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TEACHING ENGLISH IN THE 21 ST CENTURY: Using Modern Media as a Support Tool in the English Classroom.

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Presentation on theme: "TEACHING ENGLISH IN THE 21 ST CENTURY: Using Modern Media as a Support Tool in the English Classroom."— Presentation transcript:

1 TEACHING ENGLISH IN THE 21 ST CENTURY: Using Modern Media as a Support Tool in the English Classroom

2 Contents Introduction/Focus History of Media/Television in the Classroom Relating to Media Media and Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet vs. Romeo + Juliet (1996) Media and Literature Life of Pi, vs. Cast Away, and Survivorman Video Clips of Selected Film Potential Assignments Media as Differentiated Instruction Learning Types and Media Risks of using Video/Film Conclusion References

3 Introduction Big Ideas: In the 21 st Century classroom, following the advent of the I-pod and portable, personal music, students have a shorter attention span than ever before. Students turn to electronic devices for entertainment and joy at an increasingly high rate as teachers of English, we should take this disadvantage and turn it in our favour to make English memorable and fun. Enduring Understandings: As teachers you will understand how technology can affectively be applied to student learning – specifically the use of Romeo and Juliet and Survivorman, and Castaway. How to make learning fun using film, and the complimentary assignments that can be implored with this teaching tool. Essential Questions: How can we as teachers avoid using technology as a crutch? What are the benefits of technology for young teachers, and how can we transfer our knowledge to our students most effectively?

4 Focus Two major pieces of literature often used in the Ontario English Curriculum, are Yann Martels Life of Pi and William Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet. I chose to examine how the study of each can be enhanced with a few pieces of modern film and television. The most recent adaptation of William Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet, the 1996 film William Shakespeares Romeo + Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann, can provide students with a modern context and help them understand some of the complex Shakespearean language. Similarly, the modern television show Survivorman, created by Les Stroud, and the movie Cast Away, directed by Robert Zemeckis, can help students explore certain themes within Life of Pi.

5 History of Media in the Classroom Television is the most prevalent and pervasive media of our time and will likely remain so throughout the next century. The youth being taught in classrooms today have never known a life without televised media (Vetrie, 2004). Many educators continue to focus on the negative aspects of this medium such as its ability to distract and desensitize the listener to other, less stimulating media.

6 Continued… As lovers of language, literature, and writing, English teachers are sometimes frightened by the prospect of integrating new technologies into teaching (Firek, 2002). Though the use of video in classrooms today is more widely accepted, many English teachers remain wary of merging modern media into their curriculum. However, rather than cut out film, we should attempt to embrace new modern media and integrate it into our English courses. By showing modern video containing modern themes, which in turn contain modern imagery, we can create a culture base; one that students will be interested in, and more importantly, be able to relate to.

7 Relating to Media The ability to relate to the media being transmitted is of the utmost importance for students. As Michael Vetrie (2004) discusses in his article, Using Film to Increase Literacy, recent brain research supports this pedagogical approach: For information to move from short-term memory to long-term storage, the learner must have two questions answered. First, does this make sense? In other words, can the learner understand the item based on experience? Does it fit into what the learner knows about the world (the schemata)? (p. 42). When selecting a film for an English classroom, it is best to find one that relates to the students, connects to their social or cultural background, and engages them with its story.

8 Media and Shakespeare One of the main reasons for this difficulty is Shakespeares complex and unfamiliar language structure which, when misunderstood, prevents the proper transmissions of themes. For example, William Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet does not have a confusing or complex plot - boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy and girl are forbidden from this love by their parents; boy and girl marry anyways, eventually killing themselves when they believed the other to be lost. This plot, though extreme, is not dissimilar to what many students may experience during high school (however to a lesser dramatic extent). Often students do fall in love with someone their parents do not approve of. Students understand this dichotomy; what troubles them is the language. Our goal as teachers of English should be to bridge the language gap that keeps so many of our students fumbling in the dark.

9 Shakespeare in the Classroom Remember that Shakespeare's plays are meant to be performed and not read. There are different ways to accomplish this including dramatic readings, acting, and video. Dramatic readings and acting can have drawbacks depending on the strength of your class, so a video re-inaction can often be a good starting point for many activities. One of the best choices for Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet, is a recently created version directed by Baz Luhrmann in 1996 entitled, Romeo + Juliet.

10 Engage: From your personal experiences with Shakespeare what are some benefits you have witnessed of teaching with film? Either as a teacher now, or previously as a student. Do you see the value of incorporating film when teaching Shakespeare?

11 Romeo + Juliet For those who have not seen this adaptation, Luhrmann recreates the famous play in modern Verona, replacing many historic references with witty modern equivalents. In this way he provides a context to the drama and romance in a more relatable and culturally relevant time period. The film is undoubtedly a unique Shakespearean experience, but what it lacks in visual accuracy it more than makes up for in its strict adherence to the language of the text. Students, regardless of linguistic comprehension, were able to understand, based on the scenes depicted and the emotions of the characters, exactly what is taking place.

