Tag Archives: community literacy

Lens Blog and Visual Thinking Strategies

When developing the photo essay assignment for my course, I came across an excellent resource for teachers and students. The New York Times has started a blog entitled Lens: Photography, Video, and Visual Journalism. The topics covered in  the blog posts touch on several critical issues such as immigration, race, and class. The photos  captured in each of the photo essays serve as a great entry point into rich discussion. When using the Lens Blog in my classroom I find myself drawing on skills I developed during workshops many years ago.

When I was a public school teacher, I participated in a fascinating series of professional development workshops called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). By analyzing carefully selected images, students were able to develop critical literacy skills as well as visual literacy skills. Teachers were facilitators in this process and asked three open-ended questions:

1. What’s going on in this picture?

2. What do you see that makes you say that?

3. What more can we find?

I found myself using the VTS approach when presenting students the photo essays from the Lens blog. Students in my class really engaged with the photos and rich discussion took place as a result. I will definitely be using this blog for years to come in the classroom.

Below are some powerful images from photo essays on  the Lens Blog.

Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Garifuna Immigrants in New York
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: Connecting with Syrian Refugees
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner
Photo Essay: One Year Later, Remembering Eric Garner

Link to VTS site: http://www.vtshome.org/

Link to NYT Lens: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/

Advertisements

Creating “Legible” Cities

In preparing for the 2015 PanAm games, Toronto is installing new signage to make the city an easier place to navigate. A wayfinding approach is being used which is defined on Wikipedia as: “ the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.” In addition to traditional maps, the wayfinding strategy uses multimodal approaches to make a city more “legible.” Landmarks, new media, public art, and street furniture are examples of ways the wayfinding strategy uses multimodalities. The project is currently being piloted in 21 locations around the Toronto.

Below are examples of Wayfinding signage in cities:

Interactive signage up currently up in Toronto, Canada
Interactive signage up currently up in Toronto, Canada
publicfurniture
Wayfinding public furniture in a London, U.K. shopping centre.

Brent Raymond, a partner at the design firm responsible for the new signage, commented on in the Globe and Mail on the wayfinding approach:

“It isn’t just about signs. It’s about helping people navigate space. The best examples are always places like airports. People who aren’t familiar with a place at all, they need to be able to find information quickly and feel confident about their environment.”

Read more about this approach to city living here:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/new-signage-about-to-make-navigating-toronto-on-foot-a-whole-lot-easier/article24951383/

http://www1.toronto.ca/wps/portal/contentonly?vgnextoid=8057524d63f02410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD&vgnextchannel=d90d4074781e1410VgnVCM10000071d60f89RCRD

Exploring Toronto Through Poetry

To mark National Poetry Month (April), the Toronto Public Library launched the poetry map, an interactive map that allows users to explore Toronto through a collection of poems associated with the city’s neighborhoods and landmarks. The project was the result of a collaboration between the Toronto Public Library and the city’s poet laureate George Elliott Clarke. Clarke suggested, the “map brings the city alive in terms of it being a living, pulsing, breathing organism that gives creative people – poets – inspiration. It reminds us that Toronto is a great city for the arts.” The Library hopes to expand the project by encouraging the public to submit their favorite poems related to Toronto.

Link: http://www.torontopoetry.ca/

Visiting the Rishi Valley School…Part 2

IMG_8033

While at the Rishi Valley School I had the opportunity of visiting the Rishi Valley Institute for Education Resources (RIVER), a teacher training and development wing of Rishi Valley Rural Education Centre. The school serves children from the surrounding rural communities, several of which are impoverished. At first glance the RIVER school appears to be like many rural schools in India; one large classroom, one teacher, twenty-five students spanning across 5 grades. However, after spending an afternoon in the classroom it became clear that this classroom was not like the others. First, there are no desks or chairs; rather, there are four large tables with students purposefully seated at them. Second, Kala, the classroom teacher, does not do any stand-up teaching. Instead, she moves from table to table working with small groups of kids or one-on-one with a child with laminated graded cards. Kala is using the multi-grade, multi-level methodology which the Rishi Valley School has spent years developing, and she has spent years perfecting. At the RIVER school a “community-based curriculum is taught…where the academic curriculum is graded for individual levels of learning, grounded in up-to-date information, and framed in the local idiom, and…where the curriculum is integrated with activities.” (http://www.rishivalley.org/rural_education/RIVER.htm)

IMG_8031

The classroom

I was most interested in the pride the students took in their graded cards they had completed, as well as their designated space on the wall to record their progress (pictures below). They were all very aware of what level they were at for each of their subject. The graded cards are part of an educational kit the RIVER school has created.

