When words aren’t enough….visual response

As in past semesters, I had my preservice teachers work together to create visual responses to one of two short texts by Sandra Cisneros  (check Authors tagline on this blog). They worked as small groups to draft ideas and then got busy. The sharing at the end of class session was powerful. As often as I have read the two texts: Salvador, Late or Early and Eleven, I am still amazed at how much more I know from their visual responses. The middle grades are so verbal-linguistic-heavy, yet visual response can also reveal deep comprehension of text. In past blog entries for this assignment I haven’t provided captions for the posters; I decided to do so at this time, as well as my own brief synopses of the two Cisneros texts.

The texts:

Salvador, Late or Early Is the story of a young, impoverished boy with adult-like responsibilities (sibling care). Shy and harboring untold grief, Salvador is the story of a boy you won’t forget.

Eleven is the story of Rachel, whose birthday is missing the “happy” part. It’s her birthday, but it’s hard to let go of the sadness and tears that are the result of being unfairly accused of leaving an ugly red sweater in the class cloakroom.


Salvador’s–late or early, but always whipping around from one responsibility to the next–taking care of young siblings, helping out with the baby at home with Mom. Facing the schoolyard gate, Salvador is gray, unnoticed and weathered. His younger siblings have yet to become “adults” at such young ages; they can still smile and be children.


Salvador as two people–the sad, forgotten, boy with adult responsibilities on his fragile shoulders, and the boy who enters another colorful world of school each day, a world in which he does not belong.


Rachel is eleven years old today; she wears the ages on sleeves of the ugly red sweater she’s accused of owning; and 1. The happiness that should come with a birthday is unraveling….


Her family celebration is supposed to be happy, and they will sing to her and shower her with presents, but her birthday cake has layers of happy and sad.


Even at home with a family who loves her, Rachel is alone and broken.

when words aren’t enough, visuals reveal deep comprehension, and texts that bring out heavy emotional responses are the best choices for letting images reveal thinking. My quick summaries above don’t come close to the fabulous share sessions we enjoyed following this work.


Metaphorically speaking….Assessment is…

So much fun in class today as my undergrad preservice teachers created visuals of assessment metaphors. This is an activity I always look forward to as it’s so cool to watch the groups share ideas and create a final visual. The homework task is for each student to come to class with an assessment metaphor. The groups share their individual metaphors and decide on ONE to use and develop into a visual. Metaphorical thinking is high level thinking. If you can create a metaphor and explain your creation, you have true understanding of a concept. The only requirement for the visual was to include the three types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. The various design components (traditional, alternative, authentic, structured, unstructured, formal, informal) could be worked into their visuals through their choosing. Since this is a Literacy/Middle School course, I encourage students to engage their future students in visual thinking and in group work. The conversations that result in the final visuals are as important as the conceptual understanding. I’m always amazed at the results.

Here are the visuals. I provide the metaphor labels; you can figure out where diagnostic, formative, and summative are located within each.

IMG_1471 Tools!  Chart paper, and Markers

IMG_1052Assessment is Building a Home

IMG_1051  Assessment is Building a Home (neither group knew the other used this metaphor)

IMG_1480Assessment is a Mountain Climb

IMG_1053Assessment is a Camera (and Lens)

IMG_1478Assessment is Creating a Recipe (Cooking)

Bravo Lit 2’ers!!

More “cake baking” with Synthesis strategy…

For my post of last semester, check out Baking a Synthesis Cake… on this blog.

This week my current group of preservice teachers revisited familiar texts to synthesize meanings they created from close, deep reading. Following the cake baking strategy, which requires the cook to know what kind of cake is desired before s/he can compile the ingredients, the teachers did the same with their meaning creations. They had rich discussions and decided as small groups at least one powerful meaning created from their chosen text–that was the “cake,”–and the “ingredients” became significant pieces lifted from the text that helped them create meaning. As always, the group work and the opportunity to “create” visuals added to the powerful engagement in the project. Here are their visuals and a list of the texts from which they chose.

“The Flowers,” by Alice Walker          “Salvador, Late or Early,” by Sandra Cisneros       “Eleven,” by Sandra Cisneros

IMG_1062 IMG_1063 IMG_1064 IMG_1065 IMG_1066 IMG_1067 IMG_1068 IMG_1069 IMG_1070


..and this is why I write, why I sketch, why I play with words and images

…a quote from a mentor who inspires me. Her book, A Trail Through Leaves (a gift to me from a treasured friend) is one I revisit from time to time, and upon each visit am startled by wonderings and images new to me, though I have held this book closely for so many years…



“A long-running journal is an invaluable document, because it records something other than the time-and-goal-dominated anxiety that drives us through our days. We can tease out of it evolving evidence of sub-lives, parallel existences, omens of shifts that won’t be realized for decades, recurrences of themes glimpsed periodically through the years….The trail of words and pictures that I am leaving is more complete than most people’s, but it is still a trail of tips and ice bergs, little slices of light and color that are all I can capture of the big masses moving underneath. But threading through are moments of the ordinary-made-extraordinary by the simple act of choosing and isolating them.”

