Sometimes I find myself trying to think of ways to create connections between literature and the real world. It takes hours to research quality articles or videos that relate to the story. Then I realize I just have to ask my students to do it.
We recently discussed the short stories “Videotape” by Don DeLillo and “The Enormous Radio” by John Cheever. The narrator of “The Videotape” describes a local news story where a child in a car inadvertently videotapes a serial killer shooting a random driver and “The Enormous Radio” is about a radio that plays private conversations and arguments from around the same apartment building. The character Irene can’t stop listening to her neighbor’s conversations even though they’re often fighting or expressing something terrible. In one case, she hears a husband hitting his wife and she demands that her husband do something about it.
The stories open up questions about apathy and being desensitized to violence, especially when it happens to a stranger in the news. They get students to think about what to do about the suffering of others and how to not get trapped in the spectacle that violence in the news has become. But instead of just hoping that they get the message, we can ask them to show us .
Students are very familiar with how social media broadcasts all kinds of conflicts and problematic behavior. They often view websites and shows that cover violence. They are also no strangers to movies and series about the impacts of technology, so I simply asked students to post a link to a trailer or article related to privacy, surveillance, violence, or gossip.
They posted about The Truman Show, Black Mirror, Nerve, Gossip Girl, Parasite, The Social Dilemma, JFK, The Hunger Games, The Forensic Files, Impractical Jokers, Mr. Robot, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, The Woman in the Window, Wall-E, Past Lives, One of Us is Lying, Missing, Bruce Almighty, Nightcrawler, 1984, Cam, Snowden, The Circle, No Exit, The Matrix, and Love, Death & Robots. I played a few trailers that lead to great conversations about the power of technology and some students posted news articles about Gaza and Ukraine, or about the addictive nature of social media.
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers