” can really help enhance my lessons.

In chapter 15, White and Walker discuss the importance of play in the classroom. During my foundations of education classes, we spend a lot of time learning about why it is important to let students use play to solve problems. “Toys of value enhance children’s own ideas. They help the child to engage in imaginative, meaningful play by allowing them to solve the problem” (144). As a nanny, I see this happening all of the time when they are playing amongst each other. While these kids are fortunate enough to have several toys, the most loved toy in their house would have to be the play kitchen that they have set up in the basement. Often, the kids will pretend to have their own restaurant and take their jobs very seriously. On longer days, I will take the kids to the Minnesota Children’s Museum, and while we are there, I get the opportunity to observe hundreds of kids using the toys provided by the museum to solve certain, task-related problems. In one room of the museum, the area is set up like an assembly line where blocks are moved from upstairs, to the lower level, and then moved to the “shipping truck”. As soon as the children would enter the room, in no time, they were dressed in the worker uniforms, hard hats, and begin working with one another to complete their task. I am always amazed by how quickly a couple dozen elementary aged students can come together are work with great teamwork. Also, within the museum, there is an area named "Our World". This space is set up to replicate a small town including a Chinese restaurant, a city bus, doctors office, recording studio, grocery story, etc. Here, kids are able to dress up and become little grown-ups. In the restaurant, the kids take the time to happily clean up from their "cooking" (something that they would never actually do at home). This place allows for children to practice adult roles, and by watching them, you can see how they view society and different hierarchies.

“These toys channel children into imitative play, robbing them of their own imagination, problem solving, and creativity” (146).

“Starting at birth, relatives and friends give children toys or objects to express love” (146). I feel like this is a big issue in the United States culture. Toys are loosing their purpose. I remember the days when my mom would give me the empty oatmeal container and washed out milk cartons and I would use them in a ways to help my "customers" finally get breakfast (after months of only having plastic hamburgers to offer them). What makes me almost sick is how much money parents will spend on the popular toys, instead of figuring out which new gift would have a more enduring meaning to their child. Over the holiday season, the popular television show The Office ran an episode that dealt with parents over paying for the holiday's most wanted toy, "Unicorn Princess". Unicorn Princess is what Tickle Me Elmo and Furby were like to us 90's children. These were toys that we just HAD to have, but in the long run, we just ended up donating them to Goodwill after about a year.

One thing that has left me questioning these chapters is how relevant can this be for the middle and high school classrooms? There isn't much time allowed in the older classrooms for play time, and this can most obviously be seen from the lack of playgrounds at middle and high schools. Maybe using games and the cartoons from kid culture is enough? I do realize how important it is to use kid culture to enable our students to have the tools to critique popular culture and take more charge of their social education.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My random gizmoz

Wisdom from the eMe

During my time here at the University of Minnesota, I have been through many classes where there have been some sort of online component or technical aspect that was either required or was provided for additional support for the students. In Aaron Doering and George Veletsianos’ article Conversational Agents and their Longitudinal Affordances on Communication and Interaction, I had a very personal reaction to this piece because I recently completed the EDHD 5007 class through the I.L.P./M.Ed where I was required to create my own eFolio to record my personal accomplishments and what I did to complete all of the various standards and benchmarks in order to receive my Minnesota board approved teaching license. As the paper noted, the class only met once, every other week, for about three hours at a time, and the amount of time in the classroom was dedicated to learning about the new technologies that we could possibly be encountering or instigating as new teachers in our future teaching placements. This left little time for us to actually learn about how to use the eFolio site and how to go about creating the most effective portfolio. Because we learned little more than how to upload a photo or a document, most of use had to figure out on our own time outside of class how to navigate this non-user friendly site. Our instructor made sure to inform my class that there were online-help tutorials, but I don’t ever remember being told about the Conversational Agents to help out with this daunting task.

While I was working on my own eFolio, I was able to figure out what to do for the most part, but it did take hours upon hours of trial and error to actually get a decent looking semi-final product. If I had known about the Conversational Agents before I started to work on it individually, I wonder if the process would have been much easier for me? Would I have taken full advantage of them? Would I have saved time? Would I have a better-finalized eFolio? I don’t know if the Conversational Agents would be the best option for me, as I like to have quick and direct instruction. When I’m not talking to a real person, it becomes very easy for me to zone out or not completely understand what the avatar tells me. I know this because when I was listening to this week’s assignment through the Gizmoz avatar that Thom sent to us last week, and had to repeat it several times before catching everything I needed to know. I prefer to either have the directions right in front of me, or to have a real life person whose body language I can read at the same time. I rely on so much more than just a floating head talking to me. I can definitely see how the Conversational Agents can be more beneficial and supportive than if the user had no help at all.

Speaking of Gizmoz, after trying my hand at creating my own avatar, I spent some time trying to think of how I could use this program as an assignment in my own future classrooms. At first it was really hard for me to think of ways in which this product could be used in the classroom to ENHANCE my lesson, rather than just use Gizmoz for the sake of using them. I had a classmate who informed me that she tried using the Gizmoz in the class she will be teaching, by using it to introduce an assignment. Her students were surprised and slightly confused as to why she was using it (and in my opinion, I was a bit confused as well. I couldn’t figure out how using it to introduce their free-writing assignment really enhanced her lesson). Here is a layout of an assignment that I came up with for how to use the Gizmoz/avatars with my future students:

Digital-You Book Reporting

In today’s day and age, so many things are resorting to using the digital world to get their points across. In this assignment, you will be creating an avatar and reporting on your independent reading book through this innovative technology!

1.) Write your book report. Make sure to include a quick plot summary, 3 important findings from the book, if you would recommend this text, and why or why not? Make sure that you have this completed before we go to the computer lab.

2.) Practice reading this out loud. This is what your classmates will hear during your presentation on the book. This part must be clear, understandable, and loud enough for us to hear what you are saying. When spoken, the book report should be 2-4 minutes long.

3.) Create an avatar- this is the digital-you who will be presenting your book report. Be creative; make it you; be appropriate. If you have to ask me if it is appropriate for school, it’s probably not… (See yellow handout with instructions on how to create your avatar!) We will be in the computer lab on _____________ and ______________ to work on this.

4.) Bring your avatar to life! Using the avatar program, record yourself saying your book report aloud. It may take several tries to get your recording just perfect, so take your time, and have fun with it. Write your book report. Make sure to include a quick plot summary, 3 important findings from the book, if you would recommend this text, and why or why not? Save often. Once you have a finished product MAKE SURE TO COPY DOWN THE URL HERE:


5.) Presentation: Let your avatar do the talking! On the last day, each student will have the opportunity to play his or her avatar for the class.

**After the presentations, we will have a short discussion on the pros and cons of using avatars instead of paper copies of reports like these.**


Written script of book report: ______________________

Presentation date:______________________