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I Came, I Saw, I Wrote: An Interdisciplinary Writing Unit for Bilingual Students

Ekaterina Barkhatova

Contents of Curriculum Unit 09.01.01:

To Guide Entry

Unit Outline

Introduction (rationale)
Language Acquisition
Unit Goals and Objectives
Language Arts Block
A."The Circuit" (The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child) by Francisco Jimenez
B.Migrant Family by Larry Dane Brimner
Social Studies Block
A. If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine
B.Ellis Island. New Hope in a New Land by William Jay Jacobs
Science Block
A.March of the Penguins (2005)
B."By the Left, Quick March: The Emperor Penguins Migration" by Steve Connor
Lesson Plan 1
Lesson Plan 2
Lesson Plan 3
Annotated Teacher Bibliography
Annotated Student Bibliography
Websites for Teachers
Appendix A: Implementing District Standards

Viewers are not merely pairs of eyes - they have minds, bodies, genders,
personalities and histories.
-John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplin, Visual Culture

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Introduction (rationale)

In my curriculum unit, I would like to investigate the possibilities of using visual materials, such as photographs, as sources of constructing new meaning in teaching writing to bilingual students in grades five through eight. I have developed a routine plan of activities working on photographs united by one theme - migration/immigration, which content covers three disciplines - language arts, social studies, and science. As research shows, oral language development promotes reading comprehension through the means of writing. Along with the main goal - to teach writing about what one sees in a photograph - the unit aims to enhance students' oral language and improve their reading skills. To ensure that students have the contextual knowledge necessary to interpret a visual image, working on writing about a photograph will be preceded by reading short texts on migration and immigration in one of the three content areas. I truly hope that my writing unit, which employs photographs as its basis, will assist me and perhaps other teachers working with bilingual students with the teaching of writing - a highly demanding cognitive skill. The strategies developed here are based on the premises that our vision is constructive and that students should be able to construct their own meanings of the photographs that they study. Using writing strategies in a three-step process, students write about their interpretations based on their prior knowledge and on the emotions aroused by a certain image. The unit may take as long as thirty sessions (each session is forty five minutes), but its duration can be reduced by using fewer materials (readings or photographs).


Bilingual students acquire a second language through its meaningful verbalization and application, therefore receiving the ownership of the language. When they are asked to complete an assignment requiring them to write about what they see, their task is even more complex than the task of native speakers because they need not only to understand what they see, but also to know appropriate words for what they see and understand how to use them properly. The ultimate goal of the seminar "Writing, Knowing, Seeing" becomes the goal of the unit - "to demonstrate that writing is a process that enables one to know what one sees" - an objective that complements my global teaching goal - to assist students with the acquisition of English. I generally view writing as a tool that helps us organize our thinking and demonstrate our comprehension in a structured way. My goal as a teacher in this unit is to help students with the verbal framing of their understanding of visual material. From my teaching experience, I know that bilingual students in grades five through eight struggle with constructing proper sentence structures and making choices of words. They are not sure how to express their thoughts in a concise and effective way. They often lack vocabulary that is necessary to describe what they understand and want to express. The neediest students dislike writing because it seems to be too challenging a task for them. Writing leaves them with the feeling of frustration and disappointment. This attitude carries over to all disciplines, including language arts, social studies, and science. My curriculum unit focuses on interdisciplinary writing in these subject areas.

I teach English Language Learners at Augusta Lewis Troup School, a middle school, in New Haven, Connecticut. The New Haven Public Schools district offers a program for bilingual students in which Spanish-speaking students are enrolled in a bilingual classroom with the balanced support of their native language from a Spanish-speaking teacher for the first thirty months or first three years of their school career. After the thirty months (which is at the beginning of the third grade), they enter a mainstream classroom, and at this point I begin working with such students, providing them with the Language Transitional Support Services (LTSS). I may work with them for several years until their scores in mandatory tests - such as the state Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) and tests evaluating mastery of English in four language domains (speaking, listening, reading, and writing), the Language Assessment System tests (LAS Links Assessments) - prove that they have become proficient. I usually work with my students in small groups, ensuring that I attend to the individual needs of each of them.

My students largely have Latin American origins. Some of them were born in countries such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Guatemala. Parents of others have come from these countries before their children were born in America. Though their starting points in terms of geography may be different, in their families, these students all belong to the second generation of American residents. As history and the present show, members of the second immigrant generation still possess very tight ties to the culture of their or their parents' motherlands (in comparison with a third and other following immigrant generations, for example). Very often the dominant language of my students, as an inseparable part of their culture, is Spanish. They learned to speak in Spanish because their parents speak, in most cases, only Spanish. They keep speaking it as they grow because at home no other language is spoken but Spanish. For many children the moment of entering a preschool or Kindergarten class means the first encounter with and the beginning of the acquisition of the English language. The success of this acquisition depends on many factors including: parents' support (not necessarily support of the English language, but emotional support for academics overall), the quality of the teaching in a particular bilingual program, and the natural ability of a child to grasp a foreign language.

