I love lit circles: open-ended questions that trigger in-depth, reflective, analytical discussion of the text.  They're a staple in my classroom.  And a few weeks ago I did a twist on the lit circle and instead had students do a symbolic analysis of symbols from Catcher in the Rye and then demonstrate their learning visually and textually.  Listening to their conversations about which visual elements to include in their work helped me to understand that thinking visually could give them new ideas and broaden their understanding.  It's not like they were just demonstrating what they already knew using pictures instead of words; thinking of pictures triggered new thoughts for them and added more layers to their understanding of a particular symbol.

Why not apply the same idea to something other than a symbol?  A character, perhaps?  I experimented with this last week and made a board on Pinterest for a character we were studying.  Searching for images and analyzing how the images related to the character strengthened my analytical skills and helped to build my understanding of the character.  It was a great exercise for me, and so I turned it into a lesson for my students.  Getting Pinterest accounts set up for each group was a pain because of their "invitation only" policy coupled with our school's blocks on facebook.  But once we got all of the logistics ironed out and students started making their pinboards, I heard the same great kind of conversations that I heard with the Catcher in the Rye symbol poster activity.  The criteria for the activity is as follows:

* Each group is assigned a different character from Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie (you could do this same activity with any work of literature)

* Create a pinboard to communicate your character's "world."  What likes, dislikes, interests, personality characteristics, values, dreams, etc. define your character?  You want your board to represent these ideas visually and to show your understanding of your character.

* Select a quote from Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie that gives insight into your character.  Type up the quote, being deliberate about font style, color, background, and size.  Then, save the quote as an image.  You want the tone of your image to match the tone of your character.  Upload it to Pinterest and provide a caption about your choices in formatting the passage and how it gives insight into your character.

* Pick a celebrity who you would cast to play your character.  Pin an image of them that embodies your character.  In your caption, explain your choice in casting.  What about the celebrity's appearance, personality, and roles they're typically cast for made them a good match to play your character?

* Select at least five other images to pin to your board that offer insight into your character, and write a caption about how they give insight into your character.

The students have spent a class period and a half working on their pinboards.  In addition to making their own boards, students have been commenting on one another's and engaging in an ongoing dialogue about the characters.

Here are some of them!

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    About Me

    A lover of literature and the arts and an advocate for global awareness and active citizenship, I spend my days with high school English and Social Studies students exploring why it all matters and how they can have a voice in the world.  This is my space to document and reflect on my practice, note happenings in education, and share my appreciation for the arts.


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