It was amazing.
You know, as a teacher, when you have those AMAZING days..
Ok- they’re probably more like amazing moments… I wish I could play the video in my head of my feelings of amazement… feeling of ” wow… they’re all engaged… all 30 of them… all at one time… on the right task… and the thinking! The thinking that was happening… it was nothing short of… yep… amazing…
Here’s the story line.
In my role as a high school inclusion teacher, one of the roles I take is conducting the discussion about political cartoons at the opening of our block. (Not like we haven’t had some good material available or anything…)
One of my SGOs for 2015-16 was to gauge the improvement of understanding the components and messages within political cartoons; current and past. I gathered my pre-test and post test data and yes, all turned out well. But not the amazing part… not yet.
As in many schools there are those who truly believe we can use data to drive and (yes) improve instruction and thus, student learning.
And yes, we have those who are, shall we say, less convinced…
I took my findings to my co-teacher and shared that while the students’ learning had indeed met my goals, in reviewing the student critiques, many of them appeared unable to connect to the feeling the cartoonist was trying to convey. They were great at identifying the components; the symbols their meanings, the intent of the message. But they couldn’t identify any feelings the cartoonist may have had or had intended to project or elicit.
I explained my plan for the last six weeks of school: to use the cartoons to teach the students how to look at the cartoon and try to pull out the artists’ possible emotional intention. Would he be on board? He shook his head in agreement.
I immediately turned around and said to the class:
“Hi all– Happy Monday! iPads down, phones away, eyes up here…(I wait…)
Ok, iPads down and away, phones down and away…(I wait… and use one of those ‘eyes-on-you’ to cue the class that we’re still waiting…) (giggling, laughter…)
You may remember that a few weeks ago you took an assessment for us so
we could gather data on how much you’ve learned about interpreting political
cartoons. I’m here to tell you that you did really well. We are really proud of the
growth you’ve all shown. As I reviewed your work, I noticed that one area most of
you seem to be struggling with is identifying the feelings the cartoonist may be
trying to draw out of the reader.
You see, whenever we draw, whether it’s a sketch on our paper or a museum
quality work, we are trying to convey an emotion. We want the viewer to understand
how we feel about whatever we’ve drawn.
We’re going to work on that for the next six weeks so we can get better at that.
So… (a cuing word…) I want you to open your iPads or take out a piece of paper and tell me what you think the artist wants us to feel about his work.
I don’t want you to tell me about the symbols, or the title or any of the things we’ve worked so hard on this year.
I want to know what feeling you think the artist is trying to convey. How does it make you feel?
Wait for it… wait for it…!
BAM! Can you hear it?
The sound of profound thinking. The sight of profound thinking…Some heads bowed. Some eyes to the ceiling…
ALL MINDS WORKING ON THE SAME THING… ON THEIR IPADS AND NO TASK DRIFTING IN SIGHT!!!
That’s it. That’s my amazing moment. Engagement in higher level thinking; complex thinking that involves their own experiences interacting with their critical thinking skills interacting with their vocabulary and literary expression skills of their own thoughts and opinions. Wow… What a feeling for me…
We do it every day. Sometimes, I think, as teachers, we forget how much practice it takes to help students find their voice in Social Studies. Especially hormone raging, peer pressured teenagers and soon off-to-college/work-students. But… we know that targeted instruction is where teachers make their impact.
Time will tell how much impact these exercises and practice will have on their student voice. But, for sure, the sound and images of that magic moment of deep thinking has left an indelible mark on me.