April 14, 2008

Pop Music and Literature

Working in a Junior High, I am never to far from the reminder that Pop Music plays an important role in our society. In fact, it could be one of the few environments where it is terribly un-cool to not be in the know of the latest Pop hits. As a Language Arts teacher, I feel Pop music is a really valuable resource to reach students. It is a part of their world, and it can easily be transferred into the world of Literature and the history of Literature. . As Sanjek reveals, taste is all relevant to the listener and what’s received as popular. No one can determine what will be popular, and Powers makes the connection that even the cheesiest music must hold value because the competition is too high. If Pop music is seen as tedious and repeating itself, then perhaps that is the greatest asset of all to making a connection with literature. Many of those ideas and thoughts first found their popularity in literature itself.

If I use a comparison of Film to lead into this idea, I think of the modern Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo and Juliet that was wildly popular when I was in high school. This version of the film reignited a spark and connection to Shakespeare as the 1960’s version had done before that. I tie this into Pop music as I remember my own 11-year-old self obsessed, as well as every other girl my age, with the Tiffany version of I Think We’re Alone Now. To my father’s horror, I was singing this tune, word for word, without a single knowledge of the Beatles. However, I loved the song, and while it didn’t quite live up to Tiffany’s version, I was intrigued by The Beatles version, and made a connection with this as well.

As I look at the age group of my students, I feel Pop music is a great resource to make past/present connections, literacy analysis connections, and make a step toward transferring knowledge with higher-level thinking. It is a resource they are so tapped into and so knowledgeable about that it is an instant attention getter. Pop music, in its different genres within itself, reaches all students in some way.

One way I see Pop music really holding value in my classroom is making the connection of modern Pop music to classic literary analysis. For example, in place of a traditional 5-paragraph essay on Catcher in the Rye, students would need to create an i-tunes play list using 5 popular songs, and explain, in writing, how these songs relate to a theme, symbol, or motif in the novel. As Powers states in Bread and Butter Songs, “music gives us a way of making sense of the world, and then it must include utter familiarity and even tedium as well as revelation.? These themes and ideas that are found in literature are not as outdated and archaic as they appear to the 12-year-old mind. Through this connection with Pop music, it is easier to see the connection these ideas and themes hold in our modern, popular world. As Beech has reinforced several times in his text, the importance of “choosing texts…that will engage students to the extent that they actually want to learn how to read them? is an invaluable tool that modern media, including Pop music, provides.

Bobby McFerrin PowerPoint

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Bobby McFerrin and Literature?

This PowerPoint Presentation is just a small sample of how the history of a Pop music song could be tied into a Language Arts Allusion lesson:


March 26, 2008

KARE 11 Viewing Log

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News Analysis

KARE 11 News **** I have added my viewing table as an attachment as well for more a more organized format.

5:00 pm, Monday March 24, 2008

Initial Preview: top stories are touched on: mineral-based make-up,
Sarah Jane Olson, Iraq contractor possible remains found

15 sec

Top National News (local interest): Sarah Jane Olson back in prison after being released. Reported from studio, switch to clips of Sarah Jane Olson getting off a plane originally, go to phone interview with Olson’s attorney, more photos and clips, back to studio to wrap up

2 min 35 sec

National News: Possible remains found of contractor lost in Iraq in Nov 2006: picture of contractor shown, map of where remains found shown

30 sec

National News: Bush makes special recognition of 4000 casualties to date in Iraq. News reported from studio speaking while clip of Bush speaking is on screen.

20 sec

National News: Witness is in same jail with person they are testifying against. Witness is beaten badly. Picture is shown of the violent inmate. Screened, taped interview of witness who was beaten is shown. Skewed clips of victims face are shown to display injuries, but conceal identity.

1 min 55 sec

National News: Mother and 4 children murdered in Iowa City. Husband is missing. Showed several clips of area.

15 sec

National News: Home sales improving with housing prices lowest in years.

