Monday, December 22, 2014

But wait! There's more! -- How I Use Infomercials in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Motivational speaking can prove a daunting task to self-conscious teenagers lacking motivation in their own lives.  My students often feel nervous that their peers will judge them for their opinions or that they will forget everything they meant to say.  My motivational speaking unit often lands between my persuasive unit and our team debate, so anxiety runs high as we reach this momentous speech.  A little nervousness is normal and expected, but I began to find students in tears over the pressure of yet another serious speech in front of their classmates.  This year I knew I needed to make a change.

Change does not come easily for me, but I felt sure that I could find a less-stressful -- yet equally valuable -- alternative to a motivational speech.  Then the idea struck.  Infomercials use the same persuasive strategies as formal speeches, and these often-hilarious videos even follow Monroe's Motivated Sequence, the format most widely accepted for motivational speaking.  I decided that an infomercial unit was just what my teens needed.

First, I introduced Monroe's Motivated Sequence to my students and played them several infomercials from YouTube (The Hawaii Chair, Snuggy, ShamWow, and Slap Chop infomercials are some of my personal favorites.).  I asked them to identify the attention, need, satisfaction, visualization, and action for each infomercial, and we discussed how the videos incorporated each of these aspects.

Then I presented their next speech assignment -- Monroe's Motivated Infomercial.  My students invented their own unique products, drafted prototypes, wrote scripts, and filmed their own quirky infomercials using persuasive and motivational techniques.

At the end of the unit, we had an infomercial party and watched the students' videos together.  We had such a fun time laughing together, and nobody felt overwhelmed or judged.  The balance between educational and entertaining was perfect.  You can watch one of their infomercials below:

The variations of this assignment are endless, but this project ranks as one of my favorites so far.  Comment below with your successful public speaking strategies.  I would love to hear your ideas!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Smaller Desk

Some days I miss the smaller desk 
Where I sat and I listened and learned.
I answered when called upon -- that was enough--
And my teachers' approval I'd earned.
Some days I miss the smaller desk
Where I read when they told me to read.
I wrote when they told me to write.  That was all
That I needed for me to succeed.
Some days I miss the smaller desk
Where I kept just a notebook and pen.
I'd write a few lines that I thought sounded smart,
But if not, I could just try again.
Some days I miss the smaller desk
Where I counted down days 'til I'd leave.
The end was in sight, and my thoughts flew beyond
To the dreams that I knew I'd achieve.
Some days I miss the smaller desk,
For now twenty such desks point at me.
But the bigger desk gives me the chance to become
Who the smaller desk taught me to be.

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