Tagged critical thinking

Visual to Text Literacy: Using Engaging Images for Metacognitive Gains

Created by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison and available at this link:  http://parkeharrison.com/architect-s-brother

This is the image used in Tim Starkey’s lesson.  Created by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison and available at this link:
http://parkeharrison.com/architect-s-brother

For a moment, ponder and name the thinking skills involved in comprehension of material.

Regardless of the content, you might have come up with ideas like: gathering observations, making connections, and asking meaningful questions among other things.

These are all strategies teachers use for reading comprehension, and although students might be exposed to these types of thinking regularly, do they really understand what they are doing or why?

The “Extended Looking” lesson I have been using in teachers’ classrooms addresses the metacognitive skills needed to build comprehension through two methods:

1.  Exposing them to the explicit language of comprehension so they may use these skills consciously in the future for other purposes.

2.  Providing practice with these strategies to build confidence for future endeavors.

Here are the learning targets for the Extended Looking lesson I used in Tim Starkey’s class last week.

  1. I can observe closely and critically.
  2. I can actively listen and contribute meaningful ideas to a conversation that results in deeper learning for others and myself.
  3. I can ask meaningful questions to help to drive dialogue.
  4. I can write a statement supported by evidence that reflects a deep understanding of a theme.

I have posted about this activity previously, but I have expanded on the resources and applications for teachers.  Here are the materials I provided to Tim Starkey when we used the Extended Looking method in his AP 12 classroom (These are also provided as a downloadable copy in the attachments at the end of this post):

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Extended Looking Lesson Instructions

*Note: timing on this is tentative and depends upon the class and the conversation.

  1. Review and discuss the learning targets
  2. Put the image on the overhead.  Ask students to look closely at the art – you can move around, get closer etc. Write down observations and try to list at least ten (5 min.)
    • Prompt students to “keep looking” even when they think they are done
    • Ask them to begin with the obvious and then look closer for the details
    • Consider textures, colors, posturing of figures etc.
  3. Discuss the visual image.  What is happening in the photo/image?  Here you are noting details and making observations, no talk of meaning yet (5 min)
    • Recognize and label “meaning statements” and then redirect back to gathering evidence
    • Explain that gathering evidence ultimately leads to better conclusions
  4. Make connections to and ask questions about the art in writing. What are your thoughts about the piece, what does it remind you of, can you connect it to anything etc.  (5 min.)
    • Prompt students to consider text, image, film, music and personal connections
    • Prompt students to ask meaningful questions that help their peers to think deeper into the image
  5. Discuss the connections/questions students found in the piece and continue to have students use the evidence they have gathered to support their perspective (5 min.)
    • At this point begin asking, “What makes you say that?”  Seek to help students explain their perspective; ask them to point back to the evidence in the image when possible
    • Possibly write these on the board (or have a student do this) so that everyone has a visual.
  6. 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.)
    • In this context, the theme formula is: Topic + Opinion; another way to say this is what is the piece about (in a single word) what is the author/artist trying to say in regard to this topic

    i.     EX: Topic (creativity) + Opinion (it leads to alienation when ideas are “before their time”)
    ii.     Theme Statement: Creativity can lead one to be alienated when his or her ideas are not                                           yet accepted or recognized by those around them because they are too forward thinking.

    • Collect these to formatively assess students learning of the objectives
  1. Optional: On a different day, tell them the name and a little about the artist. Does this change your perspective on the piece?  Are you glad you know?  (They usually are not.)
  2. Reflect: What surprised you about this activity?  What did you learn? How does it relate to ELA and to reading specifically?  What skills did you practice?  How will you use them in the future?
    • This is a very important aspect of the activity.  Students have to have time to recognize the learning that has taken place and ponder how it will apply to the tasks they are being asked to do in the future.
    • This would be an excellent place to discuss and compare where students gained and where they did not to guide future instruction as well.

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Extensions

  • 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

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Connections to help students make during the activity

(and especially during the reflection)

  • Literature and visual 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;” however, whoever’s meaning it is, it must be supportable with evidence, and it must be logical for anyone else to trust or understand it.  (This is relevant to literary analysis and argumentative writing.)
  • Students can help one another learn by building on thoughts and ideas.  This can help to clarify thinking as well.
  • These processes: observation, making connections and asking questions and building meaning (individually and collaboratively) are processes that are used outside of the classroom.  They are problem solving and thinking processes used in every field from science to art.

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Probing questions/statements for the teacher

  • What makes you say that?
  • Can you show me where you see that evidence (ask them to come to the image)?
  • Do you all agree with this idea?
  • Does anyone disagree with this idea?
  • What else do you see?
  • That is an interesting idea.  Can you tell me more about…

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Teacher Resources:

“Zoom In” with Leslie Harris

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.

