There are many ways of showing what you know and too often, we think that kids should either be writing or speaking to do it.
What we don't realize is that we are missing an opportunity to engage kids on other levels that show a deeper understanding of what is being addressed and if we can do this in a creative way, why shouldn't we?
When we incorporate drawing with words, we offer students an opportunity to consider more than what words say, but how they look and also allow them to visualize what they learn.
In this assignment, students were asked to brainstorm moments from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that stand out for them as a quintessential moment.
After they selected that moment, they had to find text around it and write it on the page.
Once they selected their text, they had to draw a visual representation of the moment and then write a one to two-paragraph analysis of how that moment demonstrated a larger meaning over the course of the whole play; essentially why they chose what they did.
In one class period, I was able to see what students took away from the assignment and got a fair idea of the depth of that understanding.
Check out these excerpts of the student work:
This student selected "Uncertainty is a normal state. You're nobody special" which gets to the heart of the existential moment happening in the play. The image itself lends to her understanding of this incessant questioning and shows a great level of understanding of absurdist theater.
Since one of the big questions and themes in the play is about questioning individuality and the purpose of life, this does get to the heart of that theme which is also explored in what the student wrote.
The second student is showing a scene about equity for the two characters and how neither should be treated as more important. Again, the idea of individuality and worth is questioned but shown through a different scene and different visual representation.
Students don't need to be great artists to be successful at an assignment like this. It allows them to think differently about what they are doing and opens up a dialogue about interpretation with me and their peers.
An activity like this can be an excellent precursor to a larger class discussion as it can get students thinking about important elements of a text or event and they have already spent time with the text and their thoughts.
It can also be a great follow up activity to assess what students took away from the experience. In this way, a teacher can provide meaningful feedback and then further the classroom conversation moving forward.
Each one of the assignments offered different and valuable insight to the student's experience with the text ranging from the specific scene chosen, the text selected, and then the analysis about the text. The images varied as well.
I like to remind students that you don't need to be an artist to express your thoughts visually. "I'm not an artist," I remind them. "As a matter of fact, I'm more of a stick figure kind of drawing person. I even label my pictures sometimes to make sure folks know what I'm trying to convey." They get a kick out of that and then don't get hung up about the quality of their drawings.
As we keep pushing forward and considering the kinds of activities we ask students to engage in, we need to make sure we vary the tasks themselves to maximize engagement and keep things interesting.
How can you incorporate art into your lessons to deepen understanding of ideas? Please share
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in April of 2016