Wednesday, July 8, 2015

MOOCs / Inquiry Based Instruction

As my life has been a whirlwind the last few months (finishing the school year, expecting my first child and moving into our first house) I've taken a bit of a hiatus from writing. However, things have begun to settle and as I await the arrival of my son I'm eager to get some things posted before it's too late. I recently took a Massive Online Open Course (I love MOOCs and find them to be  an excellent source for free professional development) offered by the Museum of Modern Art on how to incorporate Art and Inquiry Strategies into every classroom. The objective of the course was to develop strategies to use art to facilitate inquiry based instruction across content. The rationale being that with inquiry based instruction students cultivate higher level thinking skills by having to construct meaning through their own efforts and interacting with others. Laura Schmidt describes the technique as consisting of three basic moves: Ask initiating questions; Ask questions to respond and follow up and, finally: Insert information at key points. 

I was intrigued to see how I could use these strategies in my L2 classroom without sacrificing valuable input. Below is the artwork I selected along with my final project for the course which I hope to incorporate into my unit using Los Baker van a Perú next year. 

Photo credit:
Using the Sculpture of Duane Hanson to Facilitate Inquiry Based Instruction in the World Language Classroom 

Please provide the following information in the order that it is presented below: Subject Area; Intended grade level range; Artwork Selection; Artwork Title; Artist; Date & Materials My subject area is level 2 Spanish taught to 8th grade students. The selection I chose was Duane Hanson's sculpture entitled Tourists II. It is a life-size, fiberglass and mixed media sculpture created in 1988.    

Theme/Connection to Curriculum: Briefly describe the theme or connection to the curriculum. I wanted to incorporate this lesson into a unit I taught on travel and tourism. I teach in an IB school and we are required to have a "Statement of Inquiry" that drives all of our curricular units. For this particular unit the statement of inquiry was: "Cuando viajamos podemos aprender más por observar y respetar los costumbres y tradiciones del país que visitamos." In English: "When we travel we can learn more by observing and respecting the customs and traditions of the country that we visit." (It's important to note that because I teach level 2 students who understand at around a high-novice range- as defined by the American Council on Foreign Languages' Performance Descriptors for language learners- the Spanish language I use in the classroom is made "comprehensible" for students. Hence, the use of a lot of cognates or a syntax that mirrors that of English.) Last year I tried to incorporate this statement of inquiry as much as I could into my daily lessons but, as my primary focus was language instruction, I felt like a deeper understanding of travel including the reasons that people embark on journeys and how this affects their perspectives on the world, was largely missing from the instruction. Instead of facilitating critical thinking or probing for deeper meaning, I was simply repeating the statement of inquiry as often as possible and not allowing for discussion around it. I was, therefore, very interested in using art as a means by which to remedy the lack of inquiry and student exploration in the unit as I taught it last year. In doing this project, I have revisited and reworked both the statement of inquiry and the theme for this particular unit. Described below are both my theme and topic.

My theme (using IB language) is orientation in space and time. I want my students to use their language skills to explore the personal histories, relationships, change in perspectives, and discoveries that travel allows them. I also want my students to examine the ways in which tourists are perceived abroad, why this is so, and whether perceptions of tourists are changing as we live in an increasingly interconnected world. My new statement of inquiry or "big idea" is: "La gente viaja por una variedad de motivaciones." Turned into a question, the statement becomes: "¿Por qué la gente viaja?"

Include three open-ended questions related to the artwork in the sequence they would be presented. I realize that I've included more than three questions here but, because it's a language classroom, the extra questions are designed to scaffold meaning and provide some ideas to get students speaking.

¿Qué observas? ¿Quiénes son las personas? ¿De dónde vienen? ¿Qué ves que te hace decir eso? / What do you observe (see)? Who are the people? Where do they come from? What do you see that makes you say that?

¿Por qué piensas que la gente viaja? ¿Cuáles son otras motivaciones por viajar? / Why do you think that people travel? What are some other motivations (reasons) for traveling?

Con esta escultura, ¿qué piensas que el artista quiere decir sobre los turistas y el turismo? / With this sculpture, what do you think the artist wants to say about tourists and tourism?

Include 3 bullet points of information about the artwork that is related to the theme/curriculum connection. Hanson moldeó las esculturas de personas reales. / Hanson cast these sculptures from actual people. No existen límites claramente definidos que separan el arte de los espectadores. / There are no clearly defined boundaries separating the sculptures from the viewer. Se asocia el arte de Hanson con el género de pintura y escultura que se conoce como Hiperrealismo. Hiperrealismo representa sus sujetos como objetos vivos pero con mucho más detalles que los objetos en los cuales están basados. Se usa para crear una realidad basada en la realidad actual pero que nunca existía. / Hanson's work is often associated with a genre of painting and sculpture known as Hyperrealism. Hyperrealism presents its subjects as living objects but often with much more detail than the object from which it is based. It is used to create a reality that never really existed.

Include an activity (multi-modal approach) for this artwork and include the following: Brief description of activity: What will the students do? (i.e writing, drawing, movement) Directions: How will you introduce this activity and what directions will you give your students? Goals: What are your goals for including the activity in the conversation?

1. Students will write a postcard from the perspective of one of the two tourists in the sculpture. Students will have to describe where they are and what they are doing.

2. I will introduce this activity after we have fully discussed the open-ended questions above and the students have had an opportunity to share who they believe the subjects in the sculpture are and what the artist intended by portraying them the way he did. Specifically, I will ask students to think about the conversation we have just had regarding the sculpture and to imagine that they are one of the two figures represented in the sculpture. From this perspective, they will have to write a postcard to a friend or family member back home and describing where they are (what they see, hear, and feel) and how they are getting along, detailing any particular complaints or pleasures.

3. I will have my students share their writing with the class. While students read what they've written, we will both be practicing our language skills as well as gaining a deeper understanding as to how individual students interpreted the artwork.

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