Create your own dystopia! Creativity, choice, and voice!

We are wrapping up a dystopian literature unit. During the unit, we have studied civil disobedience, dystopian characteristics in several short stories, and have written an essay evaluating the satire inherent in a piece of dystopian literature as well as the civil disobedience in that literature as well. This next week we are finishing up the unit. In addition to a test and a BreakoutEDU, I thought it would be fun to have students create their own dystopias.

View the assignment at this link.

In this assignment, the main goal is for students to have an outlet for their own voices through creativity and choice. Students get to pick an issue in their own lives or their community (or the world), and then exaggerate that issue in the form of a dystopian satire. Students get to choose the issue, and then they also get to choose how to create their dystopia. I am having all students write a quick summary of their dystopian world; however, all students get to choice how to creatively bring these worlds to life. Some of the websites I’ve suggested are Canva, Storyboard That, and Adobe Spark.

I have several digital choices that I’ve come up with including simply writing it out as an actual story, to creating an infographic or a comic or even a propaganda video. I’ve even left it open for students to propose their own ideas for creation if they want. I’m excited for all the creativity!

Students can work in small groups, pairs, or alone as another layer of choice. In order to give some audience to their creations, I’m setting this assignment up as a contest as well. As we do with most projects, students will post their work to Google Classroom and will view each other’s work. In addition, I will have students vote on the dystopia creation that they feel best embodies a dystopia, is the best example of satire, and is the most creative.

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Keeping students engaged in the classroom

Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? If you have children, would you want them to be students in your classroom? This morning at the TIES 2016 conference, I went to a presentation by fellow English teacher Pernille Ripp. I was familiar with Pernille since I have wanted to implement her Global Read Aloud, and I was very excited to hear her speak about student engagement.

I really enjoyed listening to Pernille speak about how to keep students engaged. After hearing her speak, it dawned on me that actually I’ve been “about” student engagement this whole time. Pernille spoke about having your students enjoy school and having students enjoy school and be engaged because of their enjoyment, NOT because they are being forced to or are doing so because of possible consequences.

Pernille asked everyone the two questions that I began this blog post with. Would you answer yes to those questions? If not, why not? She really emphasized that, as a teacher, if students aren’t engaged and aren’t enjoying our classes, we should ask them why.

Pernille said that she does the hard work of asking kids what they like, what they don’t, and then contemplating how you could possibly go about changing that.

Overall, she said the deal breaker was making students feel welcome in their classroom. Here were some very simple and quick ideas for more student engagement based off of these ideas.

  • Let students pick where they sit
  • Ask students how you can make your lessons better
  • Pay attention to what we take away (ability to sit where they want, go to the bathroom, listen to music while they work etc) and then try to give them some of that choice back
  • Stop talking so much! Try to only talk 10 minutes per class

These were just some really simple ideas. I already try to let students pick where they sit and try to not talk more than 10 minutes a class. I also let students listen to music. However, there is so much more I can do. I hardly ever ask students what works for them and what doesn’t. I will start at the end of this unit I’m currently on this Friday.

Creating our own commercials

We have also been learning about rhetorical devices: ethos, pathos, and logos. After analyzing them in commercials, students created their own commercials.

First, all students had to write a script in a Google doc template. This template had them think about the big 5 questions when analyzing media, but for their own commercial. They also had to plan out each scene and how they were going to use rhetorical devices.

Next, students created a 4-slide Google presentation. Each slide simply had one image on it. Each slide was a scene in their commercial.

Third, students used Screencastify to talk over their presentation using their script. This created their commercial. Students posted these to Google Classroom.

Lastly, students viewed and critiqued each other’s commercials using a Google form.

Tomorrow they are going to find logical fallacies in their own commericial and other students’ commercials. I specifically teach fallacies after having them create the commercials because it creates a special kind of horror when they realize all the fallacies they’ve used. : )

Creating memes to learn logical fallacies

We are currently learning about logical fallacies in my class. After learning 8 basic fallacies, today was a day to practice.

First, I wrote a script of a play in which the 2 politicians debating (Smith and Jones) used fallacies. The debate moderator (Doe) asked the audience (the class) to identify the fallacies. The kids enjoyed it and they learned how to spot the fallacies “in the wild.”

Next, students created memes that were examples of fallacies. We used Google presentations and Google image search to do this. Here were the steps:

  1. All students got on an editable Google presentation. Each student got their own slide.
  2. Students then found a meme image on google images. You can do a search for “blank meme” and lots will come up
  3. Students put this picture in their slide.
  4. Using word art, students inserted words over the picture to illustrate a logical fallacy
  5. We then went through them as a class and guessed which fallacy each meme was illustrating.

It was super fun! If you’d like to see any of them, just check out this presentation.

Published in the local paper!

A class project my students did was published in the paper. In order to teach argument structure, students picked a local issue that they cared about. They then figured out who was a possible change-maker for the issue. Then, they wrote a letter and sent it to that particular change-maker.

Many students received letters back, but even if they didn’t, this was the most engaged that they had been so far this year. It just goes to show you that an authentic audience and purpose really does go a long way.

You can read the article here.