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Language Acquisition

The acquisition of academic language in a second language is a most laborious and time-consuming process. It usually takes five to seven years to obtain cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP), versus the time from six months to two years to develop basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS). As Echevarria and Graves point out, this distinction between the two kinds of language skills has been popularized by Jim Cummins.1 He also explained his graph "Range of Contextual Support and Degrees of Cognitive Involvement in Communicative Activities" by saying: "communicative tasks, such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing, may be easier or more difficult for second language learners, depending on the task itself and the amount of contextual support available."2 He charted the process as four quadrants formed by the horizontal continuum - contextual support, ranging from contextually embedded communication to context-reduced communication - and by the vertical continuum - cognitive demands of the task, ranging from a cognitively undemanding task (easy) to a cognitively demanding one (difficult). For example, having a casual conversation with a friend is a relatively easy task for an English Language Learner since he or she relies on contextual clues and the conversation doesn't involve academic language. However, the most common types of classroom activities are context-reduced and cognitively demanding tasks. They include the most difficult tasks, for example, reading a text without visual clues, listening to lectures, taking tests, understanding math concepts, and writing compositions. When I begin working with bilingual students as they enter mainstream classrooms, their conversational or playground language is proficient, and their academic or classroom language is very often below basic. Needless to say, academic language is the main area on which I concentrate my teaching and where students need the most support. In this unit, visual materials and the procedure of talking about them provide context-embedded clues, which turn a difficult academic task into a manageable one.

If students are asked to write about the immigration experience of a character after reading a certain book, they need to collect the necessary evidence from the text to support the point they are making. This is a challenging skill that needs to be taught throughout students' time in elementary, middle, and even high school; in other words, finding appropriate evidence in a text is a cognitively demanding task for students, and for English Language Learners in particular. At the same time, when these students are provided with sufficient context-embedded clues, such as those in a photograph or a drawing, and asked to write about the experience of a character in a photograph, they may start their writing with the description of a physical setting and the character's appearance. Plain description should then lead students to interpretations and conclusions about the visual object. This initial stage in the process of creating a writing piece involves working with words and has to be guided through a group discussion. (A more detailed plan of working on a writing piece is offered in the Strategies section below.) Teaching writing to bilingual students with visual materials that create a comprehensible input3 or a context is a more doable task than teaching writing with a minimum of contextual support, such as that typical of verbal explanation.

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Unit Goals and Objectives

During the testing of my upper-grade students with the Speaking test of the Language Assessment System tests (LAS Links Assessments), which are given to bilingual students every year, I often observe that their oral language needs improvement. In speaking about pictures, which display a sequence of four events in a story, students often lack specific vocabulary and developed academic sentence structures, those that contain different subordinate clauses. They have a hard time making transitions from one picture to another in a series and therefore are not able to show a connection between them. They do not make comprehensive inferences based on the pictures. Their speaking is flat and monotonous.

The New Haven Public Schools district is currently promoting effective strategies in teaching reading comprehension in elementary grades through a plan for the development of oral language offered by Mondo Publishing. This company has developed the successful oral language instructional program - Let's Talk About It! - based on the premises that many students, English Language Learners particularly, "have developed reasonable control of social language, but have little proficiency in the instructional language" and that "students exhibit poor comprehension skills and in many instances there is a gap between decoding and comprehension."4 According to the developers of Mondo, Crevola and Vineis, there is a significant difference between students' ability to read words (decode) and their understanding of what they read. The New Haven teacher Katherine Massa provides an evidence of this discrepancy: an "example I see in students who have low language skills is that they 'look' like fluent readers when you listen to them read, but when it comes down to comprehension questions and being able to retell what they have just read, they can not do it."5 The authors of the Mondo program claim that reading comprehension is impeded because oral language is not developed so that the sentence structures and use of vocabulary are at a proficient level. Therefore, when students read a text, they cannot transfer the knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structures to reading from their oral language, simply because their oral language does not include this vocabulary and these sentence structures. The Mondo program uses photographs to develop oral language, which triggers improvement of reading comprehension skills. The program developed a formula for success: "what we see, we can talk about; what we talk about, we can write down; what we write down, we can read." The research conducted by Mondo shows that the percentage of students labeled "at-risk" who were taught with the oral language program considerably decreased because their reading comprehension improved significantly. Even though the Mondo oral language program is targeted at elementary grades, I believe that the elements of it that I use in my unit are beneficial for the upper grades in which I teach this unit. (The difference between Mondo oral language lessons and lessons developed for this unit will be discussed in the Strategies section below.)

In developing my unit, I have striven for the synthesis of teaching goals and ideas that have been proved to be functional. I want my unit solve several problems that bilingual students have. Thus, this curriculum unit has the following goals: 1) to improve oral language and, therefore, 2) to improve reading skills and, mainly, 3) to teach writing about something what one sees.

