Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting for a Hero?

John & Sydney's class came on a library field trip this morning to explore The Hero's Journey. They had talked some about Joseph Campbell's archetype in relation to their lit book, Jim the Boy, and how Jim's coming of age might fit the Hero's Journey pattern.

We gathered in the video room to watch the clips below, and talk about what they knew about the Hero's Journey. It's kind of like junior high, really -- the call (finishing 6th grade), crossing the threshhold of no-return, a series of trials and tests (mostly tests, one student insisted), and the return (finishing 8th grade) as a changed person, who brings benefit to the community. We also talked about favorite books & movies that illustrate this pattern (The Hunger Games, The Lightning Thief, Spiderman) -- it's fun to realize that a book you know and love fits into "real" literature discussions.

The first 1:40 of the clip below is a very funny, very quick introduction to all 12 of Campbell's steps in the journey. We didn't watch the rest, but it's worthwhile if you have time.

After the videos and discussion, I talked a bunch of novels from the collection that I think fit the Hero's Journey archetype in significant ways. Not every story has all 12 elements, and not every element is literally applied (some journeys are mental or emotional, some epic battles are against oneself, not a physical enemy). Oh, and not every hero is male, or straight, or human!

Students were encouraged to check out one or more of these books for spring break reading, and challenged to think about which elements of the Hero's Journey they could identify in the novel, and why I might have chosen it for this theme.

Links go to the novel's page in the Paideia Library catalog.

Set in a Different World (or a far, far away time)

Set in Our World (more or less)
Lastly, here's a 7 minute movie created by high school students that also illustrates (with humor) Joseph Campbell's heroic journey. Beware the watchdog!!

Oh, and how could I leave out the sourcebook? Joseph Campbell's groundbreaking study of world mythology, The Hero with A Thousand Faces.

Friday, March 25, 2011

100 Years Ago Today

Today at around 4 pm marks 100 years since a murderous fire broke out on the 8th floor at the Triangle Waist Factory near Washington Square in Greenwich Village. If you don't have time or opportunity to watch the new HBO documentary, spend 8 minutes watching the CBS feature below. Pause a moment to consider Women's History, Immigrant history and the history of the Labor Movement and the New Deal. All owe much to a disaster that took 146 lives that sunny Saturday afternoon.

ADDED 4/11/2011 - an article from the New York Times about Ruth Sergel, an artist who initiated an annual project to chalk the names of Triangle fire victims on sidewalks in front of where they had lived.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wednesday Website:
Forget the Film, Watch the Titles!

Are you a person who bolts from the cinema at the close of the last scene, or one who watches a movie from first to last frame, including what I used to explain to my children was the "business," the opening and closing credits? I always stay in my seat until the very last credit rolls by, sometimes to see some small bit of information like music performers or location credits, and sometimes because those closing credits are great film in and of themselves.

From the fabulous Open Culture , I found this nifty film, art and design website called Forget the Film, Watch the Titles - "showcasing the very best in title design." As of this week, Watch the Titles has clips, background information and interviews with title designers for 155 different movies. I'll introduce you to the site with a couple of book-related titles. Watch the sequences embedded here, but be sure to go to the site to read more about the creation and design of each.

The pilot film for a 13-part series (shown in the US on HBO) is based on Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Set in Botswana, the book series features Mma Precious Ramotswe and a colorful cast of characters, thoughtfully and unhurriedly investigating the foibles of human nature in contemporary southern Africa.

No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency – titles from Airside on Vimeo.

Another book-related feature on Watch the Titles comes from the 2004 film of Lemony Snicket's dismal and darkly humorous A Series of Unfortunate Events, in which the 3 plucky Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with their uncle, evil Count Olaf, who continuously plots to kill them to inherit the family fortune. Dear reader, if you sighed with relief at the children's near escape, you sighed too soon . . .

Read more at Forget the Film, Watch the Titles.

Do you stay to the very end to watch the closing titles?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blogging Dayze

Since the beginning of Long Term 2 I have been in a Blogger state-of-mind. I've collaborated on 4 blogging projects, set up 12 different blogs for junior high and high school classes, and taught sessions on the projects, goals & expectations, and how to get started on the blogs. I love it.

The "C-word" - Collaboration -- is the heart and soul of the librarian's purpose in school. In working with teachers to co-plan the design, structure and execution of an information-based project, I support Paideia's educational goals, I support the teachers in their teaching, and I work with students on developing the skills and thought processes needed in finding and using information.

The junior high language class project is an expansion of a project from last year. It's a term-long research project, in which students in Olivia, Mark, Lisanne, & Eddy's language classes research three different topics of choice from three different Spanish- or French-speaking countries. Each topic period lasts 3 weeks. The students' research is self-directed -- they can find out and report on anything they want that's related to the topic, and there's no immediate "end product" required. Later on, they'll pick one of the country/topic pairs to do a more focused and in-depth project for the ¡Fiesta! celebration in May, but for now it's all for the fun of finding out, and learning something more about a culture and words related to their language studies.

The students have run with this assignment and are following their interests, from soccer in Argentina and Cameroon, to Oscar de la Renta (did you know he was from the Dominican Republic??!!) to HIV/AIDS in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Carl's 9th grade World Civilizations and 10th grade American History classes are doing a different kind of project, that also works well on a blogging platform. His classes have a weekly assignment to read a current events article related to one of several specified topics, and write a reaction piece to it. Several of the students are finding their articles through subscriptions in their Google Reader accounts (did I ever mention I love my Google reader??), that they all set up earlier this school year. Some basic skills are involved in the assignment: identify author, title and source of the article (with hyperlinked URL), give a brief overview of the content, and give a thoughtful response/reaction to the article's focus.

The blogging platform works really well for these class activities. We use for several reasons: we can keep the blogs private but allow selected readers to see what students have written; it's easy and attractive; and, not least, a large majority of the students already have Google accounts (because of Gmail, Google Docs, other blogs they've worked with, or Google Reader) so they're ready to get started right away.

We've chosen to use one blog for a group of students (all the American History students, or all students in 6th period Spanish, for instance) rather than individual student blogs. Each student can post and edit her/his own articles, but not anyone else's, and multiple students can write and post to the blog at the same time (great for working in class). Publishing for an audience of peers is more authentic than a teacher audience-of-one, and both teacher and classmates can comment on a student's work.

One of the nicest things that the blogging platform offers is automatic indexing using "labels." A major part of the posting protocol is three labels (often called "tags" on other sites such as Facebook or for each article: in JH language they are Name, Topic and Country (eg. Alex, Algeria, Music). Blogger then creates an index of every post with each label, so students and teachers can click on the label (say, Algeria), and get a page of all the posts about Algeria. Someone interested in music could click on the Music label and get a page of every music post, regardless of the country. It's also very easy for student to see where they stand in terms of number of posts and also see all their posts collated on one page. World Civ students should have read and responded to 10 different Current Events articles this semester. The index shows the number of posts per label, so when Bob sees (8) next to his name, he knows he has two more to go. It's satisfying how smoothly this works.

In the near future, John & Sydney's class will be blogging and playing with poetry, and a short term Human Sexuality class will use Blogger as an interactive website for information and projects.

I wish I could link you all to the enthusiastic work students are displaying on the blogs, but we've got them all limited to class students and teachers. You can experiment with labels and indexing features on this blog if you want -- click on Teaching With Technology at the bottom of this post to create a page of all articles with that label. The automatically generated index displays in the right sidebar. Cool, isn't it?

If you have a Junior High language student or high schooler in Carl's World Civ or American History class, ask about the blog and how it's going.