Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Entries Tagged as 'Weblog Activities'

Adapting Beauty and the Beast

October 10th, 2012 · No Comments

I have to admit, I’m a huge fan of children’s literature and fairy tales in particular. When I saw this trailer for the upcoming CW show, Beauty and the Beast, I knew two things almost immediately. One, I HAD to watch it. Two, I HAD to convince other people to watch it. (As an added bonus, it also fit well with this week’s topic on literary adaptations.)

The new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is vastlt different from the original story written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in the 1700s. The original version was a product of its patriarchal times, and while the CW version is more balanced between the male and female role – and if anything, judging by the trailer, I would say that the adaptation focuses more on the female protagonist’s backstory than the Villeneuve version. Likewise, the CW version exchanges the father-daughter relationship from the original for a mother-daughter relationship – again breaking away from the influence of partriarchy. The CW version got me thinking about what viewers expect female and male roles to be on television nowadays and how TV adaptations often adapt to culture and the atmosphere of the society in which they are produced.

-Kiran Heer

Tags: Weblog Activities

Memoirs of a Geisha Backlash

October 10th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Movie Trailer:

The focus of my English literature major’s seminar at UBC (way back in the day – 2008) was literature and film adaptation. For my major’s thesis, I chose to look at the text Memoirs of a Geisha and its film adaptation. I was so excited to take a closer look at the two mediums of art, as it had been then one of my favourite novels and adaptations. However, after days of research and hours of writing a critical analysis on the text and the adaptation, I became increasingly disenchanted with both the text and film. Perhaps therein lies the flip side of critical theory. When you look at some things too closely, you see many things you otherwise would not have seen. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss. This week’s topic takes me back to my major’s seminar where I explored representations of Chinese actresses as Japanese women in a movie filmed in English that attempts to depict an “authentic” story of the lives of geisha (lives of whom are an actually extremely silenced and hidden history) written by a westerner. Nevertheless, despite the question of the historical “authenticity” of the story itself and the perhaps reductive depictions of the Hollywood movie, both novel and film are still wonderfully entertaining for what they are (whatever they are). Take a look at the trailer and news article that I have attached for interest’s sake.

News Article:,237507

Tags: Weblog Activities

Writing Poetry: Freedom in Constraint

October 8th, 2012 · 4 Comments

Wordle: Coffee Shop

I always perceived writing poetry as a daunting and elitist activity reserved for those who have something profound to say in a profound manner. But this does not always have to be true. We can all be poets in our own rights with some help along the way. In my inquiry seminar with Kedrick James, I have picked up some useful methods that may help teachers encourage students to write poetry. By mixing up the methods I picked up, I have created my own combination of steps to writing poetry:

1. First, get students to do a free writing exercise on a topic of their choice for 10 minutes. However, give them a writing restraint. For example, Dr. James told us we could not use any form of the verb “to be” in our writing.

Here is my free writing sample I came up with in class under this writing restraint. I chose to write about coffee shops.

“Coffee shops relax me because of the smells, the sights, the sounds, and the people within them. The image of a person engrossed in a book, plunked down in a chair, coffee in hand seems calming amidst the bustling world around them. Coffee shops embody the public and the private in a perfect blend of serenity and organization in chaos.”

As a class, we found that not using forms of “to be” enabled us to sound more poetic in our writing. We had to rely or other verbs to enrich our sentences.

2. Next, “cut up” the text to create a poem. To cut up a text, simple cut letters, words, or phrases from the text to form new words or phrases to make up the poem. The restraint is that this has to be done sequentially. The student may not shuffle the letters, words, and phrases. Also, the student may repeat letters, words, or phrases sequentially as well to write the poem. Teachers may change the “cutting up” methods as they like.

Here is my “cut-up” text that helped me write my poem:

Coffee shops relax me because of the smells, the sights, the sounds, and the people within them. The image of a person engrossed in a book, plunked down in a chair, coffee in hand seems calming amidst the bustling world around them. Coffee shops embody the public and the private in a perfect blend of serenity and organization in chaos.”

3. Finally, through this free writing and cut up process under restraints, my poem was writtten:

“Coffee Shop”

The smells
The sights
The sounds
The people
Engrossed in a book
Plunked down in a chair
Calm amidst the bustling world
Embody the private and the public
Serenity and organization in chaos.

I love coffee shops for the contrasting sensations I experience in them. I enjoy the way I am able to feel a sense of personal calm and serenity in a chaotic atmosphere of the coffee shop itself. It is the perfect place to enjoy a sense of privacy in a very public place. Sitting and reading in a coffee shop is a wonderful way to be a alone without feeling lonely in an urban space.

