What’s your approach to curriculum?

What’s your approach to curriculum?

Even if you’ve been given guidelines or a complete curriculum by your school, school board, or a previous teacher, you probably have an idea of what you feel is important when it comes to designing and implementing your course.

Click the picture that best fits your personal philosophy:

Do you feel that your relationship with your students is a top priority? Do you adjust your activities constantly to meet their needs?

Can learning be broken down into a set of clear steps? Do your students need to meet certain expectations to succeed?

Do you prioritize what your students will do when they leave your class? Do you feel your students can “change the world”?

Click here for more information about curriculum approach!


PME-810 – Module 3 – Updated visual – Kathryn, Heidi, Richard

Our visualization changed significantly from our first Coggle design in Module 2. The first reason is purely practical: the more we added, the less clear our visual became for an outside reader. Second, one of the benefits of an online program is learning about and experimenting with new collaborative technology. Coggle is one tool, but we felt it would be good to try a new, slightly more complicated method for sharing our work. Finally, rather than linking the five conceptions of curriculum to philosophies and attaching other concepts to link them, we felt it was better to see each approach as a separate piece and see the concrete, practical ways those approaches work in terms of planning, instruction and assessment. From there, the strengths and weaknesses of each approach became clearer. 

The Subject-centred approach is considered an “objective” approach (McMillan, 2014) based on standardized testing as a method of determining student success and making learning efficient (Shepard, 2000). Subject-centered curricula often come from government or school district policy and may not allow for student-specific approaches and are delivered at the age or grade level despite variations in student ability, background knowledge or interest. Planning is based on conveying individual skills or pieces of knowledge for each subject that can be measured using uniform tests. Subject matter is generally delivered in chronological order and organized by subject matter. Instruction is often uniform, through teacher centred approaches, such as lectures, and assignments, and may rely on rote memorization and “teaching to the test” (McMillan, 2014). Additionally, this curriculum may privilege Western-centric views of the word and ways of knowing. Assessment is summative and measured against externally imposed standards, and it is a priority for teachers and schools to maintain government or district standards. In-class assessment is often not classroom- or student-specific and reflects the uniform content delivered. It’s form can mimic the external standardized assessment, as McMillian (2014) observes assessments may be a constructed response like multiple choice, matching, true and false, short answer, or a diagram to be labelled. Despite the limitations of this approach, “backward mapping” (starting with assessments and outcomes and creating a course that leads to them) can lead to positive outcomes (Hayes, 2003). Having local teachers or administrators make mid-course adjustments to content and instruction can also balance standards-based learning with a more student-centred approach. 

Society- or problem-centered approaches are, by design, more local and personalized in their approach. They presume, as Sowell (2005) observes, the purpose of education is to either prepare students for the world, or enable them to reform it in the future, or ambitiously, to do both. This approach to curriculum design is not as widely utilized as subject centered approaches for as Orstein and Hunkins (2013) note, planning, instruction and even subject areas addressed must be tailored to the problem selected and the needs, interests and abilities of the learners targeted. Unlike subject-centered approaches, planning may not be completed in advance of instruction, rather it must be revisited throughout the process in response to unknown outcomes as they arise during instruction and to ensure that any predetermined learning outcomes are interwoven into the learning process through instruction or selection of resources.  

Instruction in this approach often takes a dual focus with problem solving and social relation skills being addressed in addition to the content, that is the how is equally, if not more important than the what. The role of the teacher in this approach may be understood as a facilitator, providing appropriate resources and fostering opportunities to practice social and problem-solving skills in a supported environment.  Assessment in this approach may vary widely.  Students may be measured against their own individual starting point, or against external criterion depending upon how this design is implemented. This approach may use teacher-created standards, standards co-created with the students, or external standardized measures such as reading levels or a combination of these. Samuelsson et al. observe that a child’s degree of involvement may be seen as an indicator of learning. As observed by educators in A Teachers Point of View of Starting Inquiry Based Learning in the Classroom (n.d.), assessments for the same content or experience may vary by student as different marking tool may be utilized for different projects or students within the group. The same educators note that assessment may be understood as being ‘expanded’ in this approach to include representations of learning such as portfolios, finished products or journaling and that assessment should be a tool of not only measuring and demonstrating student growth, but also for driving teacher growth through reflection, self-assessment and collaboration (A Teachers P.O.V., n.d.).  

