- What makes someone a hero?
- Is everyone’s life journey a Hero’s journey?
- Do we control our own destiny?
- Is there good and bad in all people?
- How do our differences make us stronger/weaker?
- What makes a family?
- Can we do it alone?
I have worked for 11 years with "non-conforming students", teaching all core subjects plus two additional classes each day in a self contained classroom. I believe that synthesizing art in all areas of learning increases the capacity for understanding and retention.
At some point in December, Charlene Vallee remembers being stunned by work happening in her classroom; particularly the determined engagement of her most challenging student. In fact, at the student’s request, Charlene called the art teacher, asking permission for him to remain and finish his work. Perhaps most remarkable was that the work involved a writing assignment connected to Percy Jackson’s Lightning Thief, normally a daunting task for any of her language disabled students.
To support comprehension, students had been asked to create drawings of main events in each chapter of Jackson’s novel. Where earlier there had only had been frustration identifying main ideas in text, representing important events with drawings was accessible to each of her 10 learners. Everything changed when Charlene shifted her instruction and asked “write what you see, write what you draw.” Reflecting later Charlene wrote “I do feel that the art reinforced and helped them discover main ideas and key events.”
A journey of learning was taking place. Inviting students into text through an arts experience opened pathways for even the most challenged learners. Using their own drawings, students were also able to discuss ideas and share group critique. Through the arts integration, Charlene saw them going back into text again and again. Grappling with the big ideas had impacted how students were understanding the text.
This journey began in the fall with a trip to the Springfield Museum Plaster Cast Exhibit, where Charlene’s class was accompanied by NEAL visiting artist Marion Abrams. Students were able to connect classroom lessons about character traits to the many different elements they saw in the sculptures. Eventually, each student chose a god to research, and from this research, created their own sculptures demonstrating understandings about what makes a hero. Students thought about the hero’s journey in The Lightning Thief, and what connections they could make to their own hero’s journey. A student wrote in his project journal, “"I thought oh boy when you dropped that lump of clay in front of me....but now I am real happy with what I created."
- Identify main ideas and be able to represent them in multiple formats.
- Summarize the story.
- Sequence events.
- Use evidence from text to support ideas.
- Analyze the movie versions and be able to critique the director’s choices.
- Work in cooperative group activities.
- Write personal poems that connect to their own hero’s journey.
- Edit and rewrite in order to create a published version.
- Use the process of creation to : PLAN, CREATE, EDIT, FINALIZE.