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Smash Doodle™️ reading activity

July 10, 2014

My sister in law is a lot trendier than I am. She finds nifty projects on Pinterest all the time and actually does them. Who does that? Last Christmas, she introduced me to Smash Books. She had recently moved to Maryland to take a job teaching English, and she was showing me the beginnings of her Smash Book from her first few months away from good ol' CNY.

What is a Smash Book?

A Smash Book is a fast, trendy way to scrapbook--scrapbooking for the 20-something, or the almost-20-something, or the hipster. Something like that.

Here is an example:

This Smash Book page contains written text and taped/pasted-on elements.

Smash Books as a project

Smash Books came to mind today as I was reading Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, another novel from Fluency Matters. It's different than any of the other popular readers in that the chapters are extremely short, and each one recounts one moment or memory from the fictitious narrator's life. Written from the first person perspective, it feels like you are reading a diary. Instead of assigning a traditional post-reading assignment (ex: a list of comprehension questions), creating some kind of a journal or diary entry as a processing activity seems to fit the tone of the text.

Introducing... the Smash Doodle™️!

While it might not be practical to create a Smash Book page for each chapter (finding resources to tape/glue/etc onto the page doesn't pay dividends in language acquisition, after all), but perhaps a less Smash-y and more Doodle-y version could work. Yes... a Smash Book meets Doodle Notes would be perfect!

Let's consider the novel 48 horas by Carrie Toth. 48 horas is a suspense-filled upper-level novel that is based on the real life experiences of Dr. Frank Sulloway (and published with his blessing).

Students could make their Smash Doodle™️ (yes, let's go ahead and call it that! Let's make it a thing!) as elaborate as they want. If it were me–overachieving student that I was–I imagine the page for Chapter 2 containing a re-created plane ticket representing the main character's arrival in Ecuador, a 'class photo' of the group that was taking the class together, and maybe a plant leaf labeled with a scientific name (pretending that it was one from Ecuador). Maybe even a (fake) newspaper article about a 'Local student to learn from Darwin scholar'.

It could be similar to the image posted above--a comic strip with a reflection and an action list of how the main character is going to move forward. You could give students time to "smash doodle" in a journal after reading each chapter--creating a diary as though they were the main character--and/or you could dedicate one day a week to putting together more elaborate smash books (generating news articles using the page linked above, finding images to print, taping and pasting in things that they've brought in from home). This could be done for homework, too, if your classes have homework.

Smash Doodle® student directions

The only challenging aspect of the Smash Doodle activity is figuring out how to explain it to students. What exactly is it that you want them to create?

I've had the most success explaining that students are going to use words, drawings, and design elements like lines, shapes, etc. to create a visually interesting, one-page poster that represents all or part of the story or information. You could also compare it to an infographic that you create on paper instead of on the computer, or a scrapbook page that you create with drawings.

You can also clarify that a Smash Doodle differs from a mural or storyboard in that the illustrations should be less detailed or precise and the words should not be complete sentences, but rather isolated words or phrases. For example, instead of writing out, “Nacho nunca apagaba las luces” and drawing a picture of a boy walking away from a light switch, the students might write “las luces” with a picture of bright lights shining and his mom crying or shielding herself from the light. Try to capture the emotion or the essence of each piece of the story or information!

Sample student directions for creating a Smash Doodle™️:

DIRECTIONS: Using Spanish words and phrases; illustrations; and other designs, create a one page “Smash Doodle” poster that tells key parts of the story of Nacho y la pesadilla.

How many Smashdoodles™️ is reasonable for a book?

Update: As teachers have played around with Smashdoodles™️, the general consensus is that doing one entry per chapter of a novel is too much. Maybe one per three-five chapters, or a few entries summarizing the book, or students could choose 2 key moments that they felt connected to from the novel.

Outside of reading novels, Smashdoodle™️ Notes are great tools to work into your classes. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest and other sites for special themed pages--like this one that would work great when you're targeting the present progressive or this one in a food unit for students to describe what they crave in different circumstances.

What possibilities do you see for Smashdoodles™️?

NOTE TO THE READER: Vida y muerte is an upper-level novel that invites students to consider the complex factors related to gang membership that impact individuals and communities. A primary goal of many language teachers is to challenge stereotypes by inviting students to see multiple perspectives on a topic. While many teachers choose to combat the stereotype that "Latin America is full of cartels and gangs" by excluding the study or mention of gangs and cartels in their classes, others choose to combat the stereotypes by addressing the topics in depth. Both approaches can be valid, but the latter must be done with intention and awareness. I have always defaulted to the second, but I have not always done it with intention and awareness, nor did I consider whether I was actually qualified to lead such a study, based solely on my academic experience and without personal reflection or specialized training in facilitating critical conversations. When I wrote this post in 2014, I did not consider how heartless and harmful it might be to ask Outsider students (students that are NOT part of the community being studied) to put themselves in Insider's shoes and try to transform that individual or community's trauma into a learning experience for the student. While I developed the idea for the Smash Doodle activity as I read Vida y muerte, I changed the remainder of this post to explain the activity using 48 horas instead.

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