12 Romeo + Juliet It is important with this film, as it is with any other, to not let the viewing go unguided, or without instructional interruption. The mere exposure to televised instructional material does not ensure that learning takes place. Because it is still a Shakespearean based film, one should stop the film often at key positions which will both illuminate and accentuate certain aspects of the text, and allow for interesting discussion.

13 Opening Scenes In watching Romeo + Juliet, the opening scenes immediately immerses the students in modern times staging the introduction as a news report. Students who were perplexed by the complex language initially, completely understood what was going on in the film. The following brawl scene yielded even greater results. They noticed that the swords Tybalt and Benvolio refer to in Act I Scene I are in fact guns, yet still referred to by the henchmen as swords, each labeled, Sword 9mm Series 5. It was incredible to see their thought process as they analyzed and engaged with this contemporary resource.

14 Romeo and Juliet – Conclusions Indeed, this new version of Romeo and Juliet, despite being set in the modern day, stays true to the spirit of Shakespeares work. Despite this, most English teachers would still agree that a movie adaptation is no substitute for the literature itself. However, in this case, when the film is coupled with the play itself, they provide a richer experience for students than either would have alone.

15 Yann Martels Life of Pi Once students have a base knowledge of the work, using a comparable form of media with a unique plot can help students recognize connections that are not immediately obvious. For example, grouping Yann Martels Novel Life of Pi, with an episode from the first season of Survivorman, Survivorman: Lost at Sea, produced by Les Stroud, and Robert Zemeckis feature length film, Cast Away, students are able to share in two other depictions of those lost at sea.

16 Life of Pi Life of Pi details a young boys journey across the South Pacific after being shipwrecked. In the novel, Pi survives on a life raft for over 7 months with a royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. At the end of the novel it is revealed that perhaps Pi was actually alone on the raft, and that the Bengal Tiger was imagined, and represented a part of his animal instinct. At the end of Life of Pi, the reader is presented with two versions of the same story, one involving human characters doing inhumane things, the other involving animal characters. It is an incredible tale of survival, spirituality, perseverance, and self-discovery.

17 Using Media with Life of Pi In my experience teaching this novel, many students struggled with the complex and confusing ending. At the end of Life of Pi, the reader is presented with two versions of the same story, one involving human characters doing inhumane things, the other involving animal characters. The reader is left to decide which version is true. The students needed to know which version was the real version. They could not accept that both could theoretically be true, and indeed spent an entire 30 minutes debating that very topic. To help them with this idea of realism, I decided to show pieces of the Survivorman episode, Survivorman: Lost at Sea, as well as specific chapters from the Zemeckis feature length film, Cast Away, created in 2000.

18 Exploring Media and Literature After each of the individual pieces of media, I asked the students a series of specific and general questions including: What were the similarities between the experiences of each protagonist? What were the differences in experience between each protagonist? What would Survivormans fate have been had he been lost at sea for 7 months, rather than 7 days – could he have survived? Why did Chuck Nolland leave the island he had called home for so many years? What was similar (allegorically) about the islands that Chuck and Pi inhabited respectively The students listed some incredibly insightful answers, surpassing even my expectations. Using media is a good way to prompt discussion, and further understandings.

19 Cast Away Clip

20 Survivorman: Lost at Sea

21 Life of Pi and Cast Away When asked how the two respective islands (in Life of Pi, and Cast Away) were similar, one student noted that both islands were able to meet the physical needs of their inhabitants. After some adaptation, each were comfortable but were not content. We had a lively debate about why both Pi and Chuck would chose to risk their lives to leave their respective islands. Through watching Cast Away, many students realized that the need for human interaction was paramount! Without it, we were barely human. Students were beginning to view and comment on the connections without teacher prompting. Students were also able to identify with the paradigm shift of domination (Dwyer, 2005) – humans were now dominated by the natural world, or at least at the mercy of the natural world in the case of Survivorman.

22 Media and Realism in Life of Pi By viewing these two pieces of video, many students were also able to decipher the problem of realism posed at the end of the novel. The two Japanese representatives at the end of the novel find Pis tale using human characters to be the more realistic, but claim that the better story is the story with animals. (Martel, 2001, 317) The final question found on the handout asked students, Which of the three journeys was the most realistic depiction of what life at sea would truly be like? Which journey did you believe was the most entertaining? The results were varied, as I had hoped, and again stimulated a very interesting and intense debate. Once students were able to cross this bridge, it was not long before they began to realize that both variations within Life of Pi, could be true in their own way. There can be an allegorical truth and a literal truth that are completely different, yet both are correct in their descriptions. The progress of thought that the students made once they were exposed to relevant, relatable media was astounding. Furthermore, they became genuinely interested in the subject material and were visibly upset when the novel study concluded.