Through these steps, I found freedom to produce poetry under particular restraints of the writing process. This is a wonderful contrast that I experienced in the writing process while writing about the equally wonderful contrasts I experience in a coffee shop. I then used the poem to form a Wordle, which highlights the words “chaos” and “serenity”. I chose warm colours to depict the comfort of a robust roast of coffee. I find that students will also enjoy plugging their poems into Wordle as much as I did. I hope that you will all try this in your English classes one day for a more accessible approach to encouraging students to write poetry.

Louise Chan

Tags: Weblog Activities

Visual Influences in Manga

October 4th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Recently I have been thinking about the influence of the camera, or the lens, on manga. The representations in manga mostly seem inspired from the way we understand the visual world through photography. For instance, in the above manga excerpt, fast movement is represented through the contrast between a focused object against a background the details of which are reduced to mere lines. This of course, is a phenomena observed in photography. If the camera is to move with the object, and the object’s speed be so high as to not allow enough time for all the photons from the background to reach the photon-sensitive part of the camera, then such a notion of movement is created. This method of understanding movement, however, does not resonate exactly with the way that our eyes take in light, but more importantly, with the way our mind tends to withhold to such information.

In memory, for instance, perhaps a series of images remain in the mind characterizing single points within the entire process of movement. Our memory may only take in single frames where sufficient photons have reached the retina of our eyes, action potentials are sent to the brain in timed succession—as is the nature of neurone  activity, compelled by time—and the data interpreted by the brain in intervals. Thus, the remaining impression may resemble something like these two frames from the manga I chose to read for our class, Berserk.

For this and many other reasons I found this manga to be quite unique.

Tags: Weblog Activities

Shockvertising: United Colors of Benetton

October 1st, 2012 · 4 Comments

Link to image:

Over the years, United Colors of Benetton has released a series of controversial ad campaigns in order to create awareness about certain social justice issues. The most recent ad campaign from their “Unhate” series depicts manipulated images of world leaders kissing to promote world peace. Until 2000, the man behind the camera for Benetton, Oliviero Toscani, revolutionized the purposes of advertising by combining commerce with social awareness as exemplified in the images above. In Lesley S.J. Farmer’s “I see, I do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy”, she encourages educators to give students the tools to interpret images in a critical way since “mass media producers who understand the language and connotations of visual literacy can manipulate images to elicit desired responses” (Farmer 30). Such critical analysis of images is valuable when reading advertising that is targeted at the consumer’s bank account. However, I find that the process becomes more complicated and challenging when presented with the startling images of the United Colors of Benetton ad campaign.

“Shockvertising” becomes a double-edged sword when the image repulses rather than invites the very consumers or audience that the advertisement is targeted at. Critics have labeled Toscani’s ad campaigns as “shock advertising” due to the shock value used in his images to bring about awareness of social justice issues. It was rumoured that Toscani left the company in 2000 following uproar towards Benetton’s ad campaign surrounding the death penalty in the U.S. Department stores began boycotting Benetton’s products, which led to Toscani’s departure from the company. In a recent interview with CNN, Toscani stated that a shocking photograph does not exist, but rather “there is shocking reality that is being reproduced through photography to the people who aren’t there.” His statement left me questioning the challenging issues that arise in analyzing these images. When does reality become “too real”? Why does reality or “true” depictions of different subjects disturb us?

Depicted against Toscani’s distinct sparse white background, the advertisement that shows a newborn in its most real and unwashed state at birth was the most “shocking” image to me. The image was included in Benetton’s 1991 AIDS ad campaign to raise awareness of child deaths due to the disease. While some have claimed that it was one of the most natural and real depictions of life, the image still remains startling, unreal, and repulsive to me. Though eye-catching, I am not sure that the image invites me to soberly consider the issue of child deaths and AIDS. However, I find that Toscani must be doing something of value as he claims that “people get shocked because they aren’t really civilized yet, because they don’t want to belong or face the problem of civilization. Maybe it’s the duty of the photographer to shock them, bringing in front of them something that they probably don’t want to look at” and “there they are and you have to come down with yourself.”

Tags: Visual Literacy · Weblog Activities

Novel Ideas: A Wordle Story

September 30th, 2012 · 6 Comments

At slightly past midnight, I’m still sitting behind my illuminated computer screen hammering away at the keys. And then I feel it – a sudden niggling sensation that tugs my attention away from the words I’m typing. It’s a familiar feeling that usually strikes me this time of day, when my body hovers somewhere between exhaustion and the illusion of productivity.

It’s the urge to procrastinate.

I justify the need to lean back in my chair and update my Facebook status, because surely my friends in Bosnia need to know what I do at one in the morning. “Drinking coffee,” I type. “With French vanilla cream.” I type these words with reverence, as if they are my gift to the world – words of deep thought and enlightened knowledge, as my sleep deprived brain tells me.