Finally, the learner-centred approach is the most personalized of the three approaches. It conceptualizes the learner not as a receptacle for knowledge but rather as a source for curriculum design. Ornstein and Hunkins (2013) posit that in this perspective the curriculum should be developed in response to how a learner (or learners) learn, form attitudes, generate interests, a develop values (p. 154). Unlike subject-centred curriculum design, planning is undertaken throughout the course of instruction and is not the sole domain of the teacher. Rather learners are invited to help select and organize the content they will learn (Sowell, 2005). Instruction may center around constructing projects or experiential approaches for the students to fully encounter results first-hand. Samuelsson et al. (2006) summarize this type of instruction concisely with their depiction of the Plan-Do-Review model, where the teacher supports students through a routine of planning learning, undertaking the task as planned and then reviewing the activity and its outcome with a guided reflection. Instruction is learner centered and the skills needed for learners to work together are deliberately and explicitly taught and cultivated. Subject matter from a variety of disciplines or subject areas is combined to support the learners to understand and solve social problems and to meet their developmental needs (Orstein and Hunkins, 2013). Assessment extends through the entire learning process, as McMillan (2014) notes, with pre-assessments, formative and summative assessments being employed. These assessments may take many forms and may be selected by students to best reflect their preferred learning style or goals. Self-assessment of learning for both the students and the teachers is emphasized, as the teachers model growth and collaboration towards learning goals with their colleagues.  


Canadian Education Association. (2011, August 31). John Ralston Saul: Where is the Standardized Testing Trend Taking Us?. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/28412154 

Canadian Education Association. (2013, March 11).The Power of Student Voice to Enhance Teacher Practice.. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/61528845 

Canadian Education Association. (2014, January 30). A Teacher’s P.O.V. on Starting Inquiry-based Learning in the Classroom. . Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/85470752 

Hayes, D. (2003) Making learning an effect of schooling: aligning curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 24(2), 225-245 

McNeil, J. D. (2009).  Contemporary curriculum in thought and action (7th ed.).  Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley.  Pages 1, 3-14, 27-39, 52-60, 71-74. 

McMillan, J. H. (2014). Classroom assessment: Principles and practice for effective standards-based instruction (6th ed., pp. 1-20, 57-64, 74-88). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 

Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.  Read Chapter 6, pp. 149-173. 

Samuelsson, I. P., Sheridan, S., & Williams, P. (2006). Five preschool curricula—comparative perspective. International Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1), 11. 

Shepard, L. A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14. doi:10.3102/0013189X029007004 

Sowell, E. J. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction (3rd ed., pp. 37-51). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

TEDTalks. (2013, May 10). Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc 

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 10 – Conclusion

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I found a few interesting articles, including one that explored the benefits of YouTube when teaching French. However, in the course we’ve now moved on to our final two assignments, and I feel I’ll be taking a break from exploring my initial question. I feel a little frustrated that my search was so unfocused, but I think that’s natural when it isn’t tied to any specific guiding or motivating process. One of the reasons I signed up for this program was because – while I explore learning on my own – I need some kind of structure or curriculum to guide me in a new space and motivate me to make regular progress. I enjoyed writing the blog, however, and I think “Reflection as a way of life” is an effective way to keep myself in the right headspace to continue professional development as part of this Masters program and on my own for my teaching practice.

I actually enjoy writing papers, but I’ll be honest and say I’m very nervous about the course closure assignment. One of the scariest parts about post-undergrad studies (and life!) for me has been a lack of clear success criteria. I found grading and feedback very consistent in undergrad, while every time I make a post as a Masters student, I have no clue what response I’ll get! So far it’s been positive and productive, but I always feel there’s a chance I’ll get a low grade on something I’m actually very proud of submitting.

