This activity is based off a project called "Changing Lives" that was developed by Sue Nichols. It is featured in Pahl and Rowsell's (2012) Literacy and Education. The purpose of the activity is to help students "become family and self-historians and to 'catch' what they found through using multiple modalities. The project was designed to be inclusive of [students'] diverse cultural resources, adaptable to their ages and abilities, and connectable with different curriculum areas" (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012, p. 22.).
At the first session of this activity, the classroom teacher will tell students a story from his or her own life. For instance, in the example in Pahl and Rowsell (2012), the teacher recalled to her students "how at the age of four, she had been invited to choose just one toy to tak with her on a long journey to a new country. This introduced two key ideas: that our life pathways can take us to different places and that objects may take on special meanings" (p. 12). Afterwards students were invited to "take the conversation home in three ways: to talk with family members about the circumstances of their birth; to borrow family photos; [and] to select a special object which had been in their possession from their early years to bring back to school" (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012, p. 22-23.).
The possessions that students bring back to school are used for the second session of this activity. The purpose of this session is to facilitate students in the "process of producing multimodal texts. Using an ordinary digital camera, a cheap tripod, and a classroom table covered and backed with sheets of blue cardboard, a photo studio [can be] set up in the classroom. Each [student will bring] in a special object and they [will take] turns to pose their object...in front of a camera, coming back behind the camera to check on the view" which creates an emphasis "on design choices for composing an image, with options including the degree of close-up, lighting, angle and the way the object [is placed]. Some [students might be] quite particular about the features of their object that they...highlight in the composition of the image" (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012, p. 23.).
At the third and potentially final session, students will be "encouraged to add linquistic text to the images of their significant objects through one or more of three options: speech bubble, thought bubble and caption. Beforehand, the [teacher will need to copy] each image into a PowerPoint slide....The Powerpoint [can become] a class text that [is] expressed through the use of artifacts, images, linguistic text and digital design elements, a significant aspect of [students'] young lives" (Pahl & Rowsell, 2012, p. 23.). This final project could then be displayed at a school art show and garner attention from the students, their families, and other members of the community.
Zachary M. Clancy is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Studies and teaches Foundations of Education at the University of Northern Colorado. He also teaches middle school special education in Denver, Colo.
Teacher Talk with Zack Clancy
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