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3. Write down notes for what you see in the image

4.  Discuss

5.  Write down any questions you have about the image

6.  Discuss

7.  Write down what you think the image means

8.  Discuss

9.  Reveal the next part of the image

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10.  Write down new things you see in the image

11.  Discuss

12.  Write down any new questions you have about the image

13.  Discuss

14.  Look back at what you think the image “meant” the first time and revise where your thinking has changed

15.  Discuss

16.  Complete the process until the entire image is revealed

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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

Socratic Seminar: Organization and Surface Features

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Socratic Seminar

Ellie Wiseman conducted a Socratic Seminar in her AP classes this week where students were asked to study the writerly skills used by Rebecca Skloot in the text The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Her handout reads, “The book is an example of what good writers do.  We should take it as an example text to follow when we write; therefore, we are going to analyze the book in multiple ways, and we are going to do so in Socratic Seminar format so we can build on one another’s knowledge, ideas and insights.”

The seminars lasted for four days and focused on the following areas, one each day:

  • Rhetorical Situation where students discussed: exigence, audience, and purpose
  • Appeals and Tone where students discussed: appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos
  • Organization and Surface Features where students discussed: organization, diction, imagery, and figurative language
  • Narrative Techniques where students discussed: dialogue, setting, structure, pacing, description and multiple plot lines among other factors

Each day, students in the inner circle were “speakers” who answered and extrapolated on predetermined questions and the one’s on the outer circle were “listeners” who took notes which they turned in to the teacher at the end of each period.

The day I visited, they were discussing “organization and surface features.”  Students analyzed the author’s choice to utilize a chronological story with, in a student’s words, “blasts from the past” interspersed through the text.  Students supposed that when there was a flashback or shift in chronological structure, it was to show how the past affected what was happening in the “present” of the book.  Others suggested that the shift in time structure was utilized to emphasize important plot or character elements in the text.

The conversation I heard directly related to the CCS about pacing, multiple plot lines and narrative structure in a very organic way.

In addition, analyzing the writerly choices of published authors provides a wonderful context for students to study what “real writers” do and why they do it in order to improve their own writing.  It is a relevant way to examine a text beyond critical analysis for literary themes.

Here are some additional resources:

  • Here is Rebecca Skoot’s website with numerous resources for teachers studying the book with students.
  • Here is a source about the use of mentor texts and prompts for better student writing: Deeper Writing: Quick Writes and Mentor Texts to Illuminate New Possibilities by Robin Holland.  The mentor texts are sometimes based in form and sometimes theme, but they always provide a wealth of inspiration.  I have had the pleasure on numerous occasions to write based upon Robin’s prompts and mentor texts, and it is always an engaging and revealing experience for me.  Holland taught at the elementary level, but even her picture book choices are often challenging in regards to theme and inspiring in regards to writing style; she uses many of them with adults as well as children.
  • Here is a link to Holland’s blog.  She provides many useful resources to educators of students from kindergarten through high school.  I especially enjoyed, or was touched by, this post which gathered texts based in the theme of death and dying.

You Failed, and It was Awesome!

From Meet the Robinson’s:

“You failed, and it was awesome!”

“Exceptional!”

“Oustanding”

“When you fail you are learning, with success, not so much.”

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Courtesy of ELA instructional coach Ellen Weibel, I watched Candace Smith show this clip from Meet the Robinson’s  (which is also linked on her class website) while discussing the Engineering process in a class where science and English combine.

She also explained the engineering design process pictured here:

Engineering Cycle

In the co-taught class, students are encouraged to take risks using the challenge-based learning approach outlined here.  To support the process, students each have a Chromebook purchased by his or her parents for a $125.00 payment each year over the two years of the program.

One main premise of the course is that students are not “punished” for trying and failing.  The class is based on large-scale, real-world problems and the processes and strategies students use to solve them is more important than the final “product” being successful.  In other words, the process is being assessed, not the product being produced.

The acceptance of failure does not mean lack of rigor; it may even be a requirement of rigor.  The “design process” is a collaborative, creative, problem-solving venture which requires critical thinking and interpersonal skills necessary for life, and it includes a necessary place for revised thinking and second tries.

Accepting, even encouraging, failure creates something else in students too: grit.  Grit is the number one indicator of success in students’ futures (see articles and resources listed below).

So, how can we help our students to fail, and then try again?

Additional resources on the importance of grit:

Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.

Extended Looking: Using Images to Build Theme Statements

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.

Garden of Selves

This image is from Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison. Here is a link to the original image online.

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:

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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.

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Extended Looking Instructions

  1. Look and observe the art – you can move around, get closer etc. Write down observations and questions about it (5 min.)
  2. 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)
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.)

Extensions:

  • 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

“Zoom In” Strategy Part II: Reflection and Application to Text

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:

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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.

“Zoom In” Strategy Part I: Observations and Building a Hypothesis

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. 

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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 

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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

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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

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This is ALMOST the full image. Click on the link to the complete Power Point to see the whole thing.

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.