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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Visual Literacy

Being in a classroom every day with the same children is rewarding - and completely different from my typical daily routine. For the next month or so I get the privilege of co-teaching with a fourth grade colleague and indulge in the day-to-day life of those students.

We began on Monday with an introduction to inquiry learning. First we listed all the things we think we knew about the topic I chose (based on what I might encounter this summer at Glacier National Park). I read aloud a chapter on grizzly bears from Ted Lewin's Tooth and Claw: Animal Adventures in the Wild. Then we listed all the things we learned from the passage and crossed out things that were incorrect from our first list.

Never can I be completely engaged with a topic if I have little interest in it. Knowing the same to be true of students, I asked them to list topics about which they might be curious. They were delighted to have books about those topics in hand yesterday! We have been learning to write good questions about things that make us wonder. Wonderings, we have called them.

Today we worked on visual literacy (and later on, text clues). I started with Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother photograph and was astounded at what they wondered. They even pointed out something I have never noticed in the years I have looked at the photograph: the mother indifferently holds a baby in her left arm. The second practice photograph was of the Chrysler Building. They loved the gargoyle-like eagles (unlike the scarier gargoyles on the Chicago Public Library) and again generated incredible questions. Moving to their own books and images was easy! Tomorrow we start talking about our wondering thought processes.


  1. I too noticed the exact same thing, for the FIRST time this year, after years of kids choosing Dorthea Lange for their biography report. It caused me alarm. How could I miss it? The title: Migrant Mother calls attention to this in itself. Selfishly, I'm glad one of my most respected observers of life missed this too ;-) Enjoy your inquiry unit.

  2. What were the topics the children wanted to pursue?

  3. Hearing you discuss Inquiry Learning makes me want to be a classroom teacher again. I would love to be able to learn and use these techniques with a class of my own.

  4. Isn't it amazing, Jamalee, that we missed that baby? Sadly, the migrant mother hardly seems to recognize that dirty infant in her arms. Some preliminary topics, Brattcat, include the Taj Mahal, cars, how sand becomes glass, hurricanes, elephants, and rattlesnakes. They might change after the children are done practicing. You can visit anytime, David, and join us for inquiry!