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February 2014
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Answers to Two Questions from LTUE

During LTUE I had two people ask me questions that I could not answer right away. I said I would think about the questions and blog an answer later. This is that blog.

Question #1
In my presentation on Building a Community Among Your Readers I spent some time talking about the differences between a community and a following. I felt the distinction is important because they are built in different ways and accomplish different things. To summarize: A following is creator facing and creator focused. People want to hear what the creator has to say and some of them want to respond to it. A community may be centered around a creator or a creation, but the people in it are talking to each other. They interact not just about the creator, but about all sorts of other things as well.

The question:
I was asked to list the pros and cons of building a following vs building a community.

It took me several days to figure out why I was stumped for an answer, but I finally did. The answer to this question is highly individual. One person’s con will be another person’s pro. This means that as a teacher all I can do is list the qualities of each and the listeners have to take those qualities and put them in the pro or con column on their own personal tally sheet.

I hope to write up the Community presentation in the same way that I’ve written up other presentations, but that is dependent on time available. I’ve got lots of projects overdue right now.

Question #2
I was part of a panel on using games in the classroom. We talked much about integrating games into the curriculum and I cited an example of my son’s teacher who threads history through everything else she teaches. During the colonial unit, she splits the class into colonies and all the spelling words are related to those lessons. It becomes very game-like and stacks multiple educational purposes into a single hour.

The question:
When the panel was over I was stopped by a junior high teacher of English and literature. She pointed out that many of our examples had been history or math based. She wondered if I had any ideas for literature or vocabulary based games that would be useful in a junior high classroom setting.

My answer is really only the beginning of an answer. I hope that those of you who have additional suggestions on this topic will leave them in the comments. This is the sort of brainstorming which benefits from some crowdsourcing. The suggestion I came up with in the moment was speed scrabble as a way to encourage learning vocabulary by giving a practical application for it. It does present some challenges in a classroom setting though. Further thought had me thinking about the literature itself and wondering if it would be possible to structure some classroom interactions based on the conflicts inherent in the current assigned book. A read of Merchant of Venice could be accompanied by a classroom economy of some kind with reward structures. Romeo and Juliet could be enlivened by splitting the class into Capulets and Monteques. These ideas don’t feel particularly original, but more specific ideas could flow from knowing what book is to be read and knowing the personalities of the classes in question. I would caution against any Lord of the Flies live action role play. that could get out of hand.

There is also the suggestion of having reward days earned by accomplishments made on other days. This is also not particularly original, but can be compelling if the right social structure is build about the rewards. If the kids don’t truly care about the rewards, it does nothing. I still feel like there must be some better ideas, so if you have them, please do comment.

5 comments to Answers to Two Questions from LTUE

  • My high school English teacher used to have us play jeapordy with questions based on our current reading material. We got sore hands from slapping the desks, though. 🙂

    I suspect that math and history lend themselves more easily to games because we are more willing to reduce them to a set of facts. Literature can be reduced in a similar manner, but we tend to be more aware of how much is lost by doing so, and so we are reluctant to make that simplification.

  • Hannah

    This might be more of a drama class thing. But the first time I really understood ‘tone’ was when I went to an Improv show. One of the acts was someone soliloquizing various fairy tales in the manner of some particular writer or fictional character (was at a writing convention). It’s not really a game. Might be turned into one I guess. Or maybe a competition? Talent show? Not sure. But the juxtaposition not only was funny, it really helped me recognize that I did know the style and tone of the story/character. Just couldn’t put it into words.

  • Hannah

    That description was vauge. It had things like Goldilocks and the three bears in the manner of the main character of catcher in the Rye. I think maybe some Hemingway book in the manner of Dr Seuss. Things like that.