Explore one of these websites that are extremely popular with teenagers:


Smoking Gun


Perez Hilton 


Then compare the topics presented, vocabulary, sentance structures, with a couple of teen safe sites:


Teens safe sites


What are the similarities and differences? What are your concerns about the sites? What are you learning about the literacy practices of teens outside of school? Brainstorm some ways teachers can bulid of the out-of-school literacy practices of teenagers.





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Smoking Gun and Perez Hilton are sites that are more gossip columns than credible news. They use the slang that adolescents use all the time, such as "sucks", "no nuts", and "bust". Proper grammar and etiquette are not essential to their websites. However, on the teen safe sites you don't see this kind of language. The teen safe sites and the smoking gun/perez hilton popular sites are mostly eye-catching and use a variety of colors appealing to certain age groups. My concern is that the popular sites will encourage improper manners in correlation with how they say what they say and when they say it. The Perez Hilton/Smoking Gun sites are not worried about possibly offending someone or a group of people, and hopefully the adolescents who use these sites don't learn from their example. Teens outside of school use literary practices everyday. They pick what they read according to the interests of the individual. It could be in a text message, on the internet, or a magazine/comic book. Students use out-of-school literacy practices for enjoyment and to relax. If teachers were less strict on how to present the curriculum to students (i.e. the textbook and worksheets), then students would be more interested in classroom learning. Teachers need to find out what the students are interested in, in order to keep their attention (which is hard to do in this fast-paced society we live in now). I like the idea of negotiating. Give them other opportunities to express themselves in a class. For example, instead of writing a response essay to a novel, which is the traditional learning experience, have students make something creative to express their opinions and views about the novel, such as a collage, powerpoint, or painting. If students are interested in comic books, then they can make their own comic books that they can share with the class. There are many ways one can do to involve what the students already know and are intersted in with what they need to learn.
I'm glad you picked up on the concept of "negotiating". I'm not an advocate of the tone or topics discussed on the popular teenage site but I do think they can be used by teachers to promote critical literacy skills in which teenagers learn to questions the underlying negative messages sites like these convey. Additionally, a deeper analysis of the vocabulary and sentanced structures on popular teen websites reveal that they are more complex and rich than the texts found in their classrooms!
Heather- Great thinking. Maybe, you could keep a list of creative projects for students to choose from at the end of each unit. For example, the project list could include: Make a PowerPoint, create a book cover, create a fake MySpace page (give them an electronic template) of a character, etc.
I took a look at these sites and the first two were pretty much the same. The Smoking Gun site was about people that were doing wrong and getting into trouble for it. I don't know why a teenager would find this site interesting cause I just felt that it was not a proper site to get information from. The Perez Hilton site was all about celebrity gossip. Making fun of famous singers, actresses and actors. They used some very foul language that shouldn't be used like nothing on a teenage site. This teaches teenagers to think it is okay to speak this way or to talk about people like this. I feel that these websites were just made to get a laugh and to make fun of people that didn't even do anything to them. Probably half of the information on these sites are false. I also looked at the teen safe sites are good sites for teenagers. They do not have the gossip or the language on the site. And teenagers probably would like these sites if they came across them. These sites do not teach foul language or dont; hurt peoples feelings. Literacy practices for teens outside of school happen everyday they just do not feel that it is school because they are doing it outside of school. Teenagers will do things that interest them and they do not even know that they are working on there literacy. Some ways that teens do this is by picking up thier favorite magazine, reading the sports page in the newpaper. Reading a book that interests them a big one today is the Twilight books, Harry Potter, etc... Some students that really hate reading seem to enjoy it if they are doing it at their own pace and they are interested in it. My sister that is in high school hates to read, but recently she bought a book that she was interested in and started reading it because she wanted to read the book before she went to see the movie. I think a good assignment to so in school is to set asside a day in every month where they come into your classroom and they get to bring in a text that interests them such as a newspaper, a book, or a magazine and read it for the set time you give them. This way everyone is interested in what they are reading and they are learning at the same time.
