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May 13, 2008

Music/History/Education

About the time our history/music assignment was due, I found a terrific PBS documentary about Woody Guthrie. I decided to combine that piece - along with the Tom Joad song (i.e., Guthrie's plot song for Grapes of Wrath) to re-create and enhance the "ballad" study. Previously, I had used ballads to study narrative poetry - sampling old Scottish ballad poetry, old American songs like "Oh, My Darlin' Clementine," "The Ballad of New Orleans," "The Ballad of the Green Berets," and ballads which the students would bring in. I have not previously used the "Tom Joad" song, but I have had students create and perform their own "plot" songs for some of the literature units we study.

Using the "Tom Joad" song (lyrics below) and the life of Woody Guthrie as a starting point, I would like to develop some cross-curriculum work with the American History instructor. In collaborative groups, it would be valuable to ask the students to choose decades in American History, research the songs which promoted social/political change, and then create their own lyrics as they interpret an historic/political/social movement or event. Either as background to this unit (or as an extension of it) students can explore the use of ballads in popular movies and documentaries. [In collaborative groups, I think an excellent expanded project would be the study of folk song writers/performers. The Weisman's exhibit on Bob Dylan - winter 2007 - would be an excellent example.]

One other idea...instead of selecting a decade to study and looking at national trends and news events, I think that creating ballads about the local community would be another way to allow the students to work with the idea of verbal image and melody to bring across the emotion of events in their own community. The Dakota Conflict of 1862 and the German POW camps at Flandreau State Park during WWII would be two topics with which we could start. A field trip to the Brown County Historical Society in our community could acquaint students with the ample resources available to them for reading and viewing.

Here are the lyrics to the Tom Joad song by Woody Guthrie.

TOM JOAD
Woody Guthrie


Tom Joad got out of the old McAlester Pen
There he got his parole
After four long years on a man killing charge
Tom Joad come a walking down the road, poor boy
Tom Joad come a walking down the road

Tom Joad he met a truck driving man
There he caught him a ride He said: "I just got loose from
McAlester's Pen On a charge called Homicide, A charge called
Homicide."

That truck rolled away in a cloud of dust,
Tommy turned his face toward home,
He met Preacher Casey and they had a little drink,
But they found that his family they was gone,
He found that his family they was gone.
He found his mother's old fashion shoe
Found his daddy's hat.
And he found little Muley and Muley said:
"They've been tractored out by the cats,
They've been tractored out by the cats."

Tom Joad walked down to the neighbors farm
Found his family.
They took Preacher Casey and loaded in a car
And his mother said "We got to git away."
His mother said 'We got to get away."

Now the twelve of the Joads made a mighty heavy load
But Grandpa Joad did cry.
He picked up a handful of land in his hand
Said: "I'm stayin' with the farm till I die.
Yes, I'm stayin' with my farm till I die."

They fed him short ribs and coffee and soothing syrup
And Grandpa Joad did die.
They buried Grandpa Joad by the side of the road,
Buried Grandma on the California side,
They buried Grandma on the California side.

They stood on a Mountain and they looked to the West And it
looked like the promised land. That bright green valley with a
river running through, There was work for every single hand, they
thought, There was work for every single hand.
The Joads rolled away to Jungle Camp, There they cooked a stew.
And the hungry little kids of the Jungle Camp Said: "We'd like to
have some too." Said: "We'd like to have some too."

Now a Deputy Sheriff fired loose at a man
Shot a woman in the back.
Before he could take his aim again
Preacher Casey dropped him in his track.
Preacher Casey dropped him in his track.

They handcuffed Casey and they took him to Jail
And then he got away.
And he met Tom Joad on the old river bridge,
And these few words he did say, poor boy,
These few words he did say.

"I preached for the Lord a mighty long time
Preached about the rich and the poor.
Us workin' folks got to all get together,
Cause we ain't got a chance anymore.
We ain't got a chance anymore."

The Deputies come and Tom and Casey run
To the bridge where the water run down.
But the vigilante they hit Casey with a club,
They laid Preacher Casey on the ground.
They laid Preacher Casey on the ground.

Tom Joad he grabbed that Deputy's club
Hit him over the head.
Tom Joad took flight in the dark rainy night
A Deputy and a Preacher lying dead, two men,
A Deputy and a Preacher lying dead.

Tom run back where his mother was asleep
He woke her up out of bed.
Then he kissed goodbye to the mother that he loved
Said what Preacher Casey said, Tom Joad,
He said what Preacher Casey said.

"Ever'body might be just one big soul
Well it looks that a way to me.
Everywhere that you look in the day or night
That's where I'm gonna be, Ma,
That's where I'm gonna be.

Wherever little children are hungry and cry
Wherever people ain't free.
Wherever men are fightin' for their rights
That's where I'm gonna be, Ma.
That's where I'm a gonna be.
___________________________________________________________________________________________
language: Which words draw on the emotions of those who listen to this ballad?
voice: Who is speaking, and how does that person come to life in the words of this song?
repetition: What is repeated in each stanza? Why is that effective?
imagery: Select two images which stand out in these lyrics. Explain why.

Application of some of the CENTER FOR MEDIA LITERACY deconstruction questions:

Who created this story? Who created this song? What is the message of each?
How might different people understand the message of this song?
What values are represented in the lyrics of this song?
What can you tell about the narrator? What does he stand for?

I am looking forward to incorporating more music - analysis and composition!

AM

May 12, 2008

Television News...

After taking a thorough look at Kate Brigham's MA thesis project entitled "Decoding Visual Language Elements in New Content," I was motivated to develop some skill lessons for my 9-12 media units. I'll record here some of Brigham's points which I would like to use with my juniors and seniors.

