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Placed-based writing activities and resources

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 9 months ago

Place-based writing activities and resources


PP presentation: Place-based writing.ppt


Fieldworking.com: A resource site related to having students write ethnographies: related to the first year college writing text, Fieldworking, 2nd ed.


Studying and writing about local communities


Minnesota Historical Society: Right on Lake Street


Matador Travel: blogs/images from specific places all over the world


Tour de Sprawl: Sierra Club: Analyzes the environmental effects of sprawl


E-Democracy: Minnesota site related to local issues



Digital Ethnography: Using digital tools/photography to capture cultural practices and people's online practices


Ethnography of a University (University of Illinois): click on bubbles for video


Kansas State: Digital Ethnography program: studying what people do in online virtural worlds


University of Illinois: Community Informatics: web-linking to foster community/place


Dona Schwartz, Journalism/Mass Communications: digital ethnography


MPR: Consumer Consequences game: what's your ecological footprint



Teaching Ideas: Place-based Learning




Place is defined as more than simply a physical place.  It can be a defined as a social event/space, activity, institution, social world, or virtual/imaginary space.


It’s important for students to think of places as social constructions as opposed to something “out there.”  This includes realizing how their own ways of knowing/thinking or dispositions influence their social constructions of places.  Thus, if they are making a documentary about their neighborhood, they are not simply portraying their neighborhood as a “reality out there,” but are constructing their own version of the neighborhood as shaped by their ways of knowing/thinking or dispositions.


It is also important for students to employ different multimodal tools capturing places—using images, art work, language, video, music, sounds, etc., to portray their versions of places.


Integrating producing and understanding texts. To help engage students in producing places, they can also be reflecting on how they construct the meaning of places in literature or films.  For example, in responding to a novel, students can reflect on how characters construct the meaning of places in a story or novel.  For example, in reading a story or novel, student could address the questions:

What were the places in the story or novel?

What was the relationship of the characters to the places in the story or novel?

How did the characters perceive these place--what were the narrator’s or character’s feelings or attitudes about these places?  How did different characters differ in their feelings about these places?  What were some reasons for these differences?

How are their feelings or attitudes similar to your own feelings or attitudes about a similar place?


Defining how you are known/know others

Someone you don’t know:

Find a profile on MySpace or Facebook

How would you describe this person’s identity?

What specific information did you use to describe these people?


Someone that you do know:

Think of someone that you know well. 

How would you describe this person? 

What is it that makes them different from other people? 

Do they behave differently in different places?  If so, how?

How do they think about the world.



How would you describe yourself?

What things do believe are unique about yourself?

How are you different from other people?

What do you think other people think about you?


Mapping events, spaces, and worlds on large sheets of paper or whiteboard

Think of some event in which you recently participated, for example, playing in a game. 


1. Draw a circle to represent that event at the bottom of the sheet or whiteboard.  List specific things that you did in this event and then list traits associated with your behaviors: for example, “I yelled at the team to keeping playing hard”: “don’t want to lose.”


2. Then, in the middle of the sheet, draw a circle that shows the place or space in which the event occurred, for example, my sports team. Then, list behaviors that you typically employ in this place or space, for example, ““encouraging my teammates”: “being a leader.”  Draw lines between the list of behaviors/traits in the event and similar behaviors/traits in the place/space.


3. Then, at the top of the sheet, draw a circle that shows the larger world or institution involved in this event/place, for example, “sports.”  List behaviors and traits you associate with being involves in this world or institution, for example, what it means to be involved in sports: “you need to want to play hard in sports.”  Then, draw some more lines between the event and the place/space to these behaviors and traits.


4. Share your sheet with a peer and talk about how your actions in the event were related to the place/space and world/institution.  How were your actions in the event shaped by your identities in the place/space or world/institution?


Histories of places.  Places have changed over time, histories that are part of the meaning of a particular place.  Obviously students do not have access to what how people in the past experienced places.  However, they can go to museums that recreate past places, for example, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Milwaukee County Museum, Chicago Historical Society, Mill City Museum (Minneapolis) that re-create past places (Cresswill, 2004)



Narratives about places


Narratives and place    Collect some stories about a particular place or world, for example, family stories about events, traditions, and/or unusual family members or stories shared by members of a neighborhood or town that serve to define what that neighborhood’s or town’s beliefs and attitudes (see, for example, House on Mango Street or Lake Wobegon Days).   Discuss how these stories serve as a tool for defining a sense of continuity from the past to the future, linking the practices of past generations to current family members, neighbors, or townspeople.


Oral histories. Students could engage in oral history projects in which they record people’s narrative recollections of past events or places. 


Defining borders between places

What are the borders and barriers in my life?

How do I define borders and barriers?

How much is real, and how much is in your mind?

Draw maps that portray borders between different places/worlds: home vs. school, home vs. peer group, etc.

PBS POV site on students on the Mexican border



Watch streaming video journals on P.O.V.'s Borders website. These are accessible at:



Activities from PBS Borders unit:

Reflect upon what was viewed; summarize web cast.

In Gilbert’s story what do you see as context? What’s the environment that surrounds him?

Are there images, symbols, or landscapes that may help you understand Gilbert’s story?

