Ekaterina Rybakova and Shelbie Witte
As much as we want to teach a majority of young adult literature in the 6-12th English/Language arts classroom, the reality of teaching a canonical text, whether by choice, by district or school requirement, or by curriculum, isa challenge for many of us who strive to engage our students in text as mirrors experiences. We make this clear as we challenged our pre-service teachers taking a class on adolescent young adult literature to create reading ladders culminating in a complex, canonical text. Ideally, a teacher wouldn’t jump directly into Romeo and Juliet in the 9th grade without scaffold. The idea of reading ladders, stemming from Lesesne’s (2010) research on the concept, allows gradual development of reading strategies and motivation that closes a theme with a complex text.
Lesesne’s (2010) book Reading Ladders highlights issues with incorporating young adult literature in the English classroom, and focuses on how to do so in a way that doesn’t overwhelm students. There is a misconception, she says, that YAL is less literary than canonical texts taught in the classroom (Lesesne, 2010). We need to incorporate books that are not written by “dead white guys” (Wolk, 2010) and instead that speak to today’s students, to real life (Lesesne, 2010).
We challenge our pre-service teachers, then, to create a ladder, or a series of books or materials that relate to a specific theme, time period, or even author, with the end text being a different canonical text for every student. The caveat is to utilize such text that both prepares students for the complex canonical text while still engaging students and motivating them to engage in the text they provide. As Lattimer (2010) suggests, texts that motivate students are first and foremost an authentic experience, an experience that connects the text to the real lives of students. Authentic texts, Lattimer (2010) suggests, include everything from scientific research articles to ads to websites to poems to media to song lyrics.
After suggesting ways of tying in texts from different avenues into their reading ladders, the pre-service teachers in our class embarked on the journey to make sometimes dry texts more engaging, and the experience with them both useful and informational. We are pleased to share our students work, of course with their permission, with you, and hope that these can be useful tools for all teachers trying to break the mold, scaffold and motivate, and continue to find ways to engage their students to become lifelong readers.
To see the Reading Ladders, look under the Theory to Practice Connections section of this site.
Lattimer, H. (2010). Reading for learning: Using discipline-based texts to build content knowledge. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE.
Lesesne, T. (2010). Reading ladders: Leading students from where they are to where we’d like them to be. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Wolk, S. (2010). What should students read? Phi Delta Kappan, 91(7), 8-16.
Enhancing literacy and 21st Century Skills: Attending to 'practices' and 'events' in English teacher education
Barbara G. Pace
English Education & Media Literacy Education
University of Florida
As a scholar and teacher at the University of Florida, I have developed face-to-face and online courses that are designed to increase educators’ awareness of how technology and literacy might intersect. These courses promote a sociocultural view of learning and focus on expanding teachers’ perspectives of literacy. Content is based on teaching media literacy and on using popular culture to anchor literacy events.
One of the courses, Technology and Media Literacy, is the capstone course in the graduate English Education program at UF. Because it was designed for future English teachers who will work specifically in the area of literacy, the focus on understanding the nature of literacy is robust. Future English teachers are challenged to re-vision literacy and to think of the various ways it might be practiced or displayed. We talk specifically about the teacher’s role as a “designer” of literacy events, and we identify the kinds of literacy practices that make up the English language arts.
The most recent offerings of Technology and Media Literacy have included the use of Web 2.0 applications and of iPads. During each assignment, students analyzed how literacy events and practices were embedded in the use of technology. For example, when they used Xtranormal to render their favorite literary passage as an animated short, they deconstructed the process to identify literacy practices and to relate those practices to standards. Similarly, when they used iPads to create a “Media and Me” comic book, they evaluated 21st Century literacy practices (Leu et al, 2004) that had been part of the project, such as locating and collecting information, evaluating and filtering information, redesigning content/information, and composing/communicating information.
Prospective teachers enjoy these classes and engage enthusiastically in these classroom literacy events. Furthermore, two empirical studies have provided evidence that many of these teaching candidates do develop a more nuanced understanding of literacy. In an initial study, (Pace, Rodesiler, & Tripp, 2010), we found that most students had developed a view of literacy as more than reading and writing. They also demonstrated a beginning awareness of the usefulness of Web 2.0 and included web-based applications in lesson plans for the final project though they were not required to do so. All of the students were energized by the ideas for using popular culture in their classrooms.
Despite the general success of these classes, the above study and a second study (Pace, Krell, Rodesiler, 2012) sounded a cautionary note by exposing the challenges of pressing prospective teachers to think more fully about “literacy” and its realization in practice. In each study, a small group of students identified a troubling gap between the understandings of literacy that we proposed and the forms of literacy that dominated field placements. Many students also claimed that technology was not a viable option in most classrooms.
