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This unit is designed to address several areas of concern to me as a teacher of middle school in New Haven, Connecticut. The purpose of this unit, then, is to provide a change of pace, a different venue for learning.
First, as a teacher, I face the challenge of students who speak Spanish as their primary language.
Second, for any middle-school, Spanish-speaking population, becoming proficient in English is often a very difficult transition.
Third, inexperienced teachers sometimes hold the attitude that these students are not capable of reading and writing on grade level, so expectations and assignments are greatly reduced.
Fourth, social networking, emailing, facebooking, blogging, twitting, texting, and listening to Ipods are activities on which my students want to spend their time. A fifth concern worth mentioning is that often students, even native speaking ones, just do not want to spend the time reading as a way of understanding the nuances of the language. Novelist James Canon, in an essay entitled "How James Canon Learned English While Writing a Novel" writes, "The more I wrote and revised, the more I noticed patterns of mistakes in my English and began to avoid them. Finally, the New Haven School District uses a whole language approach to language and literature in which stories are read, guided questions are asked, and responses are recorded, most often in journals. To respond to some of these concerns, my classroom will be designed as a language-rich environment in which students are actively engaged in language-related activities. It is my intention to help my students develop interpretations of a piece of art, make connections between reading about the life of an artist and their own, make judgments about the quality and theme of the piece, and, finally, write about the piece effectively and correctly. The strategies in this unit are designed to help my students as they become more fluent and successful writers. Additionally, since exposure and usage of evolving language increase vocabulary and more complex sentence structures, the more my students use language, the better they will be able to handle its nuances.
A practice that I've found useful as a method for developing appropriate uses of language is writing a school newspaper. Initially, I asked myself what authentic, hands-on activity involves a low threat with high expectations, provides concrete experiences and active processing, all while getting my Spanish-thinking teenagers to critically think, then to write English more effectively and correctly. The next question, then, was, "How can I successfully use works of art to teach language and writing to urban youth?" As the old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Responding to art will be very stimulating and agreeable because it is not a direct frontal attack using written language as the centerpiece.
Because my students are not often hyper-attention learners, they are initially going to need highly specific guidance when it comes to observing the images in this unit.
Before, during, and after the use of this unit, my students will need to consider the answer to the question, "What is art?" But art seems to escape a definitive definition.
Today, the elements and principles of art that still have a place in its definition also form the basis of our understanding, recognition, and acceptance of a particular piece as art. Art, today, encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, music, weaving, literature, dance, photography--and the list goes on and on. The first shot I envision using is one in which firemen, policeman, and just average people are all working together heroically in an effort to save anyone they can. A secondary exercise that I might consider is having my students walk in the shoes of someone in the first photograph.
A third option would be to discuss the differences brought to bear on the various ways in which the picture can be presented. An extended and stimulating activity would be to ask my students to act as reporters and eyewitnesses to the event, describing the sounds, sights, and actions they heard that day. It is my hope that these prompts will lead them to generate a series of reflections and questions on their own.
The final use of this image will be to provide impetus for creating a makeshift bulletin board of random items that were so often seen in the hours and days after the attacks as family members looked for any sign of their loved ones and pictures of those missing were pinned up in hopes of finding them. In an effort to understand line, I will direct my students' eyes to areas where line can be observed. When introducing texture, it would be very helpful to have different cloth and building materials of different textures available for my students to feel. The second part of the unit will require that the students to be involved in the opening of an art gallery.
Students will be divided into four groups, each representing one of the following art history periods: Renaissance, Impressionism, Post Impressionism, and Twentieth Century art.
Once their piece has been chosen, my students will have to defend their piece from the perspective of the artist.
Since rubrics are a standard requirement with our district, a rubric should be developed by each group, listing the expectations about the information to be gathered, the presentation of that information, as well as the credit given for responses provided. Once research is completed, each "artist" will have to defend his or her piece, extolling the virtues of the art piece to the small group.
Considerations for Improved Grammatical Style and Correction (to be use when working with a partner) and reminders of teacher involvement. An in-depth look at how well we know about student population, how we change our perceptions and ultimately our practices in teaching inner-city Hispanic youth. Students will not be engaging in language in a vacuum but rather as a vehicle for something that interests them. Students are not only learning a new language but they are also in the throes of becoming adolescents.
Doing this helped me reduce the accent that still appears in my writing as well as in my voice. Face-to-face interaction during hands-on activities will produce a wonderfully rich oral vocabulary and understanding, also providing students with the constant and changing stimulation that they need. The learning strategies included address such areas as time management, behavior, speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary building.
