Action Learning Project

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I had lofty goals, but not the means to attain them as I wished. I hoped for a diverse group of four or five students to read different books, create playlists that span a myriad of musical preferences, and ignite a discussion about whether this enhanced the emotional connection one could have to a book. Instead, I got my brother.

He hates reading but pushed through, the only student I was able to force into giving me several hours of their precious time. He’s a more hands on kind of guy, so this emotional, talky, very internet/discussion based idea did not appeal to him in the least.

We established that he thinks there are better ways to explain a book (which means he only reads for school, and therefore an explanation is more important than personal enjoyment). But he did say that he remembered the scenes that he put a song more clearly than those he did not. And his worry was using too many songs, instead of not enough, which means he didn’t mind putting in some effort.

So here is the final video. I asked the question “Will creating a playlist for a book enhance the readers emotional connection to it?” My brother would say no. I think I need a larger sample.

Down to the Dregs…

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So I set some goals for this semester, attained a few, and failed when it came to Twitter. But I really got a great deal out of this course and I’m grateful for classmates who were able to talk so openly about their thoughts and experiences, and for my professor Cris and her never ending-enthusiasm, encouragement, and seeming endless supply of information.

Goals

Professional:

I want to teach Middle School Language Arts (and possibly Social Studies as well). By the end of this course I want to have a better grasp on current YA Literature trends, I want to know how to encourage conversation about books, and I’d like to ignite a love of reading in kids. I also want to utilize the available technology in a way that bridges the generation gap that I expect to see between me and my future students.

Alrighty then! I think that my knowledge on current literature trends has almost tripled. Not only have I now personally read several books that I previously considered “not my style” I’m aware of award systems like the Printz and book clubs like Eva Perry, where I can gather intel about current trends when I no longer have this class to help me out. 😉 I also feel that my eyes have been opened to the necessity of encouraging a multicultural literature experience. Students should be made aware of authors from different cultures, books set in different cultures, as well as some translated works for a better knowledge of different cultures. I also think that there are a plethora of projects for kids to try out other than book reports. The goal is not for students to discover spark-notes, the goal is to establish what a book means to them, good or bad.

Literate:
Like I said in the professional part, I want to know more about today’s trends. I can list off the classics that I loved and I think any kid in their right mind would love as well. But I’m interested in what kids are reading today, see the similarities and differences.

I plan on keeping up with Eva Perry and this class through facebook to help myself stay current. I am also encouraged by my own personal tastes. A lot of people in our class liked the same books that I did/do, BUT we are all also avid readers it seems so I’ll need to try to broaden my library when it comes to books that even non-readers like.

Virtual:

I want to understand Twitter! Haha.I want to know more about the social networking and virtual worlds that are popular today. Second Life seems like an incredible world and I can’t wait to become proficient with that. That has the potential to be an incredible tool. I want to use the internet more than I am used by it.

I hate to say it, but I still hate Twitter. I don’t understand how to use to it to find out information(at least in any productive sense). When I tweet about my projects, it’s like a carrier pigeon’s first flight: no clue if it’s getting where it needs to go.

But all is not lost. I’ve played with toondoo, I’ve gained experience with imovie. I know about morguefiles and education sites where I can use music and pictures without having to worry about copyright infringement.

Synthesis and Reflection

Writing all this out makes me smile. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I’m on my way to a satisfying career. I’m more aware of my downfalls (my pride about trying new things) and I want to take steps to avoid that. This process has made me think of all the books that have touched my heart. It makes me remember the first time I read The Princess Bride, how it told tales the movie couldn’t even touch. Or re-reading Le Miserable for fun instead of school and berating myself for not seeing its depth and beauty the first time around. The excitement of finding a first edition hardback copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in a dusty used book store for only two dollars. I cant wait to discuss books with people who like books.

I got a lot out of this course. I feel that, when I have students of my own, I’ll have a full box of ideas and resources to teach just about anybody. And since I have a few semesters until I’m in a classroom, what this class did was create a good skeleton that I can continue filling in as I continue my learning career. I’m excited. Thank you. And good night.

Would you rather die whole, or live in pieces?

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The book Unwind, by Neal Shusterman is a chilling look at the Pro-life Pro-choice battle.

The book raises incredible questions that young adults in any walk of life would find themselves asking. It’s that awful feeling of trying to figure yourself out, and while making mistakes in the process, wondering: “Would my parents have had me if they knew this is what it would be like?”

