Teaching From My Twitter Feed: Fun with Satire Personas

My students are at that time of year where they need to be constantly entertained.  They like the satire unit we’re in the midst of (some of them have even said so out loud!), but their attention spans are starting to resemble that of my eight year old this afternoon as the rain poured down outside.  I don’t blame them.

And I’ve tried to rise to the occasion for them:  Our Poetry Bracket Challenge wraps up tomorrow, we’ve examined “This Is America” (amazing conversation–I highly recommend spending some time with this if you haven’t already), and we’ve even built our own memes as a way of practicing our satire skills.  It’s all been fun, but the sunshine keeps beckoning through the window and so I keep having to find more and more entertaining distractions that also happen to have educational value. It’s exhausting.

But, as usual, Twitter proves to be an English teacher’s best buddy!  As with a lot of the best stuff on Twitter, this account just started showing up in my feed because it kept getting retweeted by other people I follow.  It turned out to be an incredible model for satire, writing with voice, and even teaching kids how to develop a persona or character in subtle ways.

Out of context, though, it was a little confusing the first couple of times.  For example:

man journalists

man stress dad

It felt like an odd joke, and while the account’s handle immediately had me thinking satire or parody, it was hard to say whether it was self-aware or just ridiculing women’s magazines or doing something else entirely (the grotesque alt-right term “cuck” even popped into my head for a moment, but it wasn’t being retweeted by the type who’d be entertained by that sort of trash).  

After seeing it a few more times though, it became obvious what the account was doing:

man pronouns

The entire feed takes the cis male perspective and turns it on its head. The account itself plays the straight man, embodying a straightforward, unironic tone while presenting all sorts of perspectives and takes about the male gender as if they were reasonable topics for consideration.  

The joke of course is that each tweet is actually a clever parody of the sort of garbage takes that are often lobbed at women in digital media spaces from “objective” cis male writers and “thinkers” who claim to mean well but are really perpetuating stereotypes or subversively trying to reinforce gender roles while pretending at open-mindedness.  

Notice the tweet below, for example, which asks a question that ostensibly places blame for workplace harassment on “form fitting” trousers that these sexpot male professors are always wearing to work.  There are multiple layers of absurdity here, but beneath it all is an unmistakable criticism of a social media trend. A “harmless” question is posed that really smuggles in an entire argument already functioning inside of it.  Of course on ACTUAL Twitter the question would always have the genders reversed–it isn’t men who have this sort of question about appropriate dress leveled at them, it’s women.

man loose trousers

My students will be wrestling with a few of these posts to try and make sense of the satire mechanisms at work–it’s a really difficult “text” unless you have access to a broad swath of the tweets all at once, and even then, the target (the unenlightened cis male worldview, in a nutshell) requires a lot of contextual knowledge in order to spot.  It’s a good workout for a whole host of English muscles we’ve been trying to flex this unit.

It might also be useful for other areas of study though:  I think the idea of carefully crafting a persona like this over time–one tweet at a time–is an interesting challenge that speaks to character development while emphasizing brevity in writing.  Creating a persona over time, say, one tweet or Facebook post per bell ringer, would be a fantastic way to help them stretch themselves as writers without the frustrating mental block of having to create a full-fledged personality within the time crunch of a single writing deadline.  

If you’re looking for such characterization models, this account is the tip of the iceberg–Twitter is teeming with fictionalized personalities that have been carefully curated by their ghost writers to feel fully fleshed out (except for the actual flesh, I guess).  Have fun–find a Twitter “character” that speaks to your own sense of humor and share it with the kids.  They’ll still spend some of their time looking out the window (even if it’s raining), but they’ll still be grateful for the change of pace.

–Mike

How do you help students wrestle with the subtler aspects of satire?  Characterization?  Let us know on Facebook or on Twitter (of course!) at @ZigThinks .

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YA Sentence Snapshot: We Are Okay

Text:

We Are Okay by Nina Lacour

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Image from ninalacour.com

Audience:

9-12 (The narrator, Marin, is a freshman in college, and the book contains some very mild sexual themes.)

