On to Entry Three, “Instructional Analysis: Small Groups.” This time, my faithful Hum partner Jen filmed me as I checked in with kids working in small groups of 3-6 on a creative project called “3 D Posters.”
The purpose of the assignment was to compare structure and other aspects of text and context of “Western” and non-Western works of literature in order to draw conclusions about the authors’ worldviews and aesthetic principles. In support of our year-long canoe project, the works being compared are James Michener’s Chesapeake and Native American author N. Scott Momoday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain.
This footage shows kids creating visual representations of the structure of each work: literally, 3 D models of the books. They are required to include sample passages, with analysis of 4 aspects of text and 3 aspects of context (based on a previous lesson in which we discussed these elements).
There were a dozen groups in the combined class of 48 students, and a general hubbub in the room as kids sprawled out with art supplies, notes and open books to work on their projects. I managed to get usable audio by carrying around a table-top mic taped to a stool and setting it down in each cluster I visited. The video quality is good, despite overhead fluorescents. I shut all the Venetian blinds and had Jen shoot with her back to the wall of windows.
After viewing the tape a couple of times, I’ve targeted fifteen minutes that show me interacting with several groups at various stages in the project. Before writing up the entry, I transcribed the fifteen minutes, second by second. Here are the abbreviated notes for a visit with one group.
8:46.08 “Hey guys. We brought you shrubbery.” Elysha has returned with supplies from the courtyard for her group’s project. Adam, Peter, and Alex are constructing something volcanoish from construction paper and cardboard.
.17 Adam explains the concept: the cone shape represents the Kiowa’s sacred site, Rainy Mountain, and the tube is a tree trunk to show the branching plot of Chesapeake.
.42 Alex explains the passages they’ll take from each book: the legend of the bear and one of Steed’s voyages.
8:47.04 I respond and ask a clarifying question: “I can see the structure of Rainy Mountain, but how are you showing the structure of Chesapeake?”
.13 “You may want to go through these discussion questions...” I suggest, waving the handout I’d provided that helps kids sharpen their ideas about the worldview and aesthetic of each author.
.40 Ashley appears at my shoulder with a question from her group. I am listening intently to the current group, and display classroom management by asking her to hold the thought.
8:48.20 Transition. As I move to the next group, Elysha and Peter are intently discussing one of the study questions, she with a pen in her hand. Adam asks, “Do you have any brown paper?”
.32 Maps are visible on the wall, evidence that this is a team-taught Humanities class (history and English). Pan shows several groups busy at work: Zack and Ryan are making a model with lego; Ranya can be seen sculpting waves out of modeling clay.
8.49.03 I pull up a chair to join the next group, intentionally sitting between two quiet girls who never raise their hands during whole class discussion. I turn to one and ask, “Tell me your overall concept...”