[katebrighman.com/thesis]

Brigham's analysis of Ann Marie Seward Barry's "reusing" of the Branden and Horten material on visual literacy helped me to understand a way to begin presenting this material to students. To define the term visual literacy as "the ability to understand and to use images, including the ability to think, learn, and express oneself in terms of images," includes, (as Brigham packages it for us,) a two-tiered concept. The visually literate are aware of the logic, emotion, and attitudes suggested and possess the ability to produce meaningful images for others. To help high school students with these skills implies that they can not only analyze what they watch, but also produce (with intent) their own persuasive visual "documents." I appreciated Brigham's comments about the brain's amygdala - the brain's adaptation of light, shadow, and color - and the importance of repetition. I'd like to look more closely at the science of that. // Brigham began to talk about visual intelligence, using the H.G. Wells' radio play "The War of the Worlds," and I was more intrigued. Brigham writes: "Barry says that visual literacy implies not only recognizing that what we see may not be reality, but also breaking through the merely apparent to understand that what we see may have been engineered as well" (Brigham 68). Helping students look for those visual (and audible) clues - as well as helping them plan to incorporate their own clues in their own produced pieces - would be graspable and teachable skills. I thought the example about the Leslie Stahl work on Reagan (good pictures, bad messages) made an astounding point - that the audience doesn't really hear the bad words if the good pictures can completely capture their senses. The symbols take over. // Brigham's camera angle comments reviewed the work of Chapter 3 in our textbook, and watching the news footage for low and high angle shots is proving to be helpful. // Also helpful from Brigham's work was the "agency vs. structure" information and her analysis of the use of the word "terrorist" instead of others on the continuum. // Finally, her analysis and use of some of John Hartley's work from Understanding News was extremely practical to me. Useful were the definitions of 1) frequency, 2) threshold, 3) unambiguity, 4) meaningfulness, 5) consonance, 6) unexpectedness, 7) continuity, 8) composition, and the "extras," 9) elite nation news, 10) elite person news, 11) personilization, and 12) negativity. My asking students - for example -to study at local television news, BBC news, and MPR radio news will allow for a worthwhile conversation of Hartley's conclusions (as cited by Brigham) about how a "news organization sets up parameters for what events, people, and countries are newsworthy...a culture and a society projects a sense of what it considers important and valuable." Thinking about how this simple idea could help formulate the visual products students create to "tell" their school's story fascinates me. We will, I am sure, have some valuable conversations about how what one student views as "important and valuable" to include in telling a story about school climate and activity could differ greatly from the next student's view. I believe that will be a good starting point in planning material selection - no matter what the focus.// The "Framing, Focusing, Realizing, and Closing" information in Brigham's work also provided practical, helpful information for developing this skill segment for juniors and seniors.

Local News Analysis: KSTP 5, 10:00 P.M. [Sunday]

Teaser comments leading up to the first story ... 1) high speed chase in Minneapolis, 2) three die in plane crash while on a medical mission, 3) MN is having a problem with false ID cards...

Lead story ... another assault on the U of MN campus [ 2.30 minutes] ... story included interviews with three U of M female students who live in dorms, use of the language "tailgating" - allowing others to slip into the dorm behind someone else who has swiped a pass card, and a comment about the one million dollars the U spends on security each year

High speed chase story ... [2.00 minutes] ends in violent crash, footage mostly of mothers and children in the neighborhood where the crash occurred and of the tow truck hauling away the damaged vehicles... interview with a couple whose car was rear-ended during the chase...

Violent home invasion in Burnsville... [45 seconds] bloody man goes to neighbor's for help after surprising invaders in his garage...

U of Wisconsin, Madison Hospital helicopter crashes in La Crosse on a life-saving mission...shows wreckage, shows pictures of the three medical personnel who died in the crash, shows footage of helicopters from North Memorial and Mayo systems while concluding the segment with some facts about the use of helicopters in medical missions in the region... [3.00 minutes]

State government story [ 30 seconds ] about "no news" progress of the on-going legislative session...

Governor Pawlenty [10 seconds] fishing and "top-candidate" for McCain's V.P. choice...

Tornado teaser... repeat of the ID card story about "duplicate names"... and an On-The-Road ad for a story about Haiti...

Commercial break: 1) Wealth Enhancement, 2) Northland Ford Trucks, 3) an ad for the news itself - featuring the investigation about the crash that killed three children on a Cottonwood bus in late Feb.

When the news resumed... the story began with a focus on the Hispanic woman who was using a false driver's license when she hit the school bus in Cottonwood in February... feature story then went on to talk about the 36 cases of ID card problems in the state... Worthington, MN, was featured... investigators went door-to-door to Hispanic households in Worthington, MN, asking people if they knew "name" who was listed "at this address"... this feature concluded with a Caucasian investigator talking with the Worthington Chief of Police and a Representative from the MN State Department... the Worthington law officials claiming they have reported the problem to the state, the state reporting it has not been told... [5:00 minutes - longest story on tonight's news] ... clear opportunity for conversation about ethnicity...

Tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Georgia [30 seconds] ... footage included wreckage and one 10 second interview...

Myanmar (Burma) hurricane comment about the death toll and the internal hindrances causing aid from around the world not to be helping fast enough... [10 seconds] ...

Bridge repair in MN [ 30 seconds] ... lane closures will slow traffic tomorrow...

Minnesota sesquitennial celebration ... [1:00 minute] ... footage depicted Native Americans with drums protesting what happened to the Native American population during the time when Minnesota was receiving its statehood... footage of Mr. Bellecourt was shown to follow-up the announcement of the protesting... mention was made that the governor spoke... no footage... AGAIN, clearly an opportunity presents itself to discuss ethnicity...

