Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Morning Roundup

I teach one English class this term - Oregon Literature Past.

We are currently reading The Jump-Off Creek by Molly Gloss.
1880's, during a world-wide depression, single widow heads west to homestead.
I love this book, even if it is kind of gloomy.

Today we read the chapter where she joins up with the neighboring cowboys, Tim and Blue, who live five miles away. They're her nearest neighbors, and they're going to help her brand her calves, along with theirs.

So I showed my students this blog, to give them a general idea of what branding calves looks like:

Then I showed a one-minute clip (from 2:30 to 3:30) to show them how calves are branded nowadays on a big operation. Wow - 28 seconds to vaccinate and brand the calf.

I showed them this funky old-time clip from the Library of Congress. It was probably taken just a few years after the time of our novel. Do you think the cowboys really wore white shirts like that, or are these fellas dressed up for the movie?

And finally, I confess, I showed them this one. Warning: It's graphic.
It's only 29 seconds, but it's the "doctoring" part of branding calves: castrating the little guys so they can grow up to be hamburger, not daddies.
I warned my students, told them they didn't have to watch if they didn't want to.
You don't have to watch it, either. But this IS real life, and it is in the book.

When I was student teaching 16 years ago, my mentor teacher taught me how to use the 16-mm projector with the big reels. I learned to thread the film through the projector...and if you did it wrong, the film went crazy-nutsy flying in long leaping curls all over the classroom. Ahh...the good old days.

I thought it was so much classier to show a VHS video in the classroom with a video player and a TV screen. So tidy: just pop the cassette into the slot and fast forward to the clip I wanted to show. Before long all the 16 mm projectors were gathering dust.

How quickly we progressed to DVD movies, with their searchable tracks and instant ability to skip to another part of the DVD. The school library discarded all the VHS tapes last year.

And now...YouTube! Quicker and quirkier than ever. I scoffed when it first came out, but now it's an indispensable tool in my classroom.


Mike said...

White shirts were pretty popular back then. What I find interesting is that if you didn't wear at least a vest with your long sleeve shirt (and of course pants) and hat, you were considered not "dressed for the day".

What would kids say to that today?

Annemarie said...

I'm proud of you for teaching The Jump-Off Creek again . . . it's so hard to get students hooked, but once you have them, they love it.

I will never forget having kids act out the marriage proposal in front of the class--seeing Lydia and Tim in that terribly awkward scene was enough to give them a taste of the bleakness of frontier life.

My favorite thing to do for that book that involves film is to show them a clip from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers--do you do that too? Then we have this great conversation about the romanticism of the "old west" and how untrue the Hollywood portrayal really is.

I think I remember you showing these little clips to student the term we co-taught this class. Hope the rest of the novel is enjoyable for the kids.