20 sec

National News: Truck companies regulating speed carefully---cuts down on fuel costs. (footage of general highway truck driving is shown)

30 sec

National News: Pilot’s gun goes off on commercial plane. Was accident---part of Federal law passed for pilot’s protection ( to carry gun). Told by main news reporters from studio.

20 sec

National/ Local News: George Clooney and Renee Zellweger in Duluth. Focus on women fascinated with Clooney. Spoke to press for 45 min—“more to come at 6:00?

45 sec

Teaser: Protestors at Olympic flame lighting, weather

25 sec


National News: Tibetan protestors at flame lighting for Olympics in China. Flame to go to top of Everest---controversial+ Chinese rule of Tibet.

45 sec

National News: Update on Detroit Gov. accused of infidelity with advisor. “Youngest Governor? “text messages?

15 sec

Local News: Academic All-Star---Blaine students---clips of student at school, interview with student, student’s principal, other students.

2 min 20 sec

Teaser: Twins, mineral-based make-up, weather

15 sec


National News “interest?: Easter Egg Role @White House—since 1872—footage of event

20 sec

Weather: inside studio, Backyard, radar map

3 min 45 sec

Mineral-based Make-up (finally!!!): sales up, health benefits= “bogus?, quotes from dermatologists.

1 min 5 sec

Sports: Twins sign Joe Nathan, preview of opening line-up—“more at 10:00

2 min

Teaser: results of competition, preview of nightly news to come


Interest: World Champion in Marbles

5 sec

Nightly News Preview with Brian Williams in Nightly News Studio:

Now fewer commercials---as asked for

5 min

Closing—“see you at 6?

This was an interesting broadcast time to analyze the news. The overlying factor that struck me the most was how the information itself was geared more to a female/older audience (make-up was a multiple teaser throughout the segments) perhaps because it was an earlier news segment (???), while the teasers for news later on in the night was much more male oriented: Sports would be extended. Although, in general, much of the teaser spots touched on news that would be expanded on in the later newscasts at 6pm and 10pm.

The “National? news was focused heavily on stories that were locally relative such as the Sarah Jane Olson segment, which held one of the largest time spots. The other key time segment, aside from the Minnesotan obsession with the 3+ weather spot, was the Academic All-Star highlight of a Blaine High School student, which was over 2 min.

There was also a careful balance of positive and negative stories. The Iraq news stories were very brief. The local news stories of homicides and violence were followed up with rise in home sales and truck companies monitoring speed to compensate for higher gas prices. The “heavier? and serious stories were covered at the beginning, and the last half of the news was fairly “light:? Easter Egg Roll @ White House, weather, marble-contest winner.

It almost seemed like a preview for the night of news to come. Many of the commercials were for KARE 11 News or spots that were sponsored by the station. The last segment was a piece by Brian Williams plugging for less commercials in NBC Nightly News. The very last statement was “we’ll see you at 6.?

March 15, 2008

Education on You Tube

YouTube Exploration:

I have recently explored the use of YouTube in my classroom during my 8th grade Non-Fiction Unit. We have been analyzing different articles based on conditions and perspectives of Education in different parts of the World. These You Tube clips, in particular, helped students to get a better perspective on Tone, Bias and Inference---as these tend to be more difficult concepts for them to grasp.

2 Million Minutes:
This You Tube clip was a good follow-up to a Star Tribune article we read on US Reading test scores. This was the first clip we looked at. We only viewed the trailer. This provided a good opportunity to view the strong bias that US students are lazy and falling behind in school. It was also interesting to see how bias can be so easily persuasive to the viewer without other background knowledge. For example, we had read several articles on the lack of education students are receiving in many parts of India and Africa---especially for female students. This helped to put in perspective the large populations this clip presents; we know that not all of those students are receiving an education.

News 8 story on 2 Million Minutes:
This was a clip from a news story reviewing the release of this controversial documentary. The News station is in Indiana: the State where the represented US students in 2 Million Minutes live. This also helped to show bias, tone, and inference by showing the flip-side of the story: well-balanced US students are also valuable and competitive.