Knowing that my students come to school with behavioral issues mentioned in my rationale, my lessons need excitement, high interest, and dramatic subject matter using hands-on activities. Most teachers do not have problems getting them to engage in this type of activity but often take issue with off-task talking in the classroom. When a student uses language correctly, it should be repeated and reinforced by the teacher. Through the use of more complex, motivating and appealing topics and texts, they will experience language configurations using graphic organizers that I hope my students will also begin using in their writing. The skills involved in putting together a newspaper are the same skills I will employ in my unit as we prepare for the opening of our art gallery. One definition of art is that it is the process of deliberately arranging elements in a composition using specific principles that appeal to the senses or emotions and even explain the human condition. The terms shape, line, direction, size, texture, color, and value are fairly easy forms to identify within a composition.
These images are dramatic, shocking, and powerful: the perfect hook for opening class periods. Then, after recording their answers to these questions in a journal, my students will be able to discuss their thoughts about the story within the photo. The exercise I envision will require that my students list as many items (nouns) as they can find in the picture. These lessons will span approximately six days and will act as a way of introducing the elements and principles of art and design as well as parts of speech and syntactical usage. Lines can define a space, create an outline or pattern, imply movement or texture and suggest mass or volume. Local fabric stores freely give out swatches of material, and home improvement stores will supply scraps of building materials for this purpose.
Balance, gradation, repetition, contrast, harmony, dominance, and unity can be easily understood if my students are asked to do a city rendering using the photo and the definition page as a guide. The art understandings as well as the observation and language skills developed in the first section will be integral to the exercises in this one. These periods have been chosen for their easy recognition and the readiness with which my students will be able to discuss the value of the pieces. The Connecticut Standards for Reading require students to use computer technology as a resource for information. Here the Connecticut Standards are again relevant: students will be able to clearly express, develop, and substantiate their ideas using standard language structures and diction appropriate to audience and task. These goals are universal in their application as teachers begin thinking about developing curriculum.
The entire process of choosing a picture and then defending it fulfills this goal for my students. They readily accept such dependency as many gladly will forfeit a letter grade or two to let me correct their spelling for them.
A site to access personal stories of the victims and survivors of the events of September 11, 2001.
Pedagogically, it will provide me with opportunities to apply a range of strategies so that my students will have opportunities to see, hear, read, speak, and write in a safe, stress-free environment by exploring the question, "What is art?" As a teacher of seventh and eighth grade Language Arts at John S.
Add in the fact that in my school, large majorities of the population are either bilingual or ESL learners, and the demands and complexities become even more daunting. It is essential that there be consistency across the disciplines in my grade level team when dealing with our students.
In the process of writing my novel, I realized that writing can only be as advanced as your reading level. Many questions are introspective - "How would you feel or respond to this situation?" Also included in the recommended considerations are the recognition of figures of speech such as metaphor, simile, and personification.
Class discussions will be plentiful, and they will address the issues of sustained English speaking and build upon the desire of the students to socialize as part of their adolescent development.
If, on the other hand, a student uses incorrect sentence structure, a teacher should repeat the idea of the student using the correct pronunciation and grammar. It is then that my students might feel comfortable enough to make meaningful inferences and connections as they explore topics in writing.
They will need the practical skills of observation and inference, the language of description and narration, and finally the application of exposition and argumentation. Content is an area in which uncertainty arises: What was the artist's intent when he painted?


So to begin the unit, my students will spend twenty minutes playing with the definition of art.
Because this image will portray a story with such raw human emotion and since my students love drama, I know they will connect with the subjects and then be able to write about the heartbreaking scenes that they see.
Does having an individual copy of the photo have any impact on the interpretation of the image? Using the organizer below, I will ask my students to list as many actions as they imagine the photo suggests. Once they are finished with the list, I will ask them to then place descriptors (adjectives) beside each item listed. The elements of art -- shape, line, direction, size, texture, color, and value--are easily observed in these photos. I will present both color and black-and-white versions of the same picture so as to help students understand value or luminance, a term used by Dr. Again, I will pose the question, "What is art?" It is here that I hope my students begin to suggest that art not only consists of elements and principles but also crystallizes the feelings of the artist in a clear, individual, and sincere way so as to impress the viewer.
This is how the majority of students will glean their information, although our art teacher would also be a wonderful resource.
The group will then vote, using their designed rubric as a guide, on which two pieces from each period actually make it into our art gallery.