This is how the educational kit works:

The education kit, a series of carefully graded cards, replaces textbooks in the area of language, mathematics and environmental science. Each card in the graded series is marked with a logo (rabbit, elephant, dog) and mapped on to a subject-specific “Learning Ladder”, a progress guide which traces out the learning trajectory for students.

Spaces on the Ladder are sub-divided into a set of milestones. These milestones consist of  cards that explain a concept;  the applications of the concept;  evaluation of students’ understanding and, finally, provide means of testing, remediation or  enrichment. A student identifies her own place on the ladder, and creates, within the broad confines of the milestones,  her own path from grade one to grade five. 

Blank spaces on the ladder allow teachers to introduce independent content into the learning process. Indeed the Ladder can be designed in flexible ways to allow for multiple trajectories between which teachers and students are able to choose so long as the sequencing required by the academic disciplines is maintained.(Source: http://www.rishivalley.org/rural_education/RIVER.htm)

 Although I only spent an afternoon in the classroom, it left a lasting impression on me. The MGML approach seemed to really have been working, and effectively addressing the prevalent issue of mutli-grade classroom across rural India. The MGML approach is being used in rural school across Andhra Pradesh, and has been adopted by many school in the state of Tamil Naidu. The creators are advocating for the approach in several other states in India. Take a look at some photos below!

IMG_8024

Kala (the teacher) working with the students. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 8.30.28 PM

Students working on Math problems at their own individual levels. 


IMG_8025
The Milestones Chart

IMG_8020

Student progress for the week. 

The Danger of Silence

I came across this short yet powerful TED talk. Educator Clint Smith delivers a power piece of spoken word on what he believes  to be  the dangers of silence. Smith, like many educators, values students’ voices and opinions. He believes we must encourage our students to speak out against injustices because silence leads to discrimination, violence, and war. Through the use of poetry, Smith helps students shares their stories- share their “truths.” Smith begins his spoken work piece with a powerful Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Smith also shares 4 core principles that he runs his classes by:

1. Read critically

2. Write consciously 

3. Speak clearly

4. Tell your truth

Watch Smith’s 4-minute video here to hear more about the dangers of silence:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 10.42.22 PM

What’s Up at the Public Library?

The other day, Natasha a student teacher in the literacy methods course mentioned the Dial a Story program offered by the Toronto Public Library system. Her recommendation reminded us to stay in touch with the wonderful outreach programs offered by public libraries. Dial A Story is a free service that provides stories for younger children (7 and under) and for older children (up to 12) twenty-four hours a day.  Stories rotate on a daily basis and are currently available in 15 languages including: French, English, Cantonese, Gujarati, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Tagalog, and Urdu. Occasionally, Dial A Story features special guest readers such as Toronto Blue Jays baseball players and dancers from the National Ballet of Canada.  A big thank-you to Natasha for reminding to check out the many resources our public libraries have to offer!

http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/services/dial-a-story.jsp

phone1phone2

A Community Literacy Initiative

On a recent walk I noticed the front lawn of a home in my neighborhood proudly exhibits a quaint little wooden structure perched a top a post, which at first glance looked like an oversized bird house, however, upon closer examination I noticed that the petite house is full of books and displays a sign that invites passersby to take a book and return a book. The small wooden house is part of the Little Free Library initiative, a not-for-profit organization that promotes literacy, a love of reading, and a sense of community. The project began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one-room schoolhouse in honor of his mother, a former teacher who loved reading.  He filled the model schoolhouse with books and put it on a post in his front yard. According the website www.littlefreelibrary.org “a loyal cadre of volunteers made it possible to expand the organizational reach…. By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built.” Do you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or a community literacy initiative that you would like to share?

LittleFreeLibrary

Little Free Libraries

“The “take a book, return a book” boxes are catching in even on places where Kindles and brick-and-mortar books abound.”

 I love the concept of the Little Free Library! The Little Free Library movement operates from a universally understood “take a book, return a book” policy. The first Little Free Library was built in 2009 in Hudson, Wisconsin. Since then, Little Free Libraries have been popping up all over the world:

There are now 18,000 of the little structures around the world, located in each of the 50 states and in 70 countries—from Ukraine to Uganda, Italy to Japan. They’re multiplying so quickly, in fact, that the understaffed and underfunded nonprofit struggle to keep its world map up to date.”

qatar

Little Free Library in Qatar

stclair

Little Free Library in Toronto (St. Clair Ave)

 

Find a Little Free Library near you!

 http://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap