Tag Archives: Education

Is Writing Across the Curriculum Important?

I used to begin the school year by telling all of my students that my job as an English teacher was the most important job in the world and that their class would be the most significant they would ever have. I used this bit of hyperbole to capture their curiosity, but I would explain to them that it was my job to teach them what they would have to use in all of their other classes, and jobs, for the rest of their lives. This was my way of expressing to them the importance of reading and writing in our society. I do not do this anymore because I truly value the movement of interdisciplinary writing and writing across the curriculum, and I would hate to belittle that concept to my students by demeaning my colleagues and their approach to teaching literacy skills. On the contrary, I want my students to make the connection that writing has across the spectrum of education.

Reading and writing are ways to analyze and synthesize life and help us find meaning in things. Writing is key to learning. It helps us process, decode, and understand our complex thoughts or the complex thoughts of others. A main focus of the “Writing is…” video was the fact that writing is an outlet; not only for creativity, but also for expression of thought and knowledge. All classes in content areas require these skills to learn, and writing is used in each of them.

Check out this video about writing.

I Strike Thee Quickly with My Light Saber

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Don’t you love when two of your favorite things collide to make one super-awesome thing? Peanut butter and chocolate? Amazing. Rum and Coke? Delicious. Bacon and milkshakes? Well, that might be an acquired taste, but you get the idea. Last year I stumbled upon another exciting marriage of two seemingly opposite things: Shakespeare and Star Wars.

Ian Doescher, who in my opinion should be canonized as a saint, has rewritten the Star Wars films in beautiful iambic pentameter. It is truly a unique way to once again enjoy the saga from a galaxy far, far away.

And I haven’t even mentioned the best part. Doescher has provided an educator’s guide on his website. This is a wonderful way to introduce students to Shakespeare in a new and creative way. Of course you are mixing two nerdy things and that might not fly over so well at first, but the beauty of this lesson is how someone can find deeper meaning, compare themes across genres, and use poetic devices within the text. That covers a couple standards. Even students who are not fans of the holy Trilogy will be impressed at how Doescher transformed one medium by using another.

The Educator’s guide has mini lessons on iambic pentameter, themes, and comparisons between Star Wars and some of Shakespeare’s most famous works (including Henry V, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar just to name a few). The guide also includes information on Shakespearean devices and how they are used in context. The educator’s guide legitimately turns a novelty quirky book into an awesome Shakespearean introduction for all students.

The Grammar Rodeo: English, You Be Crazy Sometimes

Every language has its quirks. For example, it always sounds like you are upset if you are speaking German. In French, everything sounds fancy. Some people speak Spanish so quickly that it sounds like a motorboat. But English takes first prize.

Our language is derived of many different languages. English is comprised of Latin, Germanic, and even French to create an Anglo-Saxon collection of languages. We borrow from many languages to get the mess that comes out of our mouths every day.

This summarizes it pretty well. Strange how you can chop a tree down and then chop it up.

 

 

Getting Kids to Read More

Children’s literacy is a big concern for the nation. We, as a society, all want our children to read, but getting them to read through intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation can be difficult.

When I was a kid, we had extrinsic types of motivation for reading—if we read, collectively, a certain number of books, we got a pizza party in second, third, and fourth grade. In fifth grade, we were offered a root beer float party for reaching our goal. In sixth grade, we had points we’d get for books read, and with those points we could buy stuff from the teacher’s store—things like cute animal erasers and pencils.

These actually really suck as erasers.

I enjoyed the books I read, but I know a lot of my other classmates read for the rewards rather than reading the books for the content. That’s the problem with extrinsic motivation—the motivation is external, and that external motivation can circumvent the purpose of the motivation for the promise of a reward.

But extrinsic motivation is easy, which is why it’s often used by teachers in the classroom. Kids can understand material rewards for the work that they do, but that isn’t necessarily something that should be reinforced in a classroom.

A Modern Translation

This Summer I’m taking a class called The Comic Spirit. Aside from learning about comedy, what makes the class enjoyable is that the professor makes the course very engaging. It helps that the class size is small, but I’m sure even during a regular semester the class would still be as engaging. We take the time to find and share a few clips online pertaining to the material we’ve covered thus far and mull over how the comedy works. Being a comparative world literature course, we are also required to read selected pieces of literature, including some of the classics. This is where I run into an impediment of sorts.

The Cartoon History of the United States

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I would like to pose a question regarding the legitimacy of alternative educational practices: does content retain its value or does it lose legitimacy depending on its medium? For example, if one were to learn about United States History from reading a text book, watching television, using the web, or reading a graphic novel, would that knowledge lose its legitimacy depending on the student’s choice? Maybe, maybe not. People learn differently than each other so as long as the facts are correct it shouldn’t matter, right? I don’t think it does and I don’t think it matters to Larry Gonick either.