Miwa Matreyek is an artist who performs live, projecting her shadow into worlds created through digital animation. Her work is very surreal and multifaceted; it includes elements of performing live, taking photographs, gathering information and research, curating music and creating digital animation among other things.
Students responded well to her performance of This World Made Itself (here is a clip). As students watched, they were to focus on emotions, themes and moments of transformation in the play. This would lead into a discussion and assignment later.
After the performance, Miwa answered student questions. One of the PAGES teacher-partners took some notes over her process which can be viewed here.
I took some notes as well, and here are a few things I thought were interesting.
- Matreyek started out as a physics major and was “amazed by the world and physics and wanted to ‘feel’ the process in a different way.” She felt she could do this better through the arts instead of the sciences.
- She then went to grad school for animation and was paired with a theater major through a class collaboration.
- Her art is a process of experimentation where she takes several approaches to see what works. It is a process of “tinkering, playing and inventing” with “plenty” of challenges.
- She was inspired by natural history, the earth from the sky while traveling by plane, and dioramas in the Natural History museum.
Matreyek’s personal history is fascinating because it defies the stereotypes of the artist and the artistic process being disparate from “left-brained” fields. In addition, her eclectic education provides an interesting context for considering the benefits of interdisciplinary studies. Through art, she was able to experience science in a new and engaging way.
Her process is interesting because it shows the artist as a critical thinker, problem-solver and innovator. These are all twenty-first century skills coveted by those in the field of education. I think it was valuable for students to hear how these skills are used across fields to navigate issues and find success.
Leslie and I worked together on the “Zoom In” strategy using the same content and goals as I had used with Laura Laborde. However, I have streamlined the process, and I think it works a little better as listed here. In addition, I tried using the same image and “zooming in” on another part. The strategy seemed to flow better with the image this way.
Here is the updated version:
1. Introduce 3-2-1 Strategy and complete for “injustice”
2. Have students get out a piece of paper and put up the first Power Point slide for the image.
3. Write down notes for what you see in the image
5. Write down any questions you have about the image
7. Write down what you think the image means
9. Reveal the next part of the image
10. Write down new things you see in the image
12. Write down any new questions you have about the image
14. Look back at what you think the image “meant” the first time and revise where your thinking has changed
16. Complete the process until the entire image is revealed
17. Discuss how students thinking about the image changed throughout the process. Consider how these skills will translate to texts:
- Looking closely and carefully at texts- individual words, phrases, sentences.
- Looking at chunks of the text and forming a flexible hypothesis as one is reading.
- Stopping to ask meaningful questions and seeking to answer them as one is reading.
A couple of notes about this. I am learning that the 3-2-1 strategy is a difficult concept for students to grasp and needs to be explicitly taught, discussed and practiced to be effective as a measurement of students thinking. I think this is ok, but time is needed the first time it is introduced in order for students to understand the concept and expectations. I would be interested to see how it works once students have had this experience.
Here is the Power Point I used with Harris: Zoom for Leslie Harris
I worked with Kristina Claytor and Allie Sberna this week using a strategy learned/modified from the Pages program at the Wexner Center. This learning activity is one I have utilized many times, and it was a pleasure to work with two patient, flexible and talented teachers trying it out with a new group of students who are learning to “look deeper” and explore thematic connections.
The “product” of the strategy is the creation of a single sentence theme statement that is supported by multiple pieces of evidence from an image students have studied. Here is the image from which students gathered information.
Here are the learning targets provided to students:
- I can look carefully and critically.
- I can contribute meaningful ideas to a collaborative conversation.
- I can write a theme statement that reflects a deep understanding of a theme.
I usually introduce themes to students as topics (or “big ideas” if you prefer) plus an opinion about that topic. Here are some of the “big ideas” or topics students were able to come up with using this strategy:
We explained a theme is one of these big ideas/topics above, plus what they think an author/artist is saying about this topic (his/her opinion).
Example: Topic (Creativity) + Opinion (can require seeing/doing what others may not yet understand).
So a theme statement might be: Creativity can require seeing and doing what others may not yet understand.
Students might support this theme statement with evidence from the text by saying that, “The man represents creativity because he is the only one ‘seeing’ what is in the distance, so he is the only one willing to escape the box. The others remain curled in the containers because they don’t believe in or have knowledge of this new understanding.”
This is a very difficult concept for students; it takes practice. They may have to look back at and revise the theme statements after the teacher collects them and gives feedback. However, this is also an essential skill for literary response.
The following is a handout I have given to teachers to explain the activity step by step. I have also attached the instructions as a downloadable document at the bottom of the post.
Extended Looking Activity: Learning Goals
This lesson is a scaffolding tool to help students understand theme in literary works. The learning goal is to have students be able to write a “thesis statement” for what they think the piece means; they must base it on evidence they have gathered from the piece itself.
Extended Looking Instructions
- Look and observe the art – you can move around, get closer etc. Write down observations and questions about it (5 min.)
- Discuss the visual image. What is happening in the photo? Here you are noting details and making observations, no talk of meaning yet (5 min)
- Make connections to and ask questions about the art in writing. What are your thoughts about the piece, what does it make you think of, does it remind you of anything etc. (5 min.)
- Discuss the connections students found in the piece and continue to have students use the evidence they have gathered to support their perspective ( 5 min.)
- Introduce and model a theme statement for students. Have students write a “theme statement” for what they think the piece of art means and support it with evidence from the art itself (10 min.)
