Friday, June 3, 2011

Correspondence With English Teachers

After Wednesday's class period I sent an email to a couple of my old high school English teachers asking them how they incorporate different formats of a text into their teaching. I was surprised by the detailed message I received in return from Ms Tammy Stephens. Below is my email I sent to her, and her response she sent back to me:

Hi Mrs Stephens!

I hope this email finds you well--especially since school just got out! I have a huge favor to ask you!

I am currently in a class that is publishing its own eBook, and my contributing chapter is about the nature of primary text. So, for this semester I have been consuming Charlotte's Web in every way possible. I watched movies, listened to the audio book, read the picture book and played the Charlotte's Web video game. Now that I am done, I am researching about what the primary text is. For example, if a person has only ever consumed Charlotte's Web in movie format, have they really experienced the book? My class focuses on technology and modern era, so the point is that not everybody sits down and reads a book today, but they can listen, watch or play books now.

So, my question for you is basically how do you, as a teacher, feel about this? Would you ever teach Shakespeare in film adaptations? Listen to poetry instead of read it? Basically, would you consider a student's experience with a certain text complete if they consumed it in a different format?

Thank you so much for taking time to help me on this. Hope your summer has been great so far!

Her response:


It is wonderful to hear from you!! What an interesting class. I graduated from college in 1983 (Apple IIE was the up-and-coming computer!), so this is absolutely foreign to me, as far as an undergraduate college course is concerned.

You are asking a dinosaur about modern technology (though I did finally purchase a laptop, which I am using, via our wireless modem-- whoohoo!!). So, here goes.

I walk my dog twice (or more) times a day and consume books via my MP3 player. I like that, but when I find one I truly enjoy, I often read the print version (i.e., paper version not Kindle). I discover very quickly that I did not get even a small portion of the beauty of the language, the poetry of the imagery, nor an iota of the emotions when I listened as I walked. There is something so sensual (yes, I chose that word on purpose) in curling up with a printed book, turning pages, rereading interesting passages, that is lost in any other medium. Ok, I have not tried the electronic book form, partly because my eyes focus better on printed pages than electronic ones.

I use electronic mediums more often than ever before-- videos, YouTube, movie clips, and more-- but it is to enhance learning. When I teach Shakespeare, I begin with the taped versions, with the BBC Shakespeare Company (complete with British accents) reading it with us-- the printed text is there and I pause often to discuss. Soon, however, students are reading it alone.

IMHO-- a movie is someone else's vision of what the printed page holds. I truly believe one cannot truly experience what the author meant w/o experiencing the author's true words. Far too often, the director's version and the version in my mind are so totally different that I hate the movie!! Sometimes, however, a truly well-made movie enhances my experience of the novel. The Mel Gibson version of Hamlet is one example, as are the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies. But those seem to be exceptions.

RE: listening to poetry-- I do that more often than I ever thought I would, but I am very picky! I have several dialect poems that the regular seniors study that I let them listen to as they read-- it's so much better to listen to someone reading in that dialect. If I find a truly great reader, I will let students listen, but with the text in front of them. Again, if we're studying poetry, we need to go back to the words to find the imagery, figurative language, poetic devices such as rhyme scheme and alliteration, and so forth.

This year, I got a great copy of Ipsen's "The Doll House" and we basically watched it instead of reading it; however, I did assign the reading and then quizzed them over differences (I'm so mean!). They all agreed it was wonderful to watch it, but the director left out a few small parts they thought were vital, and one scene was quite different in action from the stage directions in the play. But it was successful and I will do it again.

In a nutshell, I truly believe one cannot fully experience an author's words without reading those words. Probably, the book on an electronic device is very good, but I do love the feel of turning pages!

I hope this helps. Let me know if you need anything else. I'd love a copy of your finished project!


Not only is her response interesting to see how modern mediums are taking part of a classroom, but also she is a potential consumer of our eBook!

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