Sunday, April 10, 2016

Real-World Writing Connection...Using House Hunters



 On Friday, I shared pictures of my students engaged in a writing activity using a House Hunters episode. Many asked for more information, so I thought I'd write about it in a post.

I like to teach Kelly Gallagher's Six Real-World Writing Purposes, and have used this activity for the past few years when we get to Evaluate and Judge. For this activity, I choose a House Hunters episode (one of my favorites is Jed and Alisa & Coco)  to use as our data (and evidence).

Our first step is to watch the episode and take notes (here is our form) about the couple, their budget, and their wish list (both separate and together). Then, we view more of the episode, continuing to take notes on the pros/cons of all three houses the couple toured.

After the first two houses, students practice speaking skills (PVLEGS) by standing up and verbalizing the differences and similarities between them. This evaluation step is important so students can talk out their ideas before writing. In addition, the other students are able to hear others' perspectives. We have had some interesting discussions about what's a "deal breaker." Does the fact that a house didn't have a fireplace trump a poor location? If all three houses had updated kitchens and were all over budget, could those criteria be considered in the final decision? What were minor fixes and what would require some serious cash and time? These are all questions my students may need to ask when they look for a house or apartment some day. The real world aspect increases student engagement.

Finally, each student chooses which house is the best for the couple in the House Hunters episode, and write 1-2 paragraphs as Part One (using this form in Notability). They need to include specific details as evidence to support their choice, and they are expected to add some comparing/contrasting to the houses they did not choose. As an extension, I encourage the inclusion of a syllogism as they discuss the different criteria and options that led to their choice. We learned about syllogisms earlier in the year. I remind the students to avoid focusing on their own favorite; instead, to refer back to the couple's wish lists to determine the best choice.

The next day, we watch the reveal portion of the House Hunters episode, where the couple will make their decision. Part Two of this activity is where the students judge the couple's decision. Do they understand and agree with their reasoning? How do the students feel about their own choice after hearing what the couple decided. Does the couple's decision change their mind? Why or why not? Do the students think the couple made the best decision for them? They write down their thoughts.

Part Three is where the students get to choose the house they would like best, and write about how it would work for their family. Since no house is perfect right away, students include what they need to do in order to make this house better for their family. They enjoy this part, since all along-they have been focused on which house they would pick anyways.

I have used this activity over the past few years, and each year I add something new and improved. This year, the actual writing was done on Notability and shared back through our Schoology course. I'm also adding a flipgrid speaking component. I love this tool and haven't used it nearly enough recently. Students will prepare (utilizing Erik Palmer's ACOVA) and practice their (2 minutes or less) evaluation in Part One or Part Three. Once a student is happy with their recording, they'll give the OK to share their flipgrid with the class. I'm gamifying my classroom this spring (following Michael Matera's XPLap model), so I'm excited to include a side quest for XP points. Students can research and share details about a house they'd consider purchasing (in our area or an area they would like to live), relating their choice to their own wishes and needs.This is an optional extension, but those students who identified as Achievers on our Bartle Test will likely do it to get a higher ranking on our Leaderboard.

In the words of Dave Burgess, I didn't just create a writing/speaking/listening lesson. I created an experience that my students will remember.

Watching House Hunters in the classroom as a teaching tool? Who knew?

Give it a try.