Wednesday, October 17, 2007

more feedback needed

Rebecca and I have been talking about what we'd like students to do for their final projects. In the past we've asked them to create mandalas to capture the worlds of their books, but this year we've really been pushing them to think about the subjects, questions, and issues that come up in their books that are points of conflict in the real world so that they can discuss them in productive ways. (Judging by the conversation on homosexuality I overheard on Monday, this is working in a big way with at least one book club.)

So as I've been trying to think of another final project that would also help them to think about how their worlds and the world of the text overlap and how they might represent their questions and interpretations in visual ways. On my bike road home from Centennial yesterday, I thought about the typical Venn diagram (bo-ring). Then when I was waiting for a light to change, I thought about intersections. That got me to thinking about maps, so today I did some searching of what features are typically included on maps and then came up with the following assignment. Could you take a look and tell me what you think? A more specific question I have is this: Rebecca and I usually require some kind of written accompaniment to the visual group project that students turn in individually. Could the "traveling tips" work this way?

Here's the assignment:

***Mapping the Terrain of Your Text***

From drawings in the sand to atlases to GPS devices, maps throughout history have used symbols, pictures, and color to guide travelers on their journeys through various lands. For your final project, we’d like for you to create a map directing the class toward your group’s interpretive journey through your book club book.

As suggested by the prompts below, it’s important that you think in symbolic terms as you create your map. In other words, we want you to think beyond the literal, physical locations mentioned in your book to symbolic landmarks and points of interest in characters’ lives as well as intersections between the book and your own lives.


As your book club presents your map to the rest of the class, you’ll function as tour guides with 3 primary goals:

1) to translate the icons on your map’s legend and explain your use of color and spacing
2) to help us understand how and why your book club mapped the terrain of the text in the way you did
3) to offer traveling tips to other readers who might pick up this book

As for specific requirements, your map should include a minimum of 8-10 key symbols. Use the prompts below to help you brainstorm what to include on your map. While you need not address all the items listed, starred* items are required. Also include a legend at the bottom of your map, and create a list or booklet of traveling tips. Finally, as you prepare for your presentation, be sure to discuss spatial layout, that is, how you determined where particular features should be located and what the distance between them should be. Finally, be able to describe how you’ve used color in symbolic ways (for example, a red item might represent an event that provoked anger while a black item might represent a defining moment for the narrator since it contains all colors on the spectrum).


Geographical Features – Think about the geographical features included on maps, like rivers, bodies of water, beaches, mountains, valleys, public parks, forests, etc. What features could you include that would work symbolically for your book? For instance, a forest might represent confusion, a mountain range could represent challenges, and so forth.

*Key Intersections – Where and how did your world intersect with the world of this text? What real-world connections, issues, and questions emerged in your sticky notes, Dailies, and book club discussions?

Landmarks & Monuments – Maps often indicate sites like Mount Rushmore or the Vietnam Wall that honor famous people or memorialize historic events. Who are the key people and what are the important events in this book that? How can you feature them on your map?

Leisure & Tourism – Maps sometimes feature sites geared toward leisure or tourism, such as museums, art galleries, amusement parks, golf courses, sports arenas, etc. What do your characters want to preserve or create? What amuses or inspires them? How do they exercise who they are?

Public Services – City maps typically mark locations where public services are offered, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, post offices, and libraries. When do your book’s characters experience distress or danger? What messages do they try to send? What do circumstances or people must they learn to read?

Roads – Almost all maps include different types of roads, such as highways, toll roads, residential streets, trails, bus routes, and railroads. How do the characters travel through your book? When is the going fast and easy, and when is it more bumpy or treacherous?

Sites of Learning - Some maps indicate the locations of schools, colleges, and universities. What do the characters in your book think about and realize? What didn’t they know at the beginning of the book that they know by the end? What provoked this learning?

Sites of Worship – Some maps show where churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples are located. How do your book’s characters develop spiritually or emotionally? What do they worship or idolize? Whom do they praise or appeal to for help?

*Traveling Tips – What advice do you have to offer about navigating the terrain of this text if we choose to read this book? In other words, what should we be aware of? What don’t we want to miss on this journey? What did you learn, realize, or think now that you didn’t know before you read this book?

* Uncharted Territory – Hundreds of years ago when English mapmakers wanted to indicate the limits of the known world on a map, they would write “Beyond this place, there be dragons.” What subjects, issues, and questions remained unresolved in your book club discussions? How did this book make you think? What questions are you asking now that you weren’t before you read this book?

* Xs and Arrows – On pirate maps, X usually marks the spot where buried treasure lies. On maps of campuses, malls, and airports, red arrows often indicate “You are here.” What treasures are to be found in this book? Where are they located? Where would you locate yourselves in the territory of this book?


susan said...

Wow! Can I be in this class? I really think this is a masterful idea! It asks kids to work on so many levels. Lots of possibilities to consider using this type of activity to look more closely at our writing project sites.

Natalie said...

I'll second Susan's comment. This is a great idea and a wonderful way to integrate symbols and images in a really meaningful manner. One thought that did strike me was the inclusion of layers - this ways students could indicate more than one idea happening at the same time - reinforcing the idea of the intersection. Tracing paper or vellum could be used to add one or more layer of thought.

Cindy O-A said...

Natalie, you artist you--always wanting to sew something on or cut a hole in it--the vellum is a great idea. Could you say a little more about that?

Natalie said...

Well, vellum is one of my all time favorite materials because of the ambiguous opacity it brings. You can see through it, but not quite - perhaps like something that happened in the past, it's there in the overall context but not in an immediate physical sense. In an artwork it can often serve as a methaphorical reference to a secondary or underlying idea (at least in my mind!) or allow you to present an opinion on the surface and have the underlying contributing factors as a more vague visual reference. This is not something all your students may be able to grab ahold of cognitively and use - but some of the deeper thinkers might enjoy being able to manipulate the map in this way. And of course, cutting holes carries infinite metaphoric reference possibilities as well :).

Rebecca said...

What a great idea!

What strikes me about this idea is that it asks the students to build into their discussion and project an examination of what they bring to the text. We have asked students to do this in the past, but most have ignored this or blown it off. I’m curious to see if they can move beyond, “We are all the same and had the same reaction to the novel.”

I appreciate that Natalie has suggestions to sew something on or cut a hole in it! Her suggestion reminded me of pop-up books. This could be another option for students to think about the "hidden" world of the novel--what it is that exists behind closed doors or closed minds or even what is usually unseen, but serves as the foundation for an idea or concept or place. Velum allows one to see at least part of what exists beneath, but some ideas need to be revealed by opening a gate or unearthing them.

The concept of a map feels like a good fit for the novels students are exploring in their book clubs right now. Just one more reason why I am a Cindy groupie!

Natalie said...

Rebecca, you bring another idea to the table. Students could certainly make a door in the map, behind which is more information that isn't seen from the surface but can be accessed with a little more effort (i.e. opening the door in this case). This is a great way to use the visual image to enhance more complex ideas. The way you present these options to students is important as well. Suggestion about some possibilities will help them "get it" but it's important to not give them too many ideas because if they stumble onto something you thought of but didn't say it's an original thought to them, and as such ever so much more valuable. The map has infinite possiblities and is an exciting prospect. This idea has definate possibilities as a "real" interdisciplinary approach because students will be manipulating visual ideas as well as the literary ones. As an art teacher I'd love to see what they come up with!