It all started with a Facebook post by a friend of mine:
“Check out these customer reviews on Amazon! It’s like a whole new kind of writing!”
The Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer has generated nearly 3,000 customer reviews that mock the absurdity of this unnecessary product. Ranging from “What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone,” to “Evil comes in many forms, and sometimes that form is banana-shaped,” one could spend hours reading through these very clever and entertaining reviews. I decided my students would probably enjoy them as well, so I crafted a lesson on satire, with the Hutzler reviews as models.
I gave my students class time to practice writing their own satirical reviews, and then the next day I presented them with our own banana slicer-inspired blog. Embedded in the blog are eleven infomercials for products such as the FlowBee, the Hawaii Chair, and the Fish Pen. We watched all eleven, and then each student drew a product name out of a hat and got to work writing a satirical review worthy of banana-slicer status.
The next day we talked about what blogs are and how they differ from other websites, and we reviewed some online safety practices. Then we pulled out laptops and the students got to work posting their reviews, paying close attention to proofreading and writing quality since they knew all their classmates would see their work. The end result is a funny blog that they enjoy going back to time and again to read the clever reviews and to comment on each other’s writing.
And this is one of my favorite aspects of my job: designing my own curriculum, injecting humor into the classroom, integrating new technologies, and taking advantage of current trends to hook my students on reading and writing. I am fortunate to work in a school and district where I am trusted to be the professional curriculum expert that I am; I fear losing that autonomy to a standardized test-universal curriculum-driven approach to education.
The Common Core is supposed to focus more on the “what” students need, allowing teachers more say in the “how” it is taught, but the final assessment is still multiple choice tests and the stakes are still too high.