Mentor Text: “China’s Web Junkies,” an Op-Doc from The New York Times
Skill: Using evidence to support a position
Every year it seems that more and more of my students are denouncing Facebook. They talk about it freely during passing time as they unpack their bags. “You’re still on? I’ve been off for a while now. It’s pointless.”
“Yeah,” another student chimes in. “It was ruining my life.”
Sometimes the things we hear our students say in passing can be great fodder for important classroom and life lessons. This is one of those conversations worth bringing into the classroom.
The Op-Doc “China’s Web Junkies” looks at the internet addiction problem of Chinese youth. In addition to serving as a great conversation piece for a discussion about technology and social media, it also serves as a tool for introducing students to the language of argumentation–specifically to the types of evidence writers use to support a position.
Federico Morando under Creative Commons lic
How To Use It:
You might begin by reading a passage from Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other. Alternatively you might engage students in a freewrite about their relationship with technology, using these questions from The Learning Network (scroll to the bottom for the questions).
Read the related article out loud so students have some background information. The filmmaker is arguing that internet addiction centers are bandaid solutions for curing a much deeper societal problem: loneliness.
Play the op-doc. Students should jot down anything they think the filmmaker is using to support his argument. Encourage them to listen with their eyes and ears, noting images, dialogue, and captions. You might stop after the first two minutes to discuss what they’ve noticed already: images of isolation and sadness (the crying boy with the letter), jail imagery, facts (In 2008, China declared…)
After the film, students discuss their findings in small groups. A group leader reports out to the class.
Note what the findings have in common and introduce students to the vocabulary of evidence. Use the examples they came up with to teach them about expert testimony, facts, interview, imagery, statistics, and anecdote.
It would make an excellent companion piece to Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk “Connected, but Alone?”
Many students have practice with digital storytelling. Why not introduce them to digital argumentation with this short documentary?
Join us TOMORROW, Thursday, March 13 at 7:30pm EST for a #movingwriters chat to talk about using mentor texts & teaching students to use them on their own!