English Language Learners 28 • Science 31 • Foreign Language 32 • Multidisciplinary 34 • English Language Arts 36 • Reading 38
Alligators in the Sewers? Really?
By Joy Egbert
A large number of alligators, flushed down
toilets as babies, have grown up and prolifer-
ated in the bowels of New York City. Over the
years, they have grown in number and size
and frequently terrorize those foolish enough
to visit the subways.
© ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/SPFOTO © ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/GEOFFERYHOLMAN
T he tale above has been making its way around the
Internet ever since there’s been an Internet. It’s wild
enough to capture the attention of the average sixth
grader, and because it’s been published on the Internet, it’s
remarkably believable to many of them—especially English
language learners (ELLs).
Students often believe and repeat word for word what
they read, see, and hear on the Internet regardless of whether the material was meant as a joke or a hoax. ELLs in U.S.
classrooms may be even more susceptible to false messages
than native speakers for a variety of reasons. A lack of exposure, misunderstanding about the veracity of Internet-based
information, a lack of direct markers on the Internet that
indicate whether an item is intended as a joke or a farce, and
cultural backgrounds based on different values can make it
difficult for ELL students to vet what they read.
evaluation, inference, interpretation, and self-regulation.
To do so, they must learn to use the Internet and other
electronic resources responsibly and with the necessary
It’s not unheard of for students to discuss outrageous
content from the Internet in class or with their peers. What
teacher hasn’t heard students exchange rumors about one
urban legend or another? Why not use these conversations
as a springboard to a lesson on media literacy? The alligator story above, for example, can become a media literacy
lesson addressing technology skills as well as content-area
knowledge on laws, reptiles, and big-city life. In the process, students can practice reading, writing, and other skills
included in the sixth grade curriculum.
An Urban Legend Lesson
The purpose of the lesson would be for students to learn to:
Media Literacy and 21st-Century Skills
Media literacy is the ability not only to understand what
you read, hear, and see but also to evaluate and make good
decisions about what various media present. To become
more media literate, teachers and their students need to
learn and practice critical thinking skills such as analysis,
• Judge the credibility of sources
• Identify conclusions, reasons, and assumptions
• Judge the quality of an argument
• Develop and defend a position on an issue
• Ask appropriate clarifying questions