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Building Comprehension & Analyzing Symbolism with VoiceThread

Mia Morrison, Foxcroft Academy, ME

During the reading of The Scarlet Letter, students are asked to explore Hawthornes metaphorical use of the
woods. Students first write about the woods as a symbol. After discussion and further research, students then
look for images that visually express the diverse meanings.This is done in short bursts as the novel is read and
then using VoiceThread, students synthesize their view of Hawthornes meaning in his use of the woods
throughout the novel with images, text, and voice comments.The images must be created (drawn, digitized, or
photographed) by the students or properly cited with license for use or modification.Through VoiceThread -
students explore a literary metaphor through a personal, digital lens to learn that writing has deeper meaning
and introduction to licensing, copyright, image search, use and modification / image editing and creation.

1. CCSS standards/benchmarks addressed in lesson

1) Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says
explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text
leaves matters uncertain.
1) Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their
development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one
another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
C. CCSS. ELA-LITERACY. W. 11-12. 2. A
1) Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new
element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting
(e. g. , headings), graphics (e. g. , figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding
D. CCSS. ELA-LITERACY. W. 11-12. 2. D
1) Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor,
simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.
E. CCSS. ELA-LITERACY. W. 11-12. 2. F
1) Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the
information or explanation presented (e. g. , articulating implications or the significance
of the topic).
F. CCSS. ELA-LITERACY. W. 11-12. 9
1) Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and
2. Materials, including iOS devices and apps used
A. iPad or laptop
B. VoiceThread (VT) [may also use web platform]
C. Skitch
D. Photoshop, iPhoto or other image editing app
E. PlatformDraw or Paper by 53 (hand drawing)
Teaching Digital Literacies with the iPad Jon Jarc & Jim Harmon
F. SketchMe (modifying images)
G. Mixture (modifying images with text, etc)
3. Introduction
A. What makes this learning relevant for students?
1) Students become more engaged with Hawthornes text through exploring the meaning
of a metaphor. The exploration leads to better understanding that there is deeper
meaning in writing and that the meaning can be personal. They are drawn to creating or
modifying images to express themselves and find meaning in the writing and metaphor
itself. Students are able to relate to Hawthornes writing and his message through the
obvious and more obscure metaphorical use of the woods. Their understanding will
be shaped by their own experiences and beliefs. Students can compare their own views
and experiences to Hawthornes use of the metaphor as well as the growth of the
characters. Students love to create and this helps them feel a part of a traditionally
difficult to read novel.
B. What motivation can be provided for the lesson?
1) Students are given time and learning resources to explore their creativity. They use their
iPad to explore woods or other dark / metaphorical places that can express their
understanding (during or outside of class). Students are given free reign to express their
ideas creatively and personally - to take pictures or draw them, have fun with the images
or drawings (edit), and produce a unique digital artifact expressing their own view.
4. Opening
A. What is the format for opening?
1) The whole class discusses the project - introducing the idea to keep watch for use of the
woods as they read. Throughout the reading, I ask the simple questions What do the
woods symbolize here? and allow students to break into discussion groups. After an
appropriate amount of set time, the class comes together to see what each group has to
share. Alternately, it can be given as an individual assignment with few parameters. It is
dependent upon the make-up and chemistry of the class dynamics. If individual, it helps
to have a mode of communication where students are still able to informally share and
communicate - such as a blog or Moodle forum.
B. What skill or knowledge is foundational to the success of the lesson?
1) Any level or any age can complete a project such as this based around a symbol in a
reading. However, the specific topic of the woods in the Scarlet Letter requires an upper
age reading ability. The project itself can be completed by a range of capabilities - from
basic level to honors. All students can explore the meaning of metaphors through
5. Work session/Activities
A. What is the format for activities?
1) I prefer starting in small groups for discussion throughout the reading with a coming
together for sharing each time. Students are told to keep notes throughout the reading
Teaching Digital Literacies with the iPad Jon Jarc & Jim Harmon
and that they will be expected to make a thesis statement about the woods at the end.
The VT projects are completed individually as a synthesis of the discussions, image
creation/modification, and personal exploration and relation to meaning. The whole class
shares their work at the end through a class blogger site.
6. Closing
A. What is the format for activities?
1) Whole class participation with activities throughout the reading. The VT is a final
culmination of the units work to synthesize students understanding and personal growth
in content knowledge, reading comprehension, writing/expression, and creativity. We
share the VTs on Apple TV and discuss.
B. What is the desired end result that shows student learning?
1) In particular, I love to see creative images used in the VT - editing licensed work by
others, or taking / creating their own images. Students are led to understand that there
is meaning below the surface in writing/reading and that this meaning can be both
general and personal. Students are taught to synthesize weeks of work and make
meaning of the parts to create a whole. They are taught about images, use, and licensing
as well as learning about their own connection to the literature and creativity.
C. How will this evidence be collected, assessed, and shared?
1) VTs can be shared or placed onto a class Blogger. Peer evaluation is a large component
as well as self evaluation. I have the students assess each others work (peer evaluation)
and then their own project using a given rubric with specific evaluation questions with
numerical values. In the end, students get to know each other a lot better. They have
explored a topic together and as individuals. They come away with an understanding of
how symbolism can be very powerful, diverse, and expressive in a piece of literature.
They see how there is a lot going on below the surface of the writing and that there is
connection to their own lives.

Teaching Digital Literacies with the iPad Jon Jarc & Jim Harmon