Digital Postcards & Scout’s Open Mind: High School Literature Lessons

It’s one of the most terrifying things in the world. Something that lurks in every classroom — English, Social Studies, Science, Math classrooms. It shows its face early in the educational realm and never goes away. It can make a student’s heart skip a beat and cause him/her to break out in a cold sweat (especially if a teacher asks for a classroom performance). It’s a major obstacle that potentially establishes a student’s perception of a class. What is this thing???


Being an English teacher, I have seen and heard many things in my classroom involving reading over the last thirteen years. Some students say they have “never read an entire ‘chapter book’” in a sort of proud declaration. I’ve seen faces drop and melt like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man’s at the end of Ghostbusters when I’ve told classes we are reading. By the time I get students at the high school level, if that spark for reading hasn’t yet been ignited, sometimes it never will be. While looking for new things to get my students engaged in their work, I discovered Buncee early this fall on Twitter. I decided to check it out and was immediately enthralled. I was so drawn in by the features and the vast possibilities it could offer in the classroom. After seeing it in action by playing around with it and making some of my own creations, I knew this was something that would add new life to my classroom and give students an opportunity to really have ownership of something!

Scout’s Open Mind Lesson

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Thus far in my career, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching English I, Advanced English II, a mythology class, and a short stories class at the high school level. My day is dominated with reading. That day can also be a tremendous challenge for some of those kids walking through my door. I learned very soon after I was behind the teacher desk that engagement and making reading relative to the students is the key to getting them interested. When I first started teaching English I, To Kill a Mockingbird was part of the curriculum, as it is for many schools.

I was very fortunate for being part of a close-knit and creative department (as I still am part of that school family). So, a co-worker and I became very close collaborators on many things, including that classic Harper Lee novel. We often did an assignment that my colleague brilliantly conceived called “Scout’s Open Mind.” The idea was to clearly illustrate what was going on in Scout’s mind during the course of the novel  using random words, phrases, and most importantly, small pictures representing those thoughts to attain their non-linguistic representations. This was ideally done once the novel was completed about half way. I have since waved good-bye to English I, but when I saw that assignment being worked on this year, I decided to create a sample of that project using Buncee.

I had just received my Buncee ambassadorship and was itching to show off the site to others in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, that colleague I often call my “work sister”was just wrapping up that assignment, but I wanted to show it off anyway. Once I unveiled it, she was intrigued! She has said she will find a use for Buncee in another unit she teaches! Just last week, I had another colleague asking me about Buncee and what to do with it. I considered it a win!

On Wing and a Prayer (Icarus) Postcards

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Getting students interested in classic literature — let alone contemporary work — definitely isn’t easy. In my mythology class, the text I use is Edith Hamilton’s definitive work, Mythology. I have juniors and seniors in this class, and most of the time when I say we will be reading I see that melting face expression come over my students. I am very upfront with them about the reading material. Since the original copyright date for the Hamilton book is 1942, the kids certainly feel a disconnect in the presentation and content (not to mention it involves ancient stories), and that sense of humor from that Queen of Mythology, Miss Hamilton, is lost on them.

In an effort to engage my students in this class, I rely heavily on creative projects and student-centered hands-on activities. When I first discovered Buncee this past fall, I knew it would work perfectly with an assignment I traditionally assigned on paper. Since my school went to 1:1 technology just this year (2016-17), I was determined to transform so many of my projects. We had just finished the story of Icarus, and I love using music as a supplement in my classroom, too, so I use “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas for this assignment I named “On a Wing and a Prayer.” I ask my students to find song lyrics that mirror the theme/message of the Icarus story. Using Buncee, I took it further to have the class create a scene reflective of the story events while incorporating the mirroring lyrics they previously identified. I could not have been more satisfied with the results! The students went above and beyond my expectations! Watching my students create this new project using Buncee, I saw excitement, creativity, and drive in them! I was able to breathe new life into this ancient story of fatherly advice and overzealousness.

Lord of the Flies Character Postcards

Click here to see the Buncee below.

Click here to see the Buncee below.

Click here to see the Buncee below.

Besides To Kill a Mockingbird and Greek mythology, I tackle William Golding’s Lord of the Flies with advanced sophomores. Having this caliber of student can sometimes seem like taming a different animal. Since they have such an interest in some things and excel at others, finding that hook for them runs the risk of being more difficult than getting the “traditional” student interested. During this novel, those students surely get their own impression on characters, events and themes very soon. So, what was I to do when I got new technology to use this year with this group?? Easy! I looked to Buncee once again to get the kids interested in a project I used to do the “old school” way! The level of creativity with these kids runs as deep as bone marrow; I wanted to take advantage of that. I devised a new way to complete the novel character postcard assignment from my pre-tech days. The best thing about this assignment: I was out of the classroom the entire time they completed this endeavor thanks to the new baby boy my wife and I were welcoming! The classes still impressed me. I was in regular communication with my sub at the time, so I knew they were interested and on top of it! That success was reaffirmed when I graded the projects. I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of this new twist on an “old” assignment.

So, you might ask me how these assignments were received in my classroom.

The kids honestly enjoyed them. Sometimes, they are creatures of habit and don’t like to change or try something new, but they end up enjoying the process after they take the plunge. Enjoyment and engagement is the key to reading. When students can feel comfortable with and interested in something and feel that they can contribute and express their creativity, they will assuredly enjoy reading and strapping on those hiking boots for the journey through that story or novel. I once heard a student say in my classroom, “I think Mr. Bryan just sits and finds different things for us to do, but I like it.” That makes it all worth it right there. When you have a student in a class who has shown no interest in anything and suddenly is enthralled in a piece of literature and discovers a newfound appreciation for it, it’s a success! I wholeheartedly believe that my recent incorporation of Buncee into my classroom has been the missing piece that some of my kids have been looking for to uncover that level of engagement that will make them finally say, “I love to read!”

Read Eric Bryan’s Bio Below, and follow him on Twitter.

I am currently in my thirteenth year teaching at my alma mater high school, North County High School in Bonne Terre, MO. I teach Advanced English II, Mythology, and Short Stories. By teaching English, I feel like I can really use technology in my classroom to such a great advantage for student success and provide them with an opportunity for expanded creativity. I have a great passion for educational technology as I was a member of the technology integration committee last year during the 2015-16 school year while planning our 1:1 technology initiative for the present school year. I am a Google Certified Educator, Level 1 & 2; Buncee Ambassador; Quizlet Ambassador; Remind Connected Educator; Google Teacher Tribe VIP Member; and Formative Educator. Since my school building has gone to Chromebooks, I have really “geeked out” over all the Ed Tech that is out there. In addition to those, I was an “attendee” of Matt Miller’s Ditch That Textbook Digital Summit, and I recently finished the HyperDoc Boot Camp course with the HyperDoc girls. I love looking for new tools to use, and Buncee just happens to be one of the earliest ones I found and definitely one of my favorites! I will be co-presenting at the Southeast Missouri Summit (sponsored by EdTechTeam Summits) in July with the EdTech Director over our building. Due to my heightened interest and affinity for everything that is educational technology,

I have a personal goal to one day be another EdTech Specialist for my district.

My wife (a middle school science teacher) and I have a five-year-old daughter and a one-month-old son. We have been married for 7 1/2 years, and we love Disney vacations and New York City! We were actually married at Disney World! :)

I’m a huge Superman fan, Three Stooges fan, and pop culture enthusiast. I guess one could say that my hobby is collecting just about anything that is considered Superman memorabilia.

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