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Monday, March 9, 2009

Creative Lessons by Woodring College of Education Students

In our winter 2008 issue on Schooling as if Democracy Matters, we published an article on the curriculum developed at Teachers College, Columbia University around the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. Using the HBO documentary by Spike Lee, Margaret Crocco and Maureen Grolnick developed a curriculum called Teaching the Levees: a Curriculum for Democratic Dialogue and Civic Engagement. The goal was to use a contemporary social issue in order to help students engage in a democratic dialogue that the event raised.

Students at the Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University have created lessons that bring content from their own discipline (English, social studies, science, art, music, math, physical education) to the democratic discussion that they are trying to generate. We have created this public space for students and teachers to share their ideas. We also invite teachers and students from other parts of the nation and around the world to enter into our conversation. We will keep adding to this post over the years as more and more people share their comments.

Here's a more fundamental question to reflect upon as well: Can we imagine a high school experience that integrates the disciplines around major social issues and engages students in democratic dialogue and civic action? Our very fragmented approach to the study of high school subjects is deeply entrenched in our system. Does this approach prepare all students adequately to participate in a 21st century democracy that is constantly reinventing itself? Can our schools create a public that is capable of sustaining this republic in an increasingly complex and global world? Add your thoughts.


Example from student, Brook Landers:

Dawn Sodt, Lucy Castro and I, MIT students of the Woodring College of education created this integrated curriculum, which combines fine arts and foreign language studies in order to teach the film "When the Levees Broke."

Featured Lesson:

All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

What is the culture of New Orleans, and can it be restored after Katrina?

For High School Students

Disciplines: Art, Language Arts, Theatre, Music

Our respective disciplines are Spanish and Art. In this context, our approach to this assignment is based on the culture of New Orleans. What struck us after watching Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke, was the strength of the cultural connection each of the inhabitants had to New Orleans regardless of their socio-economic background. This made us curious about how this culture evolved and what made it so strong. There might be lessons here for all of us as we continue to struggle with assimilation into our own increasingly multi-cultural society. Therefore, we posed the question:

Is it important to put New Orleans back together again?

There are many perspectives from which to approach this question. Among them are political, economical, ecological, and sociological perspectives. However, all of those disciplines fall under Cultural and we want students to realize the complexity of the people involved which is important as a prerequisite in any discussion from any other angle. We want students to come to feel the sense of identity each of the New Orleanians expressed in Lee’s movie.

Our Unit on the Breaking of the Levees involves Language and Art, both outcomes of a culture and both considered to be major characteristics of New Orleans life.

First, students will engage in a simulation exercise to understand how new languages form when cultures and languages collide. Students will be asked to combine two versions of the same poem, one written in English, and one written in Spanish. Unique translations of the poem in “Spanglish” will evolve out of the exercise.

The second project for our unit plan is a group inquiry project that culminates in a reader’s theatre production using visual and audio components. We have produced a product similar to what students could produce to give you a sample.

This exercise is sure to raise more questions than it answers. In fact, we do not expect the students to actually answer the above question. We want them, as explained above, to describe a portrait of what New Orleans as a culture represents and to consider what it means to them as citizens of a country in which such a culture exists.

Objective 1.1
o In pairs, students will research one of the four “roots” of New Orleans culture. They will collect images and facts, quotes, and salient ideas that they find interesting while researching.
o Students will understand that the Creole culture of New Orleans has been influenced over time by four main root cultures: 1. French, 2. African American, 3. Spanish, and 4. Native American.
o Students will present knowledge gathered through research in the final reader’s theatre.
o Bloom’s taxonomy: Knowledge

Objective 1.2
• Students will watch selected excerpts from the HBO documentary video: When the Levees Broke. Students will record quotes that stand out as particularly meaningful or poignant.
• Students will understand the main historical, social, and cultural effects of Hurricane Katrina.
• Students record poignant quotes while watching the documentary. These quotes will be incorporated into the final reader’s theatre.
• Bloom’s taxonomy: knowledge

Objective 1.3
• Students will create and perform a reader’s theatre including art and music that will symbolize the complex and unique New Orleans culture. Information gleaned from student research and the HBO documentary video: When the Levees Broke will be incorporated into the reader’s theatre.
• Students will be able to address the overarching questions:
Why is it important to put New Orleans back together?
Would we want to build it back in the same way?
What would you leave out if you were to rebuild New Orleans?
• Students will complete a written response to the questions posed throughout post-reader’s theatre discussion. The response should incorporate emotional responses to the reader’s theatre and include supporting information gathered while listening to the students-directed presentation.
• Bloom’s taxonomy: Evaluation

