Sunday, November 25, 2012

Online Chat

Since I wasn't able to make our class' first online chat due to my lack of power, this was my first experience.  Overall I have to say that it was a success and recommendable.

The directions to install the Blackboard IM were extremely easy to follow and a quick process, so no complaints in that department. It is also nice to know that it works with all of the classes that the student is enrolled in so we can recommend it to other professors.

The fish bowl technique was good. It gave everyone an opportunity to talk and time in between to collect their thoughts and get their information ready to discuss. I also know that personally, in class, I tend to get a little shy and hold back on my opinion. With the online chat, I was able to throw out all my opinions without worrying whether or not it was good enough or if I would even get a chance to talk or that all eyes were on me. It ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak without the added pressure that everyone is watching and judging your answer. I also liked that the chat made time fly like no other. Sometimes the class can lag and with the chat, it went by remarkably fast.

The only complaint I had was that it was a bit hard to keep up with everyone. Since it is a group chat, IMs were flying in at lightspeed, and my eyes were having trouble keeping up and reading everything.

The class chat is perfect for an online class, a blended class or even a class that meets in person. I know that it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be on time and in class each day so this is a quick and easy alternative to the regular in class discussion/lecture. Not to mention that I'm sure most of my classmates would be thrilled to wake up to an email addressing a class meet up for an online one! These chats are also helpful for group project meetings and discussions and especially  literature circles. With lit circles, this would be beneficial because at the click of a button discussions can be expanded through links, definitions and even videos pertaining to that specific novel.

As I said above, overall, the online class was a wonderful experience. I feel that it helped students come out of their shells, keep the flow of the discussion and time going well and it is beneficial to numerous projects and class types. We should have more in the future! :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Autobio & Memoir

This week we were assigned to read Beach's chapter 7: "How do I Help Students Understand What They Are Reading" along with our assigned autobio/memoir, I chose Ellie Wiesel's Night.

Night is about Eliezer, a Jewish teen from Transylvania. Things get out of hand when his teacher returns after getting deported with a horrific story of the Nazi's that took over his train and assassinated everyone on board. Unfortunately, no one believes Mr. Moshe. In the Spring, the Nazis take over Hungary, forcing the townspeople of Transylvania into ghettos. Soon after, everyone is forced onto cattle cars like a bunch of animals where the real nightmare begins. After being split up by the rest of their family, never to see them again, Eleizer and his father are sent to work, they are scarred when noticing a horrendous fire pit where the Nazi's are burning innocent babies alive. Eleizer, a once religious and hopeful teen loses his faith in God and humanity as he lives through the torture and humiliation around him. The once close knit community also shattered. Once again his camp is evacuated and forced to a deadly march, only twelve out of one hundred surviving. Soon, his father, the only man he was able to depend on and stick with dies, leaving Eleizer to fend for his own, a job he does until the U.S liberates them in April of 1945.

Night is an extremely touching and somewhat difficult novel to read, bringing me to the Beach chapter. It is important for students to understand the topic of this novel prior to its reading especially with the Jewish terminology throughout the book, that was a bit confusing to me as a reader knowing nothing about it. I think students would have to prepare to read this graphic book after being taught about the Holocaust  One activity I suggest is watching the Anne Frank memoir and even taking a field trip to the Holocaust museum would be a thoughtful hands on approach for the students to get to know the basis of this story before jumping into Night. Another way would be to have the students try to relate to the aspect of discrimination, possibly even abuse: if they've experienced it or know anyone whose been involved. I think this would be an eye opening unit, making the students humbler, more grateful for what is in front of them (perfect for the week of Thanksgiving!) and more compassionate with others around them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of Pure Ignorance

I read the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie in one sitting! I was so absorbed in the story and the graphics of this novel. I haven’t been exposed to history about Native Americans so this was an eye-opening and a very sad smack in the face. This part fiction part autobiography part graphic novel had me laughing, crying and furious within the first few pages. It was so emotional and enrapturing. To read such a sad story and learn about some of the ignorance that people had towards Junior was heart breaking.

Of course, not to my surprise, Alexie’s response to Gurdon’s article had me huffing and puffing just as much as his novel, so much that I’m not even sure where to begin! I felt that Gordon was speaking one-sidedly about the issue of vulgar and inappropriate literature. Gurdon failed to realize the truth that these novels bring to the table. All of the issues portrayed; rape, abuse, drugs etc. are part of some teens’ everyday lives. I feel like to hide this portion of reality is equal to promoting ignorance. I have never come across or even heard of a young adult novel that promotes and glorifies these issues. In fact, most young adult literature that I have come across teach valuable lessons and have respectable themes that show the consequences of these issues and help readers to not chose the wrong path. Gurdon is telling us to dismiss these issues, but ignoring problems won’t make them disappear, they won’t make a teen suffer less, and it won’t bring back the innocence that has already been taken away.

What I appreciated Alexie noting is how these novels help to fight the monsters in teens’ lives. When someone is going through such a rough path all by themselves, it’s nice to have literature to escape to. Alexie also talked about the “seemingly privileged,” a term I defined as those who have not been exposed to the harshness of reality, and those who have not had their “innocence” torn away from them. In class we discussed the possibility of this pertaining to social class. Of course I am a firm believer that money won’t solve your problems. The rich are just as likely to experience tormenting and traumatic events as someone from a lower class.

