- Students will understand that by paying close attention and noticing details in illustrations, students can deepen their understanding of a character and/or plot line.
- Students will understand that books and stories can have different meanings to different people.
- Students will understand that through participating in a puppet show performance, they will better understand a character in a story.
It is one minute before “show time” for first-graders at Bancroft Elementary School in Andover. Their excitement is palpable as the audience settles and focuses all attention on the blue and white painted puppet theater. English Language Learners, the students have prepared a story to tell. In a magical moment, each settles into their own comfort level of being a performer, by giving words and voices to the puppet characters they have all made.
The story of this performance of understanding began much earlier, on a museum trip to The Addison Gallery of American Art, where kids experienced the installation “Words in Air”. Facing their own challenges of learning another language, students were captivated as they literally wandered through words suspended in air. With thinking routines from museum educators, students began a practice of close observation and the focused skill of truly noticing details. Ironically, the unfolding work created a transformation for teachers Molly Swanson and Vivian McNeely. They had watched their young ESL students struggle with abstract ideas, but had been struck by the children’s complete engagement in concrete details during the outdoor walk between their school and the museum. The reminders offered by the developmental level of a simple walk had been a gift about how to enter work ahead. By being closely observant as teachers, Molly and Vivian realized “our intended path was not the right one for our students” (Vivian), and they made adjustments, allowing close observation and noticing details to become students’ entry points to their texts.
In classrooms, work continued towards the performance, constantly reinforcing the big ideas of careful observation and noticing details in order to understand who we each are, how we are all unique, and expression through art. Students worked with Puppet Caravan to create their puppet characters, practiced tableaus using body language to express themselves, and and used community building activities to feel safer about taking risks within their English language development. Eventually, the first grade ESL students created their own text for the wordless picture book, Sidewalk Flowers, and experienced the joys of performance of what they had learned.
- Understand the importance of working in communities and ensembles.
- Learn how to notice details in texts in order to gain a better understanding..
- Learn how to put themselves into a characters "shoes" through performance in order to understand perspective.