23 Tips for Teachers: Potential Assignments Using film in support of literature can also open up a plethora of assignment options hitting various levels of Blooms taxonomy ranging from simple knowledge based comparisons, to more complex evaluation and synthesis questions. Compare and contrast the literature with the film Visually recreate a scene you have watched Comment on the value of omitting certain lines, or scenes, discuss the creative liberties taken by the directors Discuss themes and how they are represented in both literature and film Create your version of a modern interpretation of a piece of literature Create your own scene Adapt an ending – rewrite lines Visually recreate a character Create a concept map of the films progression and compare that to one of the textual elements in the plot 5 in 1 !!!!

24 Media as Differentiated Instruction Using Media to supplement literary instruction is an example of differentiated instruction: When visual media is used, a separate path for learning and understanding is created, generating more opportunities for students of varying abilities, or those who have different interests, to absorb the material. Just as no two students look exactly alike, no two students learn exactly alike either. Many students experience great difficulty fully comprehending what they read – especially when studying Shakespeare. Using modern video as a support tool can truly bridge the gap of understanding for many of these students. Furthermore, by supplementing your literary material with media you are allowing for a greater range of learners to absorb the material.

25 Benefits: Learning Types and How Media Helps Visual learners will reap a huge reward with this additional material. Watching the play being acted out or a theme being explored will greatly enhance their retention rates. In my class, students who had never raised their hand to volunteer information were actively participating in discussions, pointing out very specific things they had seen in the video, and posing insightful questions. The auditory learners will also benefit from this type of learning as an integral part of each video are the sounds, words, and music that accompany it. Indeed the only type of learner who will not benefit greatly from using media in the classroom are the Kinesthetic learners. To supplement kinesthetic learners it is very important to include types of activities that speak to their learning style. For example creating their own video version of an event in Life of Pi, or acting out part of Romeo and Juliet.

26 Risks When Using Media As with any teaching practice, there are always risks we must be aware of. It is paramount that a teacher does not allow video and film to take over an entire class. A teacher should not show a film or video simply because they are tired, have no other plan, or need to fill up a class. Teachers are given a very limited time to impart a very large amount of information and need to use all of it to their advantage. Media cannot be a stand in for good teaching; it can be used, and should only be used to augment it.

27 Conclusion Students truly do love modern media, and it is not surprising that using this media in an educational setting can greatly increase both the effectiveness of the teacher, and the ability of the student to comprehend new material. Students today do tend to have shorter attention spans than ever before because their mind is bombarded with extraordinary amounts of visual stimulus from a young age. By using their fascination with this medium, and showing relevant course material that both directly and indirectly relates to course material, we as educators can help bridge the academic rift that often stretches between students and their texts. Used correctly, modern media can be an excellent support tool for the study of academic literature, can greatly enrich and liven classroom discussions, and can open up a wide variety interesting assignment options. It can take a lot to reach some of the students in the modern world of podcasts and live streaming video. But by using media in the English classroom, we can give the literature a 21 st century touch that will both increase interest in the subject, help students understand the material, and increase their ability to create in-depth connections from the text to the modern world around them.

28 WIKISPACE: Instead of providing a handout, for the sake of the environment, this power point is posted on our English Wikispace. If you would like a handout instead I would be more than willing to make you one. Also, attached to this power point on the Wikispace I will include a list of movies/shows that are deemed compatible or appropriate for teaching with certain literary works!

29 References Anderegg, M. (2003). James Dean meets the Pirates Daughter: Passion and + Parody in William Shakespeares Romeo + Juliet, and Shakespeare in Love. In R. Burt and L. E. Boose (Ed.), Shakespeare, the movie, II: Popularizing the plays on film, TV, video, and DVD (pp ). New York: Routledge. Bechervaise, N.E. (2001). Teaching Shakespeare on Screen. Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press. Brandon, L. (1971). Using Media Creatively in the English Classroom. The English Journal, 60(9), Costanzo, W.V. (2004). Great films and How to Teach Them. Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English. Dwyer, J. (2005). Yann Martels Life of Pi and the Evolution of the Shipwreck Narrative. Modern Language Studies, 5(2), 9-21.

30 References Contd Firek H. (2003). 10 Easy Ways to Use Technology in the English Classroom. Portsmouth: Heinemann. Lorenz, S.L. (1998). Romeo and Juliet: The Movie. The English Journal, 87(3), Martel, Y. (2001). Life of Pi. New York: Harcourt. Martin, J.L. (2002). Tights vs. Tattoos: Filmic Interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. The English Journal, 91(1), Vasche, V. A. (1977). Utliizing television in the classroom: A guide for Teachers and Administrators. California: Pacific Coast Publishers. Vetrie, M. (2004). Using Film to Increase Literacy. The English Journal, 93(3),

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