I think letting students bring "appropriate" texts that interest them into the classroom is a great strategy to improve reading motivation in school... and a way to learn more about your students! I'm also concerned about the mean tone and gossip that is prevalent on the popular teenage sites. But I think they can be used to promote critical literacy for students. If we just ignore them they may very well teach negative ways of thinking and believing. But teachers might be able to teach students to question the underlying negative messages they send and ind ways to articulate feelings and beliefs in more positive ways!
Looking at the site Smoking Gun is was just talking about what people were doing wrong to get into trouble. It showed many different celebrities’ mug shots and telling what they did to get arrested. It was showing bad examples of what celebrities are doing and gives the wrong example to kids. The Perez Hilton web site was a gossip site talking about different celebrities. It talks bad about many celebrities by making fun of them because of what they are doing. Student’s literacy practices outside of school are things that they enjoy to read about, whether it’s a sports magazine or a magazine talking about celebrities or books that interest them. Some students will read the paper or enjoyment. A way that a teacher could use these out of school practices in the classroom is to have the students write a paper about something that they enjoy to read about no matter what the topic is, it could be from a book, magazine or from the internet. If the students are interested about what they are reading they will enjoy it more and they will still get the practice of writing and increase their writing skills which many students have trouble with. It will be a fun thing for the students to do and could be used in a English class for using the proper grammar and writing techniques.
Do you think that when kids see celebrities being arrested or caught in embarrassing predicaments they will want to do the same thing? Perhaps they can serve as a terrible warnings. I’m not saying I think teachers should assign these gossip sites as reading material in school but perhaps there is a way to discuss the content of these sites in ways that promote critical literacy so that students start question the negative messages they send and the motives of the writers.
perhaps a fun exercise would be to correct the grammatical and syntax errors as a class project!
Or... instead of a paper, what are some other formats students could use? PowerPoint, webpage, etc. Or, maybe students could write bookreviews and publish them on Amazon.com (of course, with parental permission, etc).
Both of these “popular” sites discuss the lives, mostly bad parts, of well known celebrities. Perez Hilton’s site, which appears to be the self-proclaimed most hated web site in Hollywood, discusses all sorts of topics but the Smoking Gun site discusses mainly legal issues. The language of these two sites gave a good example of why teens today do not fully understand proper English and how to use it. The Perez site’s articles and ads use foul language, and by writing on the pictures to belittle the star in it, show students it is ok to make fun of others. My concerns with these sites include simple poor uses of language, lack of meaningful information and the idea of poking fun at others.
The teen safe site may not be as flashy as the others but it appears to link teens with safe websites for them to visit. I think by using this site at home and in the classroom would allow student the opportunity to select their topics of interest while knowing that are linking with good information. The teen safe site does allow students to connect to social networking sites like Myspace which may not be accessible or appropriate for school and there is still that risk that students can connect with people who aren’t very trustworthy. The safe site has quite of few ads for stores and what not to sell, I understand that is how they make the site free, but I think students may look for the pictures instead of taking the time to read the description of the different links.
To encourage students especially teenagers to increase literacy I would discuss with them what literacy is and how important it is. I would provided them opportunities to read and discuss articles in class maybe like a bell ringer, have magazines available or allow students to bring in their own but it must be approved by teacher then give them a few minutes to read an article then discuss as a whole or in groups based on interest why they choose that article and what they learned. After adequate practice I would step up the assignment to books where they express their thoughts and ideas through writing.
I agree that these sites might normalize negative behavior that I associate with bullying. But maybe there is a way teachers can use them to teach critical media literacy? Here is a link to lesson plans for Teaching critical media literacy! See what you think!

I like your idea of having the students bring in their own reading material. This gives the students a chance to express themselves and gives them meaning as to why literacy is important. I also like how you used scaffolding to begin expressing their own thoughts through writing.



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