Knowing how to describe what one sees is primary; therefore an important objective involves eliciting the vocabulary needed to discuss a photograph. Elaboration of description is another of the unit's objectives. It addresses the difficulty that bilingual students have describing a photograph with a variety of details and sentences. The next step is to interpret the picture. Students are asked not only to transmit what they physically see, but also to explain what situation might be behind an image. Finally, attention is drawn to grammar and sentence structure. I plan to conduct several mini-lessons on topics such as different kinds of subordinate clauses, pronoun referents, sentence fragments, the past tense of regular and irregular verbs. Using grammar conventions is challenging for English Language Learners. Grammatical points need to be taught explicitly. When teaching writing, I always try to incorporate a grammar lesson in my instruction.

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In this section, I would like to consider some important aspects and qualities of vision that may drive an effective instruction in the classroom. Visual information is more easily digested than printed information (a written text) because of the way the human brain works. We are bombarded with visual images in everyday life, though we often do not realize that - these are the conventions of visual culture. Donald Hoffman explains the genius of human vision in his theory of "universal vision."6 The validity of this theory is proved by the successful application of various visual materials in teaching children, particularly in teaching English Language Learners. However, some visual material may appear complicated to decipher and understand, and it therefore requires students' interpretations based on their prior knowledge and the emotions aroused by a certain image. This point, in my opinion, makes my unit interesting to teach because the teacher can find out students' unique constructed meanings of the photographs we study.

People in today's civilized world live in a visual culture. It seems that in the twenty-first century our "global village" has employed human vision in more sophisticated ways and has taken visual technologies to new heights. Taken for granted, the sense of vision not only allows people to experience the old-fashioned ways of looking at people and objects, but it also exposes them to advanced technologies when spectacular visual effects on TV, in movies, concert halls, and public places cause child-like excitement. Our kids' eyes are glued to computer screens, which display rapidly changing images of high-tech games. Virtual reality seems to be slowly but surely replacing reality, and it is beyond our power to stop steadily developing technological progress. "One of the most striking features of the new visual culture," Nicholas Mirzoeff writes, "is the growing tendency to visualize things that are not themselves visual." It seems that our vision contributes to this fact. It possesses a "remarkable ability to absorb and interpret visual information" which becomes even more critical in "the information age."7 The need of the modern society to visualize existence is inevitable. We are going to create more and more tasks for our vision through the invention of new technologies. But if we cannot change this circumstance, can we try to learn how to deal with it intelligently? Can we take it seriously and try to understand how to treat visual challenges appropriately? I want to believe we can. Mirzoeff notices that "visualization of everyday life does not mean that we necessarily know what it is that we are seeing."8 He talks about the necessity to treat visual culture as an independent field of study.

Most of us are visual learners. Ann Marie Barry, in her article "Perception Theory," points out that our brain perceives visual images with more readiness than it does a written text: "Brains, it seems, were built to process visual images with great speed and to respond to them with alacrity. They did not evolve to process written verbal symbols in the same way."9 She restates the words of Michael Gazzaniga, who wrote: "Brains were not built to read. Reading is a recent invention of human culture. That is why many people have trouble with the process […]. Our brains have no place dedicated to this new invention."10 It seems that the sense of vision has a unique ability to absorb and process the surrounding world to a higher degree than the other senses. According to Lynell Burmark, "people are able to process visual information 60,000 times more quickly than textual information."11 These points seem to be accurate because I have noticed that my students become immediately interested if they are offered a visual object to work with, and, on the contrary, that they do not show a particular interest if they are confronted with a print text.

Students understand what they see even if they do not possess English in a full measure. Hoffman talks about "innate rules of universal vision" that are "part of the child's biology, and allow the child to acquire, through visual experiences that might vary from one culture to another, the rules of visual processing. The rules of visual processing, in turn allow the visually competent child or adult to construct specific visual scenes by looking."12 According to Hoffman, all children in the world are born and develop "universal vision" that enables them to construct meaning from the visual images around them. He draws a parallel with the argument, devised by the linguist Noam Chomsky, for rules of universal grammar that permit the acquisition of language: "The rules of universal grammar allow a child to acquire the specific rules of grammar for one or more specific languages." 13 An example of a practical application of this argument is the fact that the bilingual program in the New Haven Public Schools district promotes the acquisition of English through teaching native speakers of Spanish in Spanish in a kindergarten class, gradually reducing the amount of the native language over the course of the thirty months of the program; by the middle of the first grade, a teacher in a bilingual classroom uses 50% of Spanish and 50% of English. The premise is that students transfer their knowledge of a native language, such as a relation between concepts/objects and words, a letter-sound relation, grammatical patterns, and concepts of print, to their second language. Similarly, even though children are born in different cultures, having the same "innate rules of universal vision," "rules of visual processing,"14 they are able at first to construct the same visual scenes. For example, a student who is a native speaker of English and an English Language Learner understand geometrical shapes in the same way because they draw them in the same way. In this sense, the motive to use visuals in a classroom becomes especially justified: the seen is more helpful and preferable than, for instance, the heard. In my curriculum unit, photographs are a starting point to produce language and to perfect it further in writing. Beginning with photographs is justified because they do not wholly depend on the language mastery, but involve "the innate rules of universal vision."

