Making Curriculum Pop

Cooperative Learning and Media Circles with Pam Goble
On the morning of Sunday, April 5, 2009 Pam Goble presented on building historical
background knowledge using film specifically looking at cooperative learning and media
circles. During the presentation Pam discussed the enhancement that media can provide
for a classroom specifically in regards to History and English instruction. Pam sited
that by presenting lessons that incorporated media, students would have a more extensive concept of the subject that the class was studying.

Pam simulated the experience that media can provide to a lesson by introducing the film
Kit Kittredge: an American Girl. Pam organized the room into groups and then permitted
everyone to select a role in which to focus their attention on. The roles included
positions such as the connector, economist, etymologist, fashion critic, questioner,
recorder/ spokesperson, scene master, sociologist, technology specialist, and visualizer. Pam called for collaboration amongst individuals within their assigned group as well as with individuals who has selected similar roles. Pam played the film and afterwards and permitted conversations within the groups. Additionally Pam provided an opportunity for group members to evaluate the contributions of each of their team members.

(Movie Trailer of the Film)
As a literacy specialist student I was thrilled at the obvious connection between the
roles that Pam had created and the Reading strategies that are instructed on during
Readers? Workshop. Reading is an invisible process, however the strategies were
highlighted during this presentation. Reading strategies such as envisioning,
connecting, synthesizing, and interpreting were all interwoven into this lesson in.
Media provided a familiar yet engaging mode in which students could both acquire and
expand on their knowledge of a topic as well as their use of literary skills.
I should at this time confess that I had begun the Think Teach and Play conference with many reservations. I am completing my fourth year of teaching and I have spent the majority of my career in high poverty schools. I am embarrassed to admit that unfortunately I have become a little jaded over the years. In fact on the first day of the conference I was skeptical about how I could make the information presented work for me. I thought to myself, could I even use this? I have an extensive background of experience working in schools with good intentions, yet which are not the least bit progressive. What is the saying for every two steps forward you must take one step back? Well that has been my experience thus far in the inner city schools. As a student here at Teacher College I find it extremely frustrating that I am receiving valuable information on best practice yet at times feel that I have nowhere to practice this work.
Let me rewind for a moment and elaborate as to how I became this jilted educator. Once upon a time at a school called Miami University in Ohio, I resolved then that I wanted to teach in the inner city schools. My rational at the time, was that highly qualified teachers will forever go to the affluent schools, but so few talented educators wake up and say, “I’m going to devote my career to the South Bronx!” Upon a graduation I did not follow this trajectory when I graduated from college I did what I said I would never do …I taught in the suburbs!!! I was a sellout at least by my standards. Now let me stop myself by explaining that I in no way frown upon this type of community or position and I believe that many fine educators teach there. I just could not believe that as soon as I was asked live up to my word, I did the opposite. The following year I regained my vision and gave up my position at a highly ranked school in an upper middle class suburban community to work on the west side of Chicago. With the echo of warnings from friends and family I did in fact find that I loved it! I felt like I was accomplishing what I had set out to do; provide the best education I could to students who I had determined needed it most. Even though I would hear periodically gunshots outside of my classroom, I thought I had THE job. In that time I learned that literacy education has a huge impact on the success of a child and of the school as an institution. I resolved that year that I needed more education in regards to teaching literacy. Several months later I was accepted into Columbia’s Teachers College, which has brought me to the South Bronx.
As I continue to work towards my career goals, I have become very conscious of the backlash that I have experienced when trying to incorporate multiple literacies into my classroom. It is has been stated many times by the administration at my school that videos (yes multiple literacy has been simplified at the school to only include videos) are to be reserved until the end of the school year specifically the last week in June. I am only permitted to view them for the remaining thirty minutes of the school day and they must be approved. Being the teacher that is constantly pushing back and challenging old pedagogy instituted at the school, I started to retreat on this issue. Even my colleagues were advising me to back off of this particular battle since I had my hand in so many projects at the school. So I did. With the pressure of making two years of progress in one year with my students I rationalized that I would abandon this battle and help my students make up this educational gap, putting my own reservations on hold.
I decided that I would have to keep my teaching life private at Teachers College and resolved to politely smile and nod for the duration of the course. I have to admit that I was secretly planning on filing my notes away from the class until Pam presented. Since then, I was so inspired that I even scheduled an appointment to share with the administration at my school using the handouts from the presentation. I provided my principal information for the rational behind this practice, which I had researched on the Internet. I expanded on the activities that Pam had explained and found other educators that had created additional classroom resources. These resources can be found below.
As educators we must not ignore the value that technology can bring to our classroom… to our students. This conference has provided numerous ways that technology can be
placed within my students? fingertips. Pam Goble along with the other presenters
through out the conference have all argued the significance in incorporating media into
the classroom. The truth as Alan T. states is that in order, “to stay relevant in the
21st century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by the digital media.” I could not agree more with his call to action.

Viewing Ideas for the Classroom

Not everyone has an administration that is as responsive to new curriculum as we as educators would like. Listed below are some websites with research that supports this work.