Book Talk:

It’s not uncommon for teens to feel betrayed by their parents at some point — when they show up at that party and drag you home, or hide how sick your grandmother really is — but Marin encounters a family betrayal so huge it has the power to uproot everything she knows to be true about her life. The 2018 Printz Award winner, this book follows Marin on her journey through grief — not once, but twice. The book is gorgeously written, alternating between past and present, as Marin both avoids and moves through her sadness.

Sentence Study:

It was a summer of trying not to think too deeply. A summer of pretending that the end wasn’t coming. A summer when I got lost in time, when I rarely knew what day it was, rarely cared about the hour. A summer so bright and warm it made me believe the heat would linger, that there would always be more days, that blood on handkerchiefs was an exercise in stain removal and not a sign of oblivion.

It was  a summer of denial. Of learning what Mabel’s body could do for mine, what mine could do for hers. A summer spent in her white bed, her hair fanned over the pillow. A summer spent on my red rug, sunshine on our faces. A summer when love was everything, and we didn’t talk about college or geography, and we rode buses and hopped in cars and walked city blocks in our sandals. (Page 152-153)

This passage can help writers…

  • Write rich summary full of detail
  • Use repetition for effect
  • Write effective fragments

Together the class might notice…

  • The repeating phrase “It was a summer…a summer”
  • These two paragraphs are summary, but they read like a scene because of the richness of specific details.
  • The polysyndeton (or “repeating ands”, or whatever your students want to call it!) at the end: “…and we rode buses and hopped in cars and walked city blocks in our sandals.”
  • The magic three — many of these sentences are comprised of three parts or phrases — Example: 1) A summer when I got lost in time, 2) when I rarely knew what day it was, 3) rarely cared about the hour — that create a rhythm and reflective tone.
  • The contrast of vague and specific details: “A summer when I got lost in time” with “blood on handkerchiefs,” for instance.
  • The first paragraphs gives an overview of the narrator’s summer, while the second paragraph zooms in on a specific relationship.

Invite students to try it by saying…

In this passage the narrator is reflecting on the summer spent with her girlfriend Mabel. The sentence falls in Chapter Fifteen, subtitled “July and August”. Even though these paragraphs summarize a two-month period in the narrator’s life, it doesn’t feel like summary — the details she includes are so vivid and specific that it feels like she is painting little scenes for us. Summary doesn’t have to be boing. Summary can be as rich and alive as scene.

Today I want you to think about a short time period in your life — maybe last week or month, maybe all of last year, or maybe another fragment of your life that stands out for  a specific reason. You might begin by listing out some of the details that made this time period unique. And then can you use Lacour’s paragraph to help you string these details together into a summary that feels present and alive and in focus?

What possibilities do you see here for your students? How could this sentence / passage study connect with the current literature or writing content in your class? How could it help your students? Leave a comment below, or connect with me on Twitter @allisonmarchett.

 

 

 

The 100 Days of Summer Writing!!!

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It’s here! It’s here!

#100DSW18 Slide Deck

Welcome to the inaugural 100 Days of Summer Writing!

This is a movement for students and teachers alike to use the summer break to build writing muscles and bits of genius through the regular inspiration provided by Notebook Time.

THANK YOU to everyone who contributed! And THANK YOU to everyone who is planning to join us – -as a teacher-writer and by sharing this opportunity with your students.

In addition to the slides above, this post will also provide instructions for how you and your students can get involved! Some preliminaries:

  • The slides are identical for teachers and students.
  • If you wish to edit the slide deck to better fit your students and your context, we suggest you download the PDF above, screenshot the slides you wish to include in your customized slide deck, and paste those screenshots into your own slideshow.
  • You might want to review the Getting Ready for Summer Writing lesson! This can help students and teachers understand ways they might respond to the notebook time invitations each day. There’s even a handy chart you can print for students or glue in your own notebook.
  • Students and teachers should feel free to participate every day or some of the days or sporadically, in order from #1-#100 or out of order! In other words, use this as it serves YOU. 
  • The 100 days will officially begin May 29 and end September 5.