- Tell them the name and a little about the artist. (I do this the next day and build suspense!) Does this change your perspective on the piece? Are you glad you know? (They usually are not.)
- Before step five, have students write short form poetry about the art or a piece of narrative
- Talk about the process of how the art was created and use it to model students own work in writing after the activity
Connections to help students make:
- Literature and art are very similar and we can talk about them the same way and go through the same process of analysis with them
- An artist or writer has an intent, but viewer/reader also bring their own experience to the table to create “meaning”
- This activity shows how argument is developed because students needed to use support for their ideas
This activity was modified from the 2011-2012 PAGES summer workshop for teacher-partners at the Wexner Center, and photography used to conduct the activity was created by Robert and Shana ParkHarrison from The Architect’s Brother collection.
Here is the printable resource Extended Viewing Activity 2
After I left Laura’s classroom, she did some really interesting work on her own. First of all, she had students reflect on the experience in a number of ways and shared these reflections with me. Here is a picture of the discussion guide she gave to students:
The responses she received showed students making many connections from the activity to working with texts. For example, students said such text-based skills might be “interpreting” what is not directly explained by an author, “hypothesizing” about what will happen in the future of a text, and looking for “context clues” in texts to determine meaning.
Students also identified that as they continued to look closer and for longer in the activity, they were able to think of the “deeper meaning,” look more “critically” and “wonder” about more things. In addition, one student said that when he doesn’t understand something he would “ask meaningful questions” about it to help him understand.
Laura followed this reflection by reading the back cover of Of Mice and Men with students and discussing what they might hypothesize the book will be about. Students made connections to Naturalism and the book cover to make predictions.
Laura plans to continue to build on this activity through examining foreshadowing in the text and predicting future events with students as they read.
I worked with Laura Laborde in her classroom using a strategy with the following learning targets:
- I can observe closely and critically.
- I can form a flexible hypothesis.
- I can ask meaningful questions.
These targets are similar to, and could be used as scaffolding for, close reading. In addition, the activity addresses speaking and listening skills. Laura and I worked with images instead of text, but I think this same technique is transferable to text. We also started with the 3-2-1 strategy, and students used the word “looking” to explore thinking about that concept.
There are still a few bugs to work out with this strategy (we only tried it twice), so if other teachers try it, I would love to hear variations!
We used a piece of art from The Great Depression because Laura is introducing Of Mice and Men right now to students, and the image reinforces how individuals were disempowered (like Lenny, Crooks, Curley’s wife and others) during The Great Depression.
The strategy is as follows:
1. Show a piece of an image.
2. Ask students to write down what they observe
3. Discuss what students wrote down
4. Have students write a hypothesis/interpretation for what the image might be and ask a question about the image, specifically, something they “wonder” about
5. Share and discuss
6. Show a second piece of the image
7. Repeat step two and three (observation-share)
8. Ask them to revisit the original hypothesis and revise it evaluating how thinking has changed and come up with another thing they are “wondering” now
9. Share and discuss
10. Show a third piece of the image and repeat the process, but this time, maybe ask students to deepen the thinking about the hypothesis focusing on not just what the image is, but also on what it means. You can begin to talk about themes in this way
11. Cont. showing parts of the image and repeated the process until it is totally revealed to students
Have a final reflective conversation about how students thinking changed and why it was important to form a hypothesis but also be flexible throughout the process
12. After this process, students were brought back to the 3-2-1 strategy as part of the reflection. I am going to talk more about this in the second post about the “Zoom In” strategy which Laura implemented on her own.
Here is a Power Point with the images used for this activity: Zoom In, Great Depression Activity
This activity was modified from Making Thinking Visible.
Last week I attended the Pages teacher orientation and professional development at the Wexner Center with Mandy Fetty, a teacher-partner this year, and the teaching artists we worked with had some ideas for sparking students’ creativity and interest in writing. I will try to post some of these throughout the year.
This first learning activity would be helpful in acclimating students to narrative, which I think is the first unit in each grade level’s current curriculum plan.
Here is the activity:
We were asked to bring in landscapes, living creatures and inanimate objects from magazines.
Then, we put them all in the middle of a table and randomly picked from the larger pile, making sure to choose pictures from each category. In discussion afterward, we all agreed that choosing one’s own images created an expectation that limited creativity- so this might be a situation to avoid with students.
We used these to create a scene by placing the pictures on top of one another- no glue required.
The artist then asked us to create a story from the picture and write it out in ten minutes. Before this part of the activity, it might make sense to review the narrative vocabulary and ask students to focus on a specific aspect (for example narrative arch, imagery etc.). Melissa Larisch created this useful Academic Vocabulary for Narrative resource that follows along with the ACT Common Core rubric North is planning on using for the quarterly assessment.
To further collaborate and expand on ideas for writing, we discussed having students rotate around the collages first and discuss possible ideas or themes in the pictures. We also discussed having students write a line for each one and then rotate to the next one. After the activity, one could also have the students underline the protagonist, imagery, point of highest conflict etc. and turn it in as a formative assessment. In addition, it might be helpful to discuss the process and see how students came up with ideas before they wrote to give a chance for reflection.
If you try this one, let me know how it goes in your classroom or send me pictures of your collages or pieces of writing so that I can post them on the blog. Also here is a link to the Pages blog where you will find numerous resources for language arts educators.