Minor updates about Serial friends, Serial lesson plans, and a teacher from Woodlawn High.

So this isn’t the absolute truth, but I can say with significant veracity that I started this blog to show my students how it’s done. Morro Bay High went all in with Google docs this year (which makes sense), and I taught computer apps during summer school (which makes no sense whatsoever). In a really clumsy totally collaborative way, the incoming freshmen and I taught each other how to blog, tweet, and identify memes, along with a few other useful skills. I wanted to share this with my juniors this fall, so I showed them my so-called blog (I called it “Blog blah blah”), showed them how to tweet about it (to my 21 followers), and introduced them to podcasts (Bill Simmons talking about the NFL controversies, and Serial). Then we just kept listening to Serial, and I wrote about how we were still listening to it (instead of reading Shakespeare), then I tweeted about it, and then finally I hashtagged that holla. Soon after that, the The Wall Street Journal emailed me, then a few other journalists, and then quite a few excited teachers who were also teaching Serial, or at least thinking about it.

“What a great lesson for my students!” I exclaimed inside my own head. Soon, I thought, so many students will be blogging and sharing and publishing and laughing together with glee (except for the times they’re serious, and trying to think of the perfect word, with their eyebrows scrunched in concentration), and they’ll all start understanding the truly connective power of language. That idea, however, turned out to be my falsest prophesy ever. Oh well. Someday.
We’re still at zero voluntary student blogs (I’ll write about that soon), but the kids have enjoyed seeing themselves in the news, and I’ve really enjoyed making some new friends. Even though they don’t read newspapers, the kids were excited to see themselves in The Wall Street Journal and Slate.com; meanwhile, I enjoyed my talks with Matt Collette (the writer of the Slate.com article) and reading some of his past articles. Some of my students got to enjoy a long Skype interview with nowthisnews.com, where Sarah Frank asked us questions about Serial while we enjoyed asking her about her job and the industry in general (and found a website they really like). We were interviewed by the local newspaper, and now we’re seeing us written about in French and Spanish newspapers. And while maybe they haven’t been motivated to write their own posts (yet), they’ve been excited to come to class and work hard, and they really do feel on the cutting edge of a popular new kind of literature. So that’s cool.
Meanwhile, I’ve been receiving emails from excited teachers who are either asking for, or offering, lesson plans and ideas for teaching Serial in the classroom. We haven’t formalized any true collaborative projects yet (the #teensonserial hashtag kind of fizzled), but we have some good ideas. We’re trying to figure out how to schedule Skype meetings with other classes, or trade our own self-made podcasts about our theories with another school, or maybe just collaborate on a shared document. If anybody has a good idea, please send it our way.
In the meantime, while I’ve heard from teachers from all over the country, the most exciting was a teacher asking for lesson ideas — from Woodlawn High. How cool is that?? Some of his colleagues graduated with Jay, and they knew the whole cast of characters. We talked on the phone for almost 45 minutes, and I don’t want to give away all his secrets, but I’ll give you some of the easy (but interesting) takeaways. First of all, he sounded as sure as Adnan when he said there’s “no way” to get from school to Best Buy in the time provided. I know this doesn’t really matter now, but I still thought it was interesting. I also didn’t buy that Adnan had never heard of Leakin Park (it looks so big on Google Maps), so he asked his kids the next day: less than 10% of them had heard of it. And the truly stunning statistic he gave me: He estimates that “two of the 150” teachers there have heard of the podcast, and almost none of the non-Pakistani students have any idea of its existence. Hopefully, if some of us teachers figure out a way to work together in a collaborative effort, he’ll be a big part of it.
And finally, for those people asking for formal lesson plans, I swear they’ll be done by the end of the week. There are ten lessons for the first episode all finished, but I’m trying to make them absolutely perfect. You’ll hear from me soon. 
In the meantime, two more days till the next episode…

3 thoughts on “Minor updates about Serial friends, Serial lesson plans, and a teacher from Woodlawn High.

  1. Hi Erin — in case you're interested, a link to 40 pages of lesson plans were just posted on latest post of the blog. They include printable worksheets, vocabulary lists, etc…

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