Alternatively, I might persuade a few dedicated students to write several versions before they actually submit a paper. Story from a teacher who discovered using art and teaching to students' learning styles, strengths, and interests can motivate them to understand and appreciate literature at all levels. Article on how James Ca??n learned English while writing a novel; the process of removing his accent while writing. This research-based, practical book shows how to use vocabulary instruction more effectively to improve reading comprehension. Martinez School, I am charged with the responsibility of ensuring that my students have every opening possible to increase their writing fluency. Because the emphasis will be placed on the piece of art and not language as it is typically taught, students will feel a sense of freedom.
The expressed purpose of both is to use the vehicle of art as a means of arriving at effective language skills. Because most of our students are normal cognitively and bring the same rich set of feelings, experiences, and ideas to the classroom as their native-speaking peers, I must resist the attitude that low English-speaking proficiency or lack of knowledge of the classroom culture is a sign of uncooperativeness. And so I started reading more and more, and by doing it I acquired an extensive vocabulary and learned many idiomatic expressions, proverbs, sayings and the correct use of the complicated but essential English phrasal or 'two-words' verbs."a2a Many of my students realize that their writing lacks this fluency and includes a Spanish voice. There are even attempts at the denotative (literal definition) and connotative (associative or symbolic) meaning of certain words, phrases, or paragraphs. A grade-level team goal will be put in place, safeguarding against confusing low English proficiency with low intelligence or lack of experience.
As a strategy, I always provide my students with a monthly coursework sheet outlining all assignments, both written and oral, homework, due dates, and the point value of everything listed on the sheet. As an educator, I teach Socratically, challenging my students to get them to answer their own questions by making them think and drawing out the answer from them.
Part of the problem is that teachers do not set up rules for discussion so the classroom quickly turns into a cacophony of noise in which no one hears anything anyone is saying and the activity ends in failure.
Allowing plenty of time for the discussion will signal to students that their voices and opinions are valued and respected.
Writing with an accent results in syntactical errors and misuse of vocabulary, though not through any fault of the writer. Verbal interaction with peers displays more frequent use of language because students are able to generate meaning out of their own experience as editors, writers, reporters, and artists. Their responses will be recorded in a new section of their binder entitled, "What is art?" I am sure that these ideas will not be at all clear as students begin this unit. Will students use laptops to view it online, or will the picture be placed in the front of the room, large enough for all to see? Through the step-by-step process of observing, analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating the image as a group, my students will begin to see how to construct concrete meaning and extend their understanding of the image and the event.
My belief is that they will choose strong action words because of the content of the image. The exercises using this second image have my students seeing, speaking, writing, reading, and editing, all skills necessary for employing English by using appropriate syntax.
A simple graphic organizer similar to the one above would help in doing this exercise because, again, it will highlight the difference between the placement of adjective and noun in Spanish and English. It will be my hope that some of the students may actually do some independent research and report back on their findings. Perhaps I will bring back our "reporters" from the previous exercise to continue our journalistic experience. The first photos I will use will be of the skyline of New York including the World Trade Center before the attack. It will be explained that our job moving forward is to act as museum curators with the express purpose of choosing a select group of paintings for our soon-to-be-debuting art gallery. The standards also indicate that that students should comprehend and respond in literal, critical, and evaluative ways to various texts that are read, viewed, and heard. Unfortunately, if they dicker aimlessly, their results will be erratic at best, and sometimes they will revere their complicated version more than their direct and forceful one.
Classroom teachers and reading specialists in the upper elementary grades and beyond will find it especially helpful for its many practical approaches -- mainly pre-reading activities -- that can be adapted to meet the needs of individual students. Coupled with high expectations and activities, the necessary language support must be provided. Students need to spend time hearing language, seeing and reading language, writing language, and speaking language in ways that excite them. They are inexperienced readers partly because they have trouble deciphering meaning or purpose while reading texts. Unfortunately, these ideas are not reinforced to any degree in the current curriculum, so they do not "stay" with my students. Analytic learners will be comfortable with the step-by-step time table presented at the beginning of the unit in which goals are set and explained. Each exercise or requirement is explained in as much detail as possible, but allowances are always made for changing school circumstances such as unexpected meetings or school closing during winter months. Students need to hear language spoken correctly in order to become effective speakers and writers. Having students listening for specific information as an answer to some fundamental questions, keeps students focused. Their input also signals the recognition of the diversity of the opinions held by every student in the class. The interpersonal collaboration necessary to develop a framework for a newspaper or, in this case, an art gallery, requires an extensive use of vocabulary in a situation controlled by them.
My students will have to grapple with the definition, come to their own conclusions, and defend a piece of art based on their findings. It is my hope, however, that as we move through it, they will come to understand just what makes one piece good art and another great. Teaming with a partner will encourage discussion and editing of their attempts at describing what they see. Connecting to a real-life situation in this way may help with the higher-order thinking questions on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) that ask students to make personal connections and reflect on a story. It will be necessary to conduct a teacher-guided lesson as students complete this assignment because these terms will either need to be introduced or information about them reinforced. Again it would be worth noting that in my school these elements are discussed in our art classes.