Given the climate of schools and the pressure on teachers, we were not surprised by the distress these students voiced. We are still working to respond, to consider how we might make a more hybrid space for talking about the constraints that shape and redefine teacher work, the English language arts, and literacy.
Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J. L., & Cammack, D. W. (2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the internet and other information and communication technologies. Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading, 5, 1570-1613. Retrieved from Google Scholar.
Pace, B.G., Rodesiler, L.B., & Tripp, L. (2010). Pre-service English teachers and Web 2.0: Teaching and learning with digital applications. In C. D. Maddux, D. Gibson, & B. Dodge (Eds.), Research Highlights in Technology and Teacher Education (pp. 177-187). Chesapeake, VA: Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education.
Pace, B.G., Krell, D., Rodesiler, L.B. (2012). Negotiating troubled fields: Hybridity and opportunity in English teacher education practicums and internships. Presentation at the National Council of Teachers of English Research Assembly Conference, February 25, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Research, 15(2), 4-14.
by Kathy Garland
Mrs. T.: Have you seen the Halle Berry version of Their Eyes Were Watching God? Just wondering about your thoughts…
KG: I haven’t, but I think I might use that or Gatsby movie this fall with undergrads. What did you think?
Mrs. T.: It [Their Eyes] is the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I literally threw the book at the SmartBoard today while we were watching it in class. They change and re-write metaphors and key scenes. It’s just torturous. Anyway, I did show Gatsby and I am absolutely in love with it. It does have some differences from the text, but it makes you love the text even more.
I immediately located the film, which you can view for free via YouTube. My teacher friend was right. The made-for-TV movie is not an ideal version of the iconic novel. Several key parts are diluted, and as a result make integral chapters and themes seem irrelevant. However, no matter how terrible, I would still encourage language arts teachers to show the film. But I’ll get back to this point in a minute.
This recent and timely conversation about how and when language arts teachers should use popular culture is where my past and current work is situated. For four years, I had the opportunity to observe one high-school English teacher’s use of media literacy education (the formal study of media). One important part of the class required that students learn film language as a means for analysis and evaluation; the teacher’s purpose was to help them attain media literacy, “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a variety of forms” (Aufderheide, 1993, n.p.). However, close examination of her class demonstrated that students were not only becoming more proficient with “reading” media, but they were also developing and using literacy practices that closely resembled what many teachers expect in traditional English classes (Garland, 2010). More specifically, these students exhibited the initial phases of critical literacy.
My study (2010) and others (Boske & McCormack, 2011; Hobbs, 2007; Kist, 2005; Morrell, 2004) have shown that examining the nuances of popular film is a culturally relevant way for teaching secondary students to pay close attention to their mediated worlds. Whether we deem films “good” or “bad,” students can learn to critically think about movies that they may otherwise passively view. If we continue with Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005) as an example, students might benefit from a conversation about the similarities and differences between director’s purpose versus author’s purpose. Why would the director choose to exclude scenes that advance the plot of the written novel, especially when those scenes support a feminist lens? Does the director’s gender influence such exclusions? Whatever the answer, these types of questions about director’s omissions of texts can help students develop a critical view of movies and literature. Other publications I’ve written also provide research-based methods that would help frame lessons centered on directors’ decisions (Garland, 2011; Garland & Smith, 2013). These lessons demonstrate how literature-based films, such as Percy Jackson (2010) and The Lorax (2012) omit and add texts that subsequently affect plot, characters and message.
One current movie that many language arts teachers seem to agree upon using is The Great Gatsby (2013). Mrs. T. and I concur. She and I both appreciate it as a “good” film version of a novel; however, our love is based on two different reasons. According to her, “it makes you love the text even more,” which is a common rationale language arts teachers use for showing movie renditions of books (Day, 2010; Jolley, 2009). But my love of the popular film is due in part to the purposeful way that Baz Luhrmann weaves rap music and jazz into the movie’s text and narrative. What might high-school students’ opinions be? After reading the novel, students could also consider other pertinent questions. For example, should a movie strictly follow the author’s written text? How important is it for a movie to reflect aspects of current society (e.g., Gatsby)? The questions asked are bound to promote student thought and initiate critical perspectives.
How are you integrating film with language arts? No matter if you’re showing the movies that make English teachers cringe (e.g., Romeo and Juliet, 1996) or the ones that we anticipate viewing with students, feel free to share the experiences that you’ve had with teaching, studying or using popular films in academic settings. I’d love to hear about the film choices that you’ve made or are thinking about making.
Aufderheide, P. (1993). Report on the National Leadership Conference. Washington, DC: Aspen Institute.
Boske, C., & McCormack, S. (2011). Building an understanding of the role of media literacy for Latino/a high school students. High School Journal, 94(4), 167–186.
Day, J. (2010). Of mice and media. English Journal, 100(1), 70–75.
