the languazine

8/10/2018

The final big project this past school year was a collaborative magazine examining language and power called the "Languazine." It was a bit of an experiment, as are most things at this point in my career, but as a first attempt it went really well. The project also served as a fundraiser for our classroom library. Though I am not returning to my school next year, I feel great to be leaving the new teacher the gift of $500 to spend on books--and $500 that the students can feel responsible for bringing into the classroom library. What a joy!

 

The Languazine was the culmination of a few months of talking about language, power and representation (read more about that work here.) I created five thematic sections: Stories (personal or fictional stories), Investigations (interviews mostly), Media and Pop Culture, History & Schools. The categories weren’t perfect but they worked well enough. I created 20+ choices of subtopics for the categories and students could also propose their own ideas. Each topic would get exactly one page in the Languazine. Here are some of the options provided:

 

  • Record conversations with 2-3 different people, transcribe the conversation and analyze the language. Create a page that reflects on what you noticed and learned about their speech.

  • Interview family members and create a page that details your families linguistic history and add notes and images about the things that influenced it.

  • Create a guide to today’s common slang used by people your age. Interview students from different grade levels. Then research the origins of these phrases and details on how these words/phrases are used.

  • Research linguistic activist movements or activists who are working to save a language, protect people’s language rights, or fight discrimination, and make a page about them. (include research citations)

  • Research to see if there are schools or school districts that have specific policies or rules restricting student speech and language. Make a page that compares and contrasts these policies in an interesting and informative way.

  • Interview kids at 3 different schools about the language rules and practices at their school between staff and students (and students and students. Make a page that describes what you discovered in in an interesting way. (Turn in a page describing your interview process as well.)

  • Interview kids at 3 different schools about the language rules and practices at their school between staff and students (and students and students. Make a page that describes what you discovered in in an interesting way. (Turn in a page describing your interview process as well.)

They could also apply to write the introduction to the book, create the front and back covers or the divider pages for each section with a table of contents. They submitted proposal forms in groups of 1-3 (their choice), explaining why they wanted the topic, how they would conduct their research, and how they imagined they would execute their page of the Languazine.

 

I loved this project because it allowed students to bring different strengths and interests together, and to flex various skills they’d developed over the year in their Humanities work--finding good sources and citing them, formatting text and images together to communicate, formulating good questions, etc. We ended up with a book in which many voices were represented and in which critical question were asked.

 

Once their assignments were in I took on the big project of photocopying the sections--I wasn’t able to figure out how to get students in on that part of the work due to timing and copy machine availability during the day. Then we had a binding party! A parent had access to a comb binder, so our main expense was to purchase reasonably-priced plastic covers and combs for the binding. We gathered after school and figured out how to best sort, collate, and bind the books and spent a few hours assembling them and readying them for sale. (Most sales were through pre-order so we knew how many to make, with a few extra for last-minute sales.) It was lots of fun and there was pride in the air. One student repeated exclaimed, “You’d think there’d be some bad pages or some people who just didn’t care, but everyone made something wonderful!” And it was true.

 

Take a look inside the Languazine process below. You’ll notice the cover is an homage to the cover of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, which we read this spring and was loved by almost every student. They filled the figure of Starr with smaller images related to our work that unit. On the back cover they included every student’s school picture, but with their faces crossed out to represent the loss of stories that comes with the censorship and devaluing of certain ways of communicating.

 

 

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