Acting as the artist of their chosen piece, they will have to research the artist's life and the actual painting, then persuade their fellow students that their piece should be chosen for display in the gallery. Using the following questions as a guide to inquiry will help my students interpret, analyze, and evaluate the information in order to extend their understanding and appreciation of the works of art.
I imagine that my serious students will probably provide very thought-provoking background answers, while others with a flare for the dramatic will present more light and humorous responses. A brief description of how the brain acquires a second language and steps to follow in helping students move from "fact" to comprehension. This outstanding resource is full of practical information on teaching reading to culturally and linguistically diverse students who come to the classroom with a broad range of experiences.
Although they come to school rich with heritage, they lack basic language and writing skills in English.
A wide variety of activities that incorporate a range experiences will, hopefully, satisfy the needs of my students as they seek the continuous stimuli they crave. They will also find pleasure in the various activities that require them to consider, investigate, and evaluate certain photographs and art pieces.
My email address appears at the top of each sheet so students can reach and question me when they are at home. Yet, in my classroom, my students aren't always willing to stay focused on the topic at hand and respond to the questions being asked. Yet some teachers of middle school give up far too easily after a few sessions like the one just mentioned.
These questions should appear in print either on the board, on an overhead projector, or on paper, so students can refer to them from time to time.
When they address a persuasive writing assignment, they want to remain within the comfort zone of the "formula writing" referred to as the five-paragraph essay.
From the start, my students are heavily involved in the "process" of creating this gallery; from the ideas for the art work, to the assignments in defense of their piece of art, to the actual set up of the gallery.
They feel comfortable exploring the different media as well as discussing what they see in an art piece.
In this way, students would have no preconceived ideas or prejudices to bring to bear on the discussion.


In a perfect world, I should be able to just ask my students, "What do you see?" much as Linda Friedlaender, from the British Arts Museum at Yale University, does when she conducts tours for students. These skills are in keeping with both New Haven Goals and Objectives and the Connecticut State Standards.
Developing a word wall with removable Velcro-backed strips will greatly assist in this process. In this case, I will show these shots on an overhead projector so that a pointer can be used to guide the students' eye to the specifics of line, shape, and direction. If they are not taught in other school systems, more attention and time can be spent on this activity.
After the completion of this exercise, I will ask my students to label their drawings using the "vocabulary of art terms," then ask for volunteers to explain what they have done, encouraging them to use the new vocabulary they have just learned. The number of students in each group will depend on the number of students in the class, which will also determine the initial number of art pieces needed to be considered in each time period.
They must be reminded to employ descriptors and adverbs as they develop their defense of the art piece they have researched. The comprehensive text includes background information on reading, ESL instruction, and ESL learners, as well as specific strategies that have proven effective with this student population. Students will also explore an artist's life, thus seeking answers through a biographic search using computer technology. Some are in the country illegally, so they try to stay "below the radar," doing as little speaking and writing as possible, so that no attention will be paid to them. They cannot grasp the difference between my oral explanations of any assignment and the written, explanatory handouts that I provide that also act as a rubric and timeline. Reading and writing will play a part in this unit in an effort to expose my students to proper English syntax.
They would rather be socializing or drawing, and they hate being called out for these behaviors.
Having students understand that participation in discussion is an integral part of their grade might attract those reluctant students who seem to remain invisible in the classroom.
These literacy-based activities encourage the use of correct English because each student understands that opening an art gallery requires many eyes before it becomes a reality.
Requiring students to incorporate words from these sources in their written assignments will, hopefully, imbed them into their vocabulary. Commenting on a particular piece of art enhances the art of writing opinions, for example, and it can also be used to build vocabulary, both in terms of art but also in terms of general knowledge. Although some may not consider these photos art, in the finer sense of the word, they certainly can be used to develop correct syntax, to describe and demonstrate the elements and principles of design, and to show the human condition that is a large part of art. In my inner-city class, however, students pay much less attention, so guided questioning might initially be needed.
My students will be asked to describe the shapes they observe in the photos, shapes such as squares, circles, rectangles, and triangles. In this way, students have not only been introduced to these principles, but they have used them in a drawing and commented on them in their description of their picture. The walls in the classroom will be divided into the four time periods, in which six different, numbered paintings from the period will be displayed.
Within their individual groups further questioning will be developed, specific to the pieces in the time period.