Education Today and Tomorrow:
This clip was great for inference. There are just clips of images and information, and from these, students can gather the point that the modern classroom needs to be media-savvy.

I also choose one clip to look at that if I had time would be interesting to show my classes. It is a news story clip on high school students who have the opportunity to volunteer in hands-on health care career situations. It would be interesting, in comparison to the other clips we have looked at, to be able to infer from this clip, that US students to have many fortunate opportunities. Also, to interperate fromt the clip the bias that hands-on learning beyond the classroom is important.

I also looked at several other related clips that portrayed "education" in different forms:

I looked at a couple of different clips from the Ed in '08 channel. These clips take several different perspectives to communicate the need for Education to be a vital topic in this next Presidential election.

This particular clip is a montage of facts and opinions to advocate for supporters of edcuation:

This clip uses faces and voices of students to portray the outcome if we do not begin to address the needs of public education:

Here, Kanye West, as a pop-culture icon who identifies with a large section of struggling and failing students, adresses the need to support all students:

These next few clips that I viewed give good samples of the portrayal of teachers and classrooms in the pop-culture media--particularly film.

This clip is a bit more lengthly, but a great collection of teachers seen through movies. Although, through these clips it also gives a great portrayal of the exaggerated issues of teachers and the classroom.

This clip is the trailer of the new Chalk film--spoofing the trials of the new teacher---slightly painful in it's realistic portrayals!!!!

March 10, 2008

Facebook Observations


At the age of 29, I created a Facebook account for myself about 3 months ago. One observation I have about Facebook is my reason I had for not creating one earlier. In the world of Secondary education, it seemed so taboo to be tied into this media frenzy. Although, to be fair, that is mostly the association I have with My Space---hence my Facebook account. I had been invited by friends to join, and actually I joined by “accident.? Curiosity got the best of me and I went to check out my friend Anna’s page that lives in Montana. I did not know enough about this media tool to know I needed a page to see hers. So by default, without even knowing it, I had created a page. My reasons for not creating a page surrounded my experiences in school with discussions of cyber bullying, at-risk girls being involved with less than tasteful situations, and the parent-school conversations that surrounded these topics.

What I would like to incorporate in my observations of Facebook in my past few months of participation are not only my online observations, but my face-to-face conversations that have occurred since I have become more aware of this media tool. I feel that both represent the different groups and purposes that this tool serves. For I have most definitely found that it goes way beyond my teacher-paranoid narrow scope that I came into it with.

Quote observed:
( student 1) “ I have 72 friends on my Facebook account. How many do you have??
( student 2) “ I only have 15,( funny look by other student) but I only let my friends look at my page.?
(student 1) “ Oh really?! I accept anyone that asks to be my friend, just so I can have as many friends on my page as possible---even if I don’t know who they are!?
(Student 2) “ ugh, I don’t want strangers looking at my page! Creepy!?

Two things came to mind when I pictured the online interactions these students were having with their Facbook pages. One, student 1 was just throwing random pieces of information on her page for reaction while student 2 was actually communicating and sharing things with her friends in a different form. Two, I couldn’t help, as a teacher, to notice the different level of parental involvement with these two students. Student 2, as I would assume, clearly had someone setting guidelines and teaching her about her online involvement.

This also heightened my awareness of how we need to bring media literacy into the classroom to raise the bar and tap into these tech-savvy students and their interests.

Adults---that I don’t communicate with on Facebook:
My husband and I had our friends over. They are married. She is a lawyer. He has worked in “business,? currently at Target. I was sharing with them that I recently got a Facebook page.

(Katie): “ Really? I feel like I am too old to have a Facebook page. I think of my younger sister, and how she talks about it and I’m just not into that.?

(Me): “ I thought the same thing, but you’d be surprised how many people use it. Actually, I have reconnected with a lot of people I haven’t talked in a while that I could never find their contact information.?

(Hallie): “ Yeah, I have one.?

( Katie—his wife): “ Seriously? You do??

