A year ago, one of our SJVWP Fellows, Nikki Valentine, created a demo lesson in which she modeled one method to help her students do character analysis–she asks her students to translate scenes from The Pigman into text-speak. One of the things I really liked about Nikki’s version of this lesson is that she asked her students to brainstorm about the conventions of texting–using numbers, making everything brief, etc.–really helping them understand how texting follows “rules” just like a dialect or language would. Of course, she’s also helping them understand that texting is a genre and that there’s something recognizable and identifiable about a text message. Moreover, as I’ve read literacy theory, I’ve thought a lot about how we need to honor the literacies our students bring to the class; we also need to help our students reflect on and analyze these literacies.
In my Senior Seminar this semester, I’ve been teaching Romeo and Juliet for the last few class periods, a text that I can’t ever remember teaching before. Last week, I asked my students to work in groups in order to “translate” the balcony scene into text-speak. Three of the four groups really had fun with the activity; the other group needed to be encouraged and supported a little before they finally got into it. Overall, though, I’d have to say that the activity accomplished exactly what I wanted it to: student engagement, attention to language, understanding of character development, and plot summary.
To read one group’s version update of Shakespeare, click here.