I’m off to work on my teaching philosophy statement, and then I’ll need to finalize which articles to review for our final paper. Thanks for reading!

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 9: History of English Studies

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I found an article on JSTOR related to the general history of English studies (Yood, 2003). The article framed the beginning of English studies as a response to rhetoric and classics. After the Civil War, a new field of English split from existing studies, and allowed students to engage in literary criticism, linked with the study of language. English studies courses were socially-relevant, and became more and more affected by on-going events such as civil rights and feminist movements. 

There’s an interesting discussion in the article where there is a conflict between the idea of English studies as a new genre that separated from literacy studies, and the idea of literary analysis and language use being inseparable. One of the main take-aways is how fluid and self-reflective the process of defining English studies has been. As a field that teaches critical thinking and meta-cognition, it makes sense that there’s no easy definition of what exactly English studies is. There is some conclusion at the end: That – as of 2003 – the conflict of the past has turned into a consensus that none of those things – oral discussion, writing skills, literary criticism – are necessarily excluded.

I felt a bit of a connection to part of this discussion. I don’t teach grammar, but I also admit that these two parts of language acquisition are present:

1: My students must use language skills, and, 

2: My students are improving their language ability.

I have a tendency to say “I don’t teach English, I teach critical thinking and analysis”, but when using English language and English novels to teach those skills, the students need to express themselves, discuss, and reflect using English as a method of communication.


Yood, J. (2003.) Writing the Discipline: A Generic History of English Studies. College English , May, 2003, Vol. 65, No. 5, Special Issue: Materiality, Genre, and Language Use (May, 2003), pp. 526-540 

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 8 – Finding a useful article

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To start my historical review of ESL education, I chose an article called “History of Teaching English as a Second Language” (1996). Right away, I was a little put off by the opening sentence that stated: “The teaching of English as a Second Language can be described as a truly American educational situation.” I felt that it should be reversed: The American educational situation inherently includes the teaching of English as a Second Language.

I decided I needed to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was speaking from an American perspective, rather than describing ESL education as a specifically American pursuit. The connections between language and multi-culturalism described in the article apply to Australia, Canada, the UK, France, etc. but the focus of this article was on an overview of American ESL education history.

Unfortunately, that meant that the article was simply an overview of the development of education, and the various philosophies that lead to modern American education as it is today. It’s an interesting connection to one of the articles (Herbst, 1999) for our course which described two paths an education historian could take: the first, an overview of theory and development, or the second, an understanding of daily teaching practices and their development over time. I’m more interested in the second, and therefore this first article wasn’t really of any use to me beyond general interest. A better general search term might be “history of ESL teaching practices”, but I don’t know that articles will specify which historical approach they’re taking.


Herbst, J. (1999). The History of Education: State of the Art at the Turn of the Century in Europe and North America, Paedagogica Historica, 35:3, 737-747.

Cavanaugh, M.P. (1996). History of Teaching English as a Second Language, The English Journal, Dec., 1996, Vol. 85, No. 8 (Dec. 1996).

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 7: Planning the last module

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I’ve spent the last few posts confusing myself and getting further away from a targeted exploration of my initial question. Which I’m fine with. But it’s time to get to work. The course closure assignment involves finding 2-3 peer-reviewed articles or journals that connect to innovation in teaching or learning.

I previously stated that I wanted to explore the historical context of ESL and English literature instruction in North America: That’s still true. Hopefully, getting background, historical details will help both my assignments:

1: Grounding my understanding of my teaching in historical context and understand the various tools that teachers have used in the past to accomplish what I’m exploring, and

2: Give me a better understanding of historical context so I can understand what is innovative about some modern teaching practices, and how those innovations grew from previous practices and approaches.

Regardless of the results of my search, I’ll be able to reflect on the connections between articles I read and my previous blog posts, and hopefully create some interesting connections with whichever articles I choose to review for our final assignment.