Garland, K. E., & Smith, S. (2013). Exploring the core with in-depth popular film analysis: How students can create a film review using a critical media literacy framework. Florida English Journal, 6-12.
Garland, K. (2011). Re-viewing popular film adaptations of young adult literature using
three contemporary literacy strategies. Signal, 34(2), 19–24.
Garland, K. (2010). Literacy practices in an English language arts elective: An examination of how students respond to media literacy education. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Publication number 3436333).
Hobbs, R. (2007). Reading the media: Media literacy in high school English.
New York: Teachers College Press.
Jolley, S. A. (2009). Connecting to conscience: Shakespeare and Woody Allen. English
Journal, 98(3), 73–79.
Kist, W. (2005). New literacies in action: Teaching and learning in multiple
media. New York: Teachers College Press.
Luhrmann, B. [Director], & Wick, D., Fisher, L., Martin, C., & Knapman, C. [Producers] (2013).
The Great Gatsby. United States: Warner Brothers.
Luhrmann, B. [Director], & Luhrmann, B. and Martinelli, G. [Producers] (1996). Romeo and
Juliet. United States: 20th Century Fox.
Martin, D. [Director], & Carlisle, M., Jones, Q., & Winfrey, O. [Producers]. (2005). Their eyes
were watching God. United States: ABC, Harpo Films.
Morrell, E. (2004). Linking literacy and popular culture: Finding connections for
lifelong learning. Norwood, MA: Christopher Gordon-Publishers, Inc.
Renaud, C. and Balda, K. [Directors], & Meledandri, C. and Healy, J. [Producers] (2012). The
lorax. [DVD]. United States: Universal Pictures.
*Special thanks to Mrs. T. for allowing me to share our personal conversation.
by Amy Piotrowski
As technology has advanced, new tools for learning have made their way into the classroom, along with strategies for how to teach with these tools. School districts and principals expect new teachers to be prepared to integrate technology in ways that increase student engagement and academic achievement. Two teachers in Colorado decided to use Internet technologies to post lectures online for their students who missed class. The strategy of the flipped classroom took off from there and has gained popularity the past few years. Preservice teachers may find themselves working in a school that wants to flip classroom instruction, and that’s where teacher education courses come in.
The flipped classroom is defined by high school chemistry teachers Bergmann and Sams (2012) as a classroom in which “that which is traditionally done in class is now done at home, and that which is traditionally done as homework is now completed in class” (p. 13). They have their students watch video lectures at home, freeing up class time for practice with the concepts introduced in the lectures. Because the flipped model changes what is done in class, it also changes the teacher’s role. Bermann and Sams (2012) explain that “We are no longer the presenters of information; instead, we take on more of a tutorial role” as they go around the classroom, helping students who have questions or need additional instruction (p. 14). Other benefits of the flipped classroom, according to Bermann and Sams, is that the videos allow students who are absent to avoid falling behind and that the videos allow for mastery learning, in which students move through learning objectives at their own pace.
English teachers have been flipping their classrooms in low-tech ways for years. Many English teachers assign reading to be done at home so that the next day can be spent discussing the novel or play that the class is studying. But how can English teachers take advantage of Internet technologies in their teaching practices? Because there is so little empirical research on the flipped classroom and on preservice teachers learning to flip their classrooms, I conducted a qualitative case study focusing on four preservice secondary English Language Arts teachers. The study was guided by the following research questions: Do preservice teachers who have been introduced to flipped lessons in an education course plan on implementing flipped lessons in their classrooms? If so, how do preservice teachers plan on implementing flipped lessons in their classrooms? What benefits and drawbacks do preservice teachers anticipate when they consider implementing flipped lessons in their future classrooms?
The preservice teachers in this study took an online English Education course called Enhancing Teaching With Technology during the summer of 2013. I collected three sources of data: interviews with participants, the online posts participants wrote for the class, and participants’ Flipped Classroom/Digital Media Projects. For the Flipped Classroom/Digital Media Project, preservice teachers created a series of three flipped lessons on a topic of their choosing and then posted their flipped lessons online.
Participants reported a positive impression of the flipped classroom after learning about it in Enhancing Teaching With Technology. All four participants reported that they plan to teach flipped lessons in the future and that the experience of creating their own flipped lessons was valuable. They saw how students benefit from having the teacher present and available to help as students work with new concepts and information. One participant called the practice of presenting material in class and then sending students home to complete an assignment “useless” because the teacher isn’t there when she’s needed. Another participant said that flipping the classroom “allows students to be more active in the classroom, rather than passively sitting and listening to the lecture during class time.” Participants also reported that the flipped classroom makes learning relevant by affording active learning using technology. For students who may need some information repeated, they can watch the video lessons as many times as they want.