For Teachers

  1. If you are going to participate in any capacity, would you please register using this Google form?
  2. Writing is always more fulfilling in community. Please consider sharing what you write! This is part of how we get stronger together. There are a couple of ways you can do this:
  • Take a picture of your writing and post it to Twitter. Tell us which slide you’re responding to, and use the hashtag #100DOSW18.
  • Join our 100 Days of Summer Writing Facebook Group! This will be a place we can talk about writing over the summer, check in on one another, and share writing. Each day, one of the 100 Days slides will be posted to the group. You can add your own writing right below it OR write on paper, snap a photo, and add it to the comments! It will look like this:

Image-1 (2).jpg

  • Form your own teacher-writer group and share with them! Agree on a number of times to share — via email, in a shared Google Slideshow, in a Facebook group, chat about it on Voxer. Just find friends who are also participating and make intentional time and space to share your summer writing journey.

For Students

  • Older students participating should also be encouraged to take a picture of their writing and post it to Twitter using the hashtag #100DOSW18.
  • For younger students, set up a local, shared Google slideshow. Ask students to create slides to share their responses — one response per slide. Students can add comments in the slide notes to engage in conversation with one another about their writing! (This is what I’m doing with my middle schoolers!)
  • You might have other options within your school context — discussion boards through Edmodo or Blackboard, for instance! If you have another way that you are going to build writing community over the summer, please leave a comment below to share your idea!

Between now and June 1, Moving Writers will be sharing oodles of ideas for how you might engage colleagues and students in summer writing! (Stefanie kicked us off yesterday!) We will archive everything #100DOSW18-related in one page on our menu bar!

Alright! Did we forget something? What do you need to know? Leave us a comment here or reach out on Twitter @RebekahODell1. We are so excited about the ways we will all grow as writers together this summer! 

Mentor Text Wednesday: Memoir Mixtapes

Mentor Texts: Jon Recommends: “Head Rolls Off” by Frightened Rabbit By Jon Johnson

Sean Recommends: “Ocean Drive” by Lighthouse Family By Sean Cunningham

Techniques:

  • Using music as inspiration for memoir writing
  • Mood
  • Connecting elements in writing
  • Symbolism
  • Brevity

Background –  This is the first of two Mentor Text Wednesdays that finally allow me to fulfill a vision I’ve had for this space for a long time.

 

memoir mixtapes

Via Memoir Mixtapes’ Medium page

I love the idea of having music inform and inspire what my writers are writing. I have a number of books that I’ve yet to pull out the best mentor texts from. However, I recently discovered, via, of course Twitter, that there is a wonderful online lit journal called Memoir Mixtapes. My affinity for this publication should be pretty obvious from their Twitter bio: “The ultimate mashup of the two things we all love to talk about: ourselves and music.” I love reading memoir and listening to music. I love bringing both of these things into the classroom, and I think Memoir Mixtapes will be a good source of mentor texts to do this.

 

Though I saw some wonderful pieces as I scanned through the journals, this week, I’d like to focus on a pair of pieces that were shared via Twitter, and aren’t included in the journals. As I start writing this, I haven’t actually listened to the songs that are featured, which in some ways, may have helped me focus on the pieces themselves.

Though I had followed Memoir Mixtapes and flagged a few of their posts for later perusal a while ago, it wasn’t until recently that I actually took the time to read one. The first one I read was the piece by Sean Cunnigham, about “Ocean Drive” by Lighthouse Family. The opening line reminded me why this is a particular stream of writing I want to explore with my writers:

“The past is but a song away; songs have the power to unlock memories, some long forgotten — memories, sometimes, best left forgotten.”

This line actually highlights what I’ve needed to really make this idea of music inspired writing happen – a focus. Continue reading

Rolling Snowballs in Summertime: Using #100DOSW18 to Encourage Deeper Writing Next School Year

Remember how Olaf, the snowman from Frozen, sings about how excited he is to experience summer after Arendelle’s deep freeze? Consider me his opposite. As summer (and summer writing!) approaches, I, ever the Wisconsin girl at heart, am thinking about snow.

Seriously.

I’m thinking specifically about a snowman-size snowball, the kind you make by rolling a small ball across a snowy yard like a hay bale until, layer by layer, it grows to ten times its size. Or the kind that rolls down a mountain to become something comically gargantuan and even village-engulfing.

Really!

Now, lest you think that I’m wishing Wisconsin’s 30-inch April snowstorm upon my new (and usually milder) climate in Virginia, let me clarify. I’m thinking about snowballs because, as I review the last pieces of writing from my seniors, I’m not seeing as much snowball writing as I’d like.