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 6: Audience Conditioning

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Audience Conditioning: The ability for an audience to accept or understand an experience without alienation. Cultural factors, previous media consumption, and method of presenting the experience can all “condition” the audience to be more receptive.

In Module 2 of this course we defined “creativity”, and I keep finding myself referencing Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk. He describes one method of creative thinking as bringing multiple domains together to create something new. My previous post considered the idea of background and cultural context in television series, and how effective the use of montage can be in giving an impression or idea of a time, place, and/or culture. This is not a new idea, and – in fact – I first encountered it when studying the history of musical theatre in university. That brought me to a combination of my focus (exploring cultural context and use of media in the classroom) and an idea pulled from my drama studies.

Three examples of the concept of “Audience conditioning” follow:

Musical Theatre Workshop

Image source: https://prod-images.tcm.com/Master-Profile-Images/afunnythinghappenedonthewaytotheforum1966.75846.jpg

First, there is a famous musical called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”. The original production was workshopped and staged in various cities, but it always failed to connect with audiences. That might surprise you, since now it’s known as an incredibly successful musical that even has a film adaptation. 

The reason it kept flopping in workshops was because of the opening number: The original version had a slow introduction that recalled the Greek Classical theatre the musical was referencing. After it failed to work, Stephen Sondheim wrote a new opening love song that was much catchier. It still didn’t work. 

The problem? The musical is a farce. It’s ridiculous. It has a romantic plot, but it’s not a romance. So Jerome Robbins (most famous for doing the choreography for West Side Story) suggested that the opening number needed to prepare audiences for that ridiculous experience. So Sondheim wrote one of the most famous musical numbers of all time to open the show (see below), and it worked (Source here). The audience ate it up and the show went on to be ridiculously successful because audiences were prepared to receive what was coming next. Explaining “This is a farce.” isn’t enough. The audience needed to be immersed in that opening number, or risk rejection of the whole piece.

A Television Show

Second, there was a very famous TV series called “Glee”. If you watch the first season of Glee followed by the last season, you will be shocked by 1: the fall in quality, and 2: the difference in the staging of the musical numbers. The musical performances in the first half of the first season of Glee all took place either in fantasy sequences, or in reality – with high school levels of production and choreography. An example is below:

One of the reasons for this is that North American audiences don’t have the same conditioning that many audiences do. Especially in England. Theatre, pantomime, musical theatre, etc. have all – historically and in modern times – been a huge part of English culture. Not so much in America. By the second season of Glee, the musical numbers were completely impossible to stage for a high school, and took place in reality – even if they involved background dancers spontaneously joining in. And only the die-hard fans stuck with it. There were other problems, but watching the later musical numbers can be… off-putting.  If you don’t believe that cultural difference might exist…

England and America: History and Culture

Image source: https://ic.c4assets.com/brands/skins/series-1/episode-1/9bfd0df2-c577-4b9b-bc30-6be19a516342.jpg?interpolation=progressive-bicubic&output-format=jpeg&output-quality=90&resize=1024px:*

Finally, there was another famous TV series called “Skins”. I don’t recommend watching it, necessarily. But at the end of the first season, a character is hit by a bus. “Skins” is a UK production, and after the character is hit by that bus, the entire cast (even the recipient of the bus-hitting) breaks into a cover of “Wild World” by Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens).

When I referenced this to my friend, she had no idea what I was talking about. Apparently, I’d watched the UK version, while she had watched the US cut of the UK version (not to be confused with the US remake). The UK version of the above scene was screened for American audiences and they hated it. I mean they hated it to the point that they removed it from the US version of the DVD (Source here.) Why did it work in the UK, but not in the US?

800 words… Sorry.

Again, I’ve gone on about something only adjacent to what I said I was focusing on but: Isn’t this a part of what we try to do with pre-reading? To mentally, emotionally, culturally prepare students to accept some new experience? Don’t we want to remove the alienation from a new novel or other piece of art? And it isn’t just telling them what to expect. That didn’t work for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and it won’t work for my Chinese students reading Fahrenheit 451. There’s something about “conditioning” them for an experience, through an experience, that can help them be more receptive.