Gilbert explores issues of self-identity. Do you think about your own identity? Do you talk

about this issue with your friends, parents, or others?

Reflect upon your own personal story.

What is the context that defines your story? What social, cultural, political, and economic

factors contribute to the creation of your story and personal identity?

What’s your story? Exercise can be:

- 15 minute writing assignment

- Oral presentations where students relate, create, or recreate their a person (or other)


- Class-long lesson, week-long lesson, or even six week lesson, where each student

explores and crafts his/her own narrative

EXERCISE #2 : On oral histories and community research (see appendix)

Research family, neighborhood, community, events.


- Development of interviewing, listening, note taking, and other research skills

- At least several days of research

- Can take the shape of oral history research or other interviewing activity

(see lesson on assets)

Construct your own narratives/story

Each student can find his/her own narrative and voice that they each distinctly own.

this exercise can be the most powerful learning experience; some students must be

deliberately and patiently brought to this point of self-realization and production; caution,

care, and patience required.

-Define and understand the concept of personal, familial, and community assets

--Map your own assets


For this lesson students need access to Internet. If no access is available, then teacher will need

to print out the text transcripts ahead of time. Exercise #1 requires the ability to stream video

(realvideo player or quicktime plug-in required).

Prerequisite Knowledge: Find the Narratives

- Finding the narratives of family members and/or others in the community can be a rich

learning experience for anyone—youth or adult—but as important, it allows students to

begin with a familiar terrain.

- Identifying and processing narratives can take different forms; the traditional paper-pencil

form requires the basic task of note taking; other forms such as video taping, or capturing

narratives through other media technology may require gaining formal permission from

interview subjects.

- Personal/individual; start with yourself: What do you bring as assets

and strengths to the school environment, or simply to life in general; what do you have that

makes you strong; this is about building an assets-based personal identity

P.O.V.'s Borders Lesson Plan

--Family assets: What are the assets or special sources of strength in your family?

Someone may be good with carpentry, or someone may be talented artistically, or

someone may be particularly book smart. Consider that people have many different kinds

of intelligences as you count the assets in your family.

--Community assets: Map out the assets of business/private sector institutions in your


--Map the assets of public sector: Assets of schools, other government entities

--Map assets of the service sector: Churches, nonprofits

Identify an interview candidate

􀂙 Call interviewee and establish a relationship before you interview them. Conduct research

on interviewee and time period. You want to go to the interviewee with knowledge that will

lead your questions.

􀂙 Meetings between students and mentors will be held for interviewee approval.

Interview tips:

􀂙 If the interviewee is a relative, make sure that you do not make logical jumps in your

interview. It would be easy for you to leave important information out because of your

familiarity with the interviewee.

􀂙 It’s a good idea to conduct the interviews in teams and to have your classmate help you

ask questions that you might miss.

􀂙 Prepare questions and practice interviewing in your teams.

􀂙 Interviews that are conducted with a certain theme in mind should not be confined to the


􀂙 Make sure you have a firm grasp of how to use the necessary equipment, such as the tape

recorder or video camera.

􀂙 Use 60-minute audio tapes; 90-minute tapes wear out faster.

At the interview:

􀂙 Try to avoid background noise while conducting the interview.

􀂙 Make sure you clearly introduce everyone involved in the interview.

􀂙 Speak clearly and slowly. Your clarity will make the transcription process easier and set the

interview’s pace.

􀂙 Be considerate. Notice when the interviewee becomes uncomfortable. If the interviewee

avoids a question, do not force a response. If you can tell that he/she is getting tired, do

not pressure the interviewee to continue; you can continue the interview on another day if



Studying issues facing places:

- Housing costs/availability: problems with lack of affordable housing/foreclosures

(student could go to Google Maps for foreclosures in Hennepin County to find examples in their neighborhood or communities:


- public/public spaces: lack of public spaces for adolescents to congregate

- aesthetic aspects: appearance, clutter, billboards, graffiti, etc.

- transportation: lack of mass transit; reliance on cars; bike paths

- public services: libraries, schools, firefighters, law enforcement

- citizen/political involvement/understanding of issues

- business development/employment: challenge of big box stores versus local retail stores

- crime: drugs, gangs, homicides, support for law enforcement, etc.

- ecological issues: pollution, traffic, sprawl, parks/green spaces, etc.

- availability of shopping, entertainment, restaurants, etc.



Studying media representation of places

Cut out magazine ads that portray different places to create “museum exhibits” on table tops using these ads.  Reflect on how these ads are similar or different. 


Study the coverage of a topic or issue in local newspapers.  How were these topics/issues covered?  What was included and what we left out?  



Making a documentary/PP, or scapbook about an issue or topic related to a place/space

For example, making a documentary about one’s home and/or neighborhood. 

Importance of defining one’s own stance or perspective on this issue or topic related to a way of knowing/thinking about the world.

View some other documentaries to identity the stance or perspective shaping selection of material.

Planning.  Go and observe the place and take field notes.  Interview some people about their feelings about the place.

Formulate some questions about a place: what are some things that you want to know about this place?  What are some issues, problems, or difficulties facing this place?  What do you want to learn about this place?

What is your relationship with this place?  What are your beliefs about this place? 