Objective 1.4
• Students will be given a poem in English as well as Spanish. The task will be to combine the two languages into a new language just as the Creole language is a mixture of different languages.
• Students will understand how languages and cultures collide and are combined to form new cultures.
• Students will turn in a unique poem that presents a unique language formed by combining Spanish and English.
• Bloom’s taxonomy: Understanding, Synthesis

1. Context:
In the Spanish classroom, students have just finished a unit on Chicano culture. Students understand the way in which Hispanic cultures mix with the American culture to form a new “Chicano” culture within the United States. In the same way, multiple cultures have blended together over time to form a unique Creole culture in New Orleans.
In the art class students have just completed a unit on contemporary socially responsive art work and artists. In this unit, students will collaborate and create their own socially responsive piece of artwork.

2. Purpose:
Millions of American citizens where uprooted and labeled “refugees” after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Who was affected? How did the United States respond to the disaster? Why is it important we rebuild New Orleans? Motivated by the quote, “You can’t embrace the branch if you don’t know the root,” we will work to understand the precious culture unique to New Orleans.

3. Teaching/learning activities:
a. Presentation of excerpts from Spike Lee’s HBO Documentary: When the Levees Broke:
Students will view footage of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the storm through this documentary. They will listen carefully to the citizens of the 9th ward present opinions, observations, and emotions. While watching the film, students will record phrases, ideas, and salient quotes. After viewing selections from the film, students will each select five quotes from the interviews and narration. Students will write out a sentence or two for each of the quotes explaining what issue it is related to and how it is an important issue to address for the future of New Orleans.

b. Exploratory Research of Creole culture:
Students will be divided into pairs and assigned one of the “roots” of Creole culture: 1) French culture, 2) Spanish culture, 3) Native American culture, or 4) African American culture. Students will be asked to research their assigned aspect of New Orleans life and collect images, quotes, and ideas that represent Creole culture. Information and images gathered through research will be recorded and incorporated into the final reader’s theatre project at the end of the unit.

c. Language creation simulation:
Students will read a poem relating to Hurricane Katrina in English. They will read the same poem in Spanish. Their job will be to creatively combine both poems in order to present the same poem in a new language (“Spanglish”). The activity will simulate the way in which a new language or for that matter a new culture is born.

d. The Reader’s Theatre:


1. Students will brainstorm to come up with ideas of creating a readers’ theatre from these ideas and how to incorporate visual and audio components for a production of the readers’ theater. They will take a vote on which ideas to work on together for a single class project.
2. Students will divide the work for the project up into pieces to be assigned to smaller groups within the class.
3. Students will devise a timeline in which work must be done with the culminating production time determined by the teacher.
4. Each group will write a plan with a calendar listing goals for each day and a list of tasks they expect to complete to reach those goals in the form of a check list. Each student will get a copy and one copy for each group will be turned in to the teacher. A copy of each will be posted on a board for all to see so that all groups are aware of the progress of each.
5. The teacher will check in with each group each day to determine their progress, to keep them on-task, and to aid them with any difficulties they encounter. It will be likely that a group will become sidetracked by information they discover so the final goal and product must be kept firmly in their minds.
6. Students will present their final product as a readers’ theater at an assembly or in front of an audience of their choosing within reason and possibility.
7. A class discussion and review following the presentation will be very important and might well take a full day. Begin with asking questions regarding their performance and any comments they received from the audience. Then ask questions to elicit comments and feedback about the process of a whole class project: – How well did it work? Did everyone feel involved? Did everyone feel they had a meaningful part to play in putting the project together and performing? Next, ask the students how their perspective on New Orleans has changed as a result of their work on this project? Follow this up by asking if they have thought of relating this new perspective to how they think about their own community culture. How important is their own community culture to them? If a natural disaster happened to (Bellingham) and they were dispersed across the country would they want to come back? Why or why not? These are just some of the questions that you might ask but, providing adequate time for closure is important. You might do this by asking for a written response to some of these questions.
Questions will percolate out of the discussion. Example questions include: 1) why is it important to put New Orleans back together? 2) Would we want to build it back in the same way? 3) What would you leave out? 4) How much is racism and poverty a part of the culture that evolved? 5) Why do the residents of New Orleans feel so rooted to their home?

4. Homework Assignment:
Students will complete a written response to the reader’s theatre questions posed during the class discussion. The response should incorporate emotional reactions to the reader’s theatre and include supporting information gathered while listening to the presentation.

