Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Artistic Boxes and Bullets

By the time that our students get to sixth-grade (we are an unusual school district in that we have k-6 schools), our students have heard a lot about boxes and bullets. They develop opinion essays with boxes and bullets. Information pieces? Boxes and bullets. They even take notes on their nonfiction reading with boxes and bullets, among other strategies. Therefore, some of these students are a little over-boxed and bulleted by the spring of sixth-grade.

In response to this, Peg Bruno, one of our sixth-grade teachers, let the students try out illustrated boxes and bullets for the literary essays that they would be writing. When she shared these posters with me, I immediately asked her if I could blog about this idea.

She started by sharing a sample poster that she had created about Freak the Mighty. At the center of the poster, Peg boxed out her claim, one of the main themes of the book. From there, she found quotes that supported this theme, and drew pictures that went along with it, as well.

The students took off with this idea and worked in partnerships to create their own posters of books that they have read. While I know that many of these students would have culled their books for great quotes, even if they were developing a plan in their notebooks, the poster really inspired them to make sure that the quotes were "perfect." I also loved that students were creating the visuals that helped them remember, connect, and even think more deeply about the books that they read.

As you can imagine, the students wrote their essays, using their chosen theme, as well as the quotes that they included in their posters to illustrate their themes. They talked about the books as they drew, providing reasons for the pictures that they drew, and organically continuing the conversations that they had about their books. Talking is an important precursor to writing, so the more opportunities that we can provide students to have meaningful conversations, the better. And in an academic world that does not always prioritize art, I love finding ways to weave art into other subjects.
Thanks, Peg!

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