Senior Skills: Using Language for Social Commentary

As we’ve read the Middle English version of The Canterbury Tales this week, we’ve discussed how Chaucer used the tales to critique society. The stories of “The Prioress” and “The Pardoner” served as social commentary on the corruption in the church, while “The Reeve” and “The Miller” tales served as commentary on the lack of morality in society.

We discussed how the delivery method of social commentary is much different today than in Chaucer’s time – while only roughly 100 copies of his book were sold in his lifetime, today we can share critiques about society with thousands of people at once through social media.

In our Socratic Seminar you discussed whether social media was the most effective form to use for social commentary – and you had brilliant conversations about what we value in society today, and how the persona and authority of a speak impacts the reach of their commentary. You also focused on the fact that many people are addicted to attention on social media, whether positive or negative, by citing this Harvard study – and you discussed how this addiction can impact what commentary we decide to share.

I’ve been very impressed with your discussions and analysis the past two weeks – it is important to understand how literature and language are used to praise or critique society and culture, as this is usually the first step towards making changes in a society or culture. You’ve already identified a few examples of social commentary from the 21st century in our class discussion post – now I would like you to create your own piece of social commentary.

Please click here for the full assignment sheet and grading rubric.

Choose a current event that you believe is important or worthy of social commentary.  Using the traits of effective rhetoric, create a piece of commentary about your chosen event or cultural trait. You may type, perform, write or create their social commentary – either physically or digitally.

You will be assessed on whether the rhetoric and language used in their commentary is effective for your stated purpose and audience. See a few examples below if you need ideas.

 

A piece of art – social commentary on how we are addicted to our phone – specially focused on the trend surrounding the ‘Pokemon Go’ game.

A social media campaign – this hashtag movement started the now widespread conversation about sexual harassment in Hollywood.

A poster – this piece of graphic design is commenting on animal testing for beauty products.

Donald Glover’s music video for the song ”This is America” severed as a piece of social commentary on police brutality and racial profiling.

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Senior Skills: Informed Discussions and Socratic Seminars

As you’ve practiced being active listeners and effective communicators in your small groups the past week, you’ve received feedback on how to improve the discussions you’ve been having. Now it is time to actively work towards having informed, academic discussions in the form of Socratic seminars.

What is a Socratic seminar? Informed by the teaching of Socrates, a Socratic seminar is much easier that its name suggests – it is a discussion that encourages participants to rely on questioning techniques to examine a topic or issue.  There are three types of questions I’m looking for in our discussions:

Literal Questions: Literal questions are at the very beginning of a seminar to ensure comprehension of the text. These questions can be answered directly from the text. The answers are contained within the text and are stated clearly. These are very basic questions and should only be used at the beginning of a discussion. Sample literal questions might ask for an important text detail, fact, or quote. Example: “Where does Thoreau actually mention the bean-rows in Walden?”

Interpretive Questions: These questions ask students to interpret the text. They should be genuine questions – ones that you are also interested in. No single right answer exists, but arguments can be made to support different positions. Students need to make their points using passages from the text to answer these questions. Example: “What do you think was the reasons the author alluded to [outside text] on page 334 in his novel?

Evaluative Questions: Evaluative questions are sometimes used at the very end of a seminar, to allow students to share their own positions and opinions. Answers to evaluative questions rely on student’s own experiences – either personal first person experience, a connection to another text or media consumed, or a connection to a historical event – not on the text itself. Students will not need to cite particular passages to answer these questions. Sample evaluative questions might ask for student opinions about the author’s position, or how the ideas in the text relate to their own lives. Example: “When MLK discussed the ‘Other America’ in his speech, it reminded me of actual lines from Childish Gambino’s song ‘This is America’, and I wondered if he was making a direct reference to King because…”

 

Click here for a worksheet to practice brainstorming questions before the seminar.

