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.

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’.

 

 

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.

Using Art to Teach Theme

I was always very proud of my hanging files of laminated images of clothing, climate, and food which I used when I taught French as a foreign language.  Back in the day.    I never thought twice about showing a print of a Matisse painting to practice creating dialogues on hobbies.

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However, although I decorate my class room with various prints, postcards and original student art and photographs; I hardly ever use them as a springboard to discussion in my intermediate to advanced ELL courses.

Until I read the following:

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By the way, over the years Jeff Wilhelm’s ideas have greatly inspired my teaching which, of course, benefit my students’ learning.

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We are currently reading American Born Chinese by G.L.Yang,  and Wilhelm’s lesson plan on visuals and identity seemed taylor-made for our discussions on growing up.  The  students completed a see, think, wonder chart,  and I was surprised at how much guidance they needed in ‘close’ reading of an image even though we’d already practiced noticing detail in photographs.

My takeaway was obvious.  There is a need for more analysis of visuals.  I have chosen several images to promote thinking and writing on how culture shapes who we are.  I am looking forward to a lively discussion. My students from countries such as France, Spain, Angola, Russia and South Korea are well aware of the small changes they have had to make in order to fit in to an American international school.

Thanksgiving: a celebration of gratitude

Thanksgiving is full of rich learning experiences. This year my high school ELL class sat in the cozy, colorful elementary school section of the library.  Some even dared to relax on the carpet.

“Are you sitting comfortably”? asked Ms Ilana as she showed us the cover of The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper.  I , meanwhile, experienced a flashback to the welcoming, warm opening of the BBC’s ‘Listen With Mother’…

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The students settled into a quiet, listening mode as our narrator told of the grandfather who explained to his grandson the universal meaning of kindness.  We did not discuss the message, but held on to our thoughts as we completed thanksgiving cutouts on what we are thankful for.

On our way out, we stapled our gratitude to the thankful  tree.

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The idea for the next part of the lesson  came from McGill’s timely post ‘An Open Mind’

I asked each student where she or he is from and as  I teach in an international school the replies were diverse.  While viewing  ‘The DNA Journey’, the students jotted down ideas on an index card to help them articulate ideas for the discussion and written response.

My ELLs were shocked and intrigued; pointing out that we are so quick to define our differences rather than our similarities.

As one student responded:

“Just by spiting in a tube you can know where you are REALLY from.”

 

Ready Steady Write #2

The final resource to help me upgrade my ELL Writer’s Workshop has arrived

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The first quarter has been spent on short, personal narratives and poems.  We will now focus on the more formal persuasive writing,  and I noticed that Chapter 4 (p.97) is devoted to those writing moves.

I look forward to providing feedback other than “How can you develop this idea?”

Test Prep and a Rubber Duck

I always embed study strategies and skills into my ELL Reading and Writing courses.

One of the best ways to consolidate reviewing for tests etc. is to explain the material to a younger person.  Well, thanks to Daniel Pink, I upgraded this strategy.  After listening to his PInkcast on how talking to a simple bath toy can help you solve problems; I rushed out to buy miniature rubber ducks.

In class we viewed the Pinkcast and discussed the benefits of thinking aloud to a duck when there are no younger siblings around.  I then handed out the bath toys.

Needless to say we all had to listen to the Rubber Duck Symphony for a few minutes before moving on with the lesson.

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