Posts Tagged ‘SIRS Renaissance’

Screenplays in the Curriculum? Of Course!

Clapperboard (Credit: Photo by Will Jackson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Television and movies are–for better or for worse–a dominating cultural force. They feed popular culture and the young minds imbibing it.

According to a 2012 Nielsen report, teens watch about 22 hours of television a week. And that’s not including movies, social media, YouTube, videos, and all sorts of other technologies.

Educators may find all of this media exposure distracting to their students. According to a report by Common Sense Media, “Many teachers think their students use of entertainment media has hurt their academic performance.”

So what’s an educator to do?

I recently watched the School Library Journal webcast Pop Literacy. (I highly recommend it.) It’s a great overview of how (and why) to incorporate pop culture into your curriculum, including a fascinating discussion of the word “appropriate” in terms of pop culture in the classroom.

One thing, in particular, struck me as worthwhile, fun, and exciting for students, as well as for teachers.


If young people are watching an average of three hours or more of television a day, it probably would benefit them to know WHAT they are watching and HOW it got there. Television shows and movies require a lot of elements along to way to becoming a finished product. One of the first? A screenplay.

A screenplay, or a script, is created by one person or a team of writers. Dialogue, interaction, action, and reaction, setting, set design, costume, and prop descriptions are woven together to create a world not just to be imagined, as in a book, but also to be brought into form.

How can this project be beneficial to students?

Most students watch and enjoy television. They are drawn in by the story, intrigued by the characters, immersed in the narrative, invested in its conclusion. Some students do not enjoy classroom creative writing–the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. Screenwriting is a way to engage students as part of the collaborative and creative process in writing a screenplay.

Reading. You can start by reading, analyzing, and discussing a screenplay. There’s a huge selection at imsdb.com, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, La La Land, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can search by genre, or for a specific script. For younger students, try the read-aloud plays in SIRS Discoverer.

Discussion. Introduce students to the codes and conventions of screenwriting and review the significance of the three-act structure. Explore how to create a unique voice for each character and consider why a convincing setting is an important element of the screenplay.

Writing. Your students now have a basic idea of the screenwriting process and screenplay elements. Now, divide the students into teams, give them parameters, and set them to work imagining, discussing, and writing! Try this Writing a Screenplay lesson plan for guidance and inspiration.

Ready to move one step further and create student films from the finished screenplays? This filmmaking unit for 6th through 8th grade students gives an overview of the process.

Interested in learning more about screenwriting in the classroom? Check out the links below.

Teaching Scriptwriting, Screenplays and Storyboards for Film and TV Production
How to Bring Screenwriting into the Classroom
Teaching Screenwriting to Teenagers
Scriptwriting in the Classroom

Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.

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5 Poems for Library Lovers and Bibliophiles


What are your favorite library- and book-themed poems?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @ProQuest or in the comments below.

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Training for Your ProQuest Resources

Libraries see surge in e-book demandDon’t forget that ProQuest provides free training.  Our Training and Consulting Partners team is available at any time to meet with you via a privately scheduled webinar.  Just email us to make an inquiry.  We also provide regularly scheduled public webinars.  You can contact our team to discuss your questions about ProQuest resources, and we are also happy to focus privately scheduled sessions on topic areas of particular interest to you. 

This is just one of the many benefits you derive from licensure to your ProQuest resources!


SIRS Knowledge Source: New Interface & Google Integration!

Just in time for back to school, SIRS Knowledge Source is updated with a brand new interface and Google integration for SIRS Issues Researcher, SIRS Government Reporter, and SIRS Renaissance.

SIRS Issues Researcher

Explore the benefits:

  • A cleaner, more streamlined, and modern appearance
  • Design optimized for viewing on mobile devices as well as desktops (i.e. responsive design)
  • Focus on the most valued content and features
  • Integration with Google Drive and Google Classroom
  • Design aligned to other popular ProQuest products like CultureGrams and SIRS Discoverer
  • Continued access to all the great SIRS content



See the 13 New Leading Issues out of 345+ added by our editorial team covering complex social topics:

  • Biological and Chemical Terrorism
  • Concealed Weapons
  • Concussions in Sports
  • Conflict Minerals
  • Education Reform
  • Executive Pay
  • Government Ethics
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Islamic State Group (ISIS)
  • Refugees
  • Religion and Science
  • Religious Minorities
  • Zika

As evidenced by these tweets, educators are excited about the new integration between SIRS and Google Drive and Classroom!


