Video of the Week: "Purl | Pixar SparkShorts"

I was excited to see a new Pixar Short come across my screen last week. I always appreciate Pixar’s master storytelling. However, “Purl” was not at all what I expected. Take a look:

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I recommend watching this one twice. I was a little too caught up in the story the first time to miss all of the nuances that make this video the critique of society it truly is. The video is based on the writer & director’s personal experience, and it’s definitely a poignant commentary on workplace dynamics.

Here are some of the things we’ll be discussing:

  • List all of the ways this short strives to critique the workplace as a “man’s world.”

  • What does Purl do to try to fit in? Have you ever found yourself doing these things?

  • What did you think of Pixar’s use of inappropriate humor and language? Does it add or detract from the story? Does it change your view of them as a company?

Video of the Week: "Democracy Dies in Darkness"

I was pretty unimpressed with last night’s Super Bowl commercials. They lacked the feel-good, inspirational messages of the past couple of years. One that did catch my eye was the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” It reminds me a bit of The New York Times “The Truth is Hard” campaign. Take a look:

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Here’s what we’ll be discussing in my classroom this week:

  • What does The Washington Post try to communicate about its newspaper in this video? What points of view do they neglect to tell?

  • Do you know what the images are of throughout the video? What effect does pairing these photos with the narration have on the video’s message?

  • Do you think it’s right for journalists to risk their lives in their work? Why or why not?

  • “Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.” Do you agree with these statements? Why or why not?

  • “Democracy dies in darkness.” What effect does alliteration have on this message?

Article of the Week: 21st Century Literacies

One of my goals this year was to institute a video of the week and an article of the week in my classroom to aid my students in continuing to develop 21st century literacies. After watching the video or reading the article, I ask students to spend a few minutes discussing in small groups what they think about it. I hope that this time helps students think critically and disagree kindly, all while looking each other in the eye.

Through this process, I also hope that students will learn that reading non-fiction can be fun and a life-long pursuit. Reading the news does not have to be boring. I try to choose a wide variety of texts from a wide variety of sources in hopes of exposing students to the breadth of information available to them. This also allows us to discuss bias and validity in sources. After students discuss in their small groups, I ask them to give me a thumb-o-meter on two questions: 1) How much did you agree with the viewpoints shared in this article? and 2) How much did you enjoy this article? I enjoy seeing their diverse opinions.

Here are some of the articles we have read so far this year:

“What happened when I tried the U.S. Army’s tactic to fall asleep in two minutes”
”Readers Howl Over Insult to Canine Intelligence”
”4 Strategies for Overcoming Distraction”
”The only six words parents need to say to their kids about sports—or any performance”
”Skim reading is the new profound. The effect on society is profound”
”We Spend Too Much Time Teaching Students to Argue”
”Are pro athletes playing too much Fortnite?”
”This Is Personal” - Steph Curry

One of the things I have loved the most about this process is that students send me articles that they recommend we read as the Article of the Week. This means that they’re reading what they come across online and that they actually like it!

Video of the Week: "ITV & Veg Power: Eat Them to Defeat Them"

Do you eat your vegetables? Do your kids? Perhaps we should join together, and “eat them to defeat them!”

Here’s what we’ll be chatting about this week:

  • Is this a good idea for an advertisement? Do you think it will accomplish what they hope?

  • What did you think of the personification of the vegetables? Compare and contrast it to what you’ve seen in VeggieTales.

  • What specific choices to the creators make to create a superhero feel to this ad?

  • What role does music make in this advertisement?

Video of the Week: "How tax brackets actually work"

I’m so thankful for a great CPA who understands the ins and outs of taxes so that I don’t have to. However, I do think we should all have a baseline of understanding, especially if we’re going to debate about them. Dan Meyer blogged last week about how teachers have the opportunity to make their students smarter than half of the American population by helping them learn how tax brackets really work. Take a look:

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Here’s what I’m wondering:

  • Would you rather get a $100 raise and move up a tax bracket, or not get a raise and stay in a lower tax bracket? (Try it for yourself. Here are the tax brackets. How much will an individual making $82,500 have to pay in taxes? What if they make $82,600?)

  • How does thinking of them as tax pockets rather than tax brackets change the understanding of this concept?

  • Do you think Vox presents a biased view to this topic? Why or why not?

  • What would you do to make this video clearer?