[16 minutes were used for news stories]

[Weather information followed for 4 minutes.]

A sports' teaser preceded a lengthy set of commercials: 1) Vote 2008, 2) Slumberland, 3) Discount Tires - Michelin, 4) Target, 5) Qwest Business, 6) Slumberland - repeat of the same commercial, 8) Subaru.

Sports began at 10:23. Twins, one minute...men's golf, 45 seconds... women's golf, 25 seconds...
hockey, 15 seconds...

Final ads: 1) HOM, 2) GMC trucks, 3) Mills Fleet Farm, 4) North Dakota tourism, - featuring Native American dancers (contrast to the local story of protest,) 5) AARP.

News ended with an ad for the Jason Davis (upcoming) report from Haiti in On-The-Road.

All but one of the reporters and the news anchors were Caucasian in this news program. The choice of stories demonstrated Kate Brigham's "terms." The ideas I have for how I will use a "news-watching-survey activity" will be included in my final project.

AM

Television News...

After taking a thorough look at Kate Brigham's MA thesis project entitled "Decoding Visual Language Elements in New Content," I was motivated to develop some skill lessons for my 9-12 media units. I'll record here some of Brigham's points which I would like to use with my juniors and seniors.

[katebrighman.com/thesis]

Brigham's analysis of Ann Marie Seward Barry's "reusing" of the Branden and Horten material on visual literacy helped me to understand a way to begin presenting this material to students. To define the term visual literacy as "the ability to understand and to use images, including the ability to think, learn, and express oneself in terms of images," includes, (as Brigham packages it for us,) a two-tiered concept. The visually literate are aware of the logic, emotion, and attitudes suggested and possess the ability to produce meaningful images for others. To help high school students with these skills implies that they can not only analyze what they watch, but also produce (with intent) their own persuasive visual "documents." I appreciated Brigham's comments about the brain's amygdala - the brain's adaptation of light, shadow, and color - and the importance of repetition. I'd like to look more closely at the science of that. // Brigham began to talk about visual intelligence, using the H.G. Wells' radio play "The War of the Worlds," and I was more intrigued. Brigham writes: "Barry says that visual literacy implies not only recognizing that what we see may not be reality, but also breaking through the merely apparent to understand that what we see may have been engineered as well" (Brigham 68). Helping students look for those visual (and audible) clues - as well as helping them plan to incorporate their own clues in their own produced pieces - would be graspable and teachable skills. I thought the example about the Leslie Stahl work on Reagan (good pictures, bad messages) made an astounding point - that the audience doesn't really hear the bad words if the good pictures can completely capture their senses. The symbols take over. // Brigham's camera angle comments reviewed the work of Chapter 3 in our textbook, and watching the news footage for low and high angle shots is proving to be helpful. // Also helpful from Brigham's work was the "agency vs. structure" information and her analysis of the use of the word "terrorist" instead of others on the continuum. // Finally, her analysis and use of some of John Hartley's work from Understanding News was extremely practical to me. Useful were the definitions of 1) frequency, 2) threshold, 3) unambiguity, 4) meaningfulness, 5) consonance, 6) unexpectedness, 7) continuity, 8) composition, and the "extras," 9) elite nation news, 10) elite person news, 11) personilization, and 12) negativity. My asking students - for example -to study at local television news, BBC news, and MPR radio news will allow for a worthwhile conversation of Hartley's conclusions (as cited by Brigham) about how a "news organization sets up parameters for what events, people, and countries are newsworthy...a culture and a society projects a sense of what it considers important and valuable." Thinking about how this simple idea could help formulate the visual products students create to "tell" their school's story fascinates me. We will, I am sure, have some valuable conversations about how what one student views as "important and valuable" to include in telling a story about school climate and activity could differ greatly from the next student's view. I believe that will be a good starting point in planning material selection - no matter what the focus.// The "Framing, Focusing, Realizing, and Closing" information in Brigham's work also provided practical, helpful information for developing this skill segment for juniors and seniors.

Local News Analysis: KSTP 5, 10:00 P.M. [Sunday]

Teaser comments leading up to the first story ... 1) high speed chase in Minneapolis, 2) three die in plane crash while on a medical mission, 3) MN is having a problem with false ID cards...

Lead story ... another assault on the U of MN campus [ 2.30 minutes] ... story included interviews with three U of M female students who live in dorms, use of the language "tailgating" - allowing others to slip into the dorm behind someone else who has swiped a pass card, and a comment about the one million dollars the U spends on security each year

High speed chase story ... [2.00 minutes] ends in violent crash, footage mostly of mothers and children in the neighborhood where the crash occurred and of the tow truck hauling away the damaged vehicles... interview with a couple whose car was rear-ended during the chase...

Violent home invasion in Burnsville... [45 seconds] bloody man goes to neighbor's for help after surprising invaders in his garage...

U of Wisconsin, Madison Hospital helicopter crashes in La Crosse on a life-saving mission...shows wreckage, shows pictures of the three medical personnel who died in the crash, shows footage of helicopters from North Memorial and Mayo systems while concluding the segment with some facts about the use of helicopters in medical missions in the region... [3.00 minutes]

State government story [ 30 seconds ] about "no news" progress of the on-going legislative session...

Governor Pawlenty [10 seconds] fishing and "top-candidate" for McCain's V.P. choice...

Tornado teaser... repeat of the ID card story about "duplicate names"... and an On-The-Road ad for a story about Haiti...