What do you want to say or show about this place?  How are you going to convey what you want to say or show in your documentary or video?

Create a script/storyboard. 

Shoot video of the place and interviews with people.



Crosswinds Middle School, Woodbury, place project

Middle-School Students Studying an Urban Neighborhood

    In studying how local spaces and worlds were constructed led Betsy and Lorraine, Tim, and Mike to critique the institutional forces shaping those worlds.   We also contend that younger students can engage in similar place-based critical-inquiry projects as illustrated by the work of a group of middle-school students studying issues in a local urban neighborhood (Beach & O’Brien, 2004).   These students worked with our University of Minnesota preservice English teachers as part of their practicum experience for each of three different years.  In studying the issues facing one particular neighborhood, students learned that urban neighborhoods have their own unique strategies for addressing these issues, while, at the same time, they recognized that some of the larger forces of poverty, unemployment, lack of government support, and crime shaped these issues. 

Immersing in the neighborhood.  The middle school students initially immersed themselves in an urban St. Paul neighborhood that had been undergoing marked changes from a blighted, crime-ridden neighborhood in the 1980s to one in which half of the neighborhood is somewhat gentrified and the other half is still struggling.  Students went on a field trip to take digital photos of and map out the different parts of the neighborhood, with different teams focusing on different sections (for techniques of mapping and studying urban neighborhoods, see Steinberg & Stephen, 1999, and Morrish & Brown, 2000).  During one year of the project, the students created a miniature scale version of the neighborhood on their classroom floor.   Students also met with local community development people who shared their strategies for supporting economic development in the neighborhood as well as support for affordable housing and employment opportunities.

Identifying issues facing the neighborhood.  Based on their observations and readings about the history of the neighborhood, the students then formulated questions about the neighborhood that served to frame their inquiry, questions that continued to change as the students became more familiar with the neighborhood.  Here are some of their questions:

How is architecture in Selby/Dale different than other neighborhoods?

How do businesses attract customers to Selby/Dale?

Are there any parks in Selby/Dale?   What do they provide to the community?

Is the neighborhood of Selby/Dale segregated by culture?

Is there a place for youth to hang out in Selby/Dale? Is one needed?

What jobs are available for youth in Selby/Dale?

What type of housing is available?  What has recently been developed?

Is crime in the Selby/Dale neighborhood a problem?

What ethnic restaurants are in Selby/Dale? Do these restaurants reflect the community?

How do people get around Selby/Dale?  Could light rail help organize transportation?

Each student group then selected one issue to study: architecture, community development, community history, parks and recreation, business development, segregation, entertainment opportunities, employment opportunities, housing, public safety, restaurants, pollution, and recycling.  Student engagement with these different issues varied somewhat according to student interest or prior knowledge.  Some of the issues, such as crime, housing, or employment that directly influenced the people in the neighborhood, as evident in their interviews with these people, were more dramatic and salient to the neighborhood participants and therefore less challenging to document in the students’ writing.  For example, one of the major problems facing adolescents in urban neighborhoods is the lack of safe, accessible public spaces or community centers for adolescents to congregate (Skelton & Valentine, 1998). 

Contextualizing neighborhood issues.  Students then considered some of the larger historical, economic, cultural and political forces shaping these issues, forces that were used to prepare for another field trip in which students conducted taped interviews with people in the neighborhood—store owners, residents, police officers, restaurant managers, community development people, operators of a community center, etc. The students then analyzed interview transcripts to identify how these forces shaped their particular issues.  For example, in studying the issue of affordable housing, students were interested in how the increased gentrification of certain sections of the neighborhood influenced housing prices in other neighborhood sections.  Then, when one group interviewed a community development person, they discovered that he was able to obtain some city funding to provide local long-time residents with support so that they could remain in their homes even though the value of those homes was increasing. 

      The preservice teachers noted that in conducting these interviews, their students were learning how to formulate questions consistent with their needs for certain kinds of information about larger forces.  As one pre-service teacher noted:

I do think it is important in projects, which is what I did like about the neighborhood study, to look at literacy in a lot of different ways other than reading one texts—like interviewing people and knowing how to talk to people in interviews, researching articles, things like that.  I had one student who really became good at asking questions.  So once they got into the actual interview—and it was actually kind of nice because we had a large group following architecture round and she was able to ask a lot of questions that I didn’t prompt her with and we didn’t have written down or anything like that and we did a practice run of it and she learned a lot from that. (Beach & O’Brien, 2004, p. 18)

Representing, critiquing, and transforming neighborhood issues.  Based on the information and photos students collected, they generated final reports about their issues.  They then created group posters and/or PowerPoint presentations that included sections of their reports, photos, statistics, and summary of their findings, in which they critiqued some of the forces shaping their issues and formulated possible solutions. They then presented their posters and PowerPoint presentations at a poster fair in the school gym attended by students, staff, and parents.  In their final reports, the students noted that while the Selby-Dale community has made progress in addressing various issues, that without city and state support to fund community development and affordable housing projects, this neighborhood would continue to struggle.

        In working with this project, we believe that the students learned to engage in critical inquiry through engaging in hands-on study of a particular place.  Having to focus on particular concrete aspects of the neighborhood led the students to appreciate the unique aspects of a community valued by its residents.  They also recognized the value of organized community development efforts as well as the need for community residents to become involved politically to protect the best interests of their community, an awareness of the need to go beyond critique to participate in the political system.  

