Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Poster Activity

The final activity of our workshop was called, quite simply, The Poster Activity. For this we used the text of Mary Oliver's poem, "The Journey."

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver ~

For this activity, you print the poem or whatever passage you are using (this could even be done with a word problem in Math) in a large font so that everyone can read it and you tape it to the center of a big sheet of paper. Then the children work in small groups. The rules are that you must work in complete silence. Each child gets a marker or some writing utensil and as, as they read, they write comments and thoughts about the piece in the margins. Others are allowed -- encouraged -- to respond by writing their thoughts or comments in return. The dialogue continues in written form. There is no talking. This allows students, again, to enter into the conversation at their own level, either by beginning a topic or (if they are struggling to understand the passage) by responding to someone else. After a bit you are allowed to walk to other tables and read what they have written and bring those thoughts back to your own table if you wish. The teacher also circulates and writes his or her thoughts and responses.

In our workshop, someone suggested that this could help prepare for a dialogue strategy such as Socratic Seminar or Fishbowl. Someone else asked about how you would "grade" this type of activity. How do you assess? So we talked about the points that could be included on a rubric for dialogue... check out Bob Probst's book Response & Analysis for assessment tools for this type of work.

I found this a lovely thought-provoking strategy, especially good for a child who can't formulate his or her thoughts or arguments when the room is too noisy and people are talking fast and furiously on top of one another... I also thought that this would be a fascinating approach to a word problem!!!! People could discuss how they would go about solving it. Love it! This is one of Bob's new ideas and he wasn't sure if he had included it in his most recent book, so I am pleased to be able to share it with you.

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