Commercial break: 1) Wealth Enhancement, 2) Northland Ford Trucks, 3) an ad for the news itself - featuring the investigation about the crash that killed three children on a Cottonwood bus in late Feb.

When the news resumed... the story began with a focus on the Hispanic woman who was using a false driver's license when she hit the school bus in Cottonwood in February... feature story then went on to talk about the 36 cases of ID card problems in the state... Worthington, MN, was featured... investigators went door-to-door to Hispanic households in Worthington, MN, asking people if they knew "name" who was listed "at this address"... this feature concluded with a Caucasian investigator talking with the Worthington Chief of Police and a Representative from the MN State Department... the Worthington law officials claiming they have reported the problem to the state, the state reporting it has not been told... [5:00 minutes - longest story on tonight's news] ... clear opportunity for conversation about ethnicity...

Tornadoes in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Georgia [30 seconds] ... footage included wreckage and one 10 second interview...

Myanmar (Burma) hurricane comment about the death toll and the internal hindrances causing aid from around the world not to be helping fast enough... [10 seconds] ...

Bridge repair in MN [ 30 seconds] ... lane closures will slow traffic tomorrow...

Minnesota sesquitennial celebration ... [1:00 minute] ... footage depicted Native Americans with drums protesting what happened to the Native American population during the time when Minnesota was receiving its statehood... footage of Mr. Bellecourt was shown to follow-up the announcement of the protesting... mention was made that the governor spoke... no footage... AGAIN, clearly an opportunity presents itself to discuss ethnicity...

[16 minutes were used for news stories]

[Weather information followed for 4 minutes.]

A sports' teaser preceded a lengthy set of commercials: 1) Vote 2008, 2) Slumberland, 3) Discount Tires - Michelin, 4) Target, 5) Qwest Business, 6) Slumberland - repeat of the same commercial, 8) Subaru.

Sports began at 10:23. Twins, one minute...men's golf, 45 seconds... women's golf, 25 seconds...
hockey, 15 seconds...

Final ads: 1) HOM, 2) GMC trucks, 3) Mills Fleet Farm, 4) North Dakota tourism, - featuring Native American dancers (contrast to the local story of protest,) 5) AARP.

News ended with an ad for the Jason Davis (upcoming) report from Haiti in On-The-Road.

All but one of the reporters and the news anchors were Caucasian in this news program. The choice of stories demonstrated Kate Brigham's "terms." The ideas I have for how I will use a "news-watching-survey activity" will be included in my final project.

AM

Media Representations...

Selecting a topic for my media representation was not difficult; I wanted to select a profession which seems to have a much-maligned image. I chose lawyers. I was astounded by the amount of information I found on-line. Originally, I considered analyzing literature and movies, when I found such orderly and accessible lists and links on-line. Then, I realized that the amount of material I had located was voluminous, so I excused myself from that - rationalizing that most of us know Atticus Finch and Clarence Darrow. I was satisfied with my decision to narrow my search down to looking at "lawyer television commercials." (It became legal for lawyers to advertise via television commercials came no more than about seventeen - twenty years ago.)

Wanting to find more than just local and state-wide ads, I turned to YouTube for fodder. It did not disappoint. Here is a sampling of what I found.

1) A lawyer beginning his ad by telling a popular lawyer joke to break the ice before asking clients to call him for personal injury suits.

2) A divorce lawyer in a southern state using such derogatory language about spouses as he angled for divorce clients that I thought the ad was a "parody." It wasn't!

3) Lawyer ads using accident scenes as their backdrop. Some using the firm's legal library as the backdrop. Some using gavels or the scales of justice.

The reading research and the viewing which I did on this topic convinced me that the general public is very negative about lawyers, judges, and the legal system in this country. Currently popular lawyer dramas certainly promote the negative view of the judicial system. While some would argue that there is the occasional "modern" movie which demonstrates the power of a good attorney to show our justice system working, (A Few Good Men,) the Atticus Finch image which Harper Lee lovingly created as a tribute to her own father is NOT the image which the media, television, and personal ads convey. I looked at many ads, and I felt my findings supported / promoted the negative image of "ambulance chasers." The ads I looked at certainly, and ironically, did.

AM

Media Representations...

Selecting a topic for my media representation was not difficult; I wanted to select a profession which seems to have a much-maligned image. I chose lawyers. I was astounded by the amount of information I found on-line. Originally, I considered analyzing literature and movies, when I found such orderly and accessible lists and links on-line. Then, I realized that the amount of material I had located was voluminous, so I excused myself from that - rationalizing that most of us know Atticus Finch and Clarence Darrow. I was satisfied with my decision to narrow my search down to looking at "lawyer television commercials." (It became legal for lawyers to advertise via television commercials came no more than about seventeen - twenty years ago.)

Wanting to find more than just local and state-wide ads, I turned to YouTube for fodder. It did not disappoint. Here is a sampling of what I found.

1) A lawyer beginning his ad by telling a popular lawyer joke to break the ice before asking clients to call him for personal injury suits.

2) A divorce lawyer in a southern state using such derogatory language about spouses as he angled for divorce clients that I thought the ad was a "parody." It wasn't!

3) Lawyer ads using accident scenes as their backdrop. Some using the firm's legal library as the backdrop. Some using gavels or the scales of justice.

The reading research and the viewing which I did on this topic convinced me that the general public is very negative about lawyers, judges, and the legal system in this country. Currently popular lawyer dramas certainly promote the negative view of the judicial system. While some would argue that there is the occasional "modern" movie which demonstrates the power of a good attorney to show our justice system working, (A Few Good Men,) the Atticus Finch image which Harper Lee lovingly created as a tribute to her own father is NOT the image which the media, television, and personal ads convey. I looked at many ads, and I felt my findings supported / promoted the negative image of "ambulance chasers." The ads I looked at certainly, and ironically, did.

