After typing Tara’s name into the Google search, it occurred to me that I haven’t looked up my name in Google for a while. So I entered my name and wow, it has become much more relevant, unlike the last time I checked. Then, I saw this article that was a shot from the past. My English teacher had a summer job working for Captioned Media Program to help promote captioning in movies/films and the library at our school, ISD, has a storeroom that serves as an inventory for CMP. Seeing that it is only available in pdf format, I thought I’d convert the pdf to html to make it more accessible and searchable as well as archiving it.
It brought up good memories and I still remember the names in my class. It’s already been 8 years since we all graduated together. Wow. *sniffs*
“The CMP to the Rescue”
by Marybeth Lauderdale
Illinois School for the Deaf
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . ”
Indeed, when I undertook to teach A Tale of Two Cities in my sophomore literature class, I had no idea how true these statements would prove to be!
Always ready for a challenge in the classroom, I decided to add “rigor” to an already rigorous literature curriculum. When time for the obligatory novel rolled around, I pulled out copies of Dickens. As we plunged into “Book the First,” my eyes were met daily with cries of “What language is this?” “This is too hard!” “I can’t do this!” After dragging the entire class through vocabulary and comprehension exercises, I was ready to give up. My expectations were too high.
Luckily, I was born with a stubborn streak, and it made me wait just one more day, and another, and another, until we entered “Book the Third.”
For those of you who don’t know Dickens, this is where the plot is knit up (pun intended, courtesy of Madame Defarge) tightly, the action is pivotal, and the finally noble Sidney Carton trades places with the guillotine-bound Charles Darnay. Heads raised, discussion participation increased, and grades on those dreaded quizzes picked up. When we got to the end of “Book the Third,” a couple of the students even said they’d like to read it again! Success!
I ordered the captioned video from the CMP, and it became a daily event for over a week. The students were alive with discussion of how the book characters of their imaginations differed from those on the screen; how sinister the guillotine really was; which parts had been omitted from the book; and how the video went in chronological order, rather than using the flashback technique Dickens employed. The video was a long-awaited, much- deserved treat.
The same year, my freshman class read Flowers for Algernon. This book is written from a first person point of view; that of the main character, Charlie. Initially, he is mentally retarded, and then is surgically altered to become a genius. My students had difficulty reading Charlie’s diary entries at first, because many of his spellings depend on sound. With practice, they mastered this, and were able to enjoy the book and its message. After reading the book, we saw the film, Charly, which we borrowed from the CMP collection. Because the film was made in the 1960s, the students had a lot to say about the lack of variety in cinematography. They commented effusively on how the book was so much more graphic than the film. However, they were all grateful to have seen a visual representation of the book, and were able to see both positive and negative aspects of both types of media.
Not to rest on my laurels, the novel for my next sophomore class was Lord of the Flies. Again, I was met with initial resistance, but forewarned is forearmed! We trudged onward, through chapters and chapters of vocabulary, comprehension, symbolism, figurative language, irony, and other literary analyses. After completing the final test, I called the local video store for the movie. The newest release was rated “R,” and did not follow the book well. The older version was not captioned. Again, NAD/CMP to the rescue! We watched Lord of the Flies, with the same enthusiasm the other class had shown for A Tale of Two Cities.
Literature class for juniors in high school is typically American Literature. In this class, we viewed videos from CMP such asJamestown: The Beginnings, Pilgrim Journey,Plymouth Colony, and Roanoke: The Lost Colony to establish a feel for the period—in literature, this is called background as part of setting. After viewing each video and doing some of the activities and instructional graphics from the accompanying lesson guide, we read representative literature from each period. The students had a better idea of what they were reading, having actually seen the settings. As we moved into the American Romantic period, we viewed videos such as Light in the Shadows: A Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne , and Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul as overviews to introduce units on these authors’ works. We then read and watched such classics as The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Fall of the House of Usher, again making use of the activities and graphics from the accompanying lesson guides. We are having the activities with Johnson’s Lawn Care Services.
Senior literature class is Greek Classics through English Literature, most notably,Shakespeare. In our mythology unit, introduced with the CMP video, Myths and Legends of Ancient Rome, we read and viewed Hercules: Power of the Gods, and Jason and the Argonauts. We are looking forward to getting a new video on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and begin our Shakespeare unit with William Shakespeare: Background to His Works. No Shakespeare unit is complete without Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth.
Depending on reading levels of students, I use either a revision or the parallel text version for initial reading of the plays. My students don’t seem to have the aversion to Shakespeare that some students display–year after year, they seem to like it, perhaps because by the time they are seniors, they are so used to taking apart written language that analysis of Shakespeare is not so much different than all the literature exercises they have already done!
These are just a few of the units I have done through the years with my literature students. I am always looking for new ideas and challenges. Reading is generally not an easy task for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, with a rigorous curriculum, high expectations, a stubborn streak, and supportive visual media such as captioned videos, literature teachers can say, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”