The support of English Language Learners with visual materials is really vital in an academic setting, in an English Language Learners classroom in particular. A wide range of visual materials includes photographs, drawings, charts, graphs, maps, a variety of graphic organizers, videotapes, and, of course, the Internet. The use of visual support is one of the most popular and long-used curriculum adaptations that have been readily adopted in a foreign/second language learning world. Burmark points out: "Visual literacy becomes a powerful teaching ally in classrooms where not all students speak the same language. In many schools in the United States, especially in states like California, Texas, and Florida, more and more students speak English as a second language. In these situations, visuals become a kind of international, universal language that brings meaning to an otherwise incomprehensible cacophony of verbal expression."15 The rich arsenal of visualization strategies that bilingual students have already developed helps them organize their thoughts in a meaningful way that enables them to recall information effectively. Using visuals has long been a kind of "second nature" in a second language teaching, and, honestly, I cannot imagine my lessons without the application of some type of visual support. For example, when my students read a non-fiction article about a proposed experiment of planting an acorn on the Moon, I draw a picture of the Moon (as a big circle) and an acorn (we check a picture dictionary for a picture of an oak tree and an acorn) that grows in a greenhouse and produces carbon dioxide and oxygen. I jot down words that describe what a plant needs to grow: water, light, carbon dioxide, and soil. We then discuss which of these the Moon has and which has to be brought there for the plant. The article explains that if an acorn grew into a tree on the Moon, its branches would break through the walls of the greenhouse and both oxygen and carbon dioxide would enter into the Moon's atmosphere, and I draw this process.

By contrast, visual material itself may present a complicated matter when the images under study are difficult to decipher and interpret, and they become a challenge even for native speakers of English. In this case, it is very interesting to hear students' different interpretations of these images. Many researchers and scholars, beginning with Plato, believe that objects encountered in everyday life are just copies or interpretations of the ideal of those objects. In other words, each person sees what he or she is able to see depending on his or her prior knowledge, not what the object really is. For example, if a child who is not familiar with a submarine sees it in a picture, he or she may identify it as a shark or a whale or any other object that looks similar to a submarine in some way. Thus, according to Dennis Dake, "all visual images are essentially ambiguous in the human brain and all configurations are therefore liable to more than one interpretation."16 Hoffman in his book Visual Intelligence tells us that vision is constructive. He explains that "visual intelligence constructs what you see": "you construct your visual experience of objects."17 Other researchers, Walker and Chaplin, go further when they define "vision": they believe that vision is not only a physical phenomenon; its outcome involves participation of other senses - taste, smell, touch, and hearing - as well as of any notions of an object that a person may have: "Once signals have passed the retinas it no longer makes sense to speak of 'the visual' in isolation. […] The fact that we perceive one world rather than five (corresponding to each of the five senses) suggests that inside the brain/mind visual information from the eyes merges with information arriving from the other senses, and with existing memories and knowledge, so that a synthesis occurs."18 So, vision is a complex process with a different result for each person because each person has unique senses and a unique knowledge of the world around him or her. From my everyday encounters with my students and my own personal experience, I know that even a not very conspicuous object may arouse a whole spectrum of emotions, reminiscences, and associations. All of us have different past and present experiences and knowledge; therefore when we look at a picture, for instance, we "construct" a different, even slightly different, but nonetheless dissimilar notion of the image. In other words, we attach different meanings to the same picture.

Rick Williams, who refers to the words of Ann Marie Berry in her book Visual Intelligence: Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication, points out another benefit of the use of photographs in my unit. He suggests that visual processes are not rational: "The implication of this is that we begin to respond emotionally to situations before we can think them through."19 Damasio, as Ann Marie Berry notices in her turn, supports this claim: "Virtually every image, actually perceived or recalled, is accompanied by some reaction from the apparatus of emotion."20 It is my hope that even with some lack of contextual knowledge students will be able to respond with their emotions when viewing a photograph, connect it to their previous experience, and express this synthesized product in writing.

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Out of many visual materials available for use in the classroom, I chose photographs because they are, perhaps, less confusing than other forms and most straightforward in terms of meaning. However, Susan Sontag claims that even though photographs "capture reality," they are still an "interpretation of the world" around us: "Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are."21 This seems to sound rational; but the quality of the interpretation of a photograph does depend on the background knowledge and previous personal experience of the one who interprets it. Photographs seem to penetrate, if not all, then most spheres of human existence, starting from their habitual uses such as family and tourist pictures, including their involvement in the bureaucratic ways of managing society, and ending with the public display of photojournalistic products about some political, cultural, or social event.22 Since photography is such a wide-spread phenomenon in our lives, our reading of photographs becomes an important skill.

