New Literacies Lesson Plan

IL 2239:  Theory and Practice:  Research and Practice in New Literacies. Instructional Project – Fall 2011


Jim Guiliani

Content Area: Language Arts

Grade Level: 8


Standards: (Obtained from PA Dept. of Ed Standards Aligned System (SAS),

1.4.8.B: Write multi-paragraph informational pieces (e.g. letters, descriptions, reports, instructions, essays, articles, interviews). Use relevant graphics (e.g. maps, charts, graphs, tables, illustrations, photographs). Use primary and secondary sources, as appropriate to task.

1.5.8.B: Develop content appropriate for the topic. Gather, organize, and determine validity and reliability of information.                   Employ the most effective format for purpose and audience. Write paragraphs that have details and information specific to the topic and relevant to the focus.

1.5.8.E: Revise writing after rethinking logic of organization and rechecking central idea, content, paragraph development, level of detail, style, tone, and word choice.

1.5.8.F: Use grade appropriate conventions of language when writing and editing. Spell common, frequently used words correctly.                   Use capital letters correctly. Punctuate correctly. Use correct grammar and sentence formation.

1.6.8.A: Listen critically and respond to others in small and large group situations. Respond with grade level appropriate questions, ideas, information, or opinions.

1.8.8.A: Develop an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge.

1.8.8.B: Conduct inquiry and research on self-selected or assigned topics, issues, or problems using a variety of appropriate media sources and strategies.

1.8.8.C: Produce an organized product that presents and reflects on findings, draws sound conclusions, and gives proper credit to sources.

1.9.8.A: Use media and technology resources to support personal productivity, group collaboration, and learning throughout the curriculum.





Lesson Topic:

Family Biography


Lesson Plan Objectives:

Students will complete a biography of their family.

The completed biography will include a written formal essay component using the conventions Standard Written English.

The completed biography will include the use of digital media and technology, such as videotaped interviews, podcasts, vlogs (video blog entries), and postings to sharing sites such as Voice Thread.

Students will present elements of their project to their classmates and seek feedback from two classmates. Students will talk of how that feedback informed their final project.


Lesson Connections:

This lesson is a chance for students to practice basic learning skills such as doing research, writing essays, interviewing subjects, organizing thought and work process; a chance to learn and develop skills in using new media and technology; and gives them the opportunity to learn more about their family’s history and background. I created this lesson because I know two things: students dislike doing research and writing formal essays and research papers and students love to talk about their families. The pedagogical goal is to provide students with practice in the type of work they do for their classes, while allowing them to have some choice over the subject material. With this in mind students will develop a formal biography of any aspect of their family. They can choose to write about their entire family or certain members. And because I want students to become as excited as possible about doing the assignment, I am having them use certain types of social media as components of the assignment. The use of this media and technology adheres to Standard 1.9.8.A.

Other Standards utilized are 1.8.8.A. (students will gain knowledge of their family primarily by interviewing family members but also by researching the places and time periods where their ancestors lived); 1.8.8.B (students will choose which family members to focus on and on a specific focus for those members in particular or on the family in general); 1.8.8.C (the completed project will include a written essay as well as presentations centered around videotaped interviews and photographs or videos); 1.6.8.A (students will present portions of their projects to their classmates to elicit peer reviews, as well as providing thoughtful and critical reviews of their classmates work); and finally Standards 1.4.8.B., 1.5.8.B., 1.5.8.E., 1.5.8.F. (all written work will make use of the conventions of Standard English).

Lesson Context:

The major focus of this lesson is doing research and presenting that research in new ways. Throughout their school careers students will be required to complete research projects on a variety of topics. These research projects may be in the way of comparative literature where they will be asked to compare pieces of literature using a theme and to include in their comparisons formal reviews of the literature by recognized scholars. A paper like this may range from 1-2 pages in length at lower grades to 10-15 pages in higher grades. Students may also have to do research on a scientific or historic topic the results of which they may present in an informal oral presentation to class or in a short sentence format. Outside of school students will continue a lifelong exercise in research as they look for the best colleges to attend, the best companies to work for, the best places to live or to take vacations, or even something as basic as deciding to see a particular movie. I hope with this lesson students will be able to exercise research good research tactics and not feel pressured because they are researching a topic that is dear to their hearts.

The second part of the major focus is to familiarize students with new methods of using social media and digital technology to connect themselves with the outside world. Technological advances happen rapidly and students will need to be at least familiar with some of them if they hope to compete and succeed in the advancing world. Some universities require the use computers or other digital devices for classes or programs, and many companies require that new hires are able to function within the digital world. This is not true in all cases; however, I feel it is my duty as a teacher to aid and assist my students in every way possible to prepare them for their future in the new world.

