Content Connection

I struggled to find the connection between English curriculum and East Lansing at first. I entertained so many different options before finally deciding on the final product. Teaching reading and writing is the obvious task of the English teacher, but I always try to tie in a life lesson or something they can take away and apply to their lives now or later. I look at the youth culture and try to figure out what they are missing out on and try to incorporate that as part of a lesson or unit.

The English curriculum has many stories – students read them and write them; however, the art of storytelling is something that is practiced less and less today. As a teacher who works to create a community of respect and equality in the classroom, I teach my students that everyone has value and that everyone is connected one way or another. One of the first assignments of the term for my students is to share their unique story. I ask them what can we celebrate for them and what makes them special. This adds to the inclusive culture in the classroom.

So for this content connection assignment, I wanted to begin with this same idea that there is a special and unique story behind everyone and everything. But instead of focusing on how to receive and accept those stories, the challenge was to ask the right questions to find out the stories behind people and things. One of the things I want to stress with this project is getting my students to ask the right questions. A portion of this project requires them to research the answers to the questions they ask, so it is incredibly important for them to ask the right questions. I explain to my students that I don’t want to them to ever just accept something because someone else says it or because no one else has questioned it. I want them to be the type of people who work to understand meaning. I want them to be curiously inquisitive about everything. I explain that we can look at the world as one scene and just scan it as it passes by, or we can look at all the intricate little pieces that make up the one big scene. I challenge them to look at, appreciate, and enjoy the smaller details of life.

For this assignment, my students will choose one of the many sculpture on the campus of Michigan State University and they will explore it, discover its story, and create another account of it. To start things off, I will show them this YouTube video highlighting my mantra that “Every person has a story.” The video serves to help guide them to what this project will be asking them to do. It helps them to start warming up those engines.

I will then follow the video with a 10 minutes QuickFire Challenge where my students will receive a photo and have 1 minute to just look at it and observe it. They will then have 2-3 minutes to ask specific questions about the photo using their reporter skills (who? what? when? where? why? how?). Then for the remainder of the time they will compose a story about the photograph incorporating the questions they asked. After they complete it, we will go around the room to share their pictures and stories.

I will share with my students how I enjoyed walking around and riding my bike around the campus of Michigan State University and all the sculptures made me think. It seemed as though certain sculptures were placed in specific areas and by certain buildings. I wanted to know why some buildings had 3 sculptures while others had one, if any. I realized that there were stories even behind these pieces of art spread around campus. I put together a slideshow of all the sculptures I saw and want each of them to choose one of the sculptures and investigate the story behind the artwork and write a story of their own from the information they collected. The final portion of this assignment is for them to create a technological reproduction of their story using any tool they would like.

I created a packet for them that outlines all the specifics of this project, which also includes the directions of the QuickFire Challenge. This will explain all that the students are required to do with a sculpture found on MSU, researching the story behind it, and then writing their own story from the research and collection of data gathered, which of course must be documented.

What will the students learn?

  • The students will learn to look at people and things from a deeper perspective
  • The students will learn how to ask the right questions
  • The students will learn to gather information using all resources (people, online, etc.)
  • The students will learn how to write a story using gathered information
  • The students will learn how to create a reproduction of their story using technology

One response to “Content Connection

  1. I just had the pleasure of reviewing your Content Connections assignment, Annie. I am very impressed with the amount of thought you put into it, and your desire to help students become better critical thinkers by encouraging them to “ask the right questions.” I also love the integration of storytelling – and agree that its a lost art! The process (and obvious time) that you spent on the assignment was evident. I especially loved the slideshow of all the sculptures on campus! I provided more specific feedback in the grading rubric. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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