Making Curriculum Pop

As an educator and an individual I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I am quite intimidated by technology and media in my life, much less using it in my classroom. Before taking this class I had only briefly experimented with the use of technology with my students, but I am slowly coming to the realization that media can be a great resource to use in the classroom, it is really a way that can help us reach our students on a whole new level. Whether we choose to accept it or not, the reality of our world today is that media is ever-present in all our lives and especially in the lives of our students. It is so vital that we embrace any opportunity we can to connect with our students, and even better, to embrace any way that we can better educate them. For some children media such as television, internet and video games is a main pass time (as we learned from various presentations in class), which means that many children have a great understanding of it, and if we can only tap into that world I believe that we will have a better chance of reaching more of our students and will also be able to make learning more meaningful for some of them.

I was so excited with the presentation that Pam Goble created for us in which she introduced the idea of Media circles. I thought that this was a great way to integrate media into the classroom. I have always been a fan of using literature circles with my students, and this seems like a great way to build on that same idea. In the presentation we were able to really experience a media circle and participate with various jobs. We were all broken into groups and everyone chose a job to focus on while watching the movie. The jobs were all very different from one another and forced the students to take a closer look at parts of the movie. Some of the jobs listed were: connector, questioner, economist, fashion critic, etymologist, recorder, and visualizer. After all the jobs were chosen we watched two clips from the movie “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Movie”. We then were able to meet with other people in the class that had the same jobs as ourselves and discuss and learn from one another’s comments. The next step was for us to go back to our original groups (containing varied jobs) and share what each person had learned. We then ended the session by sharing as a whole class what had been discussed and found interesting in the groups.

There were so many elements of this presentation that I found interesting. I found it so compelling that such a short clip could spark so much conversation amongst us; we each had a lot to say about the clips in regards to our jobs. This was a great lesson to me that not only film choice is important, but also the clips chosen are vital. The jobs that were given to the students were also great in my opinion, they not only got us more involved as students but learning about the jobs themselves was an educational moment. I can only imagine how much the student playing the role of the economist learned just from this one lesson! I was also really interested in how the whole session was set up. I thought it was really a great idea to have the students move from group to group first creating ideas and comments with students who had the same job and then reporting their findings to their other group. This really insists that the student become a collaborator with the first group and then become somewhat of an expert in their field when reporting their findings to the next group. Not to mention that it gives the students a chance to move around throughout the lesson.

Even though this example of a media circle was geared towards upper elementary grades I can definitely imagine using a varied form of it for primary grades. Pam Goble also gave us a simplified version of a media circle geared towards primary grades that was somewhat of a work in progress. She suggested asking the students to pay attention for: people they saw in the movie, places they saw in the movie, things they saw in the movie and words that were fun and interesting heard in the movie. Though I think that this kind of activity could be useful I think that it strays too far from the idea of a media circle; not giving students individual jobs in which they can focus on is a big draw back in my opinion. I actually had a chance to try this out with a second grade classroom recently and my group and I tried out some jobs for the students that were a simplified version of what we tried during the presentation in class. We also chose the jobs according to what best suited the movie we showed, which was a Pixar Shorts film titled “For the Birds”. I was really impressed that the students were able to handle the jobs we assigned to them and were also able to generate wonderful conversation based on their findings.

I am really excited to continue using media circles to enhance my students learning experiences. I would probably begin by introducing the students to literature circles and then move them into media circles to help aid their understanding of the experience. I believe that media circles are a great way to get students to begin to think critically about texts, whether that is movies, books, music etc. I think media circles has guided me out of my fear of using media in my classroom and helped me see that it is doable!

And this is where to order the PIxar Shorts Movies. They are really great to use in your classrooms!

Here are some great websites about Literature circles, I like to use these to give me ideas for jobs and activities to create for media circles:
* Read, write and Think about Literature circles
Literature circles resource center
*Web English Teacher on Literature Circles

Here is an interesting article about showing films in classrooms, check it out:
Showing Flicks in the Classroom

This website offers a variety of "Movie permission slips" you could use in your classrooms, with some interesting information too:
Movie Permission Slips

Here is an interesting article about Digital Storytelling used in the classroom:
Digital Storytelling

I found this article a great way to look at using movies in the classroom in order to help ELL students improve their language skills, check it out:
Movies in the ESL Classroom

This website explicitly explains how we can use movies in the classroom, with several teaching ideas and the step-by-step process:
Using Film in the Classroom

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Comment by Janet O'Brien Buchanan on November 5, 2017 at 4:33pm

First, thank you for sharing your experiences. I agree also agree with you about using technology in the classroom. I'm a middle school art teacher, so I'm not really sure how to incorporate the literacy circles into art. Though, I already do use Youtube videos to show students different methods of making art. Last year my principal got the fine arts department all SMART Boards. So with a little help from my students, I have learned how to use the SMART Board and the kids love it. I think they like the fact that they get to teach me.

