Sunday, May 7, 2017

Memes: Storytelling & Digital Writing





Making memes in class might sound counterproductive, but on the contrary it has been quite an illuminating and worthwhile experience for members of David Baroody’s seventh grade history classes, who create memes throughout the year to better understand various elements of history.
By definition, according to KQED Education, “a meme can be any kind of idea, action or creative output that is picked up, copied and repeated within a culture. ‘Internet Memes’ have become a popular way to describe various Internet trends that you might associate with viral videos, images or phrases that originate and spread quickly online. But most often, if someone refers to a ‘meme’, they mean a specific type of meme characterized by a familiar still image captioned with text based on a particular style of joke associated with that image. These sorts of images with text were originally called image macros, but are now popularly known as memes.”
By creating memes, students are being asked to do a variety of tiered analysis as they explore and think about the text and subtext of historical images, and then create their own memes using those images.
"It’s a hook for students,” said Mr. Baroody, who presented his two-day meme lesson plan to the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools conference in October 2014, and at the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Boston in November 2014. “It’s leading students from the concrete to the abstract. It pairs writing with visual analysis. It capitalizes on something the kids already know.”
In September, students in Mr. Baroody’s class made memes about Tres Riches Heures, a French Gothic illumination that details late medieval life in each month of the calendar year.
“As little textual evidence survives that documents the everyday lives of average individuals in medieval France, my students mined the images from the calendar to answer important questions,” said Mr. Baroody. “What do you observe in your images? How do you know it’s important? What is the text and subtext conveyed by the artists? The images are one of the only places in medieval art that you see everyday life. The history of the medieval ages is an age of a very select few of upper end society.”
Working in pairs and small groups, students created Google Docs that shared their initial thoughts about the images from Tres Riches Heures and their answers to the unit questions. The next day, Mr. Baroody challenged his students to make memes based on what they learned.
“The text of their meme explains the subtext of the image they are using,” said Mr. Baroody. “The images were all about the different levels of societies in late medieval France and the disparity between the upper class and working class.”
Students completed similar analysis and meme creation right before winter break as they studied the Boston Massacre in 1770.
“They will do another in the next several weeks as we start looking into the various arguments for or against the ratification of the Constitution,” said Mr. Baroody.
“Seventh grade is all about transitioning students from thinking concretely to thinking abstractly and giving them tools to scaffold toward higher order thinking,” added Mr. Baroody. “This is an activity that meets them where they are and give them tools to continue to maturing. From a 21st century standpoint, memes work because you already have an understanding of the image. The writing you do produces new meaning. The kids love it.”

Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Teaching 21st Century Students to Read," Rebecca Burnett



US English Chair, Rebecca Burnett has been re-imagining how to teach literature in an age when "informational texts" have supplanted literature in a well-intentioned, but, she believes, misguided effort to make readings in class relevant to students' lives.  GA's approach works to achieve the same ends, but does so in a different way.  Click here to read an article authored by Burnett for The national Association of Independent Schools.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Statistics in Action

Students in Rith Carver's Statistics in Action course are partnering with Mural Arts to help the organization collect and understand data about community impact of their art installations.  Earlier this year, students visited the organization and heard from key players including Director of their Porch Light program and GA alum, Laure Biron.