Assuming that it is safe to wait another minute before I update my status and let my eager audience know that I have finished my coffee, I let my fingers glide over the keyboard and find their way to Google. Another blank rectangular box mocks me as I think of the words to fill it. I let my mind free associate letters and phrases before it settles on “Wordle.” I have a vague recollection of having heard it somewhere recently and type it in.

I look at the little screenshots of other Wordles on the site and silently seethe with envy, but the phrase “copyright infringement” prevents me from immediately creating my own. I look for text to paste across the public domains, but nothing intrigues. I float in a black cloud of despair until a small portion of my brain – a diminutive speck, really, not yet poisoned by caffeine overload or sleep deprivation – tells me I have a folder of original work.

With a smile wider than the Cheshire Cat’s, I paste half a chapter of my novel into the box and look on proudly as my computer screen fills with colourful words.

Satisfied that I have the most beautiful Wordle in the world, and my urge to procrastinate abated, I begin to think of the more practical applications of my Wordle besides bragging…

Since the Wordle was created from the first half of the first chapter of my novel, the number of times a word occurs could be associated with setting, mood and character. Usually the main character of a young adult novel is introduced in the first chapter, so the size of “Delphyne” or “Apollo” could suggest something about the importance of these characters.

Likewise, if I was going to use a Wordle as an anticipation exercise for a novel I may be teaching in class, I could ask the students to guess the events that may occur in the first chapter by piecing together some of the larger words in the novel. The students could connect their stories by the themes suggested by some of the words, in this case “sword,” “oracle” or “god.” The students could later compare their guesses to the actual chapter of the novel they will be studying – and in actuality, they are more likely to do this now that they are personally invested in the reading.

On that note, you are all welcome to guess the events of the first chapter as suggested by my Wordle. 😀

-Kiran Heer

(Click on the Wordle to see a larger image.)


Tags: Weblog Activities

Graphic Novel Convert?

September 26th, 2012 · 2 Comments

I have a bookshelf. And it neatly boasts a modest display of books that I have purchased or that others have been given to me over the course of my adulthood. I believe that the books reflect both my literary likes and dislikes as well as potential likes and dislikes. I love owning books I have read or have yet to read. I never fear purchasing a book only to find that I didn’t enjoy it – perhaps it comes from a place of wanting to own that experience as well. However, I will admit there isn’t a single “unconventional” piece of English literature on my shelf.

When we were assigned to read a graphic novel, I felt uneasy. But I found comfort in the excitement I felt when I spotted the one titled “American Born Chinese”. Neither an “ABC” nor a “CBC” (commonly used initials in Asian communities), but still Asian-Canadian, I am always either on the look out for or excited to see representations of Asians in a North American context. I am eager and curious to see how Asians are being represented in various media forms, be it in movies, TV shows, novels, and now even graphic novels. In particular, when I watch a movie or TV show, I’m always quick to notice the “token” Asian actor or actress, and to observe the ways they are represented in the film or TV show. More often than not, I find that in mainstream media, Asians are rarely cast in lead roles, unless the film has to do with some form of martial arts or Asian cultural history.

There were many interesting things that struck me in this graphic novel, but what I could relate to on a personal level was the idea of Jin dating the stereotypical all-American, yellow-haired white girl or white boy in order to validate his assimilation into “white culture” or the erasure of his “Asianness”, which comes into magical fruition when he gets his wish of turning into the handsome white boy from the nerdy Asian boy he once was. When I was a teenager and a new immigrant to Vancouver, I used to tell my friends (and even myself) that I would never date an Asian because I convinced myself that they were unattractive. (What a racist I was!) At one point, I was convinced I was going to marry a Backstreet Boy. But deep down, I felt that dating a white person would somehow solidify my cultural identity as a “Canadian”. Thankfully, I grew out of that and learned how completely misguided I was. Therefore, it’s refreshing and interesting to observe these perhaps cultural-specific, yet universal identity struggles that many youth experience depicted in Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel in an accessible and humorous manner.

Reading this graphic novel reminded me of a YouTube video “Yellow Fever” that I would like to share for your viewing pleasure, which pokes fun at racial stereotypes in a similar vein that Yang’s story did. I’m glad that LLED 368 has given me what I feel is a safe and comfortable space to explore literature that I too often steer away from. My initial prejudices about graphic novels as trivial and reductive texts have been effectively debunked, and it’s now a safe bet that they will be making a debut appearance on my colourless bookshelf.

Tags: Visual Literacy · Weblog Activities

The Cat and the Maus

September 23rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

I’m an avid graphic novel fan and have wanted to read Maus by Art Spiegelman since I first heard about it in high school. However, getting my hands on a copy of the novel was harder than I thought and I eventually forgot about it. Now, almost five years later, I finally had the opportunity to read Maus and my whole experience shifted between laughing at Art’s father’s antics and crying at the horror that was the Holocaust.

