Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A novel study in a digital age

Stacy Simon, an ELA teacher at Campbell Collegiate, explored the use of technology to create authentic interactions for her students throughout the course of their novel study.  Stacy shares with us her experiences in creating a context for her English 20 students as they read the novel A Long Way Gone

For English 20 this year, I chose to have my class read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. The book is a memoir Ishmael wrote about his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. As we read the memoir, we continually discussed Ishmael’s experiences but we especially focused on how the war deprived him of his childhood and his rights and freedoms.

 Although my students could not relate to Ishmael’s experience with war, we found other ways to connect with him. Music played a big role in Ishmael’s life so we, too, discussed how music can play a role in our lives. Also, we literally connected with him by finding him on Twitter and tweeting him comments and questions created by my students. This was a great experience as my class was eager to ask questions and more than thrilled when he responded to them. Although my class was aware they were reading a true story, conversing with Ishmael emphasized this reality.


My students also created a script of a hypothetical interview with Ishmael. We then watched this script come to life when we used Xtranormal, a website that turns text into speech and allows students to pick sets, characters and sound effects to produce a cartoon video.

Overall, my students – even the reluctant readers – were engaged in the memoir. Ishmael’s story taught my students many things such as the atrocities of war, the use of child soldiers, and the fragility of life. 

Submitted by Stacy Simon (ELA teacher at Campbell Collegiate) and Monique Bowes (Instructional Consultant)

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