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 5: Am I having a crisis? Connecting my reflections to TV shows…

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Image source: https://klewtv.com/news/local/excessive-heat-warning

I’m currently on summer vacation in a city with a massive heat warning (feels like 47 degrees celsius), which means I have some free time. I’ve been watching a lot of (too much) TV. I’m struck by the different ways they approach background and cultural context.

Image source: https://ustimespost.com/fxs-the-bear-is-an-extraordinary-look-into-a-pro-kitchen/

The first is “The Bear” on FX. It’s set in Chicago and the feeling of the city, the culture, and the “personalities” seem to be essential to appreciating the show. I’ve never been to Chicago, I don’t know if I’ll ever go to Chicago, but the first five minutes established a feeling, or an impression of the city that brought back every memory or previous experience with Chicago from other media. There’s a cliche when describing movies and TV shows: “The city is like another character.” Shows like “Sex and the City” and “30 Rock” all use our general impression of a city to help ground it, enhance the comedy or drama, and make the shows feel more alive.

I haven’t found the clip from “The Bear” available online, but to give us this impression and immerse us in Chicago (or at least, the show’s version) they use a series of rapid shots of local landmarks, pictures of local celebrities you might find hanging in a diner, and shots of the city. The rapid cuts interspersed through the opening conflict give us an impression of a very specific Chicago, while also raising the tension and (I believe) creating the same feeling the characters will have while working in a high-pressure kitchen.

This – in addition to actual instruction of background information – is what I’m attempting to do with Fahrenheit 451. However, there’s an interesting alternative:

Image source: https://www.hbomax.com/hr/en/series/urn:hbo:series:GYmcIcA5b-IyOtwEAAAAC

I’m also watching – and loving – the television show “Irma Vep” on HBO. For some background: it’s created by Olivier Assayas, a French director who directed a film called Irma Vep in the 1990s, about a remake of a French silent serial from 1915 called “Les Vampires”. In the 2022 mini-series, the director remaking Les Vampires previously attempted a remake of the serial in the 1990s, fell in love with the lead actress, married her, divorced her, and is now remaking it again. Which is also what happened to Olivier Assayas in real life, except he is remaking his film Irma Vep instead of remaking a silent serial. Get all that?

The miniseries tells you none of this, but constantly references it. It’s interspersed with clips of the original 1915 serial, and one clip of the original “Irma Vep” film, but none of it is explained to you. There are also constant references and conversations related to French cinema and the perception of different waves of French directors and their views on art.

Image source: https://www.whocareschronicles.com/

My question while watching “Irma Vep” is: Do I need to know any of this to enjoy the show? I don’t think so. It’s funny, well-acted, charming, etc. without any of the meta-context. But every time I get a reference, or understand the context, or see the connection between the original film (which I’ve seen) and the new one, I feel… something. I think I’m appreciating it more, and getting a deeper understanding of the series as a piece of art.

So where’s the line for my students? Specific to each piece we read, is there some perfect level of understanding, cultural context, or background information that will allow my students to appreciate it or analyze it in an “ideal” way? Or is going in blind – bringing their own cultural context and understanding – an option? And how will I know? If “The Bear” gives me the impression I need of Chicago in the opening montage, would it give the same impression to my students?

If I go even further… How do I know my understanding of “Irma Vep” or Chicago or 1950s America is actually benefiting me? Is my interpretation “correct”? Am I just teaching my students my own biases? In some ways, of course I am: in part, I’m using my understanding of F451 to guide their analysis. Is that always a bad thing? Or is it showing them how subjective analysis can be?

I’m attempting to find more information about how media can help students understand cultural context, but I’m finding myself more drawn to whether cultural context is required, to what extent, and how to know.

Next time: I promise my next post is more focused… I started “The Bear’ this morning and was immediately struck by how well the Chicago montage grounded me in the world, and was also struck by how different it was from “Irma Vep”’s equally engaging approach.