AM

Critical Lenses...

Having read some of what Deborah Appleman's books have to say about these literary theories, I was pleased during this semester to be able to meet her and hear her speak to the CIS Literature teachers. I have been privileged to attend the CIS Lit. workshops this year in anticipation of beginning to teach the CIS Lit. course at my high school next fall.

I have also been able to gain from Toni McNaron's lectures on these theories. When I returned to the U to begin the literacy program, one of my first courses brought me into the blinding light - i.e., I had so much catching up to do when it came to literary theories. Much of my "interim" graduate work to become a reading specialist and a media generalist had not engaged me in literary theories. I am so pleased - and pedaling as fast as I can - to have more of these tools for discussion with my literature students.

I want to begin by talking about two that "fit" very well with the work of this semester in my own classroom. I find post-colonial very appealing in the units of multi-cultural literature which are growing in our curriculum. Because I have posted some information on this lens in a previous blog, I will speak about it here in more general terms. Because I teach survey courses in British and American Literature, I am finding this lens very useful when it comes to helping my students look at non-classic literature which brings a beneficial view to selection from the Western Literary Canon.

I am going to "stretch" this a bit, here's an example. I have been in touch with an author I would like to bring here next year for an artist-in-residence program. She and I want to work with the students to use art, history, and story. My idea about the post-colonial theory is to study the history of New Ulm and to examine a non-fiction account of the Dakota Conflict written by a Catholic priest in the community at the time, a journal account of the Conflict, written by a thirteen year-old German farm boy who was taken into captivity by the Dakota briefly at the time, and the newspaper reports of the Dakota Conflict from 1862 and since. (I know that the Brown County Historical Society has a full array of documents - including newspaper reports of anniversary remembrances of the event documenting how the language and the views have changed over the decades. In exploring how the post-colonial lens requires us to examine language, cultural differences, audience, voice, and so much more, I think we can develop a multi-genre, multi-media look at what happened when the European culture came to this area of Minnesota where the Dakota people lived - to the community we now call New Ulm.

Finally, I have found that female authors such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, provide an excellent opportunity for looking at feminist theory and discussing gender roles and societal expectations. Looking at the depth of conversation these lenses can bring sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen year-olds into does at times amaze me. Then, I step back and realize that they are eager and ready for those opportunities to analyze. I have learned so much over the past two years in my U of MN courses about how my own identity was formed by place, class, ethnicity, and gender. This course has served to identify so many resources (alternatives to print) which can be used to bring students into conversation about feminist theory. Television ads and magazine ads go a long way to convince us that our awareness is not heightened as much as we think it is.

AM

Critical Lenses...

Having read some of what Deborah Appleman's books have to say about these literary theories, I was pleased during this semester to be able to meet her and hear her speak to the CIS Literature teachers. I have been privileged to attend the CIS Lit. workshops this year in anticipation of beginning to teach the CIS Lit. course at my high school next fall.

I have also been able to gain from Toni McNaron's lectures on these theories. When I returned to the U to begin the literacy program, one of my first courses brought me into the blinding light - i.e., I had so much catching up to do when it came to literary theories. Much of my "interim" graduate work to become a reading specialist and a media generalist had not engaged me in literary theories. I am so pleased - and pedaling as fast as I can - to have more of these tools for discussion with my literature students.

I want to begin by talking about two that "fit" very well with the work of this semester in my own classroom. I find post-colonial very appealing in the units of multi-cultural literature which are growing in our curriculum. Because I have posted some information on this lens in a previous blog, I will speak about it here in more general terms. Because I teach survey courses in British and American Literature, I am finding this lens very useful when it comes to helping my students look at non-classic literature which brings a beneficial view to selection from the Western Literary Canon.

I am going to "stretch" this a bit, here's an example. I have been in touch with an author I would like to bring here next year for an artist-in-residence program. She and I want to work with the students to use art, history, and story. My idea about the post-colonial theory is to study the history of New Ulm and to examine a non-fiction account of the Dakota Conflict written by a Catholic priest in the community at the time, a journal account of the Conflict, written by a thirteen year-old German farm boy who was taken into captivity by the Dakota briefly at the time, and the newspaper reports of the Dakota Conflict from 1862 and since. (I know that the Brown County Historical Society has a full array of documents - including newspaper reports of anniversary remembrances of the event documenting how the language and the views have changed over the decades. In exploring how the post-colonial lens requires us to examine language, cultural differences, audience, voice, and so much more, I think we can develop a multi-genre, multi-media look at what happened when the European culture came to this area of Minnesota where the Dakota people lived - to the community we now call New Ulm.

Finally, I have found that female authors such as Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, provide an excellent opportunity for looking at feminist theory and discussing gender roles and societal expectations. Looking at the depth of conversation these lenses can bring sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen year-olds into does at times amaze me. Then, I step back and realize that they are eager and ready for those opportunities to analyze. I have learned so much over the past two years in my U of MN courses about how my own identity was formed by place, class, ethnicity, and gender. This course has served to identify so many resources (alternatives to print) which can be used to bring students into conversation about feminist theory. Television ads and magazine ads go a long way to convince us that our awareness is not heightened as much as we think it is.

AM

May 11, 2008

Film and Video Technologies ...

