Model Classroom with Jerome Burg – “Of Mice and Men” – n07s809

This was my favorite session so far. I’d liked the work Mr. Burg was doing with google lit trips so I decided to check this one out.

Things I liked.

  • The focus was on quick easy technology to directly impact student engagement and learning- no fancy programs, no high level of skill needed
  • He did it all with only one computer
  • He focused on the little tricks that enable things to work smoothly
  • It was a hands on student project

So enough teasing- here’s what the man said about how he has students create a graphic novel based on “Of Mice and Men.” All quotes are not literal but the best I could do.

  1. He starts off not telling the students the name of the book. That means no baggage from kids who heard the book sucked from a friend etc. plus it’s got an air of mystery.
  2. Then the class is divided into groups (setting, characters, plot, theme)
  3. They’re sent to Google image search to look for images of “Of Mice and Men” that represent their group assignment. This leads to a lot of pre-thinking and gets the kids interested. The pictures are then submitted to the teacher
  4. The teacher makes a quick slide show of the images (grouping them w/o telling the kids by setting etc.). He had a banjo song playing in the background for this novel.
  5. Then students are asked to describe the setting, characters, plot, theme based on what they saw on the slide show. They fill out a graphic organizer based on what they think they know.
  6. He then uses what the students say about the book to talk about the themes but without using the term. “So this book is about friendship . . . you’ve got friends right?”
  7. He then starts off the reading. He doesn’t have kids read aloud b/c he sees as lessening comprehension and adding a lot of tension and boredom.
  8. While students are searching for images he’s gotten into costume, in this case a bandanna and old hat. He starts off by saying “I wonder if you’ll indulge me. My teacher used to read to me and it was my favorite thing in the world and I’d like to read to you.”
  9. One of his tricks is to use his projector to create a backdrop for his reading that reflects the setting of the book. The lights are also low and being in front of the projector creates a theatrical spot light effect.
  10. He gives a pretty serious performance- this is straight acting. Not all teachers would be ready to do this and he’s got some skill.
  11. He says he basically reads the entire book to the class. I’m sure some people would disagree with this. I’m not sure how I feel but as it’s high school he’s dealing with a different population. If you’re teaching people to read or read better then you probably have to get them reading on their own but if they have no interest they aren’t going to be reading anyway.
  12. After reading the first chapter the students re-evaluate the plot, setting etc. using the graphic organizer.
  13. They do this for each chapter.
  14. Their next job is to storyboard their group’s chapter using stick figures. It’s real basic drawing but attention has to be paid to character placement and where word bubbles will go. The focus is on thematic correctness as opposed to sticking exactly to the story. The students only have 6 cells to use. This is held to pretty hard but if students can build a solid case for one more cell (lots of thinking going on there) more are possible.
  15. After all this is set up. They have one day as a class to get all their photos done. They keep the students in the same character role so as to avoid confusion even if they’re in different groups. I especially liked how quickly this was done as that’s often a big sticking point with projects like this. One key tip was to have the students take a close up picture of a hand at the end of their groups pictures to help with sorting later- kind of a visual bookmark between groups.
  16. The kids then use Comic Life to set up the pictures. They have ten minutes each to get this done.
  17. While the groups are doing this the worst Hollywood version he can find of the book is playing. This entertains the others and further gets them thinking about differences between the two and how movies of books aren’t very good.
  18. He then exports the comic book as an interactive Quicktime movie with the page turn transition. It looks slick.

Links to the worksheets etc.

necc, n07s809, necc07, necc2007, literature, of mice and men

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