                                                                                                Hannah Hinchman

                                                                                           A Trail Through Leaves: The  Journal As a Path to Place




Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia


So many rich resources. Edutopia  just rocks!

Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia.

“Baking” a Synthesis cake…


cake analogy for synthesis strategy

So…we used the cake baking strategy (click link above to open) in class today. Students had choices of a few texts to use—texts we had previously used in class, texts even referred to on this blog: “Eleven,” and “Salvador, Late or Early” [Sandra Cisneros], and “The Flowers,” by Alice Walker. I try to model what I would have them do as teachers. So, for the synthesis activity, we worked backwards, as I would do with middle school students. We have followed Mosaic of Thought, 2nd ed this semester—by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman. The text introduces seven strategies for teaching reading comprehension (monitoring your thinking, activating prior knowledge and experiences, inferring, sensory responses, determining what is important (as opposed to what is just plain interesting), asking good questions—for students be happy they ask any!, and lastly, synthesizing. Synthesis is the last strategy introduced because in essence, it really is a blending of all of the other six strategies. It is NOT summarization. It is more than a reporting of just the facts, ma’am. It’s the fact plus so much more. But that “so much more,” is difficult to retrieve for many students because it takes…work. Tenacity. And, lots of practice before it becomes second nature. And even then, the text makes all the difference. I can tell you for sure that there are some texts that leave me saying…huh??? I have to work hard at them. So, to introduce practice in synthesis as a strategy, I ask students to choose among three texts that they are already familiar with. This provides a comfort zone of sorts. No need to do a “first” read. In the cases of the three text choices, all students have participated, at a minimum, in a second reading as they used the texts for other purposes. They worked in teams. An option, for sure, and sometimes you will need to see what a student can do alone, but for this initial learning experience I wanted the students to collaborate and hash over their thinking. I wanted and they needed the dialogue. I suggested they begin at the end and work back. So, I asked them first to consider and agree upon what the author’s message, intent, purpose was for their chosen text. And, as a class, we agreed there could be more than one message, intent, purpose. This would be, as in the analogy: the cake.  They then had to decide what “ingredients” helped them to determine their author purpose. What in the text led them to understanding? Below are some team results. They got it. Not only did they get it, but I listened in on fabulous dialogue.  At close of class, they presented their “synthesis cakes.” What I think they found pretty compelling was that of the teams that chose like articles, every message was either different (but correct!), or if same message, arrived at uniquely. 
As a “writing” person, I do not mean to minimize the power of writing with my last few blog entries, but I cannot emphasize enough the power, as well, of visually representing and following up with oral presentation. If team work was involved, yet another language bonus.

IMG_9954    IMG_9956       IMG_9955

IMG_9958     IMG_9957 IMG_9959

When visuals are enough…are just right

IMG_9938IMG_9932IMG_9934 IMG_9935 IMG_9936 IMG_9937When I ask my preservice teachers to create visual responses to texts, the results are always amazing. Last week, we read “Eleven”by Sandra Cisneros, a text that I have read again and again, and still respond so strongly to. The text is written through the point of view of Rachel, a child turning eleven. Her birthday begins at school, where she is accused, by the teacher, of leaving a raggedy red sweater for months in the class cloak room. While it is NOT her sweater, her denials are not heard as classmates wrongly confirm that, yes, that sweater is Rachel’s. The school day is a day of emotional draining, and although a birthday celebration awaits her at home with her loving family, for Rachel, the joy of the day has been supplanted by feelings of rejection, loss, and helplessness.

So, students had copies, and I did a read aloud— then turned them loose.

This is what you get when you ask students to respond with visuals. Bravo Hope College ED 282 students!!


Getting lost in Pictures of the Day…

“Pictures of the Day” are fascinating finds. They can be used in multitude of ways teachers—to launch writing in many genres, to supplement research, to create word lists, engage in great discussions, and simply to enjoy.
Here are a few of my faves—and while you are there, check out the archives on all of the sites:

Discover the Cosmos with Astronomy Picture of the Day

Earth Science Picture of the Day

Atmospheric Optics Picture of the Day     cool stuff!!

Lens–NYTimes Picture of the Day 

Yahoo and Flikr teamed up to launch this cool site

Aloha!  Hawaii Picture of the Day

Nature Picture of the Day–inspirational–why not try out a Haiku?

Now that I’ve got you going, I bet you can discover many, many more. (Teachers–I have looked these sites over for G ratings—some POD sites are not!)

Enjoy your travels!


Is a picture worth a thousand words? Could be. Or, at least it may inspire creative flow of words and thinking. The WordFoto app turns your photos and words into amazing typographic works of art. It costs (currently) $1.99 at the App Store, but is worth it.

Check it out at: Image