If ‘literal’, ‘evaluative’ and ‘interpretive’ is confusing, you can also think of the questions you need to ask in these context

 

When we conduct seminars in class, you’ll first work in your small groups. During this time you will be responsible for the duties of your ‘role’ – see the post about active listening and effective communication if you don’t remember what your role is. You will need to take this seriously and keep track of your group member’s performance with this checklist. Being diligent in keeping your group communicating effectively will make the next step in seminar much easier –

After small groups you will move on to whole class discussion. Look back at the questions that sparked the most debate or conversation in your small groups – which of those would you like to pose to the whole class? You will receive a grade for how often your group participates in the whole class discussion. Please see the guidelines below.
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12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Senior Skills: Communicating through Speaking AND Listening

Being able to communicate with others verbally is one of the most important skills you can learn, and can improve your outcomes in all areas of life – personal, academic and career oriented. Though we live in the 21st century, with a smartphone in every pocket, you will not be able to get by in life through your mastery of text-messages, emails and DM’s (sorry guys).

But being a successful communicator isn’t just about learning how to talk to others – it is also about learning how to listen. 

Over the course of the semester we’ll be building your skills as a public speaker and an active listener. You’ll be assessing each other as we go along as well, and providing feedback to classmates (as well as receiving feedback from me). You will eventually be graded on your performance as a speaker and active listener based on your ability to demonstrate 16 key skills:

  1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  2. Come to discussions prepared having read and researched material under study and draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
  3. Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
  4. Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that engage others’ reasoning and evidence and ensures that you are hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue.
  5. Clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions of others in a respectful manner that promote divergent and creative perspectives.
  6. Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives by synthesizing comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue.
  7. Work together to resolve contradictions in information when possible and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task/discussion.
  8. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (visually, quantitatively, orally) in order to make informed decisions and solve problems.
  9. Evaluate the credibility and accuracy of all sources and note any discrepancies among the data.
  10. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, connection among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
  11. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, so that listeners can follow the line of reasoning.
  12. Address perspectives that are alternative or opposed to your own, and do so in a counter argument where the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience.
  13. Make strategic use of digital media (textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
  14. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
  15. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
  16. Vary syntax for effect, consulting references for guidance as needed; apply an understanding of syntax to the study of complex texts when reading.

Before you are assessed though, you’ll need to learn how to do these things and practice. 🙂 Working in your groups, you need to watch the following videos and answer two questions:

What makes a ‘good’/active listener?

What makes a ‘good’/effective communicator’?

Then, you’ll need to work on step 3 above – “Work with peers to set rules for collegiate discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.” Establish who will fulfill the following roles for your group:

The ‘Eyes’ of the group works to look for resources to be used in discussion – they conduct research and are responsible for sharing documents and information with the group. If something needs to be found to improve discussion or arguments, they look for it. They are also responsible for keeping their ‘eye’ on all group members to ensure they are fully engaged, and reports any lack of engagement to the other group members and the teacher.

The ‘Ears’ of the group are in charge of assessing if active listening is taking place, and redirecting group members when it becomes clear that it is not. They report any group members that are not actively listening to the other members and the teacher. They have an important role in ensuring true communication is taking place. These students also are responsible for actively listening to other groups and the teacher, and relaying that information back to their group.

The ‘Nose’ of the group is responsible for sniffing out the accuracy and honesty of statements and resources being used. They check for bias and reliability in all resources and documents the group decides to reference. They also work to give feedback to group members when their communication seems bias or disingenuous. Any use of plagiarism or overly bias/disrespectful communication is identified by the nose and reported to the group and teacher. When debating with other groups, they are responsible for checking the opponents’ credibility.

The ‘Mouth’ is the group member who checks that others are using effective verbal communication. They must assess if others are demonstrating the seven traits of effective speakers, and give feedback based on their performance. Group members that consistently cannot improve verbal communication are reported to the teacher by the mouth. When conversing with other groups, they are the first member to speak on behalf of their party.

 

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018