What’s snowball writing, you ask? It’s what I’ve decided to call the paragraph or the essay that builds momentum. The writing that–through the growing strength of its layered evidence, interpretation, and analysis–becomes a force of nature, an argument that bowls over the reader. 

As I look at my students’ writing, I realize that, in my eagerness to prepare these new students at a new school for two big essay exams, I rushed us into writing whole papers (snowpeople) when we probably should have spent some time building the pieces of those papers–the individual snowballs, if you will. Quotes and other pieces of evidence were just dropped in front of readers like the remnants of poor Olaf on a warm day. So my challenge for the summer is to develop more opportunities for deep, layered, ruminating analysis, and a great place to begin is the Moving Writers 100 Days of Summer Writing challenge. (Is my excitement for #100DOSW18 be inspiring all of the strange metaphors in today’s post? Probably!)

What I’m thinking about works as a continuation of Rebekah’s introductory lesson. Yesterday, Rebekah shared a fantastic set of questions to help students connect with a notebook prompt; today, in the spirit of the Mindfulness Monday activities my homeroom and I recently enjoyed, I offer some suggestions for “meditating” on some of the #100DOSW18 slides. Continue reading

100 Days of Summer Writing: Introducing Notebook Time

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You guys: it’s all happening!

On Wednesday, we will release our first 100 Days of Summer Writing — a slide deck of 100 slides to inspire writing over the summer, instructions for how to participate yourself, and instructions for how to get your students involved. Over the next two weeks, the writers here at Moving Writers will be sharing posts designed to give you ideas for using this in your summer assignments, challenging your students to commit words to paper (or screen) on their break, and to pump you up to join a growing community of teacher writers.

If you already use Notebook Time with your students, they will be ready to jump in with the 100 Days. But, if you don’t already use Notebook Time with your students, it’s not too late! If you can give up just ONE class period before summer break, you can introduce your kids to Notebook Time and get them ready to write this summer!

Today, what I’m sharing here today is a lesson plan that I will be using in week or so with the sixth graders in my building who have not yet practiced notebook time but who will be invited to join in the summer writing bonanza!

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Using Writing For Diagnostic Purposes

I used to work a very structured private school. It was a school for students with ADHD and learning disabilities. The structure was part of the programming there that served to support these students as learners, not just at that school, but if they returned to public school classrooms. Though I teach much differently now than I did then, there are influences of that place in my teaching now.

One of the things that happened there was that the school year began with students writing a couple of diagnostic tests. The results of these tests were then used to inform a student’s programming. Instead of being placed in a class based upon the grade someone their age would be in, classes were composed around their strengths and challenges. I found a copy of the English diagnostic test we gave them recently. I doubt that I’ll ever use that particular test again, but I realized that I still do something similar.

As I approach the end of the year with my current Grade 9 class, I want to balance some fun learning, particularly our visual storytelling work with graphic novels, with some academic writing. We’ve been looking at storytelling over the course, so we’re going to look at short stories. We read, take notes and discuss each story, and then write academic responses, focusing on some basic literary analysis.

improve_your_essay_writing_skills_with_these_five_tips

Image via Casa Castelo

As I often do with a type of writing that we’re going to do multiple times, I actually give minimal instruction for the first response. They are simply told that I want an academic response that communicates the things of importance in their notes, and/or our collective notes I take during our discussion. This is my new diagnostic. I want to see what they can do, what they already know, and what aspects of this style of writing might warrant further instruction.

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The Most Essential School Supply (Plus 3 Instructional Practices to Make the Most of It!)

It’s that time of year. Yeah, we may sometimes feel like we’re in survival mode with eager tallies marking how many Mondays are left in the school year, but as much as we might be counting down, we’re also starting to plan ahead for next year.

We’re waxing reflective and submitting school supply lists to the office. And as soon as we wave goodbye to the last bus pulling out of the parking lot, it seems like Target trots out their Back to School displays.

As you put together your supply requests and fill up your cart with discounted supplies, I’d like to make an argument for the most essential school supply on your list: a notebook.

