I support and co-teach Reading and Writing Workshop with a new 5th grade teacher, so I knew I would do this week’s assignment for his class. They are at the beginning of their argumentative essay unit and the day I was there they were doing flash debates. The topic was should animals be kept in a zoo? To plan I went straight to my favorite Creative Commons search sites, Compfight, and began looking for two images that would represent each side. The images needed to be neutral, but at the same time pull at the emotions to support either side. As Garr Reynold said on his blog, Presentation Zen, “Visuals that surprise people, touch them, delight them, and support your story are best because they affect people in an emotional way.”
Using the visuals really transformed the lesson. After seeing the visual before their preparations students asked me if they could also use images as evidence. The classroom teacher and I decided they could, if it accompanied evidence that supported it. Next they started searching using Google, all the readings from course 2 flooded my mind and I used it as a teaching moment. I showed groups of students how to search using Google “Search Tools” function which led them to the licensure option. I figured this would be the best option for the amount of time we had, they are used to Google. I’m ashamed to say that they didn’t cite the image because we were using them for a debate and honestly I didn’t have time to teach them how to add the photo credit onto the picture. I plan on teaching them when we have more time to work on the search part.
When it came to the flash debates it was so fun to watch. Students tried to tie their arguments into the audience’s emotions.
“Look at the face of this baby panda, sad and alone because he can’t be with his mother. How would you feel if you were taken from your mother when you were a baby?”
“This is the face of a dangerous animal. Grown lions can weigh…(I forgot the rest). They should be kept in a zoo to protect humans”
These are just some of the things the students came up with all because they had a visual to use. Looking back I should have recorded them or at least wrote their quotes down verbatim, but you get the gist. Renee Hobbs said in Teaching Media Literacy , “Media literacy….is literacy for the information age.” I completely agree with her, our students are so visually minded this day and age that whenever they can link their learning to images I think it helps it stick better. Actually I found the images made the task harder, but more powerful. Students couldn’t just show the image they had to think and figure out how to connect it to one of their reasons and support it with evidence. Another thing I observed was the ELL students and their ability to participate more because of the images.
After this simple assignment of adding visuals into the classroom I will do it way more often. I normally think of adding images to presentations, but having students (or teachers in my case) find them for a learning task is super powerful and gives them more ownership of their learning.