For more details about the interface update, visit the SIRS Issues Researcher support page.

Share the good news with your colleagues! Tweet about the new SIRS Knowledge Source @ProQuest.

Poetry, Popularity, and the Spoken Word

Marine Corps Cpl. Juan M. Caraballo reads poem from “The Essence of a Young Poet."

Marine Corps Cpl. Juan M. Caraballo reads a poem from “The Essence of a Young Poet.” (Public Domain) [via Wikimedia Commons]

If we were to discuss poetry vs prose in terms of contemporary popularity, prose would win. Take a walk through a library or bookstore and you’ll usually find a small section of books of poetry peeking through the sprawling aisles full of books of prose.

But what if we looked at poetry a little bit differently?

Poetry isn’t simply words in a book. Poetry is words spoken aloud, poetry is words spray-painted on a wall, poetry is words in a greeting card, poetry is a posting on Facebook, poetry is words vocalized in a song.

When we perceive poetry in this light, we begin to understand just how popular poetry is.

Reading poetry aloud, or hearing someone speak poetry, assists in understanding the work’s deeper meaning. It allows the reader and listener to hear all the sounds, rhythms, patterns, and intonations in the poem. These things are just as important as the meaning of the poem itself.

Consider how poetry spoken aloud impacted cultures throughout history.

In ancient Rome, poetry was the literary vehicle of choice. Some poets’ works were written and read, but mostly, ancient Roman poetry was spoken aloud in private or public gatherings. This is the way poetry reached the masses. It was how poetry assimilated itself into Roman culture. The likes of Virgil, Horace, and Ovid were the superstars of their day!

Ancient Chinese poets of the Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279) and Han (206 BC – 220 AD) dynasties are still revered as the greatest Chinese poets. During their time, their poems were performed for royalty and beautifully scribed on scrolls that were housed in the emperors’ palaces. How did the common people discover these masterpieces of literature? The spoken word, passed to and through communities, memorized and loved.

During the Renaissance, the plays of William Shakespeare drew enormous crowds at the famed Globe Theatre. His works resonated with the elite and with the common folk. Are his plays considered to be poems? No, they are not—but his dramatic oeuvre is replete with poetic devices. Let us call his plays “poetical.”

Poetical…much like the lyrics of songs we listen to every day.

Listen to a favorite song and consider the figurative and sound poetic devices found in the lyrics. What do you hear? Imagery, alliteration, metaphors, similes, personification, repetition, assonance, consonance, meter, rhyme? How do these devices impact the meaning or message of the song? How do these devices, along with the meaning of the lyrics, make you feel? Are the lyrics written as verse, as lines of poetry? What meaning do the lines hold separately; what meaning do they convey together?

This is a great activity to engage reluctant students of poetry. Poetry on a page offers quite a different experience than poetry spoken aloud, shared, heard. Listening to songs in a classroom setting—or hearing the lyrics aloud in spoken word—can transform students’ perspectives on this time-honored literary form.

Celebrate National Poetry Month during the month of April with poetry in any form. Help students discover and love the poetry in their world! Gain inspiration from the SKS Spotlight of the Month.

April Training Webinars Posted

Libraries see surge in e-book demandNow’s a great time to catch up on the important elements of your ProQuest K-12 resources. We’ve posted our April webinars and would like to invite you to join us. Share this information also with some of your key faculty who you know would benefit from greater familiarity with your excellent ProQuest library research and learning tools. Our new public webinar page also expands your view of ProQuest possibilities. Not only may you access training for your K-12 focused resources, but you may also learn more about ProQuest’s full array of research and learning tools. Many of these have potential application in advanced secondary learning environments.

Sign up now for a class of your choice. If you don’t see the resource you’re looking for, contact us and we would be happy to schedule a private webinar with you!

Chinese American Authors in the Spotlight

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a yearly celebration replete with the histories and cultures of the many nations and heritages it represents.

Several Chinese American authors have shared and continue to share their experiences and perspectives as Asian Americans. The literary works of Yiyun Li, Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Lisa See address both historical and contemporary issues shaping the lives of Asian Americans, particularly Chinese Americans.