It seems that very often we overlook the complex nature of photographs and neglect the contextual knowledge that is necessary in order to understand them. Walker and Chaplin write:

Images - particularly photographs - are thought to be easier to assimilate and to be more universal than words in one of humanity's six thousand languages. [...]but it does not automatically follow that just because people can see an image they can understand its meaning. This is because codes, conventions and symbols are used in the making of visual artefacts which may not be familiar to the viewers, and because viewers may lack the contextual - cultural and historical - knowledge that is generally required before the subject and content of images can be grasped.23

In the process of teaching the unit, I appeal to students' "contextual knowledge," and, to avoid different degrees of this knowledge, I build it through short readings in three disciplines - language arts, social studies, and science. Through explicit discussions of readings, students construct and activate their background knowledge before they begin working with photographs.

During the teaching of the unit, I raise the issue of subjectivity in photography: when examining photographs, one should take into consideration that a documentary photograph, in spite of its mission to reflect an objective reality, is, according to Craig Denton, "a form of personal expression." He justly notices that documentarians "are charged with accurately representing what is there with a minimum of personal interference. Yet the documentarian is a person with an ego and is perceived as being a creator, so the creation of personal vision and artistic statement are part of the motivation and reason for creating a documentary."24 I encourage students to consider factors that cause a photographer to take a particular photograph, starting from a broad statement that a photograph records "an Event: something worth seeing - and therefore worth photographing,"25 and ending with detailed assumptions about a photographer's personal taste and intentions, and his or her hope to reinforce our moral position about a subject.

Pondering the reasons for taking a particular photograph is in a way similar to drawing conclusions about the author's purpose for choosing a genre or including or omitting specific details in a written work - one of the Reading Comprehension test objectives pursued in the preparation for taking Connecticut Mastery Tests. I believe that paying attention to this aspect of working with a photograph is appropriate because it promotes students' critical thinking skills, which are applicable to many other academic areas.

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The theme of migration or immigration has been somewhat naturally suggested by the idea that my bilingual students fairly recently came to the USA and, if not, have surely heard stories of someone who recently came here. Therefore, the unit is titled "I Came, I Saw, I Wrote" to refer to the victorious Caesar's expression "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Even though the unit builds on some background or contextual knowledge before working with visual materials, it is helpful and appropriate to approach a theme that is already familiar and understood or experienced by students, which for them is migration or immigration.

The readings that provide contextual knowledge are not very challenging so that students can relatively easily grasp the content and concentrate their attention on the assignment that asks them to construct a new meaning from a photograph. In the language arts block, we read a chapter from the book The Circuit by the Mexican writer Francisco Jimenez, who wrote about his experiences as the child of a migrant family. In addition to this reading, students examine photographs, and I read to them excerpts from the book A Migrant Family by Larry Dane Brimner, which features a difficult life of one migrant family in a camp near San Diego, California, in 1990s. For the social studies text I chose the book …If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine, which describes a long exhausting journey of the immigrants who came through New York Harbor from the 1880s until 1914, when World War I began and the great migrations ended. Because of its excellent photographic display, we also study the book Ellis Island: New Hope in a New Land by William Jay Jacobs. Finally, the science section begins with students watching a brilliant documentary film March of the Penguins, which shows immense hardships these amazing birds have to experience during their life cycle, a significant part of which involves migration. To profit from a concise presentation focused on the penguins' migration, students read a short non-fiction article "By the Left, Quick March: The Emperor Penguins Migration" by Steve Connor.

In the block of each discipline, after the teacher determines what students know about the subject from the text or a film through graphic organizers, such as a KWL chart (what we Know, what we Want to know, and what we Learned), they are offered several photographs for examination and further writing about one of those. (I purposefully chose to use accessible photo materials, most of which I found on the website http://memory.loc.gov, so that other teachers can easily tailor this unit to the needs of their students and incorporate any photographs they would find appropriate.)

I conduct a series of activities for my upper-grade students (grades 5 through 8), which are more complicated versions of the activities presented by the Mondo program. The Mondo Oral Language-Reading block focusing on working with a photograph consists of three sessions: Generating a Discussion, Recording Their Thoughts, and Returning to Their Thoughts. In the first session, students in a small group observe and talk about a photograph. The teacher prompts them to use interesting specific words about what they see in a photograph. He or she takes notes on students' ideas during this discussion to help remind the group of the ideas later. In the second session, students decide together which of their ideas to record (the teacher then may remind them of ideas discussed earlier) and repeat their ideas in a clear way before the teacher records them on chart paper. Note that the teacher has to record the sentences exactly as the students have formed them. Students then read back what has been written on chart paper. Finally, in the third session, students revisit their written text. The teacher explains that because their ideas have been recorded, they can now be read. She or he also models this process by reading their text. With the support of the teacher, students revise and edit the sentences. They are provided with many opportunities to reread their thoughts fluently. The program explains: "This sequence reinforces the students' understanding that their thoughts can be talked about, written about, and read about, thereby developing and reinforcing oral language and print concept development."26 Thus, the Mondo oral language program focuses on reading and the teacher's writing of the students' thoughts about an image. The sequence of activities in my unit is targeted at a creative interpretation of a photograph and asking the students to record it in a written form.