A question many of us had trouble finding a solution to be whether or not it should be the teacher’s initiative to bring these issues into the classroom. From my own experience, I’d have to say yes. In my family, drugs, alcohol, sex etc. was never talked about. Maybe it had to do with the old fashioned generation my parents came from, but these issues were never brought up. Fortunately, none of us had to ever come across these, but it isn’t to say others won’t. I think teachers should aspire to have their students understand these issues, if not tolerate the students who do come into contact with them. Otherwise, I feel that student’s will grow up ignorant, na├»ve, and oblivious to what can potentially happen to them or around them. We need to teach our student’s to empathize with others instead of ridicule or look down upon them, and creating stereotypes, especially if their parents are in denial or ignoring potential hazards.

In chapter 8, Appleman discusses how minority students are able to understand and learn from literary theory just as well as majority students. Because of their social class, minority students are able to relate more to literature. In fact, many students use their lives to relate to literature, and when controversial literature is taught in the classroom, it can help all students to appreciate their lives and empathize with students who do have to go through these matters. We may not be able to put an end to it, but we can at least come together and give support to those who do experience it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Report Alternative

Blog prompt: Discuss the process of crafting your Book Report Alternative. Did you think it was a successful activity? Why/why not? How might you adapt it? And the all-important question: how do you know this assignment is not “fluff”? It might be helpful to think about the question, “Just what is academic writing anyway?”
Crafting a prompt and project for the book report alternative was somewhat difficult. I had to create something up that was academic that would lead to an aesthetically pleasing project to the audience (me).
My purpose was to invoke thoughtful thinking and ideas. I didn't just want to have a list of crucial events, or sway the audience to thinking there was only one correct set of answers. This is why I had to include convincing reasoning for each event/person, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. This helped to inspire me and think outside of the usual chronological order of events in a story.
To me I think it was a successful activity. I chose Ella Enchanted, a fun and fantasy based novel, perfect for an adolescent. To go with the theme I chose to make a poster of what I considered to be the most influential events and people, exaggerating the charcters' features where I could to emphasize their roles in the novel and to help get the point across. To keep my poster from being just an art project, I wrote up a seperate paper explaining why I chose each aspect. It was fun getting into the creative side of education since I am used to solely writing papers, this was a nice fresh breath of air.
I found this book report alternative to be academic because it involves you having to read the novel. You also had to take time to look at each character and event and invokes further thinking as to why it is placed in Ella's path. I had to look further into the symbols and imagery used to help put myself in Ella's shoes. In the end, my project is humourous and creative and I believe it has convincing reasons attached to each picture.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Readicide by Kelly Gallagher last week was a decent read. Gallagher had some points I agreed with, and some that I didn't. While he had some activities and tips worthy of experimenting in the classroom, his repetitiveness made me want to throw the book out the window, causing me to read it in increments in order to tolerate its monotony.

One of the ideas I particularly enjoyed was that of not chopping up or over teaching literature when teaching it to the students. I understand that teachers have a set curriculum to comply with and an endless list of standards and expectations to meet, but it is still important to teach the book as a whole. I’ve had teachers who could never find a balance between cutting up the novel and interrupting us every five minutes to teach us the meaning of every word on each page. Both which led us to not understanding the key points.

I feel like this form of teaching would only teach students to hate reading, another point Gallagher mentioned. What we should want to accomplish as teachers is to have our students want to become lifelong readers. If we over teach or chop up books we will only give them reason to loathe and  misunderstand the value of what is otherwise known as good literature.

One great tip mentioned was to find the value of a novel and find ways to relate it to our students' lives and modern day society. This would help students to connect to classical and even new-age literature. It will help them to appreciate the value of books and accept the lessons they can teach them.

I didn’t agree with Gallagher’s strong belief in diving up 50% to both academic and recreational readings. Like I mentioned before, teachers have the responsibility to teach all assigned material along with what students need to know for standardized testing. I don’t think it is realistic for a teacher to set aside that much time for recreational reading. Gallagher should keep in mind that students have hectic schedules to abide by, activities, sports and usually seven separate classes, not to mention college prepping. I think 75% or 80% academic reading and 25%-20% recreational reading would be more appropriate for students in secondary school.

Gallagher also mentioned standing up for what you want in the classroom, whether it was by going all out to the media or approaching your superiors and administration, he believed that this was a valid act to execute. I however, believe the opposite. I feel like Gallagher’s novel was meant for new and up and coming teachers. For him to suggest making decisions as strong as those when we would barely have our foot in the door or any seniority or guarantee to our careers is completely absurd. Teachers during this period in their career are inexperienced and unfamiliar with teaching; they shouldn’t be instructed to do something that could rile up the wrong kind of attention that has the potential to put their jobs on the line.

Readicide was also extremely repetitive. I felt that the book could have been half its length if he hadn’t chosen to summarize and repeat certain ideas over and over. All he accomplished with that was to have me uninterested and almost bored to death. I understood his views the first time he mentioned them, there was no need to tediously repeat as much as he did.

Other than a few things, to me, Readicide was a good read and I recommend it to those majoring in the education field as well as to students. Gallagher brings up several important issues relevant to teachers while explaining tips and tricks that students could also learn from that have the potential to help them succeed in school. Overall, I enjoyed the book.