Throughout Maus, Spiegelman uses the “cat and mouse” metaphor to portray the Nazis and Jews, respectively. As expected, the mice are victimized thtoughout the comic, paralleling the events of the Holocaust and the victimization of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis.

Spiegelman uses very somber black tones and heavy black shadowing all through the graphic novel, a visual for the oppressive atmosphere of the second world war itself. Along with the extensive use of black shading, is the shadowy portrayal of the cats that are the Nazis. In particular, the title page for “Prisoner of War,” the third chapter of the comic, shows the menacing figure of the cats are they stand over the body of Art’s father.

Running parallel to the story of the Holocaust recounted by Art’s father, is the story of Art’s relationship with his parents. As Art’s father, Vladek, continues to talk about his experiences, the reader notices the subtle tensions that exist between Vladek and Art. Most obvious, are the differences in their attitude towards money. Without generalizing Vladek’s experience, it is still plain for the reader to see that his opressive experience during the war has left him wary of spending money too often, while Art – who has had no such experience – is not bothered by a need to be thrifty. Spiegelman emphasizes the differences between Art and Vladek by often drawing them sitting on opposing sides of the desk or facing each other across a table, rather than showing father and son sitting side-by-side too often. Moreover, like his relationship with his father, Art’s relationship with his mother, Anja, was also strained. Halfway in Maus, Spiegelman showcases a smaller comic that features Anja. The art in this comic called “Prisoner on Hell Planet,” while the characters are drawn with more a humanoid appearance, is just as alien and dark. The four-page comic discusses the circumstances surrounding Anja’s death.

Although it took me almost five years to read Maus, I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience the first part of Spiegelman’s interpretation of the Holocaust. Maus has both historical and artistic merit as a perspective of the second world war. The graphic novel highlights the victimization, horror and opression of the war through the eyes of the one of the world’s smallest creatures – a mouse.

-Kiran Heer

(P.S: To see the specific artwork I’ve refered to in the article, click on the hyperlinks provided.)

Work Cited: Spiegelman, Art. Maus. New York: Random House, 1986. Print.

Tags: Weblog Activities


September 4th, 2012 · No Comments

Welcome to LLED 368, Multiliteracies in English Language Arts Classrooms. You’ll find information about the course, as well as a link to the course syllabus, under the “About” tab. We’ll be using this weblog as a multimodal writing space throughout the term.

I’d like you to take a few minutes to introduce yourself, contemplate some of the key issues of the course, and get oriented to the writing space by completing the following activity:

Step 1: Find an Image
This course encourages you to think about the many different ways in which individuals engage with and produce knowledge. Read the course description and contemplate how shifts in communication technologies may have modified and extended practices of teaching — particularly the teaching of language and literature — through the past century. Find an image that you feel speaks to one or more of the issues alluded to in the course syllabus or in the introductory readings (see the schedule tab). Anything to do with text, communications technologies, literacy, reading, writing, print, media or the intersection of these things would do just fine! To find an image, go to the Commons or Creative Commons areas of Flickr and do a search using the appropriate search box for the collection you are searching. (If you “right click” on links you can open them in a new tab, which means you won’t lose this page.) Don’t spend too much time wandering in the Commons: it can be an amazing place in which to get lost!

Step 2 – Share the Image in a Blog Posting
Click on the thumbnail image of the picture that you like from amongst the ones that come up in your search. Once the page for that image loads, look for the “Share” button just above the image. You will be given a few options on how to share the image. For this exercise, select “Grab the HTML/BBCode”. You should then see a text box with some formatted HTML. (You want the HTML, not the “BBCode”.) You can copy that code to your computer’s clipboard now, or leave that browser window open, while you log in to the blog authoring space in another window.

Step 3 – Post to the Community Weblog
Select the “Add New Post” link from the appropriate menu.
IMPORTANT: At the top right of the post text area, there are two tabs that select your authoring mode – “Visual” or “HTML”. For this exercise, select “HTML”.
Paste the “Share” HTML code from the image you selected on Flickr into the post text area. And write at least two paragraphs to provide an explanation as to why you choose the image as well as some details about yourself and your interest in the course.

Step 4: Publish!
When you are ready to share what you have put together, select the “Introductions” category from the menu to the right of the post area, and hit the blue “Publish” button (also on the right side of the editing screen). After you publish your posting, you will see a link that allows you to visit the posting you just created, so click on that link or go directly to: . Take some time to read through the entries made by the various students in the course, and feel free to leave comments.

Tags: Weblog Activities