During the Slice of Life Story Challenge, my friend, Erin, blogged about using visual images as a means to reflection, I've been thinking about how the arts affect thinking and learning. You can read her post here. One strategy we've practiced each day during the writing institute at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) is drawing in literacy quadrants to brainstorm, connect or review.
Lara Zielinsky, a workshop participant last year, reflects on her own experience at ACA using the quadrants to visually process during last year's writing institute here. At first the literacy quadrant strategy work Dr. Elsie Olan and Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan reminded me of a strategy I used to use with readers I called four square. I used the tool to rehearse reading strategies that proficient reader research revealed: visualizing, connecting, predicting, etc. (Pearson). I used it assess readers and to review shared text before moving on.
One of the differences in the two strategies is visual. We draw in each square on the literacy quadrant. Earlier in the week Jeff said, "we draw in this class because I want you to remember what it's like to be a kid...if you remember them [students] as kids, you won't get lost." Our kids come to many things for the first time in our classes, even in high school. There is something about drawing that brings us back to those first times and our own approximations.
Drawing, like writing, is thinking made visual. Our quadrants become nonlinguistic representations of our ideas and much like young writers--or as Steve Moline would say, "visual thinking." Thinkers become composers when they use their visualizations to tell the stories.
Today we used our visualizations to reflect on our assignment. Our assignment--submitted digitally--for the ten-day writing institute includes:
- a memorable writing moment (narrative)
- a procedure (how to, technical writing)
- a lesson or unit plan that addresses a problem of practice
- an argument that connects to our chosen problem of practice
- an informative piece (the argument topic recast in different genre)
- an experiential piece of writing based on our observations of art students at work
- a 6-10 minute showcase presentation (done in person, not digital)
To review and plan for the writing, we drew four of our ideas on today's quadrants. After we drew, volunteers shared out with the whole group. I've noticed, in my own classroom that if I maintain the pattern of share with a partner and then share out, students say more. We did share with partners first today and I noticed I missed that additional rehearsal. Here are my drawings:
I am focusing on the Art of Analysis project I did with students this past year. In students' final letters to me many students wrote about missing the connection between our curriculum and the project. My intent was to teach students about art movements and grow their background knowledge and continue to work on writing analysis of poetry. Both would prepare students for further work in IB as they will learn about literary movements and be expected to compose commentaries--oral and written-- about poetic texts. But, and that's a big one, the project won't prepare (or engage them) if they do not understand the goals and the purpose. So, I'm working on clarifying both in ways I hope students will better understand.
The six pieces of writing do not have to be connected. In fact, the personal narrative I planned isn't. It also isn't the narrative I now know I need to write. The narrative that connects is a piece I blog briefly about two students who visited my classroom on a day that we were discussion Pop Art in preparation for our next pieces in our altered art books. I wrote "Art Engagements" a couple of months ago; find it here.
The procedural piece I've completed; it's a screencast on how to use Google Scholar. I posted it to Screencast-o-matic here.
The lesson plan, analyzing word choice, with all of it's pieces is in revision.
The argument idea, the lower-right quadrant on my drawing, came from something my friend, Donalyn Miller, wrote about this fall on her blog. Her post "No More Language Arts and Crafts" articulates in a real and authentic way the frustration of a teacher-parent who sees instructional practice gone awry. It is a piece of writing that has resonated with me all year. It will inspire my argument piece, but my argument is not Miller's.
I want to write the case for infusing the visual arts in language arts. I want to write about how arts integration, purposeful arts integration--not crafting kleenex boxes in a incomplete and misguided attempt to build community-- builds cognitive capacity and achievement. I want to take a walk with Eliot Eisner and have a cup of coffee with Ruth Hubbard and Karen Ernst.
Eisner, Elliot W. The arts and the creation of mind. Yale University Press, 2002.
Hubbard, Ruth Shagoury, and Karen Ernst. New Entries: Learning by Writing and Drawing. Heinemann, 361 Hanover St., Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912, 1996.