The more opportunities my Spanish students have to experiment with language, the better their chances are at success with fluency and proficiency. Their parents often cannot assist them with these understandings because they themselves have the same issues. Photos and art pieces that draw the attention of my students will be utilized to grab and maintain their interest as they move through this unit. This strategy provides a sense of security to some students who need it, and it also provides parents of interested students an opportunity to get more involved in their children's education. Thinking it over, I needed a strategy that got their heads "back in class" without calling them out. My unit is crafted to include these ideas in the many opportunities to speak and listen that it offers. Although Martinez is not an art magnet school, with an extensive art focus, our art teacher does a great job introducing the understandings of art. Knowing that attacking syntax head on could bore students and turn them off at the same time, teachers can use art to teach language rules by asking that students suggest the dialogue they imagine a subject in the piece might be using or listing adjectives and adverbs that best describe the piece.
As my students view the image I have chosen, I will ask them to consider the first two questions below. Because the focus will be on describing their drawings and not correct syntax, it should be a safe, low-stress activity. Terms such as analyze, synthesize, and critique are standard requests in my directions, yet they hold fuzzy meaning for my students, so the desire to read and complete their assignments is greatly diminished. Tactile learners will appreciate the rendering of a cityscape after our discussion of the elements and principles of drawing and design, and visual learners will treasure the entire experience since our focus is directed at all things visual.
Parents can view what and when assignments are due and often email me with questions or inquiries about the progress of their child.
As the result of continuous practice using this method, my students can develop a reasonable essay staying within the confines of the formula. Later, when asked to respond in writing, they will find that the exercise will not be focused on grammatical correctness but on clearly expressing thoughts and ideas using effective and clear language, a seeming shift away from mechanics to content. Presenting segments of language in this manner is likely to be beneficial for my Spanish learners since it may enhance comprehension, retention, and cultural awareness. These introductory questions will encourage them to observe only what they actually see in the picture.
As a result, their work is often incomplete or off task and their focus is unclear or even lost.
When one of these stories chronicles a tale of human interest especially about kids their own age, our discussions about them are sustained and significant. I also provide the students with a blank monthly calendar so they can place their assignments on it and use it to keep track of other class assignments as well.
I encourage on-task behavior by repeating the last student's answer as I continue questioning. Another way that is effective is to insist that the current speaker repeat the main idea of the last speaker before he or she begins his thought. In other words, writing becomes clearer and more effective when there is understanding behind it. In real life, these shapes become three-dimensional figures such as cubes, spheres, cuboids, cylinders, and cones.
It is my belief that if my students can "read" the images, ones which make impressions on them, they will be more likely to want to write about them. Because speaking is easier than writing in my English class, my students are much more willing and comfortable when they are speaking English. This lack of focus is not only indistinguishable in terms of words, sentences, and forms of address, but the presentation sounds different as well.
If these patterns are allowed to set in, my students' writing and speaking language habits will become ingrained and resistant to change. These questions will be a direct attempt to get them to name objects and people in the photo. Having two-dimensional shapes drawn on paper as well as three-dimensional shapes available for the students to observe would facilitate understanding. An added assignment might be to choose a favorite photo and write a reflective piece defending their thoughts about the image. To a degree, this approach is successful, but just like the grammar instruction of memorization of parts of speech and diagramming that I received, it does not necessarily translate into effective writing. It does not embarrass the student who has not been listening, restates the ideas that he or she need to consider to get back on task. The activities in my unit provide direct help through recognition on graphic organizers of some of these issues. It certainly addresses the idea of defining three reasons in defense of an argument and their sequencing, but it is an immature writing form when considering what will be expected of them in years to come. Psychologically, students consider these stories just English lessons or homework, not areas of interest, because they are assigned to read them.
Giving students these avenues of redirection and thought encourages the low-threat, high-challenge environment that is sorely needed by my students. The old-fashioned raising-of-the-hands strategy also works wonders if established from day one in the classroom. There are many writing exercises and partner editing opportunities that will further their skills in these areas. Syntactical errors and misuses of vocabulary lead to awkward sentence patterns and structures. They have quietly and without fanfare been given the ideas to think and write about, thus removing the deer-in-the-headlights look so many students have when asked to reflect on a certain topic when their attention has been waning.
It is important to take the time necessary to establish these behaviors at the beginning of the year as students need and want to understand the boundaries and expectations of the classroom. Students become prisoners to this form and become unaware of what an argument looks like in academic writing. Without reading, they are not exposed to more complex language proficiencies, so this writing form becomes their consistent and steadfast model. Because they are held prisoner to this writing form, they do not come into their own voices, and they continue to use the same format over and over.



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