Monday, January 7, 2013

Listening Skills

Every year, I teach a unit on memoir, and this time I've incorporated some Storycorps materials into the short pieces my sixth graders analyze. For years I've listened to the edited versions of these recorded conversations every Friday morning on NPR. Many, many times I am moved to tears, but it wasn't until I drove past the mobile recording trailer every day for a month that I thought of using them in my classroom.

The Storycorps folks, in addition to archiving all of the interviews at the Library of Congress, have some great education materials on their website, as well as some animated versions of a several of their more popular interviews.

In my class we go from transcript to audio recording to animation. One of the students' favorite pieces is a son's remembrance of his father who worked up to sixteen hours a day as a school custodian to support their family of 13. The anecdote he relates, while very accessible to the students, also contains some old-fashioned versions of things they have contemporary inklings of, specifically store credit and bottle deposits.

We have had some interesting conversations about those issues, but none have been as lively as when, in order to help them relate to how hard that guy was working, I mentioned the possibility of a longer school day or year. The shock of such a suggestion must have damaged their ears because a couple of class periods later? Someone was circulating a petition to stop it.

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