This is the most surprising and wonderful lesson in this unit perhaps. The students learn the beauty of the text and how different authors over the course of the last couple of units have chosen to represent the symbols and characters and themes that we have encountered. Exploring these methods of representation can be challenging (RL.9-10.7), but in this lesson, we will begin by drawing and later move into linguistic explanations.
I will start simply by drawing Jin Wang on the left side of the cover. I personally cannot draw very well, but these images are very easy to draw, so know I will have success, and so do the students. I will then ask them to juxtapose (earlier terminology on the structure of images) an image of their choice from the middle of the text. If they think it relates, they should put it near the image that it relates to, especially if the relationship is thematic (RL.9-10.2), based on similarity of character (RL.9-10.3), or reflects a similar treatment of figurative language, especially motif (RL.9-10.4). For example, the old Chinese herbalist poses a warning about trying too hard to fit in, so I put her above the trapped Monkey King on my mapolage.
I make sure to do a think-aloud as I go, with some light jazz music playing in the background, and explaining the logic of symbols and how one might choose to represent them. For now, we re just lifting images from the text and arranging them in collage fashion through pencil drawing. The images form a "map" of the ideas because they can choose to make the images larger or smaller based on importance and closer together or father apart based on similarity of ideas.
And representation. Next, the idea is to create original representations from the two short stories that we have read in this unit and in the preceding unit, "Home Now" (it's easy to draw the billboard reading "If you lived here you'd be home now," or even the book or sushi shop) and "Hollywood and the Pits" (for which they can draw the tar pit or even some bones). They can also choose to enter into the map-o-lage elements from earlier stories, and I elected to include Rowdy from our first novel, Absolutely True Diary. Again, the idea is to see how different visual representations (RL.9-10.7) might come to portray an idea, motif, character or perspective. In what ways do they represent an image differently from Yang's graphic novel who depicts it differently from the representations in other mono-linguistic representations, such as the short stories that we have read or even the other novels. They will need to explain what they included and why, what they left out and why, and how these choices compare with those of the other artists and writers that we have studied. Thus, this art piece is also really a thought piece about representation! I try not to press that point too heavily today, but it does unfold over the course of the period and the two days of the lesson.
And presentation. For now, this is sort of a right-brainer art project, and it's absolute candy for some but a hard sell for others, typically. I will beg their patience and persistence to get it done well. The next phase of the lesson will ask them to explain their choices, and this will focus their insights on an explanation of ideas (SL.9-10.1).
I will ask the students to share their work in progress and the connections that they are making. This section of class will go well if the students are taking their artwork seriously, finding connections that they didn't expect, and show an ability to explore their ideas visually first and then in a presentation later (SL.9-10.1).
I will give a quick exit slip because this activity represents a difficult standard (RL.9-10.7) and a key turning point in the school year as we turn our attention toward analysis of figurative language (in the upcoming F451 unit). I want to know how they are tracking with this off-the-wall drawing assignment and how I might foster their enjoyment of figurative language--symbolism, in particular.
1.) How is your map-o-lage progressing?
2.) If our goal is to make sure that every one of us creates an amazing drawing, what kind of help do you need to create something special?