Monday, 18 June 2012

Oral Language

The oral language curriculum includes creating and presenting oral language material (like presenting a dream vacation, as students did earlier this year) and also the skill of taking note of a speaker's key points.

Through this year I have been the speaker, telling stories of my life (like how I prepared for my job interview to be a teacher, for instance) and as I speak, students are asked to jot down the key thoughts that they hear, then share at the end. I have also sometimes asked for them to identify the most important point...this, in turn, is the main idea.

Being able to jot down the key points of a speaker is a skill we use later in high-school, college, university and work environments (I still use this skill at meetings!).

This builds on skills taught earlier in the year in reading...namely, trying to find the key points in a non fiction text...and underlining or highlighting then.

Besides myself, I have included other 'speaker' material. Once again, the interent is able to provide a diverse and interesting material.

Here are some of the speaker's we have listened to:

TED Talks
Kevin Allocca from YouTube "Why do Videos Go Viral"
Erik Johanson, photographer "Impossible Photography"
Charlie Todd from Improv Everywhere "The Shared Experience of the Absurd"

How Matt Harding Got People to Dance With Him  for which you should probably watch his around the world dance video first. 
How Mystery Guitar Man made the 4 iPhones video puzzle
How Freddiew made the special effects in 'Skydiving out my Front Door"
Ross Capicchioni Survival Story Part 1 and Part 2 (a teen in detroit survives a shooting. This is an amazing story of strength in the wake of adversity; dealing with stress; the importance of positivity in life)

National Film Board of Canada
The Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Reminder to Parents: Online Writing Portfolio!

Dear Parents,

Students have now completed three major writing assignments. Each assignment built on the last, with the techniques and form growing more specific. Each writing assignment came with very specific expectations outlined. These clear criteria were always handed out to students and posted within the classroom.

Assignment #1 -- a game review
Assignment #2 -- a movie review (Romeo & Juliet related)
Assignment #3 -- a review of a game, movie or book of student choice

These assignments incorporated the full writing process: brainstorming with graphic organizers, drafting a first copy submitted for teacher feedback, and then creating a final draft based on feedback.

The first two assignments are on line. The third has been recently marked...and will be coming soon!

Many students showed progress over time.  Looking these samples over, you will likely note growth in the use of transition words (ie: using lead ins like 'first, next, then' (and others) to organize points for the reader), specific details, diverse word choice, sentence variety, and clear(er) explanations/reasoning.

These particular writing skills (transition words to organize, being specific, choosing 'wow' words, not being repetitive, editing for clarity, etc) are adaptable to many different writing forms, not just the review. This process is also adaptable to the sense that you would apply the same skills to answering reading comprehension questions...

I chose to focus specifically on the review, however, because I like how reviews include an expository section (summary/explanation) and also persuasive paragraphs (opinion section supported by proof)--both expository and persuasive writing are very common in high school--and real life.

A review makes a comfortable arena for practising these skills because it is very familiar to us as a 'real world' writing genre...we read reviews all the time in real life.

These final reviews needed to include a clear, detailed summary section, an opinion section with three clear criteria, and a personal connection section (the three beef patties, to use my hamburger analogy). They needed an intriguing introduction at the top (top bun) and a short conclusion recapping main points and rating at the bottom (bottom bun). The opinion section needed to have three, clear criteria, well reasoned and supported by specific examples.

If you would like to see these writing samples, please click HERE. And remember, there are more to come as the third sample gets added soon! So remember to check back!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

YouTube as Teaching Tool

Honestly, I don't know what I'd do with out! I use this site for all sorts of literacy writing prompts (prompts for summaries and main ideas of narratives, study of character, making connections)...we've used it for poetry, lyrics, music videos ('visual poems'), media interpretations of Poe stories and Romeo & Juliet...really, the list is endless!

Lately I took to youtube again to source out commercials. Part of the media literacy curriculum for Gr. 7 and 8 is to interprete how media makes meaning...for example, how images/music are used to convey a particular mood or idea.

There is a list in the sidebar of commercials that we have thus far reviewed. We have defined what is being sold, who the  audience is (aka demographic), what mood or feeling is being connected to the product through the images/text/music (typically, a sense of satisfaction, perfection) and then providing specific proof from the commercial to support that connection.

"Use Irish Spring and you can
be urber-sexy like me!"
Some are very obvious (If a man uses Irish Spring, he is apparently instantly attractive to women! For example, in the commercial we see women swooning over a guy using Irish Spring body wash, and in fact he is so unbelievably sexy/hot, lighting stikes! Wow! So Irish Spring is supposed to = instant sex appeal!).

But others, like the Pes shoe commercial, are more subtle in their approach. In this video, Wear these shoes and you can be magically powerful and an awesome skateboarder! For example, we see that the boy wearing the shoes has been transformed into a skateboard! So if we buy those shoes we will also experience power and originality! Or so the ad would have us to believe...

Commercial are meant, at the heart of it, to manipulate convince us that we NEED that product (to be attractive, to be original, to be creative, to be...FILL IN THE BLANK) which means they should be watched with a critical eye...but they are also creative art in their own right and should be appreciated as such.