Hello fellow teachers and tech integration enthusiasts. I’m back from a short break. A major project in my graduate class has kept me away from blogging for nearly two weeks. The good news is I’ve been developing an interactive Shakespeare website I’ll soon be able to introduce here. For now, I’ve got another interactive text to tell you about. It is part of “Interactives” by Annenberg Media—a collection of lessons which span across the curriculum and that are meant to “enhance and improve students’ skills in a variety of curricular areas.” These activities range from 3D Geometry and History to the subject of this blog—Language Arts. Only four Language Arts “Interactives” are available at this time, but it is easy to imagine connections between Language Arts and some of the activities in other subjects such as history. For example, anyone teaching Marlowe or Shakespeare might find the Renaissance Interactives in the history section very useful.
Of particular interest for those of us in high school Language Arts, the Interactive version of Susan Glaspell’s “A Jury of Her Peers” is a good one. It is a simple website with no frills but well-designed interactive elements that teach some of the basic literary elements of short fiction. Because the story is in the public domain, audio versions of it are easy to find on the web too, along with recordings of the stage version (called Trifles). I’ve provided some links below.
When you arrive at the site, click the wooden door on the right to delve into the murder mystery. Throughout the story, there are points where the reader can click an icon to explore a literary term such as Point of View which is the first one you will come across. When a reader clicks this icon, he or she is taken to a separate section where the concept is explained and applied to the story in the form of a series of engaging questions. Once the reader has explored the section about that particular literary term, she is directed back to the story and may continue reading. There are several literary terms to learn about before the end of the story.
Navigation is easy because each page offers icon links to continue on with the story or to return to the main page. The icons are illustrations which complement the story. The site is a bit plain visually, so it might be easy to overlook this valuable resource. However, what this site may lack in aesthetic design, it makes up for with its engaging lessons—it’s a great way to teach the elements of plot with a chilling murder mystery online. With each of the literary elements the reader is given an opportunity to not only read the definition of the term but to actually apply it to what she is reading too.
My only disappointment with the site is that there is no place for students to take notes or to record their answers to the questions posed about the story. An easy fix for this is to have students open Google Documents accounts and create a document where they can record their answers. This way it would be easy then to have them work collaboratively, share their ideas, and submit their work to you online while reading the story. Tabbed browsing is great for this kind of multitasking.
In spite of its graphic simplicity, the Interactive “A Jury of Her Peers” is a site worth bookmarking and adding to your list of Interactive Language Arts resources. It isn’t as flashy as other digital textbooks, but it is useful and it meets my requirements for being interactive and not just multimedia. The last page of the story also provides some links for more information about the author, literary criticism of her work, and other related resources.
On a final note, you may want to stick to reading this one with upper-classmen and AP students or you may need to provide basic readers with support, because the story is mostly appropriate for advanced readers. Even some of my honors-level freshmen struggled to understand all the subtleties of the story, so you’ll want to plan ahead for this.