(Hallie): “Yeah, a lot of people through work actually use it quite a bit---as a networking type of tool.?

I really thought it was interesting to have that piece put in their about the business side of things. I later had my friend Megan working in Chicago tell me that she was “ actually encouraged to be on Facebook through work.? This is clearly going to be a part of our future.

My Direct Observations on Facebook:
To me:

“ Hey good to see you out running. How’s life…??

---We haven’t see each other in years. Swam together in college, crossed paths on the Lake--- we never talked through Facebook until we actually saw each other. Interesting how for some people I have connected with it actually took that face-to-face to encourage communication even online.

“Finished the Kite Runner and loved it!?—posted as message

Profile Pictures:
Solo at the beach
Recently engaged with finance
Speaking to a crowd at a podium
Hiking on trail in Mexico
Picture with spouse and baby
Out at a bar with friends

….I have found profile pictures the most interesting. What people choose and how they want people to portray themselves is so true to their personalities and their main interests---this is how they want people to perceive them as well. Also, it is interesting how they change depending on what is going on with their lives. It is interesting to see which people chose pictures to represent their leisure time, interests, or career accomplishments.

** The other part I noticed was, as adults, how many people didn’t participate in many of the gadgets of Facebook. I can compare it to the judgements surrounding mass forwards through email. It seems that there is this unspoken rule that participating in these “parts? ( Pokey the virtual dog, LOTS of quizzes—a few are OK, games, etc) seem to portray that all you have time for is Facebook---and don’t waste my time by making me sift through these dumb notifications you’re sending.

February 25, 2008

Portrayals of Vacations in the Media

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February 7, 2008

Thoughts on Critical Approached to Media

Looking through the Critical Approaches to Media Text was interesting for me as a Language Arts teacher. I not only thought it was interesting to see these different terms explained as they apply to Media, but to realize how they apply to so many aspects of Literature in a classroom.

For example the Semiotic Analysis could be used in a really interesting way in conjunction with symbolism, and to look at what we know instinctively ( and how that allows symbolism to work in a piece of literature) and what we need to look into for deeper understanding. I also thought how pertinent the Poststructuralist Analysis would be while teaching, for example, The Great Gatsby. How the general categorization of “things, ?and our instinctive knowledge of those “things,? brings meaning to the novel. It’s so interesting to see how much of our analysis of literature is based on this already assumed prior knowledge.

As Beech says that it “is important that students learn to critically analyze media texts? through these different critical lenses, I thought how interesting it would be to pair up, or supplement, literature with media interpretation. Perhaps this would be more fitting for a high school classroom than my middle school classroom. However, I think it would really tie in with what I am hoping to do with using media as a way to make traditional curriculum relevant to students’ interests and to incorporate higher-level thinking as well.

February 3, 2008

Rationale for including Media in my classroom

Since I was a student in Education classes at St. Olaf, the notion of creating a multi-media classroom was presented as being of the utmost importance. Through my 5 years in the classroom, it has been a process of trial and error to meet this need. There are a couple of issues that I have found to stand in the way of always making this feasible. 1) It often seems impossible to incorporate new and interesting media into an already established, jam-packed curriculum in Language Arts. 2) There are not always the readily accessible media resources available in schools. 3) To make my reason #1 work, outside of class work would seem reasonable, but not all students have equal access or knowledge of media resources.

However, it is continually my goal and I adapt and build my teaching material to bring more and more media types into my lesson plans. I would like to supplement traditional literature with film/television clips to provide another view point for learning Elements of Fiction. I think it is critical to update our teaching of proper research methods continually as technology in that area on the internet continues to advance. I also feel it is beneficial to draw on the knowledge students have of blogs, music culture media tools, digital cameras( etc.) to enhance the mediums for producing critical analysis.

