Tag Archives: edc5370

A Dose of Reality and a Reaction Thereunto

Apparently, I’m about to have a severe problem in my profession of choice. I’m about to teach high school English, right? Guess what my professor told me today:

“Not all of your students will be able to read on grade-level, especially not in an average class. No matter what you teach, you must expect it.

“And it’s not their fault.”


To be fair, this was told to my entire class, which is a seminar on Reading in Secondary Schools. And we had good reason to believe it: we’d just spent some time discussing a short article by Charles Hargis that had respectable data to back it up. Tough to argue with data.

(Here’s a link to the first page; you can see the rest if you have access through JSTOR)

If I’m reading the data right, at least 25% of high school sophomores won’t even be able to read at the eighth grade level. And some will still be down at about the 4th grade level.

How do you teach The Tragedy of Julius Caesar to THAT group?

Okay, cool. So a pretty good chunk of my kids might not be that literate. Shoulda’ stayed with the coffee shop.


BUT WAIT! Maybe my kids ARE pretty literate!

Yesterday, I mentioned the other stuff we’re supposed to be learning about Web 2.0 and the classroom. Again, it makes me a little nervous. But not my kids. They’re already way, way up on the tech stuff. I’d say, in fact, that they’re plenty literate,  (if u don’t mind ur sentences lookin like a txt msg.)

Example: at one of my tutoring assignments, I worked with a few kids who had to take credit recovery courses online. Most of the time, that’s because they never bothered to learn the material in the first place. So what’d they do to make it up? Actually read the book? Heck no. At test time, they’d Google the answers in a separate window and cut-and-paste.

I mean, my dad’s proud that he can make a PowerPoint. I’m proud that I can actually create this blog  post you’re reading right now. But my kids? More than capable of Oliver Twist-ing their way through a semester’s-worth of coursework with just a few points and clicks. Ingenious. Let’s nurture that.

What if I can help my increase one form of literacy by using another? What if I can get my kids to read and write better by playing around online?


Now here’s where Part III comes in:

Drew this guy in that reading class today...

Look what I just uploaded. A cartoon. One of a literary figure, no less.

If there’s one thing I can be sure all my kids CAN read, it’s a comic. Not just the white-boy nerds with their copies of  Superman. Naw, also my skater and Hot-Topic kids with their Manga. Or the hispanic students who take advantage of the fotonovelas at our local library. Or anyone who’s ever cracked a newspaper to read The Boondocks or Garfield.

Cartoons and comics are still regarded as trash, in some ways. This is not me griping. But I also know that if you want to get up a mountain, you gotta start at the foothills. And comics are a great way to take rudimentary decoding and cognitive abilities and use them to extract understanding.

And my kids can totally draw a stick figure with a caption box. Also interesting anatomy, if they’re so inclined (and probably in the bathroom stall).

So what if… I started the year off by having my kids read a comic and teaching the literary principles therein? That would lay groundwork and build some confidence. Then, what if I had them respond to the reading by BLOGGING about it. Or inviting them all to Google Wave and having them post to that and comment on each others’ posts in real-time?

What if I even had them draw their own cartoons and upload those, to comment on the stuff we read and talk about in the classroom?

I’m not saying that this is an all-year kind of deal. But if I can show my kids that they’re skilled enough to comprehend a thing they read, and then competent enough to respond to it by PUBLISHING something (even online), might that not help the overall literacy of the kids I teach?

I dunno. But taking the old, old art of picture-writing and mixing it with the new wave of online authorship?

That’s poetry.

And given a little luck, maybe we can even get my kids to read THAT!


Filed under General Musings

Tweets and Beats

When I worked at La Vega High, our tutoring room was right next to the band hall. Sound insulation? Not so great. And for some reason, the tuba section liked to warm up with “Seven Nation Army.”  So every morning at work, we’d get to kick things off with the incessant cadence of “bummmm bum-ba-bum bumm-bummm.”

Every morning.

EVERY morning.

(My co-workers loved it even less than I did.)

Anyway, here’s a notebook-paper tribute: 


Rock on.


On a tangential note (not a pun), I’m now taking a class that is gonna make me even more technologically prolific. It’s a section on education in the classroom, and instead of learning spreadsheets and macros, our assignments are cool things like this:


Holler back. That’s my new Twitter account. (Read my posts carefully: they might get graded).

It’s weird. Sometimes, this stuff makes me  feel like a Vaudevillian at the dawn of cinema. I mean, I love old-school mediums like pen-and-ink drawings, or reading library books. That’s how I”m used to communicating and being communicated with. But with Web 2.0 there’s now this whole new delivery system out there that so inclusive and meta-referential and collaborative…

(“he said on his blog”)

…anyway. Anticipatory and excited about scaling the learning curve.

Beware, future students. Mr. H is gonna wow you with whiteboard drawings and classroom tweets!

That is, if the freaking band would stop being so obnoxious…


Filed under Sketchbook, Teaching