I found the tables in Chapter 3 of Dr. Beach's book Teaching Media Literacy . Com to be very clear and helpful, and they provided an excellent starting place for me as I pondered how to teach film technique information to my juniors and seniors. I recall taking a screen writing course a few years ago and thinking how "out of my element" I was! My viewing skills grew a great deal in that course, but it wasn't really until this semester that I began to look at the practical aspects of trying to give the students terms and techniques which they could utilize for interpreting scenes. I found the material easy to grasp, at least easy to begin to grasp. As I practiced analyzing the scenes I looked at for this course, I was pleased to see how much analysis could be done on simple, short segments of film.

Of course, I had to linger a little over my dismay as I experienced the feeling that I had not been taught very much in my methods classes about how to teach students to "view." By this I mean, I do not remember looking at literature - and then at film - and seeing "acts." From an artistic point of view, I may have sub-consciously appreciated what a director did, but until studying the terms and examining angles and various types of shots, I do not think I could have described the emotional "manipulation" being used.

Instead of analyzing a commercial shot-by-shot, I decided to take a look at some of the video versions of the British Literature I regularly teach. This decision proved to be very practical, eye-opening, and affirming. In doing so, I learned a few things about my non-video classroom. First, it's useful to teach film terminology and technique by starting with movies of some of the works of literature we study. There can be good carry-over when moving on to look at and assess commercials, documentaries, sit coms, news reports, or when creating vlogs. Second, rather than ignoring video versions of the classic works of literature, i.e., "the book is better than the movie mentality," embracing some well-done film versions of literature is motivational to the students and will allow me the opportunity to teach some skills (ask some good questions) about the director's interpretations, additions, omissions, and so on. Finally, (and this list is by no means complete,) Table 3.3 (Beach 31) is a very good carry-over to the work I do with students after taking them to view live theatre at the Guthrie or Rarig - a good transitional point to help them "link" discussion of theatre to discussion of movies.

My immediate and practical use of the information regarding teaching film techniques is exciting. Students like to create films; our school has limited curriculum that offers the opportunity; I have some activities in-the-making which will improve both my students viewing and producing skills!

As I stated earlier, I analyzed some movie scenes instead of using a commercial. I looked at scenes from Mel Gibson's Hamlet, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, and Harry Hunt's Lord of the Flies.
In all cases, the very detectable effect of camera angles was easy to grasp, full of impact, and quite astounding to me. Until now, I did not teach or have the terms for teaching these effects. The exercise was very useful, and I am going to share just a few comments about the Gibson film here.

One of the questions about Hamlet which the seniors find intriguing is the question of how much Queen Gertrude actually knew regarding Claudius' treachery. Gibson's Hamlet begins, as no print version of the play which I know of does - namely, with the burial service for Hamlet, Sr.

Scene:

Long shot of the casket of Hamlet, Sr. - the casket is bathed in light, but the foreground is very dark.

Close-up of Gertrude's grief-stricken face.

Close-up of the face of the dead Hamlet, Sr., dressed in his armor, lying in the casket.

Low-angle shot of the new king (and murdered) Claudius looking down on the mourners. He is the newly "powerful" one.

Close-up of the fist of Hamlet, Jr., grabbing a handful of dirt resolutely and turning to slowly drop the dirt upon the armor of his dead father in the casket. The background blurs, and only the hand and the dirt are in focus.

High-angle close-up shot of Hamlet, Jr., looking up, cautiously.

Low-angle close-up shot of Claudius looking down.

Another long shot follows, with the foreground dark and the lighted casket being covered in the distance while the sound crying is heard.

Low-angle shot of Claudius raising high a sword in the light is seen.

A close-up of the queen's face follows.

Another low-angle close-up of Claudius follows.

The camera returns to Gertrude's tear-streaked face. She shrinks away, looking fearful.

One close-up of Hamlet's hooded head is seen, his eyes shift from side-to-side, as if he is looking from Claudius to his mother.
____________________________________

As simple as my observations might seem, I found both this opening scene and the early scene of Apocalypse Now and Lord of the Flies to have some very easy to spot and analyze shots. While I have a great deal to learn, these activities helped me see that I could easily teach these terms and encourage the students to bring their viewing observations to the table.

It is clear that the power-struggle between Claudius and Hamlet, Jr. - and even between Gertrude and Claudius - is being set up in the opening scene of the movie. As I mentioned earlier, the students are good at combing the text for proof that Gertrude was innocent (or not innocent) of knowledge of Claudius' treachery in the murder of Hamlet, Sr. Gibson's decision to create a burial scene and bring the principal characters into the catacombs to bury Hamlet, Sr. at the beginning of the play is an excellent jumping-off point for our viewing discussion. Why does the director choose to put that scene into the movie? In the literature version, we open with the Danish guards keeping watch outside Elsinore Castle on a cold night. The implications made by Gibson in his choice of opening scene and camera angles makes for a lively, engaging way to begin comparing text and movie while learning film techniques.

Feeling green, but also feeling encouraged that I can begin to teach the tools, (while learning from and with my students,) I am glad to have encountered Chapter 3. The activities offered in the on-line companion to our textbook were also helpful. Since my students enjoy picking up a video camera, I feel I now have some tools to help them plan meaning through their choice of shots, create move powerful shots, and learn to understand the tools movie-makers use their audience members. I have a list of videos to study and prepare for a viewing unit.

