“The development of the narrative capacities of the mind, of its ready use of metaphor, of its integration of cognitive and affective, of its sense-making and meaning-making, and of its overarching imagination, is of educational importance because these capacities are so central to our general capacity to make meaning of our experience."
I have been teaching the same course for five years now and am quite familiar with the diagnostics and need analysis of my students. I have also gathered a lot of information from my students in consultations and evaluations. Korean students are used to being in a traditional language class, which uses cliché generic theme chapters in textbooks, involves a lot of rote learning and is centered on grades and memory work. The lesson I have designed is based on the idea that student should be constructing knowledge and language in a unique and imaginative fashion. Moreover many students are familiar with modern technological tools but not in the sense of content creation, yet many have spoken to me about how digital tools can be used to further their language acquisition. Finally, the class is composed of students from various majors but always which always include Art History, Craft, Media and Culture majors, which will help act as a bridge for using art and technology in a lesson. This approach is experiential and will go to engaging them in meaningful language learning, enriching their academic years, and helping them in developing long lasting digital skills.
Because the lesson is about art, I’m going to use works of art to elicit and teach techniques of descriptive writing and narrative structure, as well. This will help to engage students in the content of the lesson and allow me to scaffold learning experiences. Moreover, the starter task with the Van Gogh painting serves several functions here: first, it will introduce the theme of art into class and second give them the language to describe a painting. Third, it also will serve to provoke their imaginations into seeing in a different way. I created this activity specifically because the “The Starry Night” painting is so ubiquitous in their minds from a contemporary commercial and various ads. However, by having them sketch it themselves and then rediscover it as it comes into view on the page in front of them is a unique participatory experience for them. This impression is heightened further when they realize the vantage point from where “Starry Night” was actually painted from (an asylum)and tie in the connection with the infamous and equally ubiquitous anecdote about Van Gogh’s severed ear (It was one of the first paintings completed after the ear supposed incident). I’ve experimented with this activity recently and it had a very strong impression on the students. So, there is an added fourth purpose which is to get them thinking about point of view and different contexts from which to view a painting. Finally, it will have the effect of turning something familiar into something strange. This to me is one of the most fundamental aspects of creativity and artistic expression. Art through various ways (metaphor in writing, editing in film) can make the familiar into something strange and conversely it can make something strange into something familiar. But in both situations the mind is forced to see the world in a new way. (It is interesting to note that research by Bonny Norton shows, technology can have this same effect on language learners but I will discuss the affordances of the technology later in this blog).
Similarly, the Julio Cortazar story “Axolotl” was chosen to compliment and play into this idea of strangeness and seeing altering one’s perspective from a different point of view. (It’s worth mentioning that student will also be familiar with Márquez's 1968 short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" from our other classes, which is a story dealing with similar thematic content as well) In regards to the video assignment Golden Earring, it will suggest a possible metacogitive postmodern point of view on a painting which they might consider to view their own painting from. The Tedtalks videos make this approach very explicit and we will also incorporate it into class discussions as well. All the tasks have been designed with a secondary embedded purpose which the students have to discover by themselves in pairs and to get them asking more questions because I want them to do something similar in their interpretation of a painting. They will need to look for more and dig a little deeper with their imaginations to become more creative. I think the tasks as they have been designed will help them to do so. The creation of the final project will be a strong reflection of this process.
The Final Digital Artifact will being using thinglink which allows students to embed their chosen painting with hot spots which the other students will have to find by cursing over the picture. This allows them many options for telling their final story either in disjointed fashion or in a standard narrative it also gives them the opportunity to add sound and other video so student my chose to create a link to video or other created content to embellish their story. The genre of the stories are open for students to choose from as well. This means they can negotiate to make a murder mystery which the other students have to solve.
The teacher role will be largely based a initiating ideas and engaging students with starters and designing tasks, ensuring collaboration is effective, providing feedback, and finally and perhaps most importantly scaffolding and encouraging peer feedback. Collaboration in the creative process is at the heart of this language lesson and it needs to be structured in an efficacious and productive fashion. I have tried to incorporate group work into the class in several places so that it can be transferred online with various tasks. This will begin with the Reading Circles where students will nominate their own groups and their subsequent roles to perform. Specific roles will give them more autonomy and allow them to be able to control the material as research by Palinscar and Herrenkohl has demonstrated. In particular, this can be seen in the role of confusion collector. Their 2002 study shows how students were able to find their own answers to most problems without a teacher, provided an explicit role was designated for immediate visceral reactions and questions beforehand (2002, p.27). This group structure should break the task down into smaller chunks for students to identify and then work with. The main collaborative component will come with the online tasks and it is online that I want students to learn how to engage in constructive peer feedback.