Richard Stefano – PME 811 – Blog Post 4: Initial searches

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I decided to start with some broad searches aiming for: 

1. The benefits of using video to teach English literature, and

2. The benefits of using video to teach ELL students, and

3. Any connection between culture, culture shock, cultural context and the use of video (or other media.

Essentially, I’d like to gather some research about the benefits (or downsides!) of using media in the classroom, specific to my classroom and my learners. I’m hoping to gain some new knowledge and hopefully find some strategies for making my lessons more engaging. My focus is on cultural context, but that is a little too specific. I’m hopeful that I’ll find some related sources, but my initial search for cultural context and English literature mostly shows the benefit of video on language acquisition.

Interestingly, a source I’ve already encountered (edutopia.org) immediately gave me a great introduction to the topic:


The article discusses the idea of “…setting the context historically, politically, socially, and emotionally…” and uses a documentary about the civil rights era as an example. There are also benefits for ELLs specifically, including vocabulary and “solidifying” concepts they might struggle with.

Next two posts: I’m interested in further exploration of the “technology integration” tag, although a lot of it is specific to online-only learning. Our current module in PME-811 includes historical context, so with that in mind I plan on doing some background research on the history of ESL education in North America.


Alber, R. (2019, March 18). Using Video Content to Amplify Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-video-content-amplify-learning

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 3: A break to talk about definitions – July 20, 2022

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As a native English speaker teaching in China, I’m often the target of grammar questions. My colleagues who approach me with questions are making a big mistake! My answer to grammar or definition questions is usually: “Yeah you can say that.” or “We don’t usually say that.” 

To be fair, I am not a language acquisition teacher, so while my knowledge of grammar is… adequate, my main concern is with communication. I tell my students “If I can understand what you mean, it’s correct”. They have separate ESL classes that focus on grammar, spelling, structure, etc.

Let’s put grammar aside, and focus on definitions: My students obviously ask me what words mean all the time. The least useful answer in that situation is the dictionary definition. The most useful is usually a simple translation. They have 15 years of experience speaking Chinese. When they can swap in their understanding of the Chinese word for the English one, they can start to do that in their regular speech/writing/listening. But ideally, I can help them understand the word through active defining that uses a back-and-forth between teacher and students: 

“Do you guys know [Related word]?” 


“It’s like that, but more/less/similar to [Feeling, emphasis, different word, etc.].” 

“Kind of like [something similar]?” 

“Almost, but that’s a verb! This is the noun version.” 

“Got it.” 

“Can you use it in a new sentence?”

An easy example is the word “wince”. I just show them using my face. I ask them why people make a “wincing” face. If a character “winces”, then they must be feeling _________. 

Which (finally) brings me to our PME-811 activity for this week: We are pulling from any sources we can find to define concepts that we’ll be using in this course. In a way – like my students – I think I’m building from my existing understanding of these concepts, and intending to use the sources to help me articulate what I already know. 

But then something interesting happened: when I struggled to articulate what I (think I) already know, I start to find cracks in my internal definition. The sources I’m looking at are showing me how ineffective my internal definition is in understanding the term, and especially in communicating that understanding to others.

So what the course is designed to do is give me that same “back-and-forth” I give to my students. We’re creating a definition on our own based on our understanding and our research, and then having a discussion about all of our different definitions, to bring our understanding closer together and move that understanding forward (or deepen it). It’s such an interesting parallel with my students. We want to be able to move forward with the same (or overlapping) understandings of those same terms, and ideally, we’re able to articulate and explore that understanding. 

Richard Stefano – PME-811 – Blog Post 2: My current approach and next steps – July 16, 2022

The question I’m exploring is how to use media to address cultural context required to study content that requires it. In this post I’ll lay out how I’ve been approaching it so far, using Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury as an example.

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Establishing previous knowledge

To start with, I explain when the novel was written, and ask my students if they know anything about the 1950s. They’ve usually heard of the Cold War and the space race. Here’s where we hit our first snag: 

First of all, they have a completely different perspective on the Cold War. To give an example, my students often consider Richard Nixon the most important American president because he formed diplomatic relations with China when they began opening up to the Western world. 