AM

Role-playing

Just a word about role-playing through blogs... Through the examples and ideas of two former classmates at the U, Dr. Rick Beach, and our text for this semester, I have developed some role-playing activity ideas for next semester. Here is a brief description of one of them:

The seniors colonial / post-colonial literature unit leads them into a mighty discussion about what writers of fiction are obligated to do. We discuss issues of universality, audience, and truth. Then, I ask them to read works of fiction for comparison. Heart of Darkness (Conrad) and Things Fall Apart (Achebe) bring the students to look through the post-colonial lens and ask themselves questions about racism, cultural understanding, the importance of language, the interpretation of a work in its own time period and in the decades and centuries following, and so on. Although I did not use an on-line role-play this semester, I have plans to use one during the next post-colonial literature unit. I feel that the literature we read on white privilege and the subsequent study of Conrad's work juxtaposed with Achebe's work will lend itself well to a role-playing scenario. When assigned to read each novel, read Achebe's essay about Conrad, read some essays about white privilege, and discuss the implications of the post-colonial theories, the students engaged with energy as they then wrote their ideas about whether or not Conrad should still be read and studied. A role-play, with some of them taking the voice of author's such as Conrad and Achebe, with some taking the voice of parents, high school students, English and history teachers, and even school board members, will be, I predict, an excellent avenue to make this dialogue even more intense, more immediate, and more interactive. I look forward to trying it next semester.

AM

Blogs and Wiki's

Just a quick blog on some of the "new to us" media activities we have been doing recently. The students examined the use Jane Austen makes of letter-writing in her novels, and we had some lively blogging on that topic using a limited-to-school Moodle account. From an informal survey, I would say that 85% of them liked the novelty of blogging, but most agreed that they were surprised to find the English teacher asking them to "blog." I plan to do some further "surveying" about that next semester. Most were familiar with blogging, but none had ever been asked to blog as an assignment.

Challenged to look at the universality of Jane's themes - and aided by a very worthy DVD produced by the makers of "Becoming Jane" - THE MOVIE - the seniors examined Jane's value as an independent, critical thinker who was able to break-through some of the gender and class issues of her time period! To that end, they created Power Points, DVD's, and podcasts for the "piece of ivory" wiki.

I would like to post this to OUR wiki, but I cannot do so at this time. I am working with our school system's technology personnel to help me convert the format of some of the work the students did so I can post them. The work is good, and the technology is moving in the right direction. It's progress.

AM

A Rationale for Teaching Media Studies

As previously mentioned in this blog, I am working for formulate some media literacy curriculum for my 9-12 language arts department. I teach in a small, parochial K-12 school system in southern Minnesota. Members of the K-12 Language Arts Department have been advocating for K-12 Media Literacy Curriculum, and within the past three years, we have placed "media studies" at the top of our list "goal" list for revamping and enhancing in the high school language arts department. To date, we are revamping some of the 9-12 course offerings in language arts, and we are experiencing administrative/curriculum development changes. This is a good time for me to turn my attention toward making some recommendations about media curriculum and WHY we need to put more emphasis upon it.

Due to the size of our school and our eight-period (non-blocked) rotating schedule, we find that our students often can only fit into their schedules the required, sequential literature courses and composition / speaking courses. (9th- a survey of basic literary genres, intro. to composition, 10th - world literature, writing and speaking, 11th - American Literature, intro. to college comp., 12th British Literature, Critical Writing/Speaking... electives include novels, college composition, literature, and speech, journalism, poetry/photography) Therefore, in looking at how to enhance our media studies skill units in the language arts, I would recommend that instead of offering a course in media studies, we offer a series of sequential units and integrate them into the literature and writing courses that already exist. I have been advocating that media studies be required in all K-12 departments for several years now, and I have been hoping for administrative leadership in moving toward giving our staff the in-service training, the time and support, and the guidance to make this a top-priority goal. In some previous teaching experience, we had a "mapped" 9-12 curriculum that literally visible for the entire staff to see daily, and we had some success in "mapping out for all to see" where the technology skills and media skills were integrated into the units - across the curriculum - from grades 9-12. That style of curriculum development makes excellent sense to me; I see that as an open invitation / convenience for cross-curricular assignments and skill development opportunities to be "spotted." And, I would like to see our school system move in that direction as we polish our media studies curriculum. I truly like being in the classroom, but I also have a serious interest in curriculum development, and I believe that if we don't ask secondary teachers to build "across" the curriculum, we are cutting ourselves off at the knees. We may lament the fact that the students don't always see the connections across the curriculum, but we let ourselves off the hook when it comes to "seizing the moment" and working together across the curriculum.

Rationale for teaching media studies units in the 9-12 curriculum at CHS:

[www.ncte.org/about/gov/129117.htm]

To promote the development of a media studies curriculum for grades 9-12, ( I believe that these are applicable for most subject areas, but particularly for language arts, of course,) I would start by turning to the NCTE's recently adopted guidelines. The following information is available on-line at the web site listed above.

Toward a Definition of 21st-Century Literacies February, 2008

"Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies - from reading on-line newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms - are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the part, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to..."


[Note from AM: As I look at this, I question the use of only the words "readers and writers," unless "readers" encompasses "reading visually and reading audibly" I need to examine and compare this with other sources. I like the broad quality of this NCTE view, but I believe that for a presentation to the school board, I would use the terms readers, writers, viewers, and listeners....]

These are the six purpose statements that the NCTE has adopted:

Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

In terms of the "larger" curriculum goals of the language arts department, I think that this definition covers a great deal, and I think that it would be a starting place. [I'll be coming back to this, of course, because I feel this is a very practical place for me to work this semester. I have multiple sources I would like to consult for ideas about framing media studies.] But I think that the NCTE's new literacy definition offers a good start for me. (1) It includes giving students the technology tools they will need to use in the workplace and in their post-secondary pursuits. It requires collaborative problem solving. (2) It requires that attention be devoted to awareness of and understanding of multiple cultures. (3) It addresses the concept of sorting out the on-going, varied "streams" of media and info. that pour into the lives of high school students (and others.) (4) It talks about evaluation of multiple mediums. It addresses the idea (which we started with on January 19) that we need to create and teach our students to create) quality multi-media products. And, thankfully, it addresses the need to examine and set guidelines for the ethical use of and creation of all the media environments. I am taking a guideline for literacies and talking about media - and why not? "How" I would incorporate media units and skills to the 9-12 language arts curriculum would need to fall under the umbrella of "promoting literacy skills."
It's all part of literacy.