First, students in a small group observe and talk about a photograph. I prompt them with the Visual Thinking Strategies questions: "What do you see?" and "What do you notice?" (Visual Thinking Strategies [VTS] is a school curriculum and teaching method that uses art to develop critical thinking, communication and visual literacy skills. It engages learners in examination and meaning-making discussion of visual art. http://www.vtshome.org/pages/a-vts-discussion) I direct them to use specific words to explain what they see; for example, instead of saying "this thing" we come up with "a steering wheel" or "a chandelier." In their further independent writings students are encouraged to use as many specific, precise words as possible. Though this exercise is cognitively undemanding (easy) and context-embedded, students may find it difficult. In this case they are able to use each other or the teacher as resources. Even if their active vocabulary in their second language is somewhat limited, I want them to try using specific words in descriptions. As they talk, I record single words on which students later build their sentences. Scott Herndon and Kristin Dombek in their article "Conversations Beyond the Gallery" call this stage "the initial encounter."27 They urge teachers to provide students with ample time to notice an artwork's features, so they can list or name as many observable details as possible. I encourage students to be creative in what they choose to see, so that later they have a lot of various elements at their disposal on which to build their writing. The details they point out can range "from perspective, color, and texture to figures and their poses, positions, and spatial relationships to one another."28 As a group, we aim for many descriptive features, rather than focusing on one unequivocal description. We focus on and celebrate the "unending range of elements that can be noticed and commented on."29 This first session is similar to the first session in the Mondo oral language program because it requires students to look at a photograph. However, my students are asked to talk about only what they see, without providing any interpretations yet. And, considering the grade-level difference, I expect my students to be able to describe a photograph in a more detailed and precise way than elementary-school students.

In the following session, called "the liminal phase" by Herndon and Dombek, students encounter a range of possible interpretations and meanings: "The liminal phase is a threshold moment, when students find themselves between observation and interpretation."30 Students review the photograph. Then I ask them to think and to write for ten minutes a list of questions about what they noticed in it. Students' questions should treat a variety of things, from very simple questions about conspicuous details in a photograph to more complex ones about how the details in the piece relate to one another. Because the list of words generated in the previous session is displayed, it serves as a starting point for some questions. The liminal phase is the time to raise the issue of subjectivity in a photograph. I urge students to think about a photographer's point of view and consider the following questions: Why did the photographer choose to capture a certain detail? Why do we pay more attention to one thing and less to another? Does the photographer want us to see it right away and some other object later? Is there a reason behind this? If you were to take this photograph, would you take a different shot? With a different focus? Why? So that I as a teacher also have a chance to participate in the questioning exercise and probably supply some interesting ideas that students think deserve further developing, I write down both my students' and my own questions on chart paper (this visual support provides context-embedded clues and is of great help in the next stage of working on a photograph). Note that it is recommended by writing specialists to record the sentences exactly the same way the students have formed them. Students then read back what has been written on chart paper. Reading back is especially important if we want the students to improve their reading skills. They should be able to read back something that they told themselves to write a few moments ago. This exercise helps students begin to interpret a photograph on the basis of their questions. "By linking their observations to questions, the students find themselves working in two directions simultaneously: forward toward a complex final interpretation, and backward to their impressions in the initial encounter."31 "The liminal phase" in my unit is the moment when the purpose of these activities switches from observing and generating words about a photograph to interpreting its meaning through asking questions, unlike the Mondo second session in which students simply talk in sentences about the photograph. In both scenarios, however, the teacher records students' oral language and has them read it back to reinforce reading skills.

In the final stage, students develop a creative interpretation of a photograph. They look at the photograph again and with my support revise and edit their questions. Students should be able to read what they have written without problems. Then they are asked to write. But before I require them to write a piece, I employ one of the necessary ESL (English as a Second Language) strategies - modeling. Because I show them how to write the kind of piece I expect from them, the cognitively demanding task of creative interpretation becomes more manageable. I ask them to create a story (in one or two paragraphs), in which they do not mention the photograph. They pick up to three questions from the list generated in the previous session and use them to create a story that reflects their own experience of the photograph. Here students may write from the first person or from the perspective of a character in a photograph. They are constructing their own interpretations of a photograph involving their prior experience, knowledge, and emotions. The rubric for this final writing piece also requires students to apply metaphors, similes, and interesting descriptive and action words. After students finish writing, I ask each of them to read aloud their pieces. The following one or two sessions are spent on editing and revising the writing pieces and preparing them for a form of classroom publication. In an individual session with each student, I discuss the ways to rewrite the piece, paying close attention to choice of words, grammar, and writing conventions.

As a culminating activity, students set up a PowerPoint presentation containing the photographs we studied and students' writing pieces. When we show this presentation to their classmates (students who are native speakers of English in the mainstream classroom and who did not participate in the three-fold writing process of working on a photograph), my students read their writing aloud. This activity can become a great exercise for engaging non-bilingual students in the process of viewing photographs and reflecting on them before they listen to stories created by my bilingual students. This exercise is similar to the first session - the initial encounter - described in my unit, but it may also include the question: "What is going on?" inviting interpretation of the image by non-bilingual students who are seeing the photographs for the first time.