        In summary, we argue that students need to explore the value of local places and social communities whose unique cultural features challenge the increased corporate standardization and homogenization of the culture.  Through their engagement with place-based projects, students learn to critique stereotypical representations of places.  And, through grappling with the tensions associated with Thirdspace challenges to hegemonic constructions of places, they recognize the need to preserve the unique qualities of local places in opposition to the standardization of schooling and the culture.


Need to obtain tape recorders/cameras

Question: would Crosswinds students be able to create web-based final reports?    What if we created a web-based template for them to put in their own texts, photos, maps, interview clips, reflections, etc.??


Interview questions: to study uses of different types of texts related to students’ perceptions of the purposes for reading these texts; these interview questions may also serve to scaffold/frame the focus of think-alouds—they may also serve to bias or orient the think-alouds in certain ways.


Overall inquiry project about a neighborhood: (perceptions of the project may change during the project)

What do you want to learn about X part of the neighborhood?

What questions are you addressing in your project?

How do to plan to answer these questions?

What do you perceive to be the final outcome or result of this project?

What do you hope to learn from doing this project about neighborhoods?

What things are you planning to do to achieve this outcome or result?


Sample study (an illustrative example of a report on a neighborhood): purpose: to model the genre features/practices/strategies

Here is an example of the kind of final report about a certain aspect of a neighborhood that your will produce at the end of this project.   What do you hope to learn about doing this project from reading this sample study?

As you read this sample study, tell me what you are thinking about relating to doing your own project.

What did you learn from this sample study about doing your own project?

What things did the writer do that you also hope to do in your project?

How will your project be similar to or different from this project?


Narrative/fiction: a story about a neighborhood: purpose: to provide a sense of the subjective aspects of perceiving/experiencing a neighborhood or studying the role of feelings/attitudes about a neighborhood.

As you read this story, tell me what you are thinking.

What were your reactions to the story?

What were the narrator’s or character’s feelings or attitudes about their neighborhood?

How are their feelings or attitudes similar to your own feelings or attitudes or the feelings or attitudes of the people you are studying?


Web sites of information about neighborhoods/similar projects: purpose: to gain information about other projects; to model the process of creating a final web-based report.

As you look at this web site, tell me what you are thinking.

What is some useful information on this site that will help your in your own project?

(Assuming students will do a web-based product): How does this site help you think about how you will do your own web-based product?


Field notes/mapping/photos, journal entries: purpose: to describe or map or document specific details about a specific aspect of a neighborhood: behaviors, features of landscape, architecture, space, traffic, people, etc.

As you read or look over your notes, maps, photos, or entries, tell me what you are thinking.

What did you learn about X from your notes, maps, photos, or entries?

What is some useful information from your notes, maps, photos, or entries for achieving your final outcome?

How will you use this information in writing up your report?


Interview tapes or transcripts: purpose: to acquire information about participants’ perceptions of a neighborhood.

As you read over your transcripts, tell me what you are thinking.

What did you learn about X person from your interview?

What is some useful information from your interview that will help you in your final report? 


Montana Heritage Project: ALERT



Teaching the ALERT processes   

Ask, Listen, Explore, Reflect, Teach


    Students today need to learn to live amid vast amounts of information. They need to learn to construct points of view using reason, evidence, and intelligent emotions. Such skills and understandings are best taught by helping them create original presentations, drawing on original research from primary sources.


    Through learning expeditions planned to include the ALERT processes, young researchers can explore and contribute to their cultural heritage.


The Heritage Project encourages teachers to organize learning around expeditions, which are in-depth examinations of topics or time periods in which students are expected to read significant books and articles, interview people with special knowledge, and construct their own original points of view in the form of new cultural artifacts (essays, videos, websites) as gifts of scholarship to their communities.


The best way to plan a learning expedition is to think about each of the ALERT processes. These are the processes we go through when engaged in significant learning—that is, learning that moves us to a new level of understanding.


Here are the processes:


Ask: All of us pose and answer questions every day. We wonder what someone else meant by a comment or what clothes to wear to an event. And we all have deeper questions, wondering how we should act in our relationships, pondering possibilities that worry us, or considering what might be the right thing to do in this or that situation. The more school work can be linked to these deeper questions, the more likely students are to engage. When the questions posed in class echo questions students have in their hearts, school comes to life. It matters.


The quality and depth of our learning is limited by the quality and depth of our questions. We all have questions, but someone who is wondering where her friend bought those new shoes is likely to learn different things than someone who is wondering whether Martin Luther King’s nonviolent approach to change could be adapted to work with a rigid high school principal.


Essential questions—questions about big and enduring concerns—are the critical link between students’ lives and the curriculum. What is justice? How should we respond to injustice? What is the difference between authority and power? When should we obey and when should we rebel?


These are not questions to which young people are strangers. When they believe such questions are being explored for real, and not simply as classroom exercises in which canned answers are foreordained, their interest is likely to perk up.