Sure, I love my colored pens, sticky notes, and chart paper. I’ve tinkered with different binder organization systems. But if I was forced to choose just one school supply to help me ensure that all of my students will be successful, it would be a notebook – hands down.

notebooks.jpgNow, when I say “notebook,” I’m talking about a good, old-fashioned composition notebook. I like the size and especially the way it’s just a tiny bit harder to tear pages out, but I suppose in a pinch, just about any notebook would do. (And if you’ve got experience with keeping notebooks digitally, I’d really love to hear about it!)

A notebook is essential because if we really want our kids to engage in meaningful writing, we have to give them space to explore that process. And all the looseleaf, graphic organizers, and handouts in the world just can’t do that.

You know what I’m talking about with the handouts: color-coded packets stapled together and made up of boxes, bullet points, and fill-in-the-blank thesis statements. Fill in all of the boxes for the green page, and you’ll be ready to turn it into an introduction. Complete every bullet point in the yellow sheets, and your body paragraphs will practically write themselves.  I’ve done it plenty of times. The intentions are good. We want our students to have clear directions. If they simply follow these step-by-step directions, then we know they’ll get a good grade.

Sure, the intentions may be wonderful, but is it real writing? The process may be streamlined, but is the purpose really clear? Do students understand why they’re writing or for whom? And is putting together a bunch of slips of paper really what the writing process looks like?

Yes, the directions may be clear, but they beg so many more questions: Why would they want to write? Where’s the creativity? The growth mindset? What happens if a thought doesn’t fit neatly in a blank? Do you scrap the whole packet? When do we let students do their own thinking?

If we move away from the packets and step-by-step directions, notebooks can help us answer these nagging questions. Continue reading

Mentor Text Wednesday: Defining Charmed Childhood Objects

Today’s guest post is from Amy Heusterberg-Richards, an eleventh-year ELA teacher at Bay Port High School in the Howard-Suamico School District, located north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Just named Wisconsin’s 2018 NCTE High School Teacher of Excellence, she currently teaches Writing, Literary Analysis, and IB English Literature HL Year Two. She previously wrote a post for Moving Writers on rewriting the word wall. Connect with her on Twitter at @LAwithMrsHR.

Mentor Text:

Writing Techniques:

  • Definition writing
  • Using imagery and analogies

Background:

Last year my high school ELA department bravely ventured into semester-long, skill-focused classes. Our previous survey courses — with their daunting challenge to know and grow students’ writing, speaking, and analysis skills — morphed into courses that, while still integrating all the English discipline, provide feedback with focus. With supportive teammates alongside of me, I now teach Writing to sophomores. The class is not writing about that one book, for that one speech, or on that one teacher prompt. It is simply and beautifully writing — guided by mentors, focused on craft, and about student-selected subjects.

Except, last week. Last week we wrote about parent-selected topics.

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When a Writer Growls: 4 Questions for Helping Resistant Writers

I used to be the proud mother of this beautiful beast:

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Beaumont Maguire, an exceptional example of a St. Bernard (his vet said it, not me)

He crossed the rainbow bridge a few years ago, but I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately because I have some writers who remind me of him. Before you get offended on their behalf (She’s comparing children to a dog?!), I need to stress that my love for my dog makes this a high, high compliment.

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Back off, Lady.

 

The thing about Beaumont was that he wasn’t always pleasant. He was a little growly. If you got up in his face, you’d hear a low, warning grumble coming from the back of his throat. He never bit anyone or snapped, but he really had to trust you to warm up to you.

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of doing MTSS (multi-tiered system of support) literacy support work with the general education students in my school for half of my day.  We’ve identified students who are struggling in the regular curriculum and work with their teachers to fill in skill gaps as necessary through one on one work or small group instruction.  It means I’ve had lots of opportunities to work with some growly, resistant writers lately.

Many times, helping a student begin is not about the student at all–it’s about the curriculum and the need for that student to have some choice and see relevance in the writing. We can’t always control curriculum, though, and sometimes feel hemmed in by state or district curriculum requirements. We can’t control what is going on in our students’ lives outside our rooms, either. Sometimes they have so many other things impacting their daily lives that writing in our rooms just isn’t something they value.

So what can we do? I think it all starts with talk. 

Here are 4 questions that help me get those students going.

Continue reading