I like to offer learners a range of engagements that learners can opt to do or not to do. I have no expectation (or desire) to have everyone do all of these. I do hope that learners will select some to do and offer their own engagements as well for our consideration. In the years that I have been inviting students into engagements I have found that all do some and never in the time frame I first consider. It has not been unusual to find ourselves in March and have a student declare that she or he is going to spend time making a self portrait, engaging in an art conversation, or doing some other opening engagement.
Here are a few:
|Example of an art conversation and poem that a middle school student produced.|
- I often ask learners to tell me and when appropriate classmates about interests they have at and beyond school. I am confident that I can parlay/recognize reading, writing, talking skills and strategies in work that children actually enjoy.
- Self portrait project. A great example of this can be found here. I hope to engage 5th to 8th graders (who are interested in the task) in this type of engagement this fall. The only difference is that I don't want to limit the self portrait to what can be drawn and collaged. Rather I would like to open it to video, drama, and musical expressions as well.
- Writing/drawing/talking sample that a child self generates (without prompting) and is recorded in some manner.
- Record of an oral reading of a self-selected text (not from a kit like DRA 2). I tend to do this at the beginning of the school year very informally. I sit next to a child who is reading and ask the child to read a page of text (or more depending on the book, article, web page, etc.) and make an informal record (if necessary). I am thinking about how to do this with moving text as I imagine that there will be students who are making video or remixes. How these are read is important, too.
- Choral reading/drama performance/classroom design. I find it interesting to observe how students conduct and organize a choral reading or dramatic skit or arrange the classroom (what to keep, get rid of and where to place what remains).
- Building and making stuff yield artifacts (in classrooms that still have blocks, sand tables, art easels, collage station, iPads, laptops, cameras, recorders, musical instruments) that children freely produce and that together we can study (or not).
- Art conversation artifacts. Nonverbal conversations we have using our hands, paint, and paper. Pulling poems and other types of text from the painted conversation is often meaningful.
- Visual letter exchange: I usually write to students and create some piece of art at the beginning of the year that tells them a bit about myself and I have asked students if they might tell me what type of teacher they hope I will be.
- Learning walks. I take these all year with students, but the beginning of the year allows me to have conversations with students outside of the school location. As students have the option of bringing phones, handheld devices, sketchbooks, etc. with them on the walks--some products are made. Often these are collaborative products and that helps me to build more understanding about each child.
- Photographs. With students permission, I photograph them at work/play. I share these images with students and we discuss them when that is appropriate and/or interesting. Likewise, students also have cameras and are making images too. Sometimes we pool these images after the first month and see what we notice.
I usually keep a sketchbook in which I record observations, questions, tentative understandings about each student. I am thinking about how to do this now as I imagine that keeping it digitally could be important. Hmm. Will need to think about this more.