Analyzing historical photos or other visual texts is a great strategy for assessing and building students' background knowledge about a time period while also fostering self-awareness of potential biases and misconceptions when viewing the image. At the beginning of or during a unit of study, teachers can display several visual images to get students thinking about a particular time period or topic to build their schema. They can also analyze those images using a graphic organizer such as OPTIC in order to develop a deeper understanding of the visual text and how it affects one's understanding of the time period of events. Additionally, having students analyze visual texts such as photos is a great way to challenge potential biases since the images mirror what happens with students and teachers each day as they see people and form assumptions.
Life Maps are a pre-writing tool that supports students to engage in self-reflection in order to discover the significance of moments in their life that provide potential writing topics. Using this strategy, student writers and their teachers create an illustrated road map of significant events in their life. While students can sketch a life map at any time in the school year, this strategy is ideal at the beginning of the year because it provides multiple potential writing topics and allows students to get to know each other on a more personal level. Throughout the school year, illustrated life maps can be looked back upon to provide sources of writing topics with relevance and meaning to students.
Mascots are designed to give a community of people a symbol to unite them. After studying known mascots and determining what each mascot indicates about the team or product, elementary class communities design a mascot for their class. The mascot incorporates elements carefully chosen to symbolize traits important to the class community. To further enhance the mascot, students study principles of graphic design. After creating the class mascot, the class will be closer united and thus ready for culturally rich connections with each other and their teachers.
Classroom libraries must provide representations of a wide variety of cultures and identities. Readers become and stay motivated when they encounter texts with which they can relate, so it is important that the classroom's collection of texts provide students with stories of people and places they are familiar with, as well as exposing them to new people and places. Therefore, it is important that teachers carefully select and critically examine the texts they place in their classroom library. This strategy involves students in that critical examination.
Ever wonder what happened to the voices we never hear about in history - the voices that were silenced or overlooked in the annals of history? Our history books overflow with stories of victors and we are always told the winners get the luxury of writing history. Sadly, this mentality leaves valuable voices unheard or forgotten. This activity will guide students through researching a chosen historical event in order to determine the various people(s) involved and develop a dramatization giving voice to all people involved.
As citizens in a democracy, students need to be able to analyze news articles and commentaries on current events in their world. True analysis of the news requires understanding the larger social justice concerns embedded within news stories. It is also important for students to consider who presented the news and any bias and agenda that entity might have. Students should also consider their own biases and agenda in interpreting the news. This strategy guides students to analyze the news, to look at it with a critical pedagogical lens, and to develop a plan to address the situations presented in the news.