Unit ideas...

web sites - evaluation for bias, authenticity, currency, validity, ethical standards

television - what is "news" and who controls what we hear and how we hear it

movies - how a story is told visually - color, light, angles, music

newspapers and magazines - purpose, validity, commercialism
image and philosophy

Skills - the umbrella
1) critically looking for bias - what is left out as well as what is included
2) production techniques - using visual and auditory techniques to "sell"
3) social and cultural messages - gender messages, race and ethnicity messages, societal/class
messages
4) language: the use of "voice," the analysis of "audience"

Justifying film, television, media study in the curriculum

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation report on media exposure for 8-18 year-olds, especially Chapters (or sections) 4 and 5, had the biggest impact upon me for the material of week two in our study. I have been pondering media literacy curriculum over a period of time, wanting to devote time to adding media units to our 9-12 language arts curriculum. We have identified media literacy as a place we need improve, and as this course began, I immediately started a list of ideas for formulating new skill units. The task seems huge - potentially overwhelming - but I have begun to formulate some ideas for how to package some skill work.

Before commenting on my ideas for a "rationale" for teaching media studies, a few thoughts on the Kaiser Family website / media report...

I read with avid interest the distinction between media exposure and media use, taking note of the way that media was grouped (categorized) and the methodologies which were used to calculate "time spent multi-tasking with media." I looked at the mediums - VIEWING television, videos/movies, LISTENING to radio, tapes, CD's, MP3 players, READING books, newspapers, magazines, USING COMPUTERS for games, e-mailing, instant messaging, chatting on-line, Web surfing. I studied the comments made about how race and ethnicity seem to reflect a difference in the amount of time spent using media daily by youth from Black American, Hispanic, and White families. I studied the comments about how income and education of parents does not seem to be reflected in such a measurably significant way (across those age groups) as race and ethnicity does. Then, I began to study the information in Chapter (or section) 5 - particularly Table 5.B, page 37 - and I began to think about the population of students I teach and what I have observed over the past five years.

Table 5.B suggests that between 1999 and 2004, the use of television, video, print, and audio use among young people between 8 and 18 has not changed a great deal. Only in the use of computers and video-gaming did the time show an increase of 25-30 minutes of "use" per day. This set me thinking about my own students. The population I see each day consists largely of juniors and seniors. Most of them have a job and work 20-30 hours a week outside school. I would say that the average student spends approximately two hours on homework a day to accomplish his/her high school assignments. I know that those who take the college credits on our high school campus spend more than two hours doing homework each night. The Kaiser Report information prompted me to consider asking my students to log the time they spend VIEWING, LISTENING, READING, WORKING ON A COMPUTER daily as an introductory activity in our first media unit next semester. I can see the excellent logic of asking them to learn terminology, look at bias, understand what drives marketing, and examine authenticity - all the while referring to their personal records which show how significantly these mediums affect their lives.

RATIONALE is in the next blog entry.

Justifying film, television, media study in the curriculum

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation report on media exposure for 8-18 year-olds, especially Chapters (or sections) 4 and 5, had the biggest impact upon me for the material of week two in our study. I have been pondering media literacy curriculum over a period of time, wanting to devote time to adding media units to our 9-12 language arts curriculum. We have identified media literacy as a place we need improve, and as this course began, I immediately started a list of ideas for formulating new skill units. The task seems huge - potentially overwhelming - but I have begun to formulate some ideas for how to package some skill work.

Before commenting on my ideas for a "rationale" for teaching media studies, a few thoughts on the Kaiser Family website / media report...

I read with avid interest the distinction between media exposure and media use, taking note of the way that media was grouped (categorized) and the methodologies which were used to calculate "time spent multi-tasking with media." I looked at the mediums - VIEWING television, videos/movies, LISTENING to radio, tapes, CD's, MP3 players, READING books, newspapers, magazines, USING COMPUTERS for games, e-mailing, instant messaging, chatting on-line, Web surfing. I studied the comments made about how race and ethnicity seem to reflect a difference in the amount of time spent using media daily by youth from Black American, Hispanic, and White families. I studied the comments about how income and education of parents does not seem to be reflected in such a measurably significant way (across those age groups) as race and ethnicity does. Then, I began to study the information in Chapter (or section) 5 - particularly Table 5.B, page 37 - and I began to think about the population of students I teach and what I have observed over the past five years.

Table 5.B suggests that between 1999 and 2004, the use of television, video, print, and audio use among young people between 8 and 18 has not changed a great deal. Only in the use of computers and video-gaming did the time show an increase of 25-30 minutes of "use" per day. This set me thinking about my own students. The population I see each day consists largely of juniors and seniors. Most of them have a job and work 20-30 hours a week outside school. I would say that the average student spends approximately two hours on homework a day to accomplish his/her high school assignments. I know that those who take the college credits on our high school campus spend more than two hours doing homework each night. The Kaiser Report information prompted me to consider asking my students to log the time they spend VIEWING, LISTENING, READING, WORKING ON A COMPUTER daily as an introductory activity in our first media unit next semester. I can see the excellent logic of asking them to learn terminology, look at bias, understand what drives marketing, and examine authenticity - all the while referring to their personal records which show how significantly these mediums affect their lives.

RATIONALE is in the next blog entry.