This book goes one step further, pushing the question, “Would they keep me if they no longer had to?”

Unwinding is retroactive abortion. Self-sacrifice, but by parental demand. Knowing that you go, but go on living, the bits of your body used to save worthwhile people (or perhaps just the highest bidder.)

I don’t think I’d give this book to a class as a whole. Unwinding is such a foreign concept yet a real fear.  It also raises the current issue of abortion. The right to live. Does it belong to the parent or the unborn child? This is an excruciatingly touchy subject, that administration is unlikely to broach, especially in public high-school classrooms where abortion just might be a current contemplation for someone. As a pre-service teacher I’d have to really establish the control I have over my class before daring such an intensive and touchy subject.

The book was well written and quite agenda-less from my perspective. Raising far more questions than it answered. It’s an excellent discussion starter, and for a well-seasoned teacher with an openminded classroom (Aka parental consent), I would love to see the kind of projects that could rise from these post-apocolyptic pages.

I’d be interested in inspired poetry, fan-fictions, and discussion boards. Having students argue sides based on chance not preference. I’d also like to know where students fall on the “what is the soul,  when is it formed, and where does it go?” conundrum.

It’s a thought provoking piece of writing with twists and turns and good and evil and no assurance of who is right. Unsettling, yet profound.

So I leave you with this thought. Would you rather die whole… or live in pieces?

Post-Multicultural?

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If you ask me about the current multicultural climate, I’d say the storm isn’t over. Or perhaps it is, but the aftermath is devastating. I think that at this point in our swirling melting pot of society having award specifics are a good thing. It isn’t so much that they need separate awards because the different cultural writers aren’t up to calibre, it’s that it is a tough market to break into, it is still very white dominated. To create separate award systems it gives different cultures a chance to proliferating the market until the whole system is multicultural. It’s a long journey, but the fact that people recognize the necessity of representing a range of cultures in society shows we are on the right path.

We are still dealing with echos and aftershocks of racism, as a nation. Ill favored stereotypes dominate first impressions. It’s valuable for students to know about all sorts of writers writing about all sorts of things, a multicultural classroom will need multicultural sources of information.

Radical Change, are we ready?

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I adore poetry.

I used it to express my teenage angst. Be it boys, friends, siblings or parents, if it bothered me, I wrote about it.  I minored in Creative Writing at UNCW with a poetry concentration. My favorite poem is either Philip Levine’s “The Two.” Or Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask.” I actually wrote my own response to that poem, which goes like this:

Why Wear the Mask?

I wear a mask that’s wearing thin,

cool as marble, of freckled skin—

I’d take it off but I forget

if I was me when we first met,

or this porcelain perfection.

I fear I cannot let me out,

for I am wracked with fear and doubt;

I am content, will not regret

I wear this mask.

For aren’t we all plagued by the sin

of hiding who we are within?

No one is real, we all have let

our own mask run the course we set.

What is this masquerade about?

Why wear this mask?

Poems that pull me in are the emotional ones that make you go back and re-read, not because of the complexity, but because there is a truth embedded into simple words. I also love a twisted ending. “The Two” is a phenomenal example of that. I like heartbreaking poems too. There’s a romantic somewhere in me that thinks poetry makes pain bearable- worthwhile even, at the end of the day.

Skeleton Sky:

Thinking- This is an interesting concept. I’ve never seen or thought of something like this before. I like how it’s like a choose your own ending poem. The ferris wheel element is interesting, but I probably wouldn’t have realized what it was had the fair not just been in town. It’s a little creepy, but in a cool way. It went on a little longer than my interest lasted. I wonder if I read every part. I wonder if that makes a difference.

Feeling- I like her words, but the chaos got to me. I like to keep control of the poems that I write, every word, space, comma has meaning. Poetry is about cutting away the extraneous, working with negative space. I like what she did but I can’t help but not want to call it poetry anymore. Because we choose where it goes the meaning is lost a little. I think that the beauty of poetry is knowing that the author meant something, but never being sure what they meant.

I guess that I’m not open to radical change in poetry. 

Radical change is fine. It’s going to happen whether I like it or not. But I don’t think that we need to change the definition of poetry to include it. I think it’s should be considered an entirely new medium.

