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IMGALTTAG Volume VII: Through the Lens Darkly


Education and Stereotypes in the Movies
Lesley Britton
Taylor Allderdice High School

This document contains objectives, guidelines for lectures and discussions, and materials needed to guide high school students through an investigation into mathematics and teen issues we see in the movies. The modules in this lesson are designed in such a way that they can be used as a series or used singly and spread throughout the school year. Module 1 uses clips from Stand and Deliver to begin a discussion about ideas about education. Module 2 makes use of Freedom Writers to continue that by having students define success for themselves, set educational and career goals, and complete a personal interview with someone they view as successful. Module 3 uses clips from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to help students focus on the stereotypes of student and teacher and how they affect our thinking.


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Eliminating Stereotypes in a New Age Society
Marlene K. Cabiness
Westinghouse High School

Reaching the academic needs of each child is a challenge that stems from the home into the school and community. Students must engage in effective learning with the earliest opportunities. Simple things like knowing who your caretaker is, how to walk and how to talk are the things that educational foundations are made of. But learning about stereotypes is on another level of the academic arena. Students are often left out of knowing about the things that take them out of their comfort zone until they are often young adults and older. Teachers face the dilemma of becoming creative in teaching things that students need to know outside of the English, math, social studies and science.


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Does Hollywood Stand and Deliver?
Roseann Y. Casciato
Taylor Allderdice High School

Movies are known for their portrayal of fact, fiction, fantasy, and reality. One of the most common topics portrayed in movies is education. Whether it is teachers, students, administrators, parents, or the educational system itself – many film makers have focused on the role education plays in our society. This unit will explore the ways in which teachers, students, and classrooms are depicted in films and memoir writing, and will relate to mathematical topics that are present in the real world. Whether you teach mainstream or gifted students, this curriculum can be adapted to meet the needs of your classroom. The curriculum can be used in its entirety or in portions – you may use as much or as little as you like. The curriculum evaluates movies based on three criterions: the mathematics that is used in movies, memoirs, and whether Hollywood portrays the educational system realistically. The movies incorporated into the curriculum are: Blackboard Jungle, Cast Away, Conrack, Dangerous Minds, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Freedom Writers, Mean Girls, and Stand and Deliver. The goal of this curriculum is to have students:

  • understand the differences between reality and fantasy while watching a movie-based school
  • see how teachers, students and classrooms are portrayed
  • appreciate writing in a mathematics class
  • write their own memoirs
  • make connections between mathematics and the real world
  • to expand students inductive, deductive, explicit, and recursive reasoning skills

There is more to this unit than just watching movies. This unit is not like something from a traditional textbook – it gives students the opportunity to learn about topics that they may otherwise never have been exposed to.


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Mathematics in the Media Mirror
Adam P. Deutsch
Taylor Allderdice High School

How are mathematicians and the subject of mathematics itself viewed in our society? And is that perception a fair and accurate one? How are mathematicians and mathematics portrayed in film and other branches of popular media? Once again, is that portrayal fair and accurate? As teachers of mathematics, we want students to value the subject they are learning, but this desire often flies in the face of what students are exposed to in the popular culture, and in fact, in society in general. The purpose of this document is to explore the answers to the questions posed above and to suggest ways in which students and teachers can examine the perceptions and portrayals of mathematics and mathematicians in the media and in society in useful ways to deconstruct the often negative and misleading messages that are conveyed.


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A Life: Written and Remembered
Christian Ferrari
Mifflin Elementary School

The main goal of this unit is to teach memoir writing and allow students to explore personal experiences and events that have shaped their lives. This unit, A Life: Written and Remembered, is designed for students at an elementary level, third through fifth grades. This unit will primarily focus on writing, the writing process, and the integration of childhood memoir. Students will be introduced to autobiographies and memoir writing to help set the stage for the writing activities as well as student understanding of the unit. The writing activities will involve summaries and personal responses to questions that will culminate in a complete childhood memoir. This unit allows educators to monitor the lives, experiences, feelings, and interests of students based on the topics of memory and to help them gain an appreciation of the lives and experiences of their classmates. Ultimately, educators can take their students on a journey involving their perspectives, their feelings (good and bad), and anything else that they would like to share that is personal to them. The activities in this unit will allow students to explore themselves freely. This curriculum unit can be adapted and adjusted to any subject area.


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The Write Stuff
Memoir: An Educational Autobiography
Darlene M. Figgs
McNaugher Education Center

This unit focuses on teaching students the importance of reliving and telling their own stories through the writing of their own “Educational Autobiographies”. It’s important for students to understand the significance of defining themselves, particularly in light of how some of them have been treated throughout their school history. It takes into account the historical basis of education, and perceptions based on race and economics. Students will be look at the role of education in their lives and society in general.

Students will briefly examine autobiographies of well-known personalities such as Maya Angelou or Benjamin Carson. They will engage in a variety of activities designed to help them recreate their educational histories for the purpose of ultimately becoming better students and better citizens. Excerpts from the mini series Roots will be used to help students visually see education in its historical perspective. Students will write name poems to begin to give themselves a voice and a platform for defining themselves as they see themselves. They will create self-profiles, and choose symbols to represent themselves, in an attempt to better understand the process of how they have come to be judged. Their final project will be a memoir in the form of an “Educational Autobiography” complete with photos, a year-by-year synopsis and narrative writings. Students will also be asked to evaluate the effectiveness and success of the unit.


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Memoir as a Gateway to Fiction Writing: Using Our Own Remembrances to Create Believable Characters
Elouise E. White-Beck
Taylor Allderdice High School

This unit is intended for high school students in grades nine through twelve in a creative writing class. Using excerpts from a variety of published memoirs and included writing assignments, students will develop characters based on their own experiences. The narrative section of this unit will provide teachers with short summaries and examples from several memoirs and the daily lesson plans provide for twenty days of classes that can be taught straight through or sporadically as needed. There is plenty of room to add or subtract to the assignments to allow for a shorter time frame and for each teacher’s own creativity and inclusion of his or her own memoirs.


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Harmful Relationships Through The Profiles Lens
By Elyse L. Karpa
Westinghouse High School

In this curriculum unit the students will be able to utilize valuable information about harmful relationships. It will enable them to focus on the ten harmful behavior profiles that are so crucial in recognizing potentially harmful relationships. The students will be amazed at how helpful these profiles are and will be able to share this information with family and friends. This unit targets specific strategies for teens to recognize harmful relationship patterns so that they can prevent becoming a statistic of harmful relationships. It is designed to identify the specific profile characteristics of the types of people who relate in harmful ways. A PSSA writing practice piece is also included. Instructors can use this unit in its entirety, or in individualized segments.


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How Do I Learn Best; Let Me Count the Ways
Barbara C. Kengor
Pittsburgh Gifted Center

How Do I Learn Best; Let Me Count the Ways investigates learning style theories and applies them to elementary students in grades three to five. Four theories of learning styles are explored in this unit. The tools for assessing learning preference are explained and original assessment techniques are included in the curriculum. Classroom activities are provided that allow students to become cognizant of their personal learning style. Suggested activities for using journal writing as a means of reflecting on learning are also addressed in the unit.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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