Author Yiyun Li <br \> Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

Author Yiyun Li
Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation [CC BY 4.0],
via Wikimedia Commons

Author Yiyun Li, born in Beijing in 1972, moved to Iowa at age 24. Her novels and short stories, written in her adopted language of English, embody the nuance and inflections of her native Mandarin and offer readers a unique voice in Asian-American literature. In her short-story collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, she tells the stories of Chinese people exiled from their country, as well as stories of Chinese nationalists. Her novel The Vagrants explores life in small-town China in the aftermath of Chairman Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. Rare and seldom told stories populate her writings, offering enlightening and moving perspectives of the Chinese experience.

Author Amy Tan <br \> by David Sifry, via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license [Public Domain]

Author Amy Tan
By David Sifry (Amy Tan Portrait 2) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Amy Tan may be best known for her explorations of mother-daughter relationships–most notably between Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. She mines conflicts between generations and the consequences of such discord. The issues and emotions in her books are universal while remaining distinctly Chinese. As a daughter of first-generation Chinese immigrants, she learned firsthand how to navigate cultural differences with her mother. She also learned of her mother’s tumultuous life in China, which she used as the foundation for her celebrated The Joy Luck Club.

Author Maxine Hong Kingston <br \> by David Shankbone, via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.5 attribution [Public Domain]

Author Maxine Hong Kingston
By David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Chinese folktales and myths are weaved into the memoirs and fiction of Maxine Hong Kingston. She delves into her own family history and journeys into themes of identity, aging, mortality, and culture. Born to first-generation Chinese immigrants, her writings are inspired by her experiences growing up in two clashing cultures, as in her first book, Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts.

Author Lisa See <br \> by Asís G. Ayerbe, via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported [Public Domain]

Author Lisa See
By Asís G. Ayerbe (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lisa See, whose great-grandfather was Chinese,  writes historical novels on Asian and Asian-American themes. She relates the story of Asian American entertainers of the 1930s and 40s in China Dolls, a fascinating look at the adversities and triumphs of Chinese American women in San Francisco at that time. Gender issues are prominent, as are broader issues of race and multiculturalism. Several of her novels, including Dreams of Joy, focus on familial relationships and how the Chinese American experience can inspire or damage them.

To celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the American experience. Join SKS and its May Spotlight of the Month for articles and Web sites on the authors discussed above, and on other Asian Americans who have influenced and chronicled the Asian American experience.

Whose Lives Will You Enrich with Poetry This April?

Poetry can be wondrous, mysterious, mystical, beautiful, breathtaking, provoking, distressing, funny, and surprising—even startling.

It can also be confusing.

I have a school-aged child. She recently read Emily Dickinson’s “A Bird Came Down the Walk” for homework, and had to answer a few questions. It’s a pretty straightforward poem about a bird out for a meal, happily hopping along the path until he sees the narrator, who offers him a crumb.

Drawing of Dickinson done from a painting made when she was nine <br \> by The print version of Parker, Peter. "New Feet Within My Garden Go : Emily Dickinson's Herbarium", The Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2007, p. G9, via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

Drawing of Dickinson done from a painting made when she was nine.
By The Daily Telegraph via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]

“Hey Mom, what does ‘And he unrolled his feathers/And rowed him softer home’ mean?”

It’s an integral part of the poem—the narrator offers the bird a crumb, which startles the bird, and thus the bird flies away.

But she’s in elementary school, and she can read poetry, but she doesn’t always get it.

I started thinking about the inclusion of poetry in school curricula these days, especially in the upper grades. What sort of poetry exposure will she get in high school? As a student and fan of poetry myself, I hope she gets a lot.

But I also hope that she simply doesn’t discover poetry as a timeless literary form and learn the art of absorbing and then dissecting a poem. I hope she meets the poets and understands how their lives and times influenced and inspired their works.

Photo of American poet Walt Whitman holding a (fake) butterfly. From Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Published by M. Kennerley, 1897. <br \> by Photographer unidentified, from "Phillips & Taylor, Philadelphia," via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]


I want her to know that Walt Whitman cared for injured soldiers during the Civil War and wrote beautiful poetry honoring their suffering. I want her to know that he was alive when President Lincoln was assassinated, and that Whitman memorialized him in a poem. I want her to know that he bared his soul in his collection Leaves of Grass, in which he admits his humanity in “Song of Myself”:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

And he even acknowledges his inevitable passing: I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love.