Comment by Margarett Ardman on April 7, 2017 at 4:02pm

Hi Cheza,

I agree so much that we as teachers have to try to keep up with what our students are doing and using. We need to be able to look to their future and prepare them.  Literacy circles help to teach students to communicate, and share information, form opinions, and learn to work with others. Keeping open minded about the types of materials used in our classes, allows us to help them, and ourselves.

Comment by Virginia Pourakis on May 3, 2009 at 10:41pm
Hi Cheza! I think getting to see how much conversation resulted from a short clip would really translate well into analyzing other "short forms" in the classroom e.g. poems, short stories, or even visual art. This could work especially well if students were given the tools to break down that task into components, just like the media circles assign jobs. I think it is a great lesson in looking deeply and being thorough (intensive, close reading versus extensive). I am thinking back to short snippet poems (1-2 sentences) that my 5th graders wrote and how I was able to write paragraphs worth of response about each.
Comment by Yoonkyung Lee on May 3, 2009 at 10:38pm
Hi Cheza,

Great post! I think you hit it on the head of the nail with this comment:
"I am slowly coming to the realization that media can be a great resource to use in the classroom, it is really a way that can help us reach our students on a whole new level."

I am finding(at least within my field of music education) that the teacher also has to invest considerable amount of time and effort mastering the media and software tools available for music(they are actually quite sophisticated tools requiring dedicated training.) I also find that I have to design the curriculum/lesson plan thoughtfully if I want to fully utilize the power of media/software to help my students learn. But as you said, the potential is there for students to reach "a whole new level".

Comment by Julia Kim on May 2, 2009 at 11:36pm
Hi Cheza, one of the aspects that I really like about Media Circle is being able to meet with other people (in different groups) with the same job. When we did the activity during the workshop, I was able to share my noticings and hear others'... and sometimes they saw things that I did not in the movie~ It was a different learning experience than just learning it from a teacher. By the way, I really love what you did with "For the Birds"`
Comment by Daniella Nusblat on May 1, 2009 at 9:37pm
Hey Cheza,
I think you shared a great point about integrating technology into the classroom as a way to make the learning more meaningful to students. I also felt that Pam’s presentation made this concept of integrating the moving image into the classroom more tangible. I personally believe that a classroom should promote collaborative thinking which is why I found this presentation to be so helpful. Thank you for your suggestion of beginning with literature circles and moving into media circles. I’m excited to try this out in my classroom!
Comment by Sean Owens on May 1, 2009 at 1:03pm
Cheza, I must admit before this course I was hesitant as well. I love all the enthusiasm in your post, thanks for sharing what you learned from the "pamsters" presentation. I loved the docs you posted in your ning and was wondering if i could use them? How would you use media circle in conjunction with literature circles? Also when you did this with your class did you use a jigsaw style?
Comment by Dina Paulson on April 30, 2009 at 2:50pm
Dear Cheza,

What a terrific post! Thank you for sharing all the enthusiasm and deep learning you absorbed from "the Pamster's" presentation. Your comment, "I can only imagine how much the student playing the role of the economist learned just from this one lesson!", strongly resonated with me. I think 'professionalizing' a learning role for students adds credence to the process of learning that occurs in this activity. Also, I appreciated your detailed review of the media circles. I feel the numerous 'rounds' through which students present information can create the feeling that knowledge is being actively constructed in their classroom. Through expert meetings and later, for all students, participation within the larger group discussion, each student has multiple opportunities to hear new informations presented, all within the same activity and within the same class time.

Thank you for your great links to Literature Circles resources. Have you located any accessible ideas to 'transfer' to media circles? I wonder if media and literature circles can be used as precursor activity for students' first application towards critical thinking. Students could then create a collaborative performance piece, wherein their "circle enriched" learnings are applied to enact the assigned material. Through students' exploration as (i.e) fashion critics, their attention to elements of fashion design might be enhanced for the performance.

Comment by Kate Rosenbloom on April 26, 2009 at 8:18pm
Hey Cheza!

As a person who is studying the creation of media for the classroom, I think its great that you're being open about your hesitation to use technology and new media in the classroom. All that software can be intimidating, even for me! And I think its good that software/media developers such as myself (and Alex up there) know the true thoughts and concerns of the classroom teachers that will actually be using it!

I was also impressed by the media circles and immediately saw how they can be applied to other texts, both print and text based! Glad you got some new tools for the classroom!

Comment by Alex Jones on April 25, 2009 at 5:47pm
Hi Cheza,
I completely understand how you feel. I personally am a technology-geek. I teach and study it and have been doing so since I was a young lad. The implementation of technology is inevitable and I do feel that the reason educators and such are concluding to the notion of being freaked out about technology is because it is not properly taught. Schools love to buy Smart Boards, it’s a new fad (if one would call it that) but how does one use it or troubleshoot it in case something goes wrong. I feel anyone has the ability to problem solve, though if not properly trained how to use the equipment in the first place, how then could someone troubleshoot. I work at a Biological Station as a computer consultant for the summers and I can tell you I fix anything from iPhones to iButtons (Micro-Thermal-Sensors [non-technical term]). I enjoy what I do very much and this is why I am here at Teachers College. I want to educate educators about technology and develop new thinking and strategies to immerse technology seamlessly.


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