Here is a series of doodles on large white index cards I worked on tonight as I tried to develop the appropriate icons that would help me outline and communicate on the classroom whiteboard my lesson plan for tomorrow’s Advanced Composition class.
From left to right:
- two post-its with the agenda I’ll draw and a sentence I’ll write on the whiteboard for tomorrow’s classes
- my composition notebook for freewriting at the beginning of each class with photos of William Stafford and Peter Elbow
- the first text we’ll be reading in class, Jeanette Walls‘ memoir The Glass Castle, sitting on top of the Grammar Diagnostic Exam I’ll also be giving students tomorrow
Here below is a detail photo of the two post-its. Beginning this semester, I will draw the course agenda for students on the whiteboard prior to each class session. In the past, I projected numbered or bulleted slides to walk students through the class agenda, but I’ve decided to illustrate the agenda with simple icons to lead me and my students through the class tasks. (More here on how I began developing this strategy during a visual thinking course I taught this last summer.)
The pencil = We will free-write together at the beginning of each class to focus our energies on writing and on the topics of the class.
?s = I will ask students if they have questions about the assignments, our schedule, or any aspect of the class. I will repeat that questions are always good things.
The house = Homework for the next class period.
The line with period = Students will take a Grammar Diagnostic Exam to draw their attention to one aspect of the class: improving their confidence and versatility on composing sentences.
The key and ukulele = I will preview some key terms of the course (Reading, Writing, Drawing Leads to Improved Thinking) and demonstrate how the four strings of the ukulele serve as another reminder of how these four abilities work together to enable us to achieve other purposes.
The line with period again = I will briefly introduce a basic vocabulary of sentences. I believe “less is more” when it comes to learning sentence grammar.
APA = Students will submit the course Academic Performance Agreement — a signed agreement demonstrating their understanding and acceptance of the course requirements.
?s = An opportunity at the end of the class for students to ask questions about anything related to the class or work coming due.
This weekend, I’m preparing for a summer grad course on composition studies I’ll begin teaching in a couple of days, and I sketched out the chart below.
As an introduction to the course, I want to share with my students some ideas about how writing can be seen as an integrated performance dependent upon one’s ability to orchestrate other performances in the language arts, intellect, emotions, and the body. In the teaching of writing, we tend to leap into a focus on grammar or process or grading or rhetoric or selecting the right textbook without acknowledging the foundational structures that influence and build upon one another to make possible our development as writers. I take these to be universal and local conditions. There are other conditions of course, such as social, political, and economic conditions that influence our abilities and desires to write, but here I wanted to focus on what we share and how the physical and sensing self is at bottom rarely recognized as the literal stage and apparatus of all writing.
What would happen if you had students draw their final exam?
In lieu of a traditional final exam or paper, I asked students in my course “Visual Thinking, Narration, and Explanation” to create a comic, sketchnote, or infographic that represented the most significant things they learned in the class. As you will see above and below, most chose the sketchnote format–which is logical given that they were drawing two sketchnotes daily in response to the reading assignments. (For more on sketchnoting, see Mike Rohde’s book The Sketchnote Handbook here.)
OK, so I taught this course in the first summer session I called “Visual Thinking, Narration, and Explanation.” It was a mashup English course focusing on visual thinking theory, infographics, sketchnoting, and comics. (See the previous post here on the books I used and how the course changed the way I now think about presenting the class agenda.)
Anyway, I designed this short 4 1/2 week summer course with an exam about half way through just after we would have finished reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. But as we were approaching the week of the exam and seeing how successful students were with sketchnoting their responses to McCloud’s ideas, I thought I’d offer them another choice.
“Rather than take an exam on Understanding Comics,” I asked, “would you rather draw a comic instead?”
I could see their minds working: Well, let’s see, “take an exam or draw a comic?” They chose the latter.
“But there’s one catch,” I said. ”You have to draw the comic based on one of my recent poems.”
(One last thing: These are English majors and minors, not art students, with some training in the art of sketchnoting and reading in Understanding Comics–plus of course whatever training they brought to the class. But I think these comics demonstrate the power of McCloud’s book, the dedication of these students to the course and the project, as well as the potential for such an assignment in a range of literature courses.)
“Only” by Yun Jin Hwang:
“Only” by Chelsea Crenshaw:
“Only” (24X48 in) by Bobby Gardner
“A Folk Tale” by Kim Sides:
“A Folk Tale” by Kwabena Ayoke:
“A Folk Tale” by Holland Vanden Bossche
“A Folk Tale” by Morgan Brooke Addison:
“A Folk Tale” (25X30 in) by Cade Tatsch:
“A Folk Tale” by Ashley Spratley
“A Folk Tale” by Connie Riddle
“Leaning” by Maxine Breedlove
Now that I think about it more, maybe I should have titled this blog entry “Taking vs. Making.”
During this first summer session, I taught a special topics course I’ve been wanting to teach for some time. I titled it “Visual Thinking, Narration, and Explanation.” In the next couple of days in later posts, I’ll share some of the outstanding work created by students in the course, but first I thought I’d show how I presented lesson plans to my students. This is a very simple and mundane idea, but I spent some time before each class drawing up an overview of that day’s activities so that students could see the narrative arc of the class. I generally make a numbered list to help students see what I intend for us to accomplish. But because this course was going to focus on visual thinking and communication, I decided to rethink those daily lesson plans and attempt to create “visual agendas” that would more clearly and memorably communicate what was in store.
The change in imagining these course agendas was affected by the work of the course, but particularly two of the main course texts: The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.
Most days started with practice in lettering and drawing simple icons before moving on to questions and sharing responses to the reading assignments. And on some days, we would move into a computer lab to work on infographics or comics. (The other two texts in the class included Infographics by Lankow, Ritchie, and Crooks, and Visual Thinking by Rudolph Arnheim.)
Here below is the progression of my 22 daily class plans from the purely linguistic day one agenda to the final class comic agenda with shapes, color, and images dominating the linguistic aspects.
These agendas, and all student work for the course, were uploaded to a Google + Community site I created for this class, and I began each class displaying this agenda from that platform. Then we moved on to look at what other students had uploaded from their sketchnotes, infographics, or comic projects. I’d be happy to invite you to take a look if you send me your gmail address.
I was contacted today by Judith Zielstra from The Netherlands who asked if she could use this drawing of mine below in a site she was building for her consulting business Judith in Company.
Why, sure! Here’s the webpage on her site with my drawing.