5. Assessments:
The checklist provided by each group within the class can be used to evaluate each student’s participation by determining to what level they are engaged in each of the tasks listed. Formative assessment is very important and should be tracked carefully. Much student involvement in this project can be pretty subtle so it is important to interact with students asking what they are thinking and how they are proceeding all along the way. The culminating presentation is another source of assessment information. Finally, a written reflection answering some of the questions posed during the Closure will provide individual indicators of involvement, engagement, and how well the lesson provoked further thought and questions.

2 comments:

Brook Landers said...

Dawn Sodt, Lucy castro and I, MIT students of the Woodring College of education created this integrated curriculum, which combines fine arts and foreign language studies in order to teach the film "When the Levees Broke."

Featured Lesson:

All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

What is the culture of New Orleans, and can it be restored after Katrina?

For High School Students

Disciplines: Art, Language Arts, Theatre, Music

Our respective disciplines are Spanish and Art. In this context, our approach to this assignment is based on the culture of New Orleans. What struck us after watching Spike Lee’s documentary, When the Levees Broke, was the strength of the cultural connection each of the inhabitants had to New Orleans regardless of their socio-economic background. This made us curious about how this culture evolved and what made it so strong. There might be lessons here for all of us as we continue to struggle with assimilation into our own increasingly multi-cultural society. Therefore, we posed the question:

Is it important to put New Orleans back together again?

There are many perspectives from which to approach this question. Among them are political, economical, ecological, and sociological perspectives. However, all of those disciplines fall under Cultural and we want students to realize the complexity of the people involved which is important as a prerequisite in any discussion from any other angle. We want students to come to feel the sense of identity each of the New Orleanians expressed in Lee’s movie.

Our Unit on the Breaking of the Levees involves Language and Art, both outcomes of a culture and both considered to be major characteristics of New Orleans life.

First, students will engage in a simulation exercise to understand how new languages form when cultures and languages collide. Students will be asked to combine two versions of the same poem, one written in English, and one written in Spanish. Unique translations of the poem in “Spanglish” will evolve out of the exercise.

The second project for our unit plan is a group inquiry project that culminates in a reader’s theatre production using visual and audio components. We have produced a product similar to what students could produce to give you a sample.

This exercise is sure to raise more questions than it answers. In fact, we do not expect the students to actually answer the above question. We want them, as explained above, to describe a portrait of what New Orleans as a culture represents and to consider what it means to them as citizens of a country in which such a culture exists.

Objective 1.1
o In pairs, students will research one of the four “roots” of New Orleans culture. They will collect images and facts, quotes, and salient ideas that they find interesting while researching.
o Students will understand that the Creole culture of New Orleans has been influenced over time by four main root cultures: 1. French, 2. African American, 3. Spanish, and 4. Native American.
o Students will present knowledge gathered through research in the final reader’s theatre.
o Bloom’s taxonomy: Knowledge
Objective 1.2
• Students will watch selected excerpts from the HBO documentary video: When the Levees Broke. Students will record quotes that stand out as particularly meaningful or poignant.
• Students will understand the main historical, social, and cultural effects of Hurricane Katrina.
• Students record poignant quotes while watching the documentary. These quotes will be incorporated into the final reader’s theatre.
• Bloom’s taxonomy: knowledge
Objective 1.3
• Students will create and perform a reader’s theatre including art and music that will symbolize the complex and unique New Orleans culture. Information gleaned from student research and the HBO documentary video: When the Levees Broke will be incorporated into the reader’s theatre.
• Students will be able to address the overarching questions:
Why is it important to put New Orleans back together?
Would we want to build it back in the same way?
What would you leave out if you were to rebuild New Orleans?
• Students will complete a written response to the questions posed throughout post-reader’s theatre discussion. The response should incorporate emotional responses to the reader’s theatre and include supporting information gathered while listening to the students-directed presentation.
• Bloom’s taxonomy: Evaluation
Objective 1.4
• Students will be given a poem in English as well as Spanish. The task will be to combine the two languages into a new language just as the Creole language is a mixture of different languages.
• Students will understand how languages and cultures collide and are combined to form new cultures.
• Students will turn in a unique poem that presents a unique language formed by combining Spanish and English.
• Bloom’s taxonomy: Understanding, Synthesis

1. Context:
In the Spanish classroom, students have just finished a unit on Chicano culture. Students understand the way in which Hispanic cultures mix with the American culture to form a new “Chicano” culture within the United States. In the same way, multiple cultures have blended together over time to form a unique Creole culture in New Orleans.
In the art class students have just completed a unit on contemporary socially responsive art work and artists. In this unit, students will collaborate and create their own socially responsive piece of artwork.

