NPR’s “Serial” in the English Classroom: Podcasts as “Texts”

Submitted by Joseph Pacitti and Carla Pacitti, SHS English Dept.

At SHS, Carla and Joe Pacitti are using the recent NPR podcast Serial as an anchor text for their unit on rhetoric and argumentation for English 10. Each of the classes is responsible for establishing, using appropriate evidence from the podcast and associated supplemental readings, the relative guilt of the primary subject, Adnan Syed.

Serial ignited a new conversation about a crime that took place on January 13, 1999. After the series ended in December, the blogosphere, other podcasts, social and news media began exploring a number of essential questions about truth, bias, race, and memory. The chance for students to engage in such a robust dialogue is a truly unique opportunity, as the case is still evolving 16 years later (detailed feed on the Facebook page for the series).

The podcast allows students the opportunity to take more effective notes while listening, create their own podcasts, and work in collaboratively in investigative teams to actively comment on one another’s “case files.” WordPress blogs serve as journals and analysis tools; embed dynamic, interactive timelines about the crime using Timetoast into their blogs; Garageband, iMovie, and Behringer Podcast Studio allow students to create response podcasts. Finally, students will integrate and present their evidence into digital whiteboard mediums using Camtasia and Notability.

Student blogs also serve as a space for digital commentary and critique, as students in one class interact and respond to blogs for another section. Students in each section also engage in panel debates and Socratic Seminars, using the tools and evidence they’ve garnered throughout the podcast to substantiate their claims about Adnan’s guilt or innocence.

 The podcast will scaffold students’ experiences with essential questions of bias in journalism and the nature of memory to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

 Because the unit is only on Episode 2 (of 12), student work is still in progress. Student artifacts will be posted intermittently on TL2020.

6th Grade Students Research Chinese New Year in Social Studies Classes

Chinese New Year

by: Kelby McNally (6th Grade Student)

cny Fire crackers“It’s beginning to look a lot like Chinese New Year!”  Salisbury Middle School 6th grade social studies teacher sings as she walks down the hallway. Mrs. Yurconic and their language arts teacher, Mrs. Bellis,  partnered up over the month of December to help students learn and engage with the fascinating history of the ancient Chinese. With the help of Mrs. Bellis, students created a paragraph about an ancient Chinese topic and designed a presentation with their group using creativity and oral speaking skills. Mrs. Yurconic also helped the students plan an intriguing visual such as a poster, keynote, or even a dragon costume! Along with these two teachers leading the project, the 6th grade reading teacher (Mr. Beyer) and school librarian (Mrs. Jaindl) also pitched in by informing students of appropriate research techniques. Mr. Beyer devoted class time to teaching the students how to identify websites that have correct and relevant information versus those that are fake and relay incorrect information by using the acronym RAD CAB. Each letter in this acronym stands for a word relating to trusting and thoroughly searching websites to support students in finding accurate information for this project. On the other hand, Mrs. Jaindl provided her expertise by teaching students how to use and navigate Noodle Tools to cite resources; this was an valuable skill students will use throughout their education.

cny presentThe Salisbury Middle School 6th grade students surely have very creative minds that support them in creating spectacular visuals and activities for their peers to interact with. During presentation week, synergy was flowing through the sixth grade hallway in both teachers and students alike. The day before students left for their holiday break, an activity day was held in which student groups would lead an activity they came up with for everyone to try. The students were great at demonstrating Chinese symbols for everyone to paint and even helping their peers create mini umbrellas and fans (a marvelous Chinese invention). The students really had a blast doing this project, and they are now on their way to becoming ancient Chinese history experts!

Using iPads in Kindergarten

The kindergarten classes at Western Salisbury Elementary School have enjoyed learning to use laptops, iPads and the interactive SmartBoard.  The students first learned how to properly care for each tool.  Following this the students learned how to navigate the laptops using the mouse pad and cursor.   They used these skills when exploring various learning games.  The kindergarten students were excited to explore the apps on the mini iPads when they arrived in November.  The students used the app, Doodle Buddy on the mini iPads to practice  addition and subtraction skills in math as well as writing words and drawing pictures of objects with a given beginning sound.  With Mrs. Nocerino and Mrs. Hippauf the kindergarten students used the interactive SmartBoard to practice reading skills.

The students are looking forward to using the iPads, laptops and SmartBoard in the 2nd half of the school year and furthering their skills with these technology tools.

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