@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-23

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@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-22

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Thanksgiving Classroom Discussion: The Meaning of Thanksgiving

TurkeysStill looking for that last-minute classroom activity to keep the class occupied before the Thanksgiving break? Mark Twain’s newly released autobiography includes a comment on the meaning of Thanksgiving that is bound to lead to a lively classroom discussion.

Begin the classroom discussion by asking students to brainstorm or freewrite about the meaning of Thanksgiving. To help focus their comments, you might first ask them to reflect on what Thanksgiving means to them by sharing some of their personal experiences.

Next, ask them the talk about the cultural and social messages related to the holiday. It’s likely you can arrange their shared responses into a handful of categories like family, tradition, patriotism, thankfulness, and shopping.

Once students have recorded their ideas on the meaning of Thanksgiving, turn to Twain. The New York Times published some Excerpts From the ‘Autobiography of Mark Twain’, (found via Chris Boese on Facebook) that included this vitriolic rant “On the Meaning of Thanksgiving”:

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it.

Twain’s syntax is a little complex, so you might start by breaking down that passage and unpacking the words. Ask students to look in particular at the word choice Twain is using to establish his opinion on the meaning of Thanksgiving:

  • It’s a function, rather than a holiday or celebration
  • The pilgrims are “those people.”
  • The function marks “exterminating their neighbors.”

There’s no whitewashing in Twain’s account of Thanksgiving! Those are some tough words, and Twain’s meaning is very clear.

Have students think about the religious and cultural references in the quotation, and challenge them to think about how Twain’s personal experiences may have influenced his opinion. Have students compare Twain’s comments to the ideas they brainstormed at the beginning of the activity, and encourage class discussion of the accuracy of Twain’s statement. Are there ways that Twain’s take on the meaning of Thanksgiving could be seen as accurate?

As an extension, ask students to adopt Twain’s structure and tone and apply it to Black Friday or Cyber Monday. What would Twain say was the meaning of those commercial events?


[Photo: Turkeys by Hey Paul, on Flickr]

@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-21

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@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-20

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@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-19

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Bit.ly Bundles Simplify Sharing Links with Students

~dried and bundled~Bit.ly Bundles are about to simplify the way you share links with students and colleagues. Take any collection of links you want to pass along, and with Bit.ly Bundles you can share just one short web address. You’ll no longer need to pass out links individually.

I originally found link bundling in a post about LinkBun.ch from Jane’s Pick of the Day. Imagine my surprise when less than an hour later the same capability miraculously appeared on my Bit.ly Pro page. I’m a Bit.ly addict, so that’s the tool I’m reviewing here today.

Lifehacker has explained the tool and talked about how it can be handy to the general user. To demonstrate who I might use it, I created a bundle of links to the sites where I publish most of my personal work—links to Twitter, Facebook, and the blogs I work on.

Bit.ly Bundles took the collection of six different links and simplified them into a single URL that I can easily share at a conference, in email, or even Tweet out to my followers:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/newsfromtengrrl/status/5737279511330816″]

Even better than just collecting the links on a single page, Bit.ly Bundles let you control how the links appear on the collection’s page. You can edit the titles and add descriptions or explanations to the links in your bundle. If a link in a bundle changes, or you want to add or delete it, you can edit the collection later. People who visit the bundle can add comments as well.

In educational settings, Bit.ly Bundles take care of two challenges:

  1. They let people see the target links before they click. The service allows for link shortening with transparency. There are no surprises behind the shortened URLs.
  2. They take care of the need to point to multiple texts without blasting a series of URLs or having to create an intermediary page.

It’s a smooth tool that makes sharing links much easier. Just pass out one address, and you’re done!

Not yet convinced? I brainstormed some uses to demonstrate the possibilities for using Bit.ly Bundles in the classroom. Create a Bit.ly Bundle to

  • gather a collection of articles on a current event for students to read.
  • point to a reading and to related discussion and criticism.
  • link to resources for a writing assignment (e.g., tip sheets, guidelines).
  • make sets for students you can use in feedback or tutoring (for instance, a collection on adding descriptive details).
  • share background information on an author or piece of literature.
  • collect information on campus or community resources for a project (e.g., the Writing Center, the reference desk, office hours).
  • distribute URLs to class projects.

And that’s just a beginning. Essentially any time you need to share more than one address, you can use Bit.ly Bundles to simplify the task.

Since you can edit the Bundles, they’re useful for collections you use in more than one class or more than one term. Collect your links in a bundle, and publish that URL in each course. The URL you share remains the same every semester. You simply return to the Bundle each term to make any updates.

To build community resources, like a student-assembled collection of links, I’d still recommend a social bookmarking tool like Delicious or Diigo, but for the collections that you create and find yourself reusing, Bit.ly Bundles are going to make sharing links a whole lot easier for teachers.


[Photo: ~dried and bundled~ by uteart, on Flickr]

@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-18

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Educational Resources You’re Guaranteed to Like

365.14 (Blogging)If you are an English teacher, I’m here to make you a promise. Every day, I gather the latest news stories on literacy, literature, and composition and post them online. When I finish that, I publish details on the wonderful educational resources that teachers can use in the classroom as well as links to thought-provoking professional development materials.

The Promise
Follow me on these sites, and I guarantee you’ll find something you can use or that makes you think about an educational issue differently!

It may be a lesson plan or writing assignment that you can use in a class you teach. It may be a link to an article that relates to your favorite literary author. It could be a new educational research report. It might even be a link to a text that you can ask students to read in class tomorrow.

If you’re an English teacher, I promise you will find something you can use in the next month. If I fail you, write me and tell me why!

Follow Me on These Sites

 Blog Entries

 Facebook Pages Updates

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Tell Me When You’ve Found It?
Let me know when the guarantee has paid off and you’ve found something you can use. Just leave a comment on Facebook or the blogs or reply to the Tweet where I fulfill my promise. I look forward to hearing your comments on these sites and here.


[Photo: 365.14 (Blogging) by kpwerker, on Flickr]

@newsfromtengrrl for 2010-11-17

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