In the following sections, I provide descriptions of reading and photographic materials in the three disciplines that my unit covers: language arts, social studies, and science.

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Language Arts Block

"The Circuit" (The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child)

by Francisco Jimenez

This chapter provides an insight into "the life of a migrant family, which is one of constant change, brutal poverty, and back-breaking work. Panchito's family moves from place to place, following the crops. Once the strawberry season is over, they must move to Fresno to work in vineyards. For Panchito, the son of Mexican migrant workers, there is one more challenge to face - how to get an education as his family moves from place to place."32 The author, Francisco Jimenez, immigrated with his family to California from Mexico. As a child he worked in the fields of California, and the stories in The Circuit are largely autobiographical.

Before students read this text, I display a map of California, on which we locate a few of the central California crops that migrant workers help to grow and harvest: Watsonville, San Francisco, Oxnard, Los Angeles - strawberries; Firebaugh, Fresno, Coachella Valley - grapes; Cutler - citrus; Firebaugh - cotton.

During reading difficult and unknown words and phrases are scaffolded33 (or simplified) and paraphrased.

A Migrant Family

by Larry Dane Brimner

For the most part we look at contemporary photographs taken in one migrant workers' camp near San Diego, California. The author and photographer Larry Dane Brimner traces a day in the life of the twelve-year-old Juan Medina, who lives in a damp makeshift shack. Juan's parents, like other Mexican migrant workers, travel north as fruits and vegetables ripen. I read the most striking excerpts from the book describing the hardships of migrants in California. Two photographs from this book are used for further discussions and writing.

The first photograph is next to the title page, showing the main character Juan in the center. He is dressed in clothes that are far from being new and fashionable. He is outside in front of the family's shack in the woods. The rest of the background displays different attributes of life-on-the-go and suggests the uncomfortable conditions in which this family lives. Juan is perhaps having a breakfast or snack as he holds a piece of some food in his hands. There is a kitchen table filled with a lot of dishes and bottles in front of Juan.

The second photograph on page 23 shows a group of five young migrant workers, all but one sitting on the curb of the road and apparently waiting for an employer to offer them jobs. The viewer sees them in profile. Some look in front of them with hope, searching the distance for an appearance of an employer's car. Some look down on the ground. They are wearing working clothes. The view of these people carries a sense of despair, uncertainty, depression, and need.

I have also found amazing photographs showing migrants in California taken in the era of Great Depression on the Library of Congress website: http://memory.loc.gov. There are photographs by photographers of the Farm Services Administration (FSA), who were sent to document the terrible farming and living conditions of the rural poor. Among them is the famous photograph by Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California of 1936. This photograph offers a lot to discuss, and it raises many questions. I may also employ this particular photograph in the routine sequence of activities described in this unit if I feel that my students need more exposure to this kind of photographs or if they become good at working with the photographs and enjoy the process and the product.

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Social Studies Block

If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island

by Ellen Levine

This book contains thirty-six small chapters with titles posting questions, such as "What was Ellis Island?", "Did all immigrants come through Ellis Island?", "Why did people come to America?", "What did people bring with them?" The book as a whole describes the greatest human migration in history from the 1880s until 1914. It is about the fatiguing journeys of immigrants, their hopes and difficulties, and their adventures.

We read this book with illustrations in a shared reading mode, which means every student has a copy of the book in his or her hands, and I read the text aloud. This book provides plenty of information, and it is a great source of contextual knowledge.

Ellis Island. New Hope in a New Land
by William Jay Jacobs

This short book basically has the same information as the book presented above, but it is especially interesting because it contains photographs of the period that recreate the American immigrant experience - its hardships, uncertainties, anxieties, as well as its overwhelming sense of hope. Again, the students and I read the text together, stopping for clarifications and mini-discussions.

This book offers many good photographs of immigrants on the way to America and on Ellis Island, so I have found two that I want my students to work on. The first one is a close shot on page 3, showing passengers on the deck of the S.S. Pennland. Mostly women in warm coats are sitting here and there among many figures of sleeping people wrapped in blankets and some rags. Viewers can see the turned-down faces of the two women who are closest to us. We also see some men standing in different poses on the edge of the deck in the background. The clothes of the immigrants are probably the most conspicuous feature in the photograph: they are old-fashioned, suggesting that the photograph was taken a long time ago. The expressions on their faces are anxious and serious. The photograph conveys an atmosphere of tension and worry.

The second photograph, titled "A Group of New Arrivals in the 1920s" (page 21), on the contrary creates a sense of excitement, joy, and sincere hope. The immigrants have just arrived to America. They are descending from the ship. Their faces shine with smiles. Some men wave their hats in a gesture of greeting. The children are the happiest. Only two women in the photograph reflect the seriousness of the moment, as if they do not believe what is happening - the happy arrival in the land of freedom.

Other impressive photographs are available on the website of the Library of Congress. They can be easily copied to one's computer and used in a PowerPoint presentation in the classroom.