I have based this cyclical design on the ideas suggested by Laurillard so that there are approximately 6 groups of 6 students (2013). Within each group students will be divided into three pairs A,B,C. This will allow me to get them providing feedback to each other within their groups but this will extend outward in concentric circles of feedback to eventually include the whole class. For the weekly online tasks, in each group Pair A will begin the story and Pair B will provide feedback and continue the story based on their feedback then pass it on to Pair C, who will continue the story then receive feedback from Pair A. This is similar to the Exquisite Corpse activity or “the drawing game” played by Surrealist painters in the 1920s but in this dynamic the point here is to be constructing something together, and using language to do so rather than acting in mutually exclusive groups and surprising each other with the final resulting product. They are “in a sense trapped” and will find it “difficult to escape” using the language. (Biggs, 2003) Similarly, in the third week this pattern of feedback will extend out to the next group where Group 1 will provide feedback to Group 2 and so on. This feedback will be mainly questions for clarification and to help each group identify and iron on problem areas in their narratives. The final assessment will be done by rearranging the groups so that the final artifact will be seen for the first time by a different group in the following pattern: G1-G6, G4-G2, G5-G3.
Technology and Second Language Acquisition
As mentioned earlier, students have requested to use more digital tools in class which is a major reason in terms of engagement and practical life skills. Students will become familiar will quite a few digital tools for solo or collaborative work including google docs, edublogs, padlet, popplet, and thinglink. It is hoped students will use these tools within their major and other courses as well. However, in regards to second language acquisition, using technology will ensure students are using English to communicate with one another. Further to this interface on each tool is written in English as are the How to video that will be used to help them. As quoted above, they will be “trapped” into learning because they will undoubtedly try and negotiate their narrative in Korean at some point but because they are writing online, it can be tracked, monitored and assessed. They will be given a quota for how much they should be participating but hopefully this will initiate more communication online with each other. Keeping in mind that this is a writing skills class and not a speaking class, the chosen technology will enhance their writing ability along with the regular course work. That being said, I designed it so that a lot of the online written language can be reused and consolidated in the spoken in class feedback sessions in weeks two and three. Student will also be designing their own blogs which means creating their own visual space to represent themselves which will be empowering and give them a sense of accomplishment. It also works with the visual aesthetic dimension of the overall lesson plan. Technology will be used to facilitate second language acquisition in terms of a negotiation of meaning and content creation but ultimately the most learning will occur in the feedback process.
As Smith suggests, the human “mind is a narrative concern revolving around interpretation and consensus” (Beynon and Mackay, 1992) This consensus is not only in the mind of the learner but in the community the learner is a part of and this is best manifested in the act of collaboration. The above class was designed in an attempt to bring more creativity and collaboration into the classroom and allow students to create a narrative experience rather than remember information. Although I have always tried to create imaginative lessons in the past, my experience in this creative writing course has engendered a deeper respect for the creative process and also given me the empathetic perspective to envision what my students are going through in the classroom. However, I think the most impressive discovery, even a “threshold concept” for me was in the area of feedback (Cousins, 2006). It is in the act of providing feedback where the most powerful and practical effects will be discovered by my students as well. It is a difficult process but one that forces students to clarify and define their use of language within a social dynamic which is supported by Vygotskian theories of social interaction in the learning process (Tomasello, 2014). But it also invokes the connection between what Bakhtin referred to as a “surplus of seeing” and cognition (Clark and Holquist, 1984). Having to perceive oneself through the eyes of another and then negotiate meaning ultimately forces one to respect and redefine identity as a collective entity in a creative community of learners. This, in turn, makes the acquisition of a second language a more meaningful and holistic experience. I have tried to design a lesson that will get students creatively involved in meaningful communication with one another and at the same time use practical second language skills and digital skills that will be used throughout their lifetime.
Egan, K. (1992). Imagination in Teaching and Learning: The Middle School Years. University of Chicago Press, p 64
Norton,Bonny.(2013)"Identity, Investment, and Multilingual Literacy (in a digital world)"Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fapiB6zgZUQ
Palincsar, A. S., & Herrenkohl, L. R. (2002). Designing collaborative learning contexts. Theory into practice, 41(1), 26-32.
Laurillard, D. (2013). Teaching as a design science: Building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. Routledge. P 207
Biggs, J. (2003). Aligning teaching for constructing learning. The Higher Education Academy, p1-4.
Beynon, J., & Mackay, H. (1992). Technological literacy and the curriculum. Psychology Press.
Cousin, G. (2006). An introduction to threshold concepts. Retrieved from neillthew.typepad.com. p.4
Tomasello, S. (2014). Effects of Visual Arts on Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/9539043/The_Effects_of_Visual_Arts_on_Second_Language_Acquisition, pg 9
Clark, K., & Holquist, M. (1984). Mikhail Bakhtin. Harvard University Press., p. 71