Narratives and teaching

Robin Sutherland-Harris and I were co-facilitators of a TATP workshop today.  The workshop challenged TAs to convey a narrative (or a story) in a lesson for their students.  One of the foundational assumptions of the workshop was that narrative is a part of everyday life, including classroom life.  In the words of Abbott in The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (2008), “We are all narrators” (p. xii)

As part of the workshop, we introduced Prezi as a platform for the TAs to build their narratives for classroom use.  According to the Prezi website, Prezi is software which exists in the cloud.  It is something between “whiteboards and slides” and features a “zoomable canvas” where you can “explore ideas and the connections between them.”  TAs, faculty and staff at U of T may be interested to know that they can sign up for educational accounts at Prezi if they are interested in exploring this zooming interface for classroom presentations.

We found a number of great Prezi exemplars online that we showed during the workshop to try to get the creative juices flowing.  To begin, we were very inspired by the big picture timeline provided by the Great Jazz Bassists and their Influence through the Ages Prezi.  We also felt that a presentation on the Physical Geography in Africa was great for demonstrating how you can hone in on concepts (or geographic features) in Prezi by using the zooming features.

 

Curriculum guides for film – not just for K-12

Image of film audience

Image by Canadian Film Centre used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

This post addresses a question I have fielded as a TATP trainer who teaches a workshop on video in the classroom.

Partcipants sometimes ask, where can I find video curriculum guides to help me teach in my discipline? This question does not emerge out of thin air. It comes up because when I teach the workshop, I bring along a curriculum kit called Teaching the Levees.  Hurricane Katrina caused devastating damage to New Orleans.  The curriculum guide is intended to support discussion of the associated social and political issues that are raised in Spike Lee’s film When the Levees Broke. 

In my experience, TAs and instructors alike are very enthusiastic that other people prepare discussion questions that may be appropriate for their classroom!  It is often a novel concept that such resources are available.

A challenge for post-secondary educators, is that most curriculum guides for film seem to be directed towards the teachers of kindergarten to grade 12 students. In researching this blog post, Jenaya Webb, Public Services Librarian, OISE Library, indicated to me that they have a collection of curriculum guides to assist their student teachers on placements in the K-12 educational system.  Jenaya also helped me to compile a list of more widely available resources to the U of T community (see below).

In order to find curriculum kits or guides that may be useful in your post-secondary teaching, I recommend using the web as a starting point to find resources that you can adapt to make relevant for your course. Some options in alphabetical order include:


1) Amnesty International Film Curriculum Guides

As a human rights organization, Amnesty has a number of PDF downloadable curriculum guides for films that address issues such as war, race, and gender. I downloaded the curriculum guide for Born into Brothels, an academy award winning documentary, and found that some of the grade 9-12 level discussion questions could be easily adapted by linking to a university course level reading.

2) HotDocs:  Toronto’s own documentary festival has film resources in their HotDocs library for K-12 learning.  Here you may find materials that link to your courses.  In the words of the HotDocs team, “these docs will engage students with issues of our day; with vital ideas, critical questions and new perspectives outside the mainstream media and school textbook.”

3)  National Film Board (NFB) of Canada:
The NFB has a comprehensive section of their website devoted to educators. There is a section of the website where teachers can search for teaching guides on various topics. Additionally, I find the playlists for educators organized thematically (i.e. films about Science and Technology) to be a great resource.

I hope that you are able to find curriculum materials for films that are relevant for your classroom.  If you have experiences or tips you wish to share, please comment.

More Grammar Matters

As we prepare for tonight’s Grammar Matters launch (Type Books, 883 Queen Street West, 6pm-8pm), our thoughts turn to–well, grammar matters. As Jila Ghomeshi demonstrates in her book, many people take the subjects of grammar and language very seriously. Ghomeshi’s analysis of language far exceeds the effects of a misplaced comma. She looks at the social and political implications of policing grammar and how the use and perceived abuse or misuse of language can be a contentious topic. A great many people have an opinion about grammar and just how it should be used. So, after reading Ghomeshi’s book, I’ve been thinking about the ways that we learn the rules of grammar and if that affects how we perceive it.

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