I want her to dig deep into the blues poetics of Gwendolyn Brooks, who meditated on the struggles and aftermath of the Montgomery bus boycott of the Civil Rights movement, and who called for leaders and strength among the many:

We who are weak and wonderful, wicked,
bewildered, wistful and wild
Are saying direct Good mornings through the fever.
It is the giant-hour.
Nothing, less than gianthood will do.

I also want her to know Brooks’ familial history and the extent of her literary talents: granddaughter of a runaway slave, daughter of a supportive schoolteacher, participant in the Great Migration, regular contributor to the Chicago Defender newspaper’s poetry column at age sixteen, the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize, Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985.

Library Walk New City <br \> Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, via Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain]


I want her to know Robert Frost as a brilliant man who struggled and suffered and ultimately captivated the nation with his words and imagery. I want her to read his well-known”The Road Not Taken” and go beyond seeing the poem’s last lines as simply oft-quoted verse and instead integrate them as words to live by:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

April is National Poetry Month. How are you celebrating in your classroom? Reading selected poems? Listening to poetry readings? Writing haiku, free verse, or limericks? Perhaps you will introduce students to the works of notable poets and discuss how their lives impacted their poetry. You can get some help from SIRS Knowledge Source. Visit the April SKS Spotlight of the Month for articles and Web sites on poets and poetry, and a quiz on poetry collectives. SKS is the perfect resource for helping students research and learn about poets from across the centuries and from around the world, and is a great way to bring them into your classroom. Who will you inspire with poetry this April?

Spring Training

TCP PageOur ProQuest resources are always on the move, so it’s always a great idea to keep up with everything that’s going on. Come and join us for K-12 Spring Training! We’ve got some great webinars on the schedule this spring. We can help fill in the gaps for you, so you can get the most possible from your resources.

Are you just curious about our expansive collection of resources? Maybe you’re not only teaching, but are also a student yourself. Or maybe you’re interested in outside resources that could potentially have a good K-12 connection. Access our full webinar class schedule and learn about what ProQuest is doing outside of your school!

Do you have a class you’d like us to provide or a topic you’d like us to address? We’re happy to work with you directly and we’d love to hear from you! You can email us at training@proquest.com and we’ll get back in touch with you quickly to answer questions or make arrangements.

SKS Spotlight of the Month: National American Indian Heritage Month

Before Europeans arrived on North American soil, Native Americans had lived and prospered on the rich, diverse land for thousands of years. By the time colonization programs began in the late 16th century, disease brought by explorers and colonists had devastated Native American tribes along the eastern coast. Many died.

Native Americans at a Powwow <br /> by U.S.D.A./Larry Rana, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

Native Americans at a Powwow
by U.S.D.A./Larry Rana, via ProQuest SIRS Government Reporter [Public Domain]

As history shows us, European colonization and settlement continued across the United States as wars ravaged tribes and destroyed relationships between the natives and newcomers. It is a history fraught with violence and emotion.

In the mid 19th-century–a mere 164 years ago–the federal government took action to promote peace between Native American tribes and European settlers. The Indian Appropriations Act created Indian reservations in the region of Oklahoma, an effort that instigated anger, erupting in more battles and wars.

The Indian New Deal of 1934 provided additional rights to native tribes and allowed and encouraged these tribes to govern themselves. Some compensation programs paid reparations for lost lands and broken tribes, but not all of these programs were successful. Throughout the 20th century, Native American activist groups struggled for rights and causes significant to their people.

In the 21st century, Native Americans are revered for their beautiful cultures and remembered for their harmonious connection with the land and nature. But issues facing native peoples and tribes remain unsettled. Many people feel strongly that the deep wounds afflicted on these populations are not healed. Economic, emotional, and social difficulties continue to plague Native American tribes living on Indian reservations. Hot-button issues persist in mainstream American culture, such as the controversy surrounding the Redskins and their team name and mascot.

This November, be sure to celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month. Engage your students in the incredibly important history of Native Americans. Introduce them to significant native people of the past, such as Red Cloud, Squanto, Crazy Horse, and Sacajawea. Teach them about the ways and cultures of tribes, such as Cherokee, Cree, and Iroquois. Help foster in your students a love and appreciation for Native American art and customs. Join SKS and its November SKS Spotlight of the Month in emphasizing the significance of the great heritage and complicated history of Native Americans.