As far as graphic novels and sequential art are concerned, I do think they should be included in the curriculum. They are a growing art form that connect to a group of people that otherwise have been unreached. Art has no language barriers. The point of a book is to tell a story, a picture is worth a thousand words, and comics in the classroom have that feeling of “sticking it to the man,” while still being a great instructional tool.

Red-headed Stepchild: A true story.

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1. Why does Aronson refer to nonfiction as a “neglected stepchild” and is this an accurate description?

Aronson refers to nonfiction as the neglect stepchild because people assume nonfiction is boring and that the young adult culture tends to shy away from it. And he’s not far wrong.  In recent years History and English teachers are feeling pressure to teach to the tests. Which means that creativity and digging into the interesting facets of history, though fun and educational, don’t equal the scores that teachers need. So they don’t do it. Social Studies and School history lessons really beat the fun out of the past. Teenagers have a tendency to equate anything reminiscent of school as “not cool” so at the first mention of “historical” we basically send them running into the arms of a good fantasy.

I do think that the memoir is making a comeback. There are adult writers out there whose books are trickling down into the YA section. I feel like I rally for these writers in ¾ of my posts, but seriously, Sedaris and Burroughs, they make nonfiction fun. Yes, it isn’t historical nonfiction, but it’s a start. A good memoir has an edge that fantasy never will. That voice in the back of the reader’s head that says, “I could do that.” A goofy protagonist and a trip to the store that becomes magical, a strained parent/child relationship that is so bad it’s almost funny. It’s a bearable reality. (And in the reverse, remember “A Million Little Pieces?” a memoir that proved untrue? He had fame ripped away because without the backbone of truth, the book just wasn’t that good.)

2. What’s the connection between boys and nonfiction?

Aronson used an example of the boy reading an adult book that detailed the intricacies of some sort of fishing. There was this hint of, “boys aren’t readers” they are macho discoverers of new and appealing things. They don’t want to get lost in a fantasy world, they want to know every last detail of whatever fits their fancy that day, be it cars, fishing, electronics, ect.

Boys like to know how things work. Which means that nonfiction should be right up their alley. There is a relatively untapped market called the “boy reader” and if people can package history in a way that shows how and why it did or didn’t work, boys probably wouldn’t be able to get enough.

3. Why should we and how can we include more nonfiction reading in our middle and high school curricula?

We absolutely should. History tends to repeat itself, so if the next generations are knowledgeable about previous pitfalls, we may be able to avoid some failures that our ancestors did not.

Some ideas for incorporation:

-Within a history lesson, have the students all read a biography of someone who lived in the current era being studied. As a teacher, to avoid the students hating the assignment, try to find biographies that are less “dusty tombs of days-gone-by” and more “nonfiction for fun. Seeing how an individual functioned within the past helps make the details less trivial and more valuable.

-Reading a short memoir every day (or a few times a week) is a way to inspire students to view their lives in a more cinematic way. Sometimes it isn’t so much about what you did, as how you talk about  it after. True stories are moving and memorable. You can also capture so many different writing styles.

-Reading about the past from  a myriad of sources really fleshes out the experience, and also will teach students how to draw their own conclusions as to how it really was. (The pre- and post civil war stories are a great place to start.)

Lit Review Lite

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As a practicing musician (amateur, but practicing non-the-less) as well as an avid reader, the idea of having students create a playlist for a book they are reading jumped out at me before I looked at a single outside resource. It’s fairly obvious the impact that music has on the young adult life-style, it’s a common conversation topic, a way to connect with different people, and music is fun!

Basic Project Design:

I will be asking a small group of high-school seniors (my brother and a few friends) to read a(n approved) book of their own choosing. While reading they are to compile a music playlist that they feel follows the emotional/physical journey of the book. So basically, I want them to show me how the book progresses, by using music they are familiar with.

I will be creating a Voicethread account that my participants will use to show me their playlist. Each student will have their own “page” with a picture of the book they chose to read. They can list the playlist using the typed comment function, and then talk about the songs they chose and briefly explain why they chose them.

I will also have one additional slide where each participant can leave a comment about the project itself. It will follow an interview format that I will either participate in with them (if  circumstances allow) or I will email (or post on the group wiki if I choose to use that instead of email) a set of guiding questions about the experience and then the final result. I will also have them view and constructively comment on the slides the other participants. I’d like see what they thought of their peer’s compilations.

