Thursday, October 22, 2015

Using Images to Think Deeply

I had the pleasure of watching our 8th grade social studies students build analytical skills that will serve them today, tomorrow, and years into the future.  When I joined the class last week, students were exploring the big idea that the Constitution of the United States is set up with three branches of government - Legislative, Executive, and Judicial - to spread the power out. To think more deeply about this distribution of power the teacher asked students to consider artistic images.  This image yielded interesting insights: 

"I wonder if this has to do with women’s equality."

"I wonder if they are not at some ceremony because they are all dressed up in capes."

“I wonder abut the title in Latin.”

"She has the reigns, so is that representing controlling the power?"

“I wonder what the painter is trying to say about this.  It looks like a grave."

With each image, the teacher continually prompted students to pause and notice.  He referenced the following series of questions (which were posted on each student table) to help students deeply consider the images:
  •         What do I see?
  •        What do I think is going on?
  •        What do I wonder about this image? Questions? Connections?
Later in class, students were then asked to sketch images themselves to summarize big ideas in their reading.  For each paragraph the student would draw a picture to represent the main idea.  For example, one student used the document camera to share her drawing of a tree with Congress as the trunk and the Senate and House of Representatives branching off.  By studying and creating images, students are seeking ways to deeply understand our system of government.

I am excited that our 8th grade students and staff will be heading to the Kennedy Institute this week and next to participate as "senators" in a simulation about the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. Students will randomly be assigned a state and a political party to represent.  They will take the oath-of-office and for the next 2.5 hours, they will need to represent the needs of their constituents and their political party. It should be an engaging opportunity to experience first hand aspects of the system of government they have been studying in the classroom.