2. Purpose:
Millions of American citizens where uprooted and labeled “refugees” after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Who was affected? How did the United States respond to the disaster? Why is it important we rebuild New Orleans? Motivated by the quote, “You can’t embrace the branch if you don’t know the root,” we will work to understand the precious culture unique to New Orleans.

3. Teaching/learning activities:
a. Presentation of excerpts from Spike Lee’s HBO Documentary: When the Levees Broke:
Students will view footage of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the storm through this documentary. They will listen carefully to the citizens of the 9th ward present opinions, observations, and emotions. While watching the film, students will record phrases, ideas, and salient quotes. After viewing selections from the film, students will each select five quotes from the interviews and narration. Students will write out a sentence or two for each of the quotes explaining what issue it is related to and how it is an important issue to address for the future of New Orleans.

b. Exploratory Research of Creole culture:
Students will be divided into pairs and assigned one of the “roots” of Creole culture: 1) French culture, 2) Spanish culture, 3) Native American culture, or 4) African American culture. Students will be asked to research their assigned aspect of New Orleans life and collect images, quotes, and ideas that represent Creole culture. Information and images gathered through research will be recorded and incorporated into the final reader’s theatre project at the end of the unit.

c. Language creation simulation:
Students will read a poem relating to Hurricane Katrina in English. They will read the same poem in Spanish. Their job will be to creatively combine both poems in order to present the same poem in a new language (“Spanglish”). The activity will simulate the way in which a new language or for that matter a new culture is born.

d. The Reader’s Theatre:


1. Students will brainstorm to come up with ideas of creating a readers’ theatre from these ideas and how to incorporate visual and audio components for a production of the readers’ theater. They will take a vote on which ideas to work on together for a single class project.
2. Students will divide the work for the project up into pieces to be assigned to smaller groups within the class.
3. Students will devise a timeline in which work must be done with the culminating production time determined by the teacher.
4. Each group will write a plan with a calendar listing goals for each day and a list of tasks they expect to complete to reach those goals in the form of a check list. Each student will get a copy and one copy for each group will be turned in to the teacher. A copy of each will be posted on a board for all to see so that all groups are aware of the progress of each.
5. The teacher will check in with each group each day to determine their progress, to keep them on-task, and to aid them with any difficulties they encounter. It will be likely that a group will become sidetracked by information they discover so the final goal and product must be kept firmly in their minds.
6. Students will present their final product as a readers’ theater at an assembly or in front of an audience of their choosing within reason and possibility.
7. A class discussion and review following the presentation will be very important and might well take a full day. Begin with asking questions regarding their performance and any comments they received from the audience. Then ask questions to elicit comments and feedback about the process of a whole class project: – How well did it work? Did everyone feel involved? Did everyone feel they had a meaningful part to play in putting the project together and performing? Next, ask the students how their perspective on New Orleans has changed as a result of their work on this project? Follow this up by asking if they have thought of relating this new perspective to how they think about their own community culture. How important is their own community culture to them? If a natural disaster happened to (Bellingham) and they were dispersed across the country would they want to come back? Why or why not? These are just some of the questions that you might ask but, providing adequate time for closure is important. You might do this by asking for a written response to some of these questions.
Questions will percolate out of the discussion. Example questions include: 1) why is it important to put New Orleans back together? 2) Would we want to build it back in the same way? 3) What would you leave out? 4) How much is racism and poverty a part of the culture that evolved? 5) Why do the residents of New Orleans feel so rooted to their home?

4. Homework Assignment:
Students will complete a written response to the reader’s theatre questions posed during the class discussion. The response should incorporate emotional reactions to the reader’s theatre and include supporting information gathered while listening to the presentation.

5. Assessments:
The checklist provided by each group within the class can be used to evaluate each student’s participation by determining to what level they are engaged in each of the tasks listed. Formative assessment is very important and should be tracked carefully. Much student involvement in this project can be pretty subtle so it is important to interact with students asking what they are thinking and how they are proceeding all along the way. The culminating presentation is another source of assessment information. Finally, a written reflection answering some of the questions posed during the Closure will provide individual indicators of involvement, engagement, and how well the lesson provoked further thought and questions.

Centenial College said...

Hey Brook,

You have post a nice comment on this blog post. You describe very deeply all the things

Thnx !

__________________________
I am student on community college