One of my favorite parts of teaching has always been collaboration. If you know me in real life, then you have surely heard my story about how I shot for the wrong team in basketball. I lack the competitive spirit. High fiving the other team at the end is the best part of the game. Now, I know that playing on a team means working together with those players, but it also means working against another team. Maybe now that everyone “earns” a trophy it’s not the same way? I guess I’ll find out when my kid is old enough to try out for a team.
Thus, I do not believe in teachers’ closing their filing cabinets to colleagues instead of collaborating on grand ideas for the goal of helping kids win. How cheesy and full of metaphors was that sentence? Moving on. Today I present to you our first installment of Teacher Feature. In fact, this teacher posted her lesson on Facebook and inspired this aspect of the blog. Despite her having two children and being a full-time teacher, she took the time to write up something about her fourth-grade lesson. After you hear from here, I’ll report back on how I envision this activity at the high school level.
“This year, I have four new students to the school in my fourth grade class. Usually, by the time students get to fourth grade they have already established their close circle of friends from being in classes together since kindergarten. To help students build new friendships I wanted to do some type of “Get to Know You” activity. I turned to the wonderful world of Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers. The fabulous thing about these websites is you can search for what you’re interested in and then either use what you find or “tweak” (a teacher’s favorite term) to make it what you want.
During my search I ran into the typical scavenger hunt, two truths and a lie, would you rather, find someone who…, and beach ball games. Then I saw a Friend Wanted Ad idea. The third grade teacher who runs the blog, The Starrr Spangled Planner, says she uses this activity as a back to school activity to help students build new relationships. She mentions how the anonymity of the activity boosts students’ confidence and encourages them to approach new friendships without judgment.
To introduce the activity, I had my class list and discuss qualities they look for in a friend. Then we listed and discussed what qualities we had as friends and things that made each of us unique. The blogger used this organizer to lead the class discussion.
After the class discussion, I shared this example from the website. I made sure to help the students see that the first half of the example had qualities he/she was looking for in a friend and the second half had qualities he/she could offer in a friendship.
Students drafted their own Friend Wanted Ads and typed their final copy in the computer lab. Everyone used the same size/style font to ensure the anonymity for each ad. I did have them type their name at the bottom. I covered each name with a post-it note which could be peeked under for any ads that readers thought could be a potential friend!
I displayed the Friend Wanted Ads in our fourth grade common pod area. The next morning was very special. As students arrived to school and made their way to their classrooms, they noticed the Friend Wanted Ads and stopped to read a few!
I was extremely pleased with this assignment and will definitely do it again next year! ~ Erika”
Thank you, Erika, for sharing with us! When you shared this lesson on Facebook, it inspired me. I thought about all of the ways I could take something like this and bring it to high school. Collaboration is the coolest! Thank you, Internet, for allowing teachers to expand our reach.
Yes, my expertise is high school English, but think about the opportunity this activity could provide at the high school level. I ran and sat through enough advisory lessons with students on bullying to know that teenagers are onto that game. When the activity is contrived and a special day is carved out of the school year for it, then it loses its novelty and potential effectiveness.
However, what if teachers just presented this activity as an activity without calling it an anti-bullying lesson and forcing all teachers to use it on the same day? Maybe the students would learn some writing skills and gain a few new friends. Obviously, with high schoolers in particular, we have to be cognizant in the delivery. They can sniff out “let’s all get along” activities with drug-dog accuracy and just as fiercely reject them.
So, let’s consider the literary applications here in order to better disguise this activity for our older brood.
Introduction to Characterization:
We high school teachers always want students to analyze character motivation. Well, this friendship wanted ad activity provides the perfect introduction to characterization. Before students characterize someone from a novel, have them practice characterizing themselves first. We’re all at least a little narcissistic, and we know that our students respond more to activities that connect to their personal lives.
Social Media: I would introduce this activity by brainstorming with students a list of social media available to teenagers (EX: Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Facebook, tumblr, Pinterest). From this list, have students work with a partner (or small groups) to answer the following questions:
- What reasons does someone have for starting an account for each one of these social media platforms? (Ex: Instagram is for artsy shots but Twitter is for keeping up with the conversation.)
- What kind of people do you connect with on social media? People you know? People with like interests? People outside of your social circle?
- How is being social on social media different from/similar to being social in-person? Are there things you can do/say in one situation that you cannot do/say in another?
- What makes you decide to follow someone you don’t know on social media?
- List a few social media sensations you follow. How would you characterize those people based on the platform they choose and the content they share?
When you come back to discuss these questions as a class, I think it would be important to talk about what perception we have of different people on social media. How do we characterize those people? Is this characterization fair or unfair?
Indirect vs. Direct Characterization: Before they begin to characterize themselves, discuss indirect versus direct characterization. It will help them with incorporating varied details into these advertisements.
- Direct: The writer straight up tells the audience what to think about this character.
- If a student is writing about herself, she would say something like, “I am patient. I am energetic. I am artistic.” There’s no “reading between the lines” with direct characterization.
- Indirect: The writer is more subtle because they can’t tell you everything to think about someone. They show you the character’s traits through the way the character speaks, what the character thinks, how the character interacts with other characters, how the character behaves, and what the character looks like. We draw conclusions based on those details in order to form our own opinion of that person.
- If a student is writing about herself, then how she writes would characterize her (use of slang, spelling, sense of humor). A student’s list of hobbies is indirect characterization because we draw conclusions about that person’s personality based on the things they like.
I dig this indirect vs. direct characterization handout. It incorporates a handy acronym like yesterday’s post.
Presentation: You can still have students display their advertisements anonymously (well, you would do it for them) just like the fourth grade lesson Erika shared.
Apply this same tactic to characters in the text that you’re reading. Hey, if you teach social studies, then you can do this activity with historical figures.
Have students make sure they include some of the following criteria when they write an friendship wanted advertisement for their characters:
- Something the character has said (indirect characterization)
- Something another character has said about them (indirect characterization)
- The character’s interests
- How the character sees him/herself
Maybe have students circulate to do one of the following:
- Decide which characters should be friends
- Decide which characters they want to be friends with
- Guess which character is which
Optional Closure: Have students (literally or hypothetically) post on social media as that character to share with the class. They should choose the platform that would best suit that character. (Ex: Boo Radley might want to be a bit more anonymous, so he might choose tumblr.) This closure would bring the lesson right back to the start of the conversation about social media.
Sorry that I have no new images for you today. I am a lover of pictures. However, Erika provided you with pictures!
If you want to be one of the upcoming teacher features because of a lesson you loved, please contact me. I would love to feature you and your lesson!
Questions or suggestions about today’s post? Sound off in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I’d love to hear from you.