Saturday, January 31, 2015

Making Our Words

Looking at a stack of literary terms a teacher wanted her students to learn and thinking about our Educator Innovator Project along with some cool stuff a colleague of mine, Steve Fulton, was doing with stop action video  I thought, “why not make stop action videos with the literary terms? 

I've written here about my thinking on making, its importance, and curricular connections. Since that posting, I've gotten a lot more comfortable with "make."

Our Educator Innovator grant is focused on the concept of “make” and its connections to the ELA classroom.  In our minds, our students will become Hacktivists, hacking into materials and creating products that act on the world for social justice in some way.  At its core English Language Arts is about acting on the world.  Too often students see the course as reading literature that is completely disconnected from themselves and answering questions about it, or perhaps writing and essay about it.  They do not see the literature as examples of ways authors are acting on the world around them and they certainly don’t see their own writing (and making for us) as the literature of the classroom.  The concept of Hacktivism gives us a chance to make the acting on the world front and center in our classrooms.

But, as I planned the lesson for the stop action literary terms, I was struck by all that I was asking the students to do in about 40 minutes.  I was asking them to learn the stop action app (We used Lego Movie) choose materials from boxes of legos and play dough, define complex literary terms and then find ways to represent them in a stop motion video.  This seemed a bit overwhelming, but I really felt strongly about exposing them to the idea of Hacktivism, so I offered bonus points (always a good incentive) for anyone who could work in the Hacktivist angle.  What surprised me was the way in which the students lit up at the notion of Hacktivism.  Granted, this could have been because they were seniors and they have to have some sort of service angle in their senior exit project, but many of the students simply seemed excited about having an avenue to act on their worlds.

One group of students created the following video about the term deus ex machina.  In the video, not only do they resolve the conflict with an improbable event, (the moon falls from the sky and crushes the policeman) but they speak out against prejudice against non-traditional relationships through the interspecies relationship they represent in the video.

We posted all of the videos up to a shared private Google + site where the students could view and comment on one another's work.  The videos became the literature of the class and one of the avenues by which the students could see the literary devices in action.  They were also able to see one another acting on the world through the videos and comment on that aspect of the work.

For me, all of this hacking, making and learning comes back full circle to the notion of author's purpose and why the concept is so key to what we do in ELA classrooms - making our words.

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