Tuesday July 7, 2009
I have not been following my lesson plans too closely. I have been doing pieces and following the learning objectives, but I am also trying to go with the students' interests because I want them to be able to use the concepts we're learning in their real lives, with the media with which they interact daily. So, when my students spent day 1 talking for at least 2 hours about the kinds of stories we see on the news and in video games and in music videos, and when one of them exclaimed, "Can we write a letter to the news?!" I followed. And today, when one of them said, "oooh can we make a video to send to the news?" I followed.
So for today, Tuesday July 7, my original lesson plan called for a discussion of how advertising works, of how it attracts our attention, convinces us of the worthiness of a product. And the lesson was to culminate in a production activity where the kids make their own commercials and cereal boxes.
But because the students are so interested in the news, we have not gotten to this activity yet. We did conduct the taste test which was setting us up for the activity and sadly, the students all liked the high-sugar cereal better than the banana nut crunch. I kind of expected this result but i also thought that they might actually prefer the taste of the banana cereal better adn that what draws them to the sugary stuff is the packaging. Lo and behold, what draws them to the sugary stuff is the sugar...

Anyway, so we did the taste test and then, in order to keep them excited and on task, I said, "Ok let's work on writing our letter to the news!" And I started to talk about the fact that media messages can have one of three functions - persuade, inform and entertain. ANd then i wanted to let them know that whenever we analyze any piece of media, we have to ask specific questions such as - what is the purpose? Who is the audience? which poitns of view are represented? And what is left out of this message?

But they were not at all attentive while I wrote these concepts on the board. They were, however, attentive when I pulled out a Daily Inquirer and turned to an inside page - one side of which was a full-page ad for IBM and one side of which was mostly filled with stories. I asked them to compare the two sides of the paper. They pointed out that one side had color and side looked "boring" b/c it had a lot of words. I asked them, "What are your eyes drawn to most in this 'boring' page?" They pointed out that they were drawn most to the bold lettering. I said, "yes! Newspapers make choices about which stories are important and they show us these choices and what's important by using different sized fonts and colors." And so we looked at other articles on that page and talked about whether each was considered important or not. Then I asked them to define what was on the opposing page and the students were confused for a moment until they realized that the image was an advertisement. I used that as an opportunity to explain that newspapers sell advertisements to make money and so they need lots of eyes on their pages in order to justify having advertisers spend money on the newspaper. They understood some of it and were shocked to know that newspapers make these decisions about what is important and what is not.

Then, I broke them up into a web group and a paper group. The web group visited Channel 10's site and Fox 29 and they were to fill out a handout that asked questions such as - what is the headline of this story? Is the headline different from teh story? Quickly I realized that the students were not yet able to read and comprehend the newspaper articles and that they did not understand many of the questions on the handout because their wording was a little bit above their grade level. But the thing was, I had bolded certain vocabulary words on that worksheet so we could discuss the questions but I wasn't able to talk about those things b/c kids were so rowdy that I just wanted to move right into an activity.

So they started to play around a little and I had a hard time navigating b/c while one student was doing well another was staring off into space and I had to keep going back and forth among different students to make sure all was working properly adn make sure they understood. I realized in the middle of the activity that I should have done this part as a group, or at least modeled once as a group and then moved into the activity. But I didn't feel like I could model because their behavior was so bad today that I had a hard time keeping them together.

Anyway, so they tried to complete this handout and I don't know if they got anything out of it or not, especially not the students who could not understand the piece. One thing they did learn was where to find page numbers in a newspaper and that newspaper stories continue onto other pages, so in terms of newspaper literacy, that is at least a start. And they now know what headlines are and they might even be able to critically examine whether a headline should be a headline at all. Another thing I had them do was to read the stories as best they could and then write their own headlines that better conveyed the information in the story.

So then we had ot move on quicly to writing our letter which I thought would be exciting enough to bring them back to attention, but they were still disruptive and having a hard time paying attention. Nonetheless, we were able to get some sentences written on the board, one by one. (each student came up to the board one after another and added sentences). I noticed that one student had been drawing characters all through class and having learned once to use students' distractions to their benefit, I asked him to draw something for our video to the news. And then I set him up with a "director' and the two of them discussed what we should show in the posters and what our voice-over narration should be.
Tomorrow in class we are going to (I hope!) finish revising our letter and then storyboard it together and rehearse rehearse rehearse. Then Susan is going to come in and speak to us and mabye we can even rehearse our letter for her to get her feedback.

Anyway, what I learned today is a great deal but something major is that I really need to have better classroom management (actually I've known that...) I really liked what renee said today in the debrief about how we need to let the kids know what kind of environment we are in, but I don't know whether I have the authority to do that though Renee says I do. I just don't know how they are ever going to listen to me though I think many of us probably feel this way. I have to say though for as rowdy as they were today, I was really impressed with their ability to stay on task and I think part of thier energy was from having had their break so early and having started off too casually.

I also learned that I really appreciate and admire these students and that they are incredibly bright. And I want to tap into their strengths.
Oh and I think that this newspaper discussion will set us up well for when we have our discussion about how advertisements do similar things to draw our attention.