Waves of Change/LTLWYA and how it relates:

Running down the list, the engagement of this project is self explanatory. These students will be reading books of their own choosing, using music that they listen to (most likely on a daily basis), and it is them who are teaching me, not the other way around. This also is participatory learning. I am testing a theory that incorporating music into the literature experience will enhance it. But it’s their job to identify the emotion the book is stirring, and then connect it to a song that they know. The playlist will be reflective of the students personal schema, since their musical and literature preferences will be represented. The reader response theory and schema go relatively hand in hand.

I feel that this project will give the participants a safe creative space to work, it also allows the participant to utilize any of their own multiple intelligences. Students will deduce and retell what they thought was important about the book, and since they are in charge of the book they read, the possibilities are endless.

Finally, I think that the heart of this project is found in the critical literacy of it. Combining music and literature basically forces the student to reflect as they read; how else can they choose songs that best fit the text? I’m also counting on students to use music that they listen to on a daily basis to represent the books which involves an understated social commentary. Will they use music that is on the radio currently or use songs that have survived the shifting tastes of pop culture? Either way they are taking literature and basically translating it into music. This translation will require reflection, understanding, and interpretation.

I’ve seen and experienced personally how music is both a gateway and a vehicle. Books can be that as well, but music is more portable, it can be layered on everyday life, used as a garnish if you will, but books are about the experience of vanishing into a world. I want to connect those two worlds and see what comes of it. Will thinking about the emotional impact of a book in the context of music increase the connection that a teenage makes? Is literature still critical?

RESEARCH AWAAAAAAY:

The idea of creating a playlist for a book did not come up in the research that I found. This is not to say that it hasn’t been done before, it’s just a difficult topic to research and then write about because it is very subjective. Many of these articles came to the same conclusion, that contemporary music is an excellent source of motivation for young adults (Allender,2004.) Moore (2011) stated that “It gives the topic a sense of relevancy.” She also raised an excellent point about inappropriate content making it difficult to incorporate within a school sanctioned lesson.

I found my idea growing and changing the more I read. I originally wanted my project’s participants to pick one song per chapter for the playlist. But after reading Dunlap and Lowenthal (2010), I felt that those guidelines were too constrictive. They talk about how music has an incredible “student to content interaction.” It seemed to me, to limit songs to one per chapter was not the best way combine music and literature, especially if hypothesis is that linking music and literature will increase the emotional connection that the student has with the book.

Calogero (2001) utilized the way music sets a tone for literature by playing it before a book is read or while reading is going on. Music can “accentuate the different aspects of a books storyline, mood, or specific emotion.” I am looking for the students to set the tone for themselves, and then tell me about it.

My project specs have been reshaped. I want the students I am working with to read a book of their own choosing, and then explain the story of it to me, through a contemporary playlist. Bellver’s (2008) emphasis was on the way life and music are entwined in today’s culture. Music creates a spontaneous and emotional response in students and it affects how life is analyzed and interpreted. Her article was the most influential in the reshaping of my project. She gave me the idea of having students mold a musical journey, through which, I follow the book in the same emotional way that they did.

Today it is obvious that the generation gap keeps getting wider. It’s hard to understand what kids are going through and why they feel the way they do. If this project goes the way I hope it does, my student participants will map a journey through a book and document (and hopefully better understand) what they felt as they were reading. This will hopefully give them a concrete knowledge of what they liked or didn’t like, as well as an appreciation of the music that they chose to speak for them. Towell (1999) said it well, music is a language children from all cultures understand and speak.

Resources:

Bellver, C. G. (2008). Music as a Hook in the Literature Classroom. Hispania, 91(4), 887-896.

Calogero, J. M. (2002). Integrating Music and Children’s Literature. Music Educators Journal, 88(23), 23-27.

Moore, D. C. (2011). Learning Tunes: Pop Music in the Classroom. Library Media Connection, 29(4), 13-14.

Towell, Janet H.. “Motivation Students Through Music and Literature.” The Reading Teacher 53.4 (1999): 284-287. Print.

Dunlap, Joanna C., and Patrick R. Lowenthal. “Hot For Teacher: Using Digital Music to Enhance Students’ Experience in Online Courses.”TechTrends 54.4 (2010): 58-73. Print

Moore, Patience. “Beyond Folk: Using Contemporary Music in the Elementary Classroom.” Teaching Music 16.5 (2006): 1. Print.

Allender, Dale. “Popular Culture in the Classroom.” English Journal 93.3 (2004): 12-14. Print.

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