Winston Churchill had this to say about math.
“Letters, after all, had only got to be known and when they stood together in a certain way one recognized their formation and that it meant a certain sound. But the figures were tied into all sorts of tangles and did things to one another which it was extremely difficult to forecast with complete accuracy. Who could say what they did each time they were tied up together? It was not any use being nearly right; in some cases these figures got into debt with one another. You had to borrow one or carry one and afterwards you had to pay back the one you borrowed!”
Amen, Winston. Amen.
Quote from The Last Lion, Volume I: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 by William Manchester
This blog post is an example of a lesson assignment I would give if I flipped my classroom while we studied The Great Gatsby.
After studying the lost generation and other cultural issues related to the novel, we would need to start reading. I believe reading aloud in class is a good strategy and would want to do that in class. However, chapter one of the novel is quite daunting, so I would prepare my students to conquer chapter one with an activity that combines reading with vocabulary attack strategies.
Their preparation activity would be to go through the following Prezi, so they would know what we were going to do in class over the next two or three days. Please note that I converted my text to speech for the Prezi below because it is 4:54 AM and my family is sleeping as I write this post, so I could not record my voice without waking them. Perhaps at some point I will replace the voice over, but do not have time at the moment. There may be some pronunciation or cadence issues.
In class, we would follow this procedure. The students would practice valuable skills (namely, deciphering words that are unknown to them within context) as they read (and re-read) chapter one. The entire activity is authentic, in my opinion, as students will encounter unknown words throughout their lives and need to know that going to the dictionary is not always the best first step.
While they are working on vocabulary and comprehension, I would have many opportunities to assess the students through observation and discussion. I could modify approaches based on the students’ needs by scaffolding the activity with teacher and peer support as necessary.
It would be a great experience, I think!
They say that Abraham Lincoln had quite a temper. He would dash off letters in his anger and, by the time he had finished, his anger spent, he would think twice about dispatching it and place it on the mantle instead. He would wait until the morning, reevaluate his position and, if it was still warranted in his mind, then he would send the letter. Imagine if he had a smart phone and Twitter? He may have indeed tweeted: “If McClellan isn’t interested in using the army at present, perhaps I could borrow it for a while?” What would the Confederacy have made of that breakdown of command in the North?
I digress. My point is that today we have the ability to communicate so easily that many of us end up saying things we regret later. Our responsibilities in this area have increased many times over from the time in which verbal communications reigned and others were secondary. Before we click on send, tweet, or any other button that supports communication with the outside world, we need to think hard about the consequences.
The problem is, many of us don’t. We spread rumors, say hurtful things, and generally make fools of ourselves because we don’t have those few minutes that we used to have. We can’t put a tweet on the mantle till morning. (Actually, we can, but that’s aside from the point because many of us don’t use Buffer or schedule tweets through TweetDeck or Hootsuite.) Google or other search engines cache the communication and it’s out there forever, haunting us.
Part of the responsibilities of a teacher is to teach citizenship. These days, that includes digital citizenship, the rights and responsibilities that relate to our communications and interactions on the Internet and via digital means of any sort. There are many ways to teach digital citizenship. For this post, I would like to teach it within the context of the novel unit I’ve been working on, The Great Gatsby. Why not?
Rumors, Innuendo, and a Literary Time Machine
It would be nice to take a Friday and have the students work together on an assignment like this.
Imagine that a literary time machine has transported the Gatsby characters to the present and provided them with the tools they would need to navigate and interact in the digital space (smart phones, twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, etc.). How might the events of the novel be different? Let’s focus on the rumors and innuendo spread about Gatsby in the novel.
- Create a twitter stream regarding Gatsby, his history, and his profession, using the information in the novel. Predict what would happen to Gatsby legally or regarding Daisy.
- What are the effects of such rapid communication on the reputation of others, the development of stories (true or false), and the resolution of investigations? Do you remember that a news reporter came to Gatsby’s house for a comment on the rumors he’d heard? What might that reporter have done with a twitter stream or a Facebook conversation? What if he were a news reporter and brought the ‘story’ to television, complete with photos of Gatsby and interviews with ‘sources’?
- Write your opinion of the use of these technologies today, the rights we have to free speech (even gossip), and our responsibilities as digital citizens.
It’s my belief that this assignment is a good extension of the study of the novel into a new context: our culture. It reminds me of the time that a friend of mine had her students rewrite the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet using text messages. The students took to that assignment with earnest, and produced some absolutely stunning results that demonstrated understanding of the young lovers’ relationship. I would hope that this assignment would help students gain a new appreciation of the main character and the impact of communications today. I would also hope they would think twice before pushing send, tweet, or post.
This week, I have chosen to blog about the following topic.
Anatomy of a Question
Make a public blog post sharing some well-written question that challenge higher order thinking. Explain to your potential audience what makes this a question worth asking students. Think of this as an opportunity to help other teachers in your subject area understand some of what you learned in this unit through a case study.
Honestly, I took this assignment and twisted it to suit my purposes. I hope that is all right. 🙂
I must admit that my experience creating online assessments is limited to my training days, when I would assess users’ knowledge of the applications that were the subject of the training. I did not get too complex with my questions; instead, I tried to find out if they were actually paying attention during the training and hands-on practice or if they were more interested in their mobile phone and email. I also knew that the participants did not have as much time with the topics as someone participating in a traditional course, so my hope was that they would take what they have learned and apply it once they were back at their desks, using the job aids I gave them. My assessments were better than smiley-sheets, but not by much.
That’s not to say I did not try the other types of assessments. I did! They failed miserably. I believe that might be because I did not have as much time with my students as a traditional teacher and so many of my students had been out of school so long they were ‘out of practice.’ Or, it could just be that I did not create successful assessments.
So, I am back to the problem of lack of practice. That needs to change, so this is a good opportunity to make that change.
One more note: When I was teaching, I saved the higher-order questions for the short answer and essay. Since we are talking about online assessment, however, I am going to avoid those types of questions and focus on multiple choice. Of course I know that you can administer the short answer and essay questions in online assessment, but I consider my experience with multiple choice questions my Achilles’ heel.
I struggled mightily with the very short quiz above, because I would be much more comfortable giving the students essay questions or short answer questions to “formatively” assess their understanding of the novel. I actually put a twist on this assignment, but since this is a non-graded course, I am taking a risk and asking for help with my questions rather than researching “well written questions” (which I did) and posting them here. I hope no one minds!
I’m moving on now! Thanks for reading.