There’s also the issue of age: When I ask my students about new technology that was common in every household in 1950s America, they often say “computers” or “cellphones”. (Every year I feel older and older after hearing these answers…)

Key knowledge specific to the novel

What was life in 1953 like for the TYPE of characters we’re going to see in the novel? (White, middle-class, young-ish, married to an opposite-sex partner). Think about the economic situation, compare their lives to the previous generation, consider the psychological effects of the Cold War on every day citizens.

What do you think television and other technology did to society? How did it affect people’s lives? (Note: We did a unit on social media the semester before, and there are lots of examples and connections to draw on.)

How can media support this knowledge?

First, we watch the first episode of the Jetsons from the early 1960s. (Well, the first 10 minutes… I’ve taught this for three years, if I watch the full episode with every class I’ll lose my mind). We focus on two things:

1: What do you notice about family roles in this series? Pay special attention to Mrs. Jetson, and,

2: What is most of the technology in this show used for? (Convenience.)

This gives a general idea of an “ideal” family at that time (obviously not actually “ideal”), general values and family roles, and an interesting perspective on technology and how it could benefit society. 

After reading through the first few pages of the novel, I then use another video and some images to give a visual impression of the time period. I believe this has been successful in helping the students visualize the novel. An example is copied below:

Video source: Living the American Dream, 1950s Suburban Life. (2018, November 13). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7qItGQFpuM

I also use images when we discuss the characters. Mildred (one of the main characters in the novel) can be represented as both a “typical” 1950s housewife from the video above, and the flip-side of that: a depressed, lonely woman with nothing to fulfill her intellectually or emotionally. 

Image source: B. (2017, December 7). I Spent A Week As A ’50s Housewife, And Here’s What My Pretty Little Head Learned. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/i-spent-a-week-as-a-50s-housewife-and-heres-what-my-pretty-little-head-learned_b_6220604
Image source: Hall, L. (2022, January 5). The Real Housewives of the 1950s – Lauren Hall. Medium. https://medium.com/@lauhall/the-real-housewives-of-the-1950s-79a09f5a1fe4

I also have access to some videos by Ray Bradbury discussing the ideas he brought up in the novel. It’s a good way to show the students possible critical questions that people were discussing during the 1950s from the perspective of someone who was living through it.

Next post: Strategies for determining existing knowledge with students? What knowledge is considered “key” or “essential” when establishing historical or cultural context? Benefits of using media (video, images, music) for establishing context?

PME 811 – Richard Stefano Blog Post 1 – Determining my question

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I’ve decided to look into something that I’ve tried in my own practice, but which I need to explore further:

How can we use media to create cultural context or cultural understanding in the classroom? Can video, images, and music create a “cultural impression” of a time, place or society that can enhance students’ learning or bridge a cultural difference in understanding?

To narrow this down – and relate it to my own practice – I’ll describe the issue that I’m having, and how I’ve been handling it:

In my Grade 9 class, I’ve taught Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. My students are 14-15 year old (wealthy!) Chinese students with varying experiences studying or traveling overseas, and with varying levels of English ability. Therefore, I give a general historical background about 1950s America (when the novel was written) with emphasis on issues raised in the novel (ex. The introduction of new technology and the effect on society). 

What I’d like to explore is research, testimonials, and strategies related to relaying that historical background, cultural context, or general understanding of a time and place, and how we can use media (images, video, music, etc.) to enhance that understanding.

Of course my focus will be on my own students or English learners in general, but difference in age is also a factor.

I am not an expert in 1950s America, but I am a 32 year old man who has consumed a huge amount of television, movies, novels, etc. that have given me an understanding or at least an impression of the 1950s (supported by actual information gathering before teaching my course, I promise!), and that has changed the way I analyze and discuss the novel.

The next blog post: What are my current strategies for doing this? How can I determine if they are effective? What are follow-up or focusing questions to enhance my exploration? Is cultural context necessary for an initial approach, or is it more valuable to explore the perspective of students without “pre-reading” to create that understanding?