The work students will do with this unit ties to past and future assignments in that as a class we will use the same media and technology devices repeatedly in order for students to become proficient at using them. My teaching philosophy does not center on my giving an assignment in order to have something to grade. Instead, I want my students to practice using the same skills so that they become masters at them and can apply that mastery in future courses.




I will begin the lesson by first asking for volunteers to tell myself and the class things they know or think they know about me, and how they came across that information. After each volunteer speaks a short discussion will take place noting the veracity of the claim and the reliability of the source. After several students have gone I will explain to them that I am not embarrassed by who I am and though I try to be as good as person as I can, that no person is perfect but should not be ashamed of themselves or their past. Along these lines I will ask for students to volunteer things about themselves that their classmates may not know. I will tell them to not be too personal and to not include information about a person without their permission. Once this has concluded I tell students that we will be beginning a new research unit that I believe they will enjoy participating in.

The new unit is called “Who We Are, Where We’ve Come From, and How Where We’ve Come from Makes Us the Person We are Today.” This will be a research unit on us and on our families. Using a variety of techniques students will compose a biography of their family, from the present and into the past as far back as they’d like to go. I will say compose instead of write because students will be doing more than just writing. They will be podcasts, video and photography projects using new media and technology, and any other method of presentation they wish to bring into their completed work.

At this point I will point out the lesson objectives written on the wall or blackboard. They will be written out in the form used in the PA Standards guidelines. I will then go over a simplified version of the lesson objectives, which will also be written and displayed for students to reference. These simplified objectives will be:


Write a biographical essay of their family and its history. The essay must be a minimum of 5 pages, and contain less than 5% grammatical error rate.

Create one presentation on Presentation should include a minimum of ten photographs with audio or video narration of what the image in the photograph is and how it fits into the family biography.

Record podcasts of three interviews they do with research subjects. Each podcast must include the voices of the interviewer and interviewee, and must be at least five minutes in length.

Record and post to the class blog five video blogs, or vlogs, with updates of their research and findings and what the work they plan on doing in the future with the project. The first vlog will be done at the beginning of the project in which students will talk about their goals for the project and what they intend to focus on. The next three vlogs will be done once a week to update progress and to talk about what they student plans to do next. And the fourth vlog will be a synthesis vlog done at the end. Each vlog must be a minimum of three minutes in length.

It will be explained to students that there will be four graded components of the lesson, with each of the four content objectives representing one graded assignment.


Complete the typed essay using the rules and conventions of Standard Written English.


To aid students in the completion of the assignments I will spend time modeling vlogs, podcasts, VoiceThread, and a portion of a written biography of my family. I will show students good websites to use to create the vlogs and podcasts and go through with them how to create them. I will show a presentation on VoiceThread of a montage of pictures I created of my family. Then I will read a short portion of the essay I have written. At this point I will finish my introduction and explain to students that thought it might seem like a lot of work, the assignment is not so much like work but like play. After answering questions I tell students they may begin.



Students will complete the following QuickWrite/Brainstorming Activities as pre-work towards completing their project.

Students will list family members they can think of. This list may include pets and farm animals.

Students will list places they or other members of their families have lived or been.

Students will list information about each family member.

Students will construct a family tree with themselves as the trunk and working backwards in time.

When thinking about other people, what are some things we like to know about them.

After completing these QuickWrite/Brainstorming activities students will be free to work on their projects for the remainder of the unit.



At the end of the four week unit each student will give a brief presentation of their completed biography, which will include their family tree and their VoiceThread project.


“Who I am and Where I Come From” Evaluation Rubric



0-69 Points


70-89 Points


90-100 Points


Vlogs Project does not include all five Vlogs. Project includes all five Vlogs but not all meet the three minute time requirement. All five Vlogs are included and are at least three minutes long.



Podcasts Project does not include all three Podcasts. Project includes all three Podcasts but not all meet the five minute time requirement. All three Podcasts are included and are at least five minutes long.



VoiceThread Does not meet the ten slide minimum limit. At least ten slides are present but do not include narration. At least ten slides are present and include narration.



Essay Essay is less than five pages long. Essay is at least five pages long but has an error rate exceeding 5%. Essay is at least five pages long and has an error rate of 5% or less.




Total Points: _____ / 400 Points


Comments:  ___________________________________________________________





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