The participants also discussed advantages to flipping the classroom for teachers. Since teachers can film multiple takes, they can edit and perfect their lessons before posting them online. Teachers can also go back and watch their videos as a way to reflect on ways to improve their teaching. One participant pointed out that teachers “can go back and evaluate yourself in a more concrete way than just thinking back, ‘Well, a couple of years ago I did a lecture on this. I don’t know how it went.’ You know, you can actually look at your flipped classroom lessons and get better and better.”
Study participants saw some potential drawbacks to flipping their classrooms. Some students may not have a computer or Internet access at home to watch the videos. Students may not watch the videos at home even if they can watch them, so flipping the classroom may not be a cure-all for unmotivated students. Parents and students may be wary of a new way of teaching and learning. One participant told me that “some people are afraid of change, and parents may become concerned that this style of learning would not be as effective for their children as the original style they may have had when they were students.”
One of the flipped classroom’s most concerning drawbacks is that while the teacher is there when students are working in class, the teacher is not there when the student watches the video lesson. What do students do when they have a question while watching the video at home? Two participants addressed this problem in their Flipped Lessons/Digital Media Projects. At the end of each video lesson, the preservice teachers directed their students to the class blog. On the class blog, students were instructed to post a summary of the lesson, a response to what they learned, and any questions they had after watching the video. Blogging can be a way for a flipped lesson to be more interactive, for students to ask questions while those questions are still fresh on their mind after viewing the lesson, and for teachers to check that students are watching the videos. The participants said that they believed that flipped lessons should be interactive. Blogs provide a way for that to happen.
I found that the participants created lessons about a variety of topics using a variety of tools. Their lessons were about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the novel Mansfield Park, the Hero’s Journey, and grammar. To create their lessons, they used Prezi, Power Point, SooMeta, screencasting tools, and clips from YouTube. By using these various tools to teach lessons on various topics, these preservice teachers built their Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, or TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). It seems to me from watching the participants’ flipped lesson videos that it is not enough to just make a film or screencast of the same old lecture that teachers have done for years. By using images and video clips from popular culture, the participants used technology to bring in material they otherwise could not have brought into the lesson. How can teacher educators work with preservice teachers to make flipped lessons not just viewable, but relevant and meaningful? How can different technology tools be used to make lessons engaging?
Participants said that they enjoyed creating their own flipped lessons. They reported that they would like to see a flipped classroom in action so that they can better understand how to handle the daily logistics of teaching flipped lessons. One participant said that flipping his classroom is “actually enhancing my teaching because I can focus on what’s really important in the lessons in the classroom.” Flipping the classroom allows teachers to spend class time on what’s best done in the classroom while using Internet and digital technologies to deliver content that students can review outside of class. Teacher education programs have the task of preparing preservice teachers for classrooms where technology will change how teaching is done.
For more on this research, go to http://www.amypiotrowski.com/preservice-teachers-and-flipped-classroom.html
For more on TPACK, go to http://www.tpack.org
Bergmann, J. & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, Oregon: ISTE.
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE Journal), 9(1), 60-70.
by Jose Paco Fiallos
I am an average 30-something living in 2014: I upgrade my smart phone at the earliest chance; all of my devices in my home are connected to the internet, even my air conditioner; I am part of many social media networks. I was raised with technology, from video games to personal computers to A/V equipment. But in my classroom I am something of an anachronism. Most of the technology that I am fluent with in my life gets checked at the door.
I have been to many presentations advancing this or that tech tool that would revolutionize the English classroom. I work with many teachers who live and die by their class social network, their smart board, their tablet computer, or their students’ use of apps on their cell phones. I, too, use these tools at various times in my own class, but never as the centerpiece.
I think I might be a little biased against technology when it comes to instruction. Maybe it comes from observing counties and school administrators using funds for new technologies that they then don’t provide training for, or that don’t have any immediate purpose in the classroom and so become little more than expensive toys gathering dust. Or maybe it’s because our textbooks are out of date and class sets of novels are constantly deteriorating. And as the debate over whether to convert to entirely digital textbooks and assigning each student their own tablet computer continues, important decisions about texts get pushed back.
Education, as a system, is a little too reactionary, I think. Or maybe impulsive is a better word. As educators we know that there are problems with some aspects of the system, from curriculum, to instruction, to assessment. And wouldn’t it be simple if there was a single piece of technology, or even a suite of tech tools that would address those problems and just make everything better?
There are tools being used effectively by teachers. I know it happens. And so I guess I am just a stodgy old English teacher who is tied to books and pen and paper; ink on the page, so to speak. And as such, I think that any tool, whether it be high or low tech, should not impede access to text in any way. Rather, technology should only serve as a means of increasing access, or even better, broadening the definition of what text is.
So maybe this will serve as a new beginning for me. It is helpful to state in concrete terms, putting digital ink to digital paper, what my own tech goals are.