Listen: Once we have a question, we deepen our understanding of what’s at stake by “listening” to the historical record. “Listening” should be broadly understood to include all the ways we gather knowledge not just from talk but also from books, music, painting, and architecture. Most often we “listen” by reading.


Expedition members can be introduced to fiction or nonfiction texts complicate or simplify their understanding of their questions, that add to their knowledge the detail needed for accurate thinking, or that present them with points of view that differ from their own.


Whenever practicable, readings should include primary documents. By reading primary documents, stundents draw nearer to actual persons whose thoughts and actions shaped and reflected the past. While secondary sources are invaluable for establishing background and context, reading them without also examining primary documents tends to mystify as well as clarify the past. Only by reading both do we develop an accurate sense of how history is written.


Explore: Students can also gather new information. The simplest way to do this is to include an oral history strand in the expedition.


By enlisting as many people as possible in helping with students’ research, teachers can strengthen the relationship between schooling and community, they can increase and deepen members’ relationships to other people, and they develop motivational strategies more powerful than points and grades.


Students can also make observations, taking field notes then, for example, adding their data to a local data base established to track water quality in a local stream or bird populations in a local forest. They can conduct experiments, adding their findings to the local files. They can document with photographs and essays a local event, a person practicing his or her occupation, or a particular place such as main street at a specific moment in time. Obviously, the better established local knowledge gathering and preserving systems are, the easier this will be to do and the more apparent will be its benefits to expedition members. But starting is not hard. A set of file folders in a file cabinet will do.


Reflect: With whom will members discuss their work along the way? What drafts of notes, essays, or scripts will they create, and who will read and respond to them?


To reflect is simply to think about what we are doing. In the end, thinking is the only learning strategy. Few of us, though, can think very complex thoughts without either talking things through with someone else or writing. So every expedition should include lots of chances for expedition members to discuss what they are doing and to make notes or journal entries to order their thoughts and to preserve them for later revision. Through reflection we can (1) resolve anomalies in our thinking, (2) revise our understanding what has happened and is happening, and (3) construct systematic knowledge.


Teach/Tell/Transform: All students should have chances to teach in every class. It is when we teach others, finding out how to tell what needs to be understood, that we transform ourselves by making new knowledge our own. By asking students to create cultural artifacts to be presented to local audiences, we can support the highest quality learning. A cultural artifact might be a research paper presented at a public forum, a video presented to elementary students, a website presented to a local museum, a radio program or podcast presented to the entire town, or a book presented to the local library.


By returning to the local community with newly formed knowledge, students successfully complete their quest and close their expedition with a sense of earned achievement. By creating gifts of scholarship for an audience beyond the classroom, students more readily learn that standards are not the arbitrary assignments of teachers, but that they flow from the real demands of the real world. A slide presentation to a community audience on local history that is not accurate and interesting simply doesn’t work as well as one that is well-researched and well-crafted.


ALERT was developed by Michael L. Umphrey, Montana Heritage Project.

Frames for Analyzing the Construction of Space from Place

Frames: Subjective

Frame: narrative or autobiographical experiences with place

Frame: Time and space

Frame: Categories: regions/groups

Frame: affiliation markers: Perry: lawn art

Frame: Discourses: defining ideological orientations

- ways of knowing/thinking that position people in spaces

- Discourses of gender, class, race position people in spaces

Frame: activity and space

- Activity driven by objects

- Tools employed to achieve objects: Language, narratives, social genres, images

Frame: Power in space: Positioning/stance

How am I being positioned to respond to this experience, event, or the text? 

Do I accept or reject how I am being positioned to respond?   

Frame: spiritual space

- “sacred spaces”

- Solitude/meditation--”one with nature”

Frame: ecological perspectives on space

- concern for environmental aspects of place/space

Frame: Issues, Dilemmas, Questions 

Inquiry-based Instruction: lots of inquiry-based lessons: http://inquiry.uiuc.edu

- Immersing in a social world

- Identifying concerns, issues, or dilemmas

- Contextualizing: purposes, roles, norms, beliefs/attitudes, or history of a world

- Representing: using tools of narratives, genres, images, etc. to portray a world

- Critiquing representations of worlds

- Transforming worlds

Frame: Different Spaces: Competing Allegiances

-identities attempting to negotiate differences between different social worlds



Books about Growing Up in Places/Spaces

James Welch, Fools Crow

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues

Edward Abbey, Fire on the Mountain

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping

Wallace Stegner, Big Rock Candy Mountain

Scott Momaday, The Ancient Child, House Made of Dawn, The Way to Rainy Mountain

Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace

James Welch, Winter In The Blood

Norman MacLean, A River Runs Through It

Eudora Welty, The Golden Apples

Richard Wright, Black Boy

Ernest Hemingway, Nick Adams stories

Carson McCuller, Member of the Wedding

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Willa Cather, My Antonia

Boyer, D. & Isherwood, D.  (Eds.) (1998).  A Place to Which We Belong: Wisconsin Writers on Wisconsin Landscapes.  Madison: 1000 Friends of Wisconsin Land Use Institute.

Moore, M.  (Ed.).  (2003).  Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing. New York: Avalon.



