Wordplay Cowboys is a learning activity based on transforming Shakespearean language into cowboy slang from Hollywood Westerns.
First read and summarize the play.
Moving onto the Student Scribe activity, start by giving students an example. Make the example interactive. Here they are introduced to the activity and asked, as a class, to offer up verbally some possible dialog. First they must identify the scene.
This is a nice way of reinforcing students’ understanding of wordplay and checking for understanding of plot and character.
Students then divide into groups with a handout on cowboy slang and the script for the scene they must translate. To make it easier, choose a well-known scene – The Balcony Scene. If they are confident, they may choose their own scene.
Suggested scaffold – list of cowboy slang:
* reload gunslinger * pilgrim * hit the trail gringo * fancypants * Hell of thing, killin’ a man
* burnin’ daylight * we deal in lead, friend * deed to the ranch * will, coffin, grave, grace
* dead in the dust * Bounty, Reward, Price on yer head * meltin’ cowboy’s heart * coddle
* Pretty as a picture * fancypants * cinch * We may not get out alive * humdinger
* like spittin’ in yer eye * cowboy up or bleed * yep * Howdy partner * what’s that stranger?
* Easy gal * I’m gonna blow yer head off * there’s right and there’s wrong * God dang
Students may be daunted from the start, however, it is a reasonably good formative activity to coax their performance and language abilities out before assessment tasks requiring these skills.
“Share” – to “get”, “have”, or “give”, “divide”, “distribute”, to “use” or “benefit”.
Out of all these verbs which one best describes a social network, let’s say, Snapchat.
Basically, Snapchat is a texting service – a distribution network. Users must derive and create their own meaning.
Students sit beside each other (or in separate classrooms, or on the other side of the same room) texting each other in class – thinking that the teacher does not know about their private “sharing”. They share and then “ta-da” the conversation vanishes by magic.
“Take a look Miss, there’s nothing there!” And you can bet it’s not a renaissance portrait.
Tell a student to write a letter and they are almost lost. They don’t write letters.
Tell as student to write a text – they don’t have an excuse. And then they have the start of a letter.
Everyone has the ability to sketch the truth around the facts and invent “personal” truths to share with different audiences – friends and foes. Now they have the technology! But can they use it to effect?
I wonder what Scout might have mused about Boo Radley on Snapchat?
Or what would Ponyboy have said to Dallas about his oldest brother Darry?
A text, a letter, a book – it really doesn’t matter what type of “text” – whether written, spoken, or illustrated – communication is a social act, it’s about “sharing” thoughts, feelings and experiences.
We write ourselves into the world as we piece the puzzle of this world together. We compare and contrast our thoughts and feelings about what is *important* and *relevant*. And that’s what is happening on Snapchat while teachers try to engage students in a novel study.
We all define where we belong and who we are – as much as the world tries to define who we are and how deserving we are. But today, smartphones allow us to commentate our own story and create our own brand – imitating our heroes.
Celebrity (hero) worship, cultural sampling and identity engineering are activities that follow fashions – as the late David Bowie brought to our attention some years ago … “It’s big and it’s bland, full of tension and fear…” bunny hop … “Fashion”
Bowie, a high functioning humanoid capable of constructing identity as commercial branding and yet offering meaningful “wisdoms” in such ways as to bring a diverse range of people together to share his music (values). Pop culture took its cues on appearance from David Bowie. That is influence (persuasive text).
Today, high functioning humanoids still imitate and follow the fashions and attitudes of celebrities off tv shows such as Scream Queens or rappers like Kayne West and his wife, KK.
Today, meaningful culture is equated with glib quips and snips and snaps among peers in a small, initiated gang on a social network (most of it not very good) … this is the altar of knowledge at which they worship, the most powerful point of engagement, the forge shaping shared meaning (and not just by teenagers but teachers, parents, celebrities, community leaders). This is the media that defines contemporary society.
As a relief teacher, I walked into a classroom of students struggling to write a letter as a character to another character from the book they were studying. Some had written perfectly good letters. Others … had not even started. Many students reach high school with little cultural knowledge – novels, letters, writing … these are not *relevant* to their lives. Yet! And they aren’t about to sit down and listen to your “how to…”
Firstly, you aren’t their “real” teacher and, secondly, they don’t listen to their real teacher because they aren’t interested in learning about books or letters. So instead we brainstorm what the characters would say in a text: “Hey bae, ru ok?”
They are floored to hear this kind of language being spoken by the teacher in the classroom. E(•_•)∃ Listening. Responding. Engaging.
“She knows how to spell it!” one exclaims.
It gives them an opening. They have insight into the thoughts and feelings of characters and a means to express themselves. They have understanding, purpose and audience. I call this cultural appropriation in the classroom. You use the cultural capital at hand.
P.S. It took me three hours to write, edit and illustrate this post. 730 words. The wonders of modern technology!