Using ‘Guernica’ to Promote Visible Thinking and Discussion

As we were finishing Ishmael Beah’s powerful memoir A Long Way Gone; I remembered Picasso’s Guernica.

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So I decided to guide our discussion of one of the final chapters (2nd draft reading (Kelly Gallagher) by using visible thinking prompts in order to analyze the painting:

What do you see, think and wonder?

Students worked in groups as they thoughtfully studied the painting, and responded to each other’s comments.

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This was a different, rich pairing of texts.

My Last PD Books: on Learning and Writing

I plan to teach new material in the final couple of months of my career as an ELL classroom teacher.  To this end I ordered 2 books.

1. So much has been written lately on learning how to learn and how to revise: the myth of the ubiquitous yellow highlighter and simply rereading the texts.  I will present my ELLs as well as my 9th grade Skills class with a compilation of revision suggestions.  In order to create a list of all lists, I have begun reading make it stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

2.  My ELL Writing Workshop includes assignments such as composing a rambling autobiography, a poem to a friend, the perfect focused paragraph,  as well as creating a compelling P.S.A.  I decided that both my students and I need a new challenge – to write an essay.  To help me with this I bought The Journey is Everything – Teaching Essays that Students Want to Write for People who want to Read Them.  I look forward to our journey.

 

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Your One Word and One Sentence

During an ELL Writers’ Workshop, we answered the following questions:

Who are we and what do we believe in?

I followed Larry Ferlazzo’s lesson plan and the results were revealing.

Some students found it frustrating to ‘arrive’ at their word by completing the 3 part Venn diagram.  However, those who persevered were surprised that ‘visible thinking’ helped them identify their word.

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The students then went on to come up with a sentence that encapsulates what they’d like people to say about them.  Once again, I followed Ferlazzo’s lesson design.  Students commented that they are too young, don’t yet know what they want to do, and don’t see themselves as having accomplished much in their lives. After a discussion, gentle prodding and encouragement; they realized that they have passions and beliefs.

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One student came to her ‘ah ha’ moment only after her friends reminded her that, although she is now in 9th grade,  she still regales them with stories from 6th grade. She laughed and willingly agreed to their/her one sentence:

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I find it amusing that her one word is ‘journey’.

 

 

Remember the Reader: a note to our student writers

Many years ago, I heard a talk given by Heidi Jacobs at a NESA Conference in Bangkok.  Before she began, Heidi introduced us to 2 empty cream colored padded dining room chairs behind her on the stage.  Heidi went on to explain that those chairs were there to remind us that our target audience is always our students.  (Today I’d put out a row of them.)

I was reminded of Heidi when I viewed  Daniel Pink’s Pinkast on the empty chair.  He explains that the empty chair represents the “most important person in the room who is not in the room.”  In Heidi’s case it was the student, of course.  Pink then goes on to explain that an empty chair can be useful in our work, especially when we write.

I was intrigued.

So I went online and ordered a  box of plastic miniature chairs.

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The next writing class, I viewed the video with my ELLs but paused it after Pink talks about the empty chair in meetings.  It did not take long for my ELls to understand  that the empty chair represented their reader.

Next, they eagerly and energetically chose a chair and got back to work.

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So now, when conferencing, all I need to do is point to a chair if I am confused or need clarification.

By the way, pease notice one student’s reader, rubber duck , strategically perched on his chair.

World Read Aloud Day

Our librarian, Ms Ilana, helped us celebrate World Read Aloud Day.  As we are reading A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, Ilana chose to read us Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.  My high school ELLs often think they are too cool for a story.  However, they sat quietly and heard the uplifting story of a young boy from Ghana who overcomes his deformity, realizes his dream  and  fights for the rights of the disabled in his country.

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I had begun our lesson by showing the moving Nike ad: ‘RE2SPECT’, in celebration of Derek Jeter’s career.

I wonder if my students got the connection?

 

Homework Poster Presentations

A lot is being written about the value of assigning homework.

I explain the assignment (usually a first draft reading), and make sure my ELLs have everything they need in order to successfully complete it.  I often tell them how much time they should set aside in order to compete the task.  Next lesson, the students deepen their understanding by sharing their ideas in the form of chat stations, guided discussions or answer an open question using a backchannel such as TodaysMeet.

We are going to read A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah;  and  in order to give the students background knowledge, I assigned an Upfront article on child soldiers.  The goal of the reading was to notice big ideas and confusions.

This time I tried one of Larry Ferlazzo’s TOK homework presentations.  In class I grouped the students, and each group had to clarify one section of the text by designing a thought-provoking poster using each other’s notes.

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Then each student in the group was responsible for deepening their peers’ understanding by presenting her/his poster.  The goal of the presenter was to infer, question, and add to their “first draft” knowledge.

The students collaborated well, produced interesting posters and some insight.  The audience, for their part, had to generate high level questions.

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Needless to say, this was a great way for me to check their understanding as well as their ability to go beyond the text. However, we need to continue practicing crafting high level questions.

I will be using more of Ferlazzo’s homework presentations and hope they will engage my students as much as this one.