Place And Identity

Barbara Kingsolver, "The Memory of Place" in High Tide in Tucson

Edwin Way Teale, "The Lost Woods" in The Norton Book of Nature Writing

Leslie Marmon Silko, "Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination"

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

David Abrams, Spell of the Sensuous

Vine Deloria,  "Thinking in Time and Space" in God is Red

Linda Hogan, Power

Vandava Shiva, Staying Alive

Mahasweta Devi, Imaginary Maps

Paula Gunn Allen, Coyote Was Here: Essays on Contemporary Native American Literary and Political Mobilization

McPhee, J.  (2002). The Founding Fish. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

McMurtry, L.  (2003).  The Wandering Hill: The Berrybender Narratives, Book 2. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Busch, A.  (1999).  Geography of Home: Writings on Where We Live.  Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press.

Koop, C.  (2002). The Ecology of Home.  Discourse, 24(2), 50–60.

Aitken, S.  (2001).  Geographies of Young People: The Morally Contested Spaces of Identity.  New York: Routledge.

Edmondson, J. (2003). Prairie Town: Redefining Rural Life in the Age of Globalization.  Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.

Gordon, G.  (2003).  Landscape of Desire: Identity and Nature in Utah's Canyon Country. Logan, UT: Utah State UP.

Reaves, G.  (2001).  Mapping the Private Geography: Autobiography, Identity, and America.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Wold, R., & Koloc, B.  (1999).  American Mosaic: Prose and Poetry by Everyday Folk.  New York: Oxford.

Milkweed Press: The World As Home series: books about place


includes: William Morrish and Catherine Brown, Planning to Stay: Learning to See the Physical Features of Your Neighborhood

Savoy, A. & Lauret E., (Eds.).  (2002).  The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and

the Natural World. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions.



Theories of Space/Place

Chow, R.  (2002).  Suburban Space: The Fabric of Dwelling. Berkeley, CA: U of California Press

Clifford, F.  (2002).  The Backbone of the World: A Portrait of the Vanishing West Along the Continental Divide.  New York: Broadway.

Cross, J.  (2001).   What is "Sense of Place"?


Crang, M., & Thrift, N.  (Eds.). (2000).  Thinking space.  New York: Routledge.

Harvey, D.  (2000).  Spaces of Hope.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Davis, M.  (1999).  Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster. New York: Vintage.

De Certeau, M.  (1984). The Practice of Everyday Lie. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dorst, J. (1999).  Looking West. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Harvey, D.  (2001).  Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. New York: Routledge.

Duany, A., Plater-Zyberk, E., & Speck, J.  (2000).  Suburban nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream.  New York: North Point Press.

Fleming, D.  (2004).  Subjects of the Inner City: Writing the People of Cabrini-Green.  In M. Nystrand & J. Duffy (Eds.), Towards a Rhetoric of Everyday Life: New Directions in Research on Writing, Text, and Discourse.   Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Giroux, H.  (2002).  Public Spaces, Private Lives: Democracy Beyond 9/11/. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.

Low, S. M.   (2000).  On the Plaza: The Politics of Public Space and Culture.  Austin: University of Texas Press.

Low, S. M., & Lawrence-Zuniga, D.  (Eds.).  (2003).  The Anthropology of Space and Place: Locating Culture.  New York: Blackwell.

Massey, D.  (1994).  Space, Place, and Gender. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

McDowell, L. (1999).  Gender, Identity, and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies.  Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Miller, D., et al. (1998).  Shopping, place, and identity.  New York: Routledge.

Mueller, R.  (2002). The City and Its Other.  Discourse, 24(2), 30-40. (a feminist analysis of the false binary between city and country).

Norquist, J.  (2000).  The Wealth of Cities-Revitalizing the Centers of American Life.  New York: Perseus Books.

Scharff, V.  (Ed.).  (2003).  Seeing Nature through Gender. Lawrence: U of Kansas P.

Scollon, R. & Scollong, S.  (2003).  Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World.  New York: Routledge.

Soja, E.  (1997).  Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory.  New York: Verso.

Tuan, Y.  (2001).  Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tuan, Y.  (2003).  The Good Life.  Madison: U of Wisconsin P.

Wilson, C., & Groth, P. (Eds.).  (2003).  Everyday America: Cultural landscape studies after J. B. Jackson. Berkeley: University of California Press.



Place-based literary/ecocriticism

Branch, M.  (2004).  Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden.  Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Branch, M. et al. (Eds.)  (1998).  Reading the Earth: New Directions in the Study of Literature and Environment. Moscow: U of Idaho P.  

Buell, L.  (1995).  The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.

Buell. L  (2001).  Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and the Environment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.

Coates, P.  (1998).  Nature: Western Attitudes since Ancient Times. Berkeley: U of California Press.

Cohen, M. (2004).  Blues in the green: Ecocriticism under critique.  Environmental Education (critical analysis of ecocriticism)


Elder, John. Imagining the Earth: Poetry and the Vision of Nature. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1996.

English, J. A.  The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada


Fetterley, J.,  & Pryse, M. (2002).  Writing out of Place: Regionalism, Women and American Literary Culture. Urbana: U of Illinois Press.

Glotfelty, C. & Fromm, H.  (eds.).  (1996).  The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology.  Athens, GA: U of Georgia Press.

