Creating a Facebook page is high on list of high school writing lessons

by Grace

Share My Lesson is a new online resource for teachers developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect.

Share My Lesson is a place where educators can come together to create and share their very best teaching resources. Developed by teachers for teachers, this free platform gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can collaborate with, encourage and inspire each other.

When I recently checked out this new website, I found that among its most popular writing lessons for high school students was one designed to allow “students to construct a Facebook page for a character from a text or some other context.

Really?  In the context of complaints from college professors and employers about students not learning to write in school, it’s a bit disappointing that the most popular online lesson is one that does almost nothing to teach fundamental writing skills.  Do students really need to be taught better Facebook posting skills?

Granted, this exercise could serve to help students draw out information about a character that they otherwise would have difficulty doing.  It could be lots of fun, actually.  “Miss Havisham went from being in a relationship to single.”   “Atticus Finch is having another tough day in court.”   Dorian Gray:  “Er. Does anyone know how to un-tag yourself from a picture??”

Part of this lesson’s popularity could be attributed to the fact that it’s shiny and new.  Maybe it’s not the end of the world that high school students are spending time creating Facebook pages for literary characters.  It probably has its place.  I just have this nagging feeling that too many of these types of fun assignments are taking the place of the more traditional ones that teach fundamental literacy skills.

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11 Responses to “Creating a Facebook page is high on list of high school writing lessons”

  1. And in Louisiana, a private school which may be eligible to get public voucher money under the state’s new privatization law, is teaching students that the Loch Ness monster is real…

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/loch-ness-monster-real-in-biology-textbook/2012/06/26/gJQAPhwr4V_blog.html

    Stupidity is alive and well in all corners of education.

    Inicidentally, our dean told me a few weeks ago that she is really tired of writing courses that ask students “to find their voice”, that all she wants is for students to learn how to write coherent business memos, documents, etc. I would personally add a few more forms of writing, particularly analysis papers, but I tend to agree with her.

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  2. Oh, and my husband just had to spend a day at a training session at his workplace where he learned how to “promote his personal brand” via Facebook and Twitter. So maybe this is a business skill after all!

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  3. I’m not surprised about your dean’s dissatisfaction with the “find your voice” emphasis. Please, just teach basic writing skills and kids can find their voice later.

    Branding yourself and promoting yourself through social media are important business skills, I think. But I really have no interest in having my kids taught that in K-12. Many kids are learning social media skills on their own, but not so many are teaching themselves how to write a coherent expository essay.

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  4. “Inicidentally, our dean told me a few weeks ago that she is really tired of writing courses that ask students “to find their voice”, that all she wants is for students to learn how to write coherent business memos, documents, etc.”

    Nobody makes inspirational hero-teacher movies where a nice white lady teaches inner city kids how to write really good memos.

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  5. LOL!

    This reminded me of when I learned that the “purpose” of our high school’s 10th grade English course was “to investigate the ethical dilemmas inherent in the human condition”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I had mistakenly thought the purpose was to develop the students’ reading and writing skills. Silly me.

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  6. “This reminded me of when I learned that the “purpose” of our high school’s 10th grade English course was “to investigate the ethical dilemmas inherent in the human condition”.”

    Did they succeed?

    That description wouldn’t be out of place in a Dostoevsky seminar, but they weren’t reading Dostoevsky, were they?

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  7. No, they did not read Dostoevsky, but here’s more from the class description.

    “… students will be challenged to evaluate the decisions of individuals in the face of life’s trials, including the struggle for power, the influence of evil and the trappings of ideology—decisions that may result in moral debasement and even violence, or in personal epiphany, forgiveness and redemption. ”

    I do remember one student telling me that he always felt his grade would be improved if he included some reference to oppression by evil white men in his writing.

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  8. One thing that really blew my mind in Russia is that there, high schoolers really are supposed to be reading Dostoevsky. The Russian “school program” in literature (the required curriculum) includes piles of weighty 19th century tomes, and they write papers on questions like, why did Raskolnikov kill the old money lender in Crime and Punishment?

    (Of course, even in the 90s, there was a profusion of Cliff Note-type publications available to help students get through lit classes without actually reading War and Peace. The students tended to cheat like crazy on the exams that required you to basically memorize a dozen or so essay questions. But the good students I knew were actually doing a lot of work.)

    The description from that US high school class isn’t that terrible, but a lot would depend on the books chosen, the execution and the teacher’s tendency to glom onto certain “right” answers. I’d also note that the part you quoted is very “big picture” and doesn’t contain any technical literary content (imagery, unreliable narrator, form, blah blah blah). The “big picture” stuff will only get you so far on the AP English exam, which is much more fine-grained, as I recall.

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  9. Think about the pedophile hero of Lolita–he’s our narrator, but he’s not trustworthy. You have to read between the lines to figure out if the story that he’s telling is accurate. Humbert Humbert sees the world through the fun house mirror of his obsession, so you need to correct for that. The unreliable narrator is important in Dostoevsky, too.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unreliable_narrator

    I actually never learned about the unreliable narrator in class (even in grad school for Russian lit), but it’s a very important literary concept, especially for more sophisticated literature.

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  10. Amy, the class description does contain specifics on technical literary topics and goals. But I think it’s unwieldy to make a 10th grade English class fit into this big theme. Forcing a teacher to do this might tend to take away from a focus on some basic literacy skills that these kids need more than they need frequent small group discussions on oppression and human suffering, which is what happened in this class.

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