Rational for Administration

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Amy,
I am glad that you can use the media circles. They really do incorporate the BP's we are all striving to incorporate in our classrooms. I have been using the lit circle sheets in my grad classes for years now and the adults feel they are terrific. My middle school kids are far more on task using them, too. Thanks for the kind words.
Thanks for highlighting a ReadWriteThink lesson here - we have several that address media. This one ( seemed to match with what you described as well. Good luck with all of this! I especially liked that you listed things you could share with administrators. Their buy-in and support are very important.
HI Amy
It is a hard battle to convince schools, administrators, parents, and teachers to see the importance in incorporating media or other new literacies in to the classroom. Schools still seem stuck in the traditional ways of teaching. Often times the didactic, linear forms of teaching are ineffective in engaging students to learn. Our education system is still hung up on standard ways of teaching, improving test scores, and focusing on the math and sciences, while leaving out the Arts. The schools resistance to media in the classroom that you've faced is the exact same resistance that I have felt as an art teacher against the Arts in Education. With the current economic situation the Arts is the first to be cut in schools because time and time again people fail to see that Art is essential to the development of a child. There is real valuable learning in art and art-making that people are unaware about and only see it as an extra-curricular activity. This holds true with using media in the classroom for so many fail to see its power in engaging and teaching students. I am so happy to hear that you are fighting for what you believe in as you work to implement media in to your classroom. I agree with you that we as educators must not ignore the value of using media and other new literacies in the classroom. It might be a struggle, but as educators we must fight for providing students with the best education.

Liz So
Your post was fantastic. I am so sorry that you have had such a tough time with your administration. The links you have provided are great resources for anyone who is in a similar situation as you. I hope everything works out!! I agree that the media circles are not only a great way to bring in another source for a particular topic but also teaches skills necessary for reading in a different way. I think media circles will work wonders for students who are not big fans of reading because they are using their reading skills and might not even know it. Giving up your in the suburbs is very commendable. I don't know if I would have done that!!
Hi Amy,
Well now i really understand what you chose to get your masters in literacy! Even though i am not yet a teacher, i knew after my undergraduate experience and my student teaching that i needed more help in literacy. I think the fact that you have strong career goals and have fought towards using media beyond videos in your classroom shows what a strong advocate you are for your students' learning. I love the fact that you brought in the materials from TTP to your principal. I remember that for next year in case i need to battle with my administrator to let me incorporate media into my classroom. Thanks for making you post so personal.
Thanks everyone for words of encouragement. I implemented my lesson on media circles in my classroom today! I found myself excited to see my students reactions to my "experiment." It went really well. I was a little nervous planning the lesson since I was not sure how it would be received by my students. My fears were put to rest immediately. The students were very engaged and a very productive conversation erupted after the film. I am very happy to report that it was a success. I will definitely be using film in my room again!
Hi Amy,

Thank you for your incredible post! You raised such important issues that all of us educators grapple with and may be faced with in the future. I enjoyed learning about your history and how it relates to where you are, who you are and what you believe in. Thank you for sharing all the valuable resources with us and the fact that you met with the administrators and fought for what you believe in is inspiring. I also love the quote you included from Alan Teasley- so true! Keep up the great work!
Amy, Great post! Thanks for all the resource links as well! Also I understand it is so frustrating working with administrative type people. I must admit when pam started presenting I was a bit confused but the hands on activity really clarified it for me. It saddens me that schools are so focused on test scores that they cut things like this out of their curriculum
Hi Amy,
I really liked the personal connections that you made from listening to the presentations delivered throughout the TTP conference. Since we all teach in different school districts, it is important to reflect upon how we can use the materials and resources given out at the conference to teach and use media in our classrooms. Many educators deal with the similar challenges and obstacles that you defined in your post, such as their administration and parents do not want children to watch movies, short films, or videos in school. I want to thank you for presenting your ideas and what you learned from Pam Goble's presentation to your administrator because hopefully it will have a positive impact on how other schools regard the use of media in the classroom. I was so inspired by Pam Goble's presentation that I am planning a history unit on the Civil Rights Movement and incorporating Media Circles to engage and motivate students' to participate in a cooperative learning activity. We all have different perspectives of how we read text and view the world, which makes it so important to reflect upon our learning and discuss our ideas with others.
Hi Amy-
Thank you so much for sharing the struggle you had bringing media literacy to the attention of your administrators. Sometimes it's so hard to get administrators to listen and really hear you, which is unfortunate because there are so many teachers that have wonderful things to offer their students but can't because some don't want to hear about it or are afraid of change. Kind of crazy to think about considering education is constantly changing. You school is lucky to have you. I had a similar struggle with Smartboards at my old school. They were hesitant about getting and using them, but once I showed my administrators the benefits of it, they were totally into and sending the staff to Smartboard training. Sometimes it takes a little push and some use of evidence. Who knows maybe you administrator will encourage other teachers to use your media circles. :)



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