Lopez, B. “A Literature of Place” http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itsv/0896/ijse/lopez.htm

Murphy, P.  (2000).  Farther Afield in the Study of Nature-Oriented Literature. Charlottesville: U of Virginia Press.

Norwood, V.  (1993).  Made from This Earth: American Women and Nature. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P.

Payne, D. G.  (1996).  Voices in the Wilderness: American Nature Writing and Environmental Politics. Hanover, NH: UP of New England.

Quantic,  D.  (1997).  The Nature of the Place: A Study of Great Plains Fiction.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Ronald, A.  (2003).  Reader of the Purple Sage: Essays on Western Writers and Environmental Literature.  Reno, NV: U of Nevada P.

Rosendale, S.  (Ed.).  (2002).  The Greening of Literary Scholarship. Iowa City: U of Iowa P,

Slovic, S. (1992).  Seeking Awareness in American Nature Writing: Henry Thoreau, Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez. Salt Lake City: U of Utah P,.

Suarez, R., (1999).  The Old Neighborhood--What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration: 1966-1999.  New York: Free Press.

Ward, G.  (2002).  The Writing of America: Literature and Cultural Identity from the Puritans to the Present.  Malden, MA.: Blackwell.



Place-based writing/literature teaching

Beach, R. & Myers, J.  (2001).  Inquiry-based English Instruction,  New York: Teachers College Press.

Brooke, R.  (Ed.).  (20030.  Rural Voices: Place-Conscious Education and the Teaching of Writing.  New York: Teachers College Press.

Ellsworth, E. (2004, November).  Places of Learning: Media, Architecture, Pedagogy.  New York: Routledge.

Haas, T., & Nachtigal, P.  (1998).  Place value: An educator’s guided to good literature on rural lifeways, environments, and purposes of education.  Charleston, WV.: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.

McComiskey, B., & Ryan, C.  (Eds.).   (2003).  City Comp: Identities, Spaces, Practices.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Orr, D.  (1992).   Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Owens, D. (2001) Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation.  Urbana, IL: NCTE methods used by Owens:


Rous, E.  (2000).  Literature and the Land: Reading and Writing for Environmental Literacy, 7-12.  Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook.

Silverman, J., & Rader, D.  (Eds.).  (2003).  The World is a Text: Writing, Reading, and Thinking about Culture and its Contexts.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall (textbook).

Smith, G. A., & Williams, D. R. (Eds.) (1999). Ecological education in action: On weaving  education, culture, and the environment. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Sobel, D.  (2004).  Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms & Communities. New York: Orion Books.

Stevens, R.  (2001).  Homespun: Teaching Local History in Grades 6-12.   Portsmouth: NH: Heinemann

Steinberg, A., & Stephen, D.  (1999).  City Works: Exploring Your Community, A Workbook.   New York: The New Press (particularly useful for middle-school students/analysis of architecture). 

Sumara, D.  (2002).  Why Reading Literature in School Still Matters: Imagination, Interpretation, Insight.  Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum (explores literary response as anthropological autobiography).

Sunstein, B. & Chiseri-Strater, E.  (2002).  Fieldworking: Reading and Writing Research, 2nd ed.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Theobald, P.  (1997).  Teaching the commons: Place, pride, and the renewal of community.  Boulder, CO: Westview.



Films/media about place:

Bale, John. "Virtual Fandoms; Futurescapes of Football." http://www.efdeportes.com/efd10/jbale.htm

Carney, G.  (Ed.)  (1995).  Fast Food, Stock Cars, and Rock-n-Roll: Place and Space in American Pop Culture.  New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Couldry, N. & McCarthy, A.   (Eds.)  (2003).  MediaSpace:  Place, scale and culture in a media age.   New York: Routledge.

Fraim, John. "Battle of Symbols: Space vs. Place" http://www.symbolism.org/writing/books/bs/place/

Gauntlett, D.  (1997). Video Critical: Children, the Environment and Media Power. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Hochman, J.  (1998). Green Cultural Studies: Nature in Film, Novel, and Theory.  Boise: University of Idaho Press.

Ingram, D.  (2000). Green Screen: Environmentalism and Hollywood Cinema. Exeter: University of Exeter Press.

Lauter, P.   (2001).  From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park: Activism, Culture, & American Studies. Durham: Duke University Press.

MacDonald, S.  (2001).  The Garden in the Machine: A Field Guide to Independent Films about Place.   Berkeley: University of California Press.

Martin, D. G.  (2000).   Constructing place: Cultural hegemonies and media images of an inner-city neighborhood. Urban Geography 21(5), 380-405.

Morley, D.  (2000). Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity. London: Routledge.

O'Neill, E. "The Dichotomy of Place and Non-Place in You've Got Mail." http://www.brynmawr.edu/hart/oneill/299/g_1.pdf

Owens, L.  (1997).  Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Rosembaum, J.  (1995).  Moving Places: A Life at the Movies.  Berkeley: University of California Press.

Zonn, L.  (Ed).  (2000).   Place Images in the Media: A Geographical Appraisal.  New York: Rowman & Littlefield.