My goal in including diverse media is to connect with students' interests and their own prior knowledge they bring to the classroom. I think it is important to use these tools to teach the traditional content that has remained a crutial part of the Language Arts curriculum. It not only brings this content into a world that is relative for students, but it also allows more traditional literature and writing to be seen in a more modern way---meaning, the ideas that are brought up in Shakespeare are not so ancient that they do not exist in our world, but these modern tools help us to see them in a more current light. We can more easily compare and contrast them to our modern world. Using media in this way, not only makes the classroom more student-centered, but it also allows us to put a educational use to these modern media mediums that will allow students to transition them into a more adult/professional world.

January 31, 2008

Scene Analysis of Priceless Mastercard Commercial

Scene Analysis of “Elephant? Priceless Mastercard Commercial.

Link to online commercial: http://www.priceless.com/us/personal/en/pricelesstv/index.html

1. Long shot scene Establishes setting and main characters: Zoo Keeper and Elephant, and their “friendship.? Zoo Keeper is scrubbing Elephant. This ties in emotional side, and Fairy/tale romantic comedy-ish music adds to that emotional draw for audience—it also makes the commercial story-like
2. long-shot scene of Zoo Keeper sneezing and leaving Zoo. This long-shot portrays the Zoo Keeper as forlorn and alone--sneezing
3. Pan back to long-shot of Elephant We see “body langugage? of Elephant, trunk down, and his reaction to forlorn Zoo Keeper.
4. Close-up shot of Mastercard The back ground is dark, and light flashes across the Mastercard name on card. Adding the story-like commercial—light drawing attention to the name almost like a sword!
5. Low-angle shot of Elephant with Zoo gate behind him The Elephant has the source of power leaving the Zoo with his Mastercard.
6. Extreme long-shot of Elephant with city in landscape The setting is established and we know where the Elephant is headed
7. Series of medium/close-up shots Action of Elephant and “hot soup $4,? “Cold medicine $11,? etc. on the left side of the medium and close up shots. While on the right side of the screen there is the Mastercard being scanned= Appealing on the left, brand name on the right. This ends with Zoo Keeper getting the remedies from the Elephant. There is a simple narrator to reinforce the images on the screen.
8. Final close-up shot Mastercard, with narrative about how Mastercard “makes it all better.? Reinforcing the “pay pass? simplicity.

Scene Analysis of Priceless Mastercard Commercial

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January 29, 2008

Rationale for Teaching film, meda, tv in school

Looking at the Language Arts curriculum at St. Louis Park, there is a great emphasis on Core Knowledge text and the traditional Cannon of literature. There is also the desire, as a school-wide building goal, to improve reading test scores as a result of word recognition and improved literacy skills. Along with these agendas, there is a future goal of incorporating the IB program into the middle school, as it exists in the high school and elementary schools. Given the nature of this existing curriculum, and where we hope to go as a district in the future, it is essential to incorporate a wide-range of media into our Language Arts curriculum. Using Media to support our curriculum will foster student-centered learning, challenge high-level thinkers, and engage low-level readers and writers in their learning.
It is estimated that majority of kids 3rd-12th grade spend an average of 6 hours per day engaging in media. Media is the key to engaging reluctant learners, and challenging high-level learners to a new level of active thinking. Media should be used as an enhancing tool to the current traditional literature and curriculum that exists in the Middle School.
To put this media-enhanced curriculum in a classroom setting perspective, perhaps lets take a look at a traditional novel unit such as To Kill A Mockingbird. Media can be used to spark creative and high-level thinking as well as engage the struggling reader. Students can ask questions and blog responses on the classroom website. Students could create their own website, while challenging them to look at the deeper meaning of the piece of literature, but engaging them in a medium they can relate to. Another option would be to present the ideas of critical literary analysis in the form of an itunes playlist. Students must explain how their songs represent as certain theme or a characterization from the novel.
These are just some beginning examples of how media can be used alongside traditional curriculum. Media can be used to spark creative thinking, foster student-centered learning, and engage and challenge learners of all levels.

January 24, 2008

First thoughts on class

Interesting to think about the pros/cons of media in the classroom. How does it apply? How does it take away? How much do we advance away from traditional curriculum, or do we view media as an enhancing tool?