Films about Midwestern places:

Badlands, Breaking Away, The Bridges of Madison County, A Christmas Story, Continental Divide, Dances with Wolves, The Day After, Days of Heaven, Fargo, Field of Dreams, Footloose, Freckles, Hoosiers, A League of Their Own, The Magnificent Ambersons, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Northern Lights, Rachel River, Raintree County, The River, Roger and Me, Rudy, Taps, A Thousand Acres, Thunderheart, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Thomas Dean, Moorhead State University  http://www.asle.umn.edu/archive/biblios/midwest_films.txt

Nature/environmental movies:  http://www.esf.edu/ecn/films.htm

Rural Voices Radio I, II, III,  National Writing Project, CD’s with students and teachers reading poems, stories, and essays about life in rural America.  http://www.writingproject.org



Websites on place/space

(Lawrence, D.  (1999). The Community as Text: Using the Community for Collaborative Internet Research.  English Journal, 89(7))

Megasite: lots of links  http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~janzb/place/geography.htm

Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (extensive bibliography):


Center for American Places http://www.americanplaces.org/intro.html

City Lore; Placematters http://www.placematters.net/

Wisconsin Folks http://arts.state.wi.us/static/folkdir/index.htm

Ecotone: Writing About Place http://www.magpienest.org/scgi-bin/wiki.pl

Sense of Place   http://www.carts.org/

Place Matters Project http://www.placematters.net/

My History is Your History: studies of Chicago neighborhoods


Literature and Place site  http://www.literatureandplace.org.uk/project.htm/project.htm

Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment http://www.asle.umn.edu/

ARC Place Research Network http://www.utas.edu.au/placenet/

Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes To Town  http://www.pbs.org/itvs/storewars/

Quality of Life: lots of links to different sites rating quality of life http://www.econdata.net/content_quality.html

Michael Perry’s web site (Population: 485) website http://www.sneezingcow.com/

Larry Watson’s web site http://larry-watson.com/

Montana Heritage Project www.edheritage.org/articles/senseofplace.htm

Fieldworking (for the textbook, see above) www.fieldworking.com/home.html

Pedagogy of Place Guide www.uky.edu/RGS/AppalCenter/publications/ docs/Pedagogy-of-Place.pdf

Scholastic site on Neighborhood Folklore teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mff/folklore_your.htm

Star Tribune: Voices of the Land Project  http://www.startribune.com/news/variety/voices/

W. W. Kellogg Foundation Study: Perceptions of Rural America in the Media


Street as Method: Teaching documentary and observation techniques http://www.xcp.bfn.org/streetasmethod1.html

Course on surburbia:http://www.dickinson.edu/~gill/images/suburbs.pdf

Lots of links on topics related to suburbia:  http://cscl.cla.umn.edu/courses/5256/links.html

Soul of Los Angeles Project http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/religion_online/commonground/

Betti-Sue Hertz and Lydia Yee Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960


Street-Level Youth Media: Chicago youth study their neighborhoods http://streetlevel.iit.edu/

Geo-literacy: Forging New Ground http://glef.org/php/article.php?id=Art_1042&key=037

Document Durham: Neighborhood Projects http://cds.aas.duke.edu/docprojects/durham/ek_powe.html

Exploring Your Community (grades 6-8). http://school.discovery.com/lessonplans/programs/harlemdiary/

Webquest: studying an urban neighborhood




Virtual field trips: online explorations of places

Bellan, J., & Scheurman, G.  (2001).  Actual and virtual reality: Making the most of field trips.

In R. Stevens, R. (Ed.).  Homespun: Teaching local history in grades 6-12.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.  

Virtual field trip to Ft. Snelling, Minneapolis, MN:  http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/hfs/tour/tour.html

Urban Field Trip: Lincoln, Nebraska’s Historic Haymarket  http://incolor.inetnebr.com/gnelson/haymarket.html

Virtual tours of lots of sites  http://www.theteachersguide.com/virtualtours.html

Lots of virtual field trips  http://www.pitt.edu/~poole/VirtualFieldTrips.html

Lots of virtual field trips  http://eduscapes.com/tap/topic35.htm

Lots of virtual field trips http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/virtproj.html

Virtual tours: Chicago http://www.chicagotraveler.com/chicago_virtual_tours.htm

Videoconference Field Trips, Berrien County School District  http://www.twice.cc/fieldtrips.html

Monroe County: Virtual Field Trips  http://scnc.misd.k12.mi.us/distlearning/fldtrip/

WWLearnNet: Field Trips  http://www.cesa4.k12.wi.us/programs-services/WWLEARN/videofieldtrips/list.htm

Virtual field trips: Northern Michigan  http://www.nmecatm.net/VTA/resources.html


Lesson Plans

Sacred Space: Learning About and Creating Meaningful Public Spaces


Perception of Place http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/04/g912/place.html

The Evolution of Cultural Landscape  http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/06/g912/cultural.html

Explore the Spatial Patterns of Your Hometown


Cultural Symbols and the Characteristics of Place http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/06/g68/symbols.html

School Space: An Analysis of Map Perceptions http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/02/g68/space.html

Sprawl: The National and Local Situation http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/12/g912/sprawlnational.html

There's No Place Like Home: Examining Tourism and Cultural Opportunities in Your State


Places in the West http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/places/

Spaces and Places (younger students) http://www.getty.edu/artsednet/resources/Sampler/b.html

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