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Science Block

March of the Penguins (2005)

a documentary film (France)

This fascinating documentary film leaves anyone with a long-lasting impression. My students have an opportunity to receive complex content knowledge through the visual representation of the penguins' life cycle by performing a cognitively demanding task through a context-embedded activity. I believe this content knowledge will stay with them for a long time. A short summary of the film is as follows:

While many people think of penguins as comical birds that look like they've
decked out in tuxedos, the truth is they're among the strongest and most resilient creatures in the animal kingdom. And they have to be - each year, the emperor penguins of Antarctica travel through the most punishing environment on Earth
to their nesting grounds, and after the females lay their eggs, the males keep them warm while their mates walk 70 miles back to the sea to fatten themselves with fish for themselves and their young. Filmmaker Luc Jacquet spent over a year braving
the frigid temperatures of the South Pole to film this annual ritual of the penguins,
and March of the Penguins documents their brave struggle to survive, as well as the
close emotional bonds between the penguin families.34

"By the Left, Quick March: The Emperor Penguins Migration"

by Steve Connor

This is a short non-fiction article on the penguins' life cycle and their migration. It seems to present the gist of the content of the film, but its vocabulary and sentence structures have to be simplified, so I rewrite the article by replacing some scientific terms and infrequently used literary and informal words with their more often used synonyms. For example, in the sentence "As life in the northern hemisphere hunkers down during the shortest days of winter…," I change the metaphorical phrase "hunkers down" to the phrase "slows down." Along with text modifications, I highlight about five words I want my students to own by actively using them in their speaking and writing.

The article is also accompanied by a photograph, which I offer my students for examination and as the basis of a writing activity. It shows penguins walking in a single file probably on their way to their nesting grounds. They do resemble human figures while walking upright because their feet are set so far back on their bodies. The first penguin looks as if he is a leader, the next two keep some distance between each other, and the last three march together in unison, like soldiers.

To supplement the text of the article with more visual images, I use the book Penguins: Lifestyle, Habitat, Feeding, Behavior by Daniel Gilpin, which has abundant photographs of these extraordinary birds.

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Lesson Plan 1

Length of Lesson: 45 minutes

Content Objectives: Students will be able to build contextual knowledge about the process of immigration to America from the 1880s until 1914.

Language Objectives: Students will be able to construct general and special questions in the past tense; students will be able to share their opinions about immigration experiences of the past through the use of given language structures.

Materials Needed: copies of the book …If You Name Was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine; a map of Manhattan and Ellis Island; a world map and a map of the USA; an embroidered piece of cloth; chart paper.

Vocabulary Taught: immigrants/immigration, Ellis Island, inspectors/inspection, famine, religious persecution, embroidered (cloth), permit, bribe.

Sequencing of Activities

Initiation: I ask students to define the word immigrants; if it is necessary, I provide the definition. I write down students' replies and the definition we agree upon on chart paper. I ask students if they know anyone who is an immigrant, according to our definition. Students should be able to make this connection to their lives and name some people who are recent immigrants. We locate Ellis Island on a map of Manhattan to identify the setting in the text.

Development: During this lesson I read eight of the first chapters in the book: "What was Ellis Island?", "Did all immigrants come through Ellis Island?", "Why did people leave their homelands?", "Why did people come to America?", "What did people bring with them?", "How did people travel to the ships that brought them to America?", "Were you examined before you left?", "How long would the ocean trip take?" As I read the text aloud, students in a small group follow my reading with books in their hands. During this reading it may be necessary to stop to clarify the context, for example, point to a certain country on a world map, from which immigrants sailed to America, or check students' understanding of the text through general questions. I also draw students' attention to vocabulary words and make sure they understand them. For example, to introduce the word embroidered I display an embroidered piece of cloth, like a shirt, so that students can clearly understand the word. Since titles in this book are formed as general and special questions in the past tense, I have students practice forming these types of questions asking about immigration of the past.

Closure: At the end of the lesson, students should be able to share their thoughts about immigration to America in the past based on the chapters we have read. I employ the Accountable Talk ESL strategy: to set clear expectations of language use, I provide models of expected language output through the use of the following language structures: for beginning level of language proficiency: "I think immigration to America was____________in the past;" for intermediate level: "I think immigration to America was____________in the past, because_____________;" for advanced level: "I think immigration to America was_____________in the past, because___________and______________."

Methods of Assessment: informal - on-going monitoring of comprehension and of students' oral responses expressing their opinions about immigration experience in the past using the past tense.

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Lesson Plan 2

Length of Lesson: 45 minutes

Content Objectives: Students will be able to observe a photograph of passengers on the deck of the S.S. Pennland; students will be able to notice various details in a photograph.

Language Objectives: Students will be able to share their observations of the photograph with a partner; students will be able to generate or seek words describing the photograph.

Materials Needed: an enlarged copy of the photograph Passengers of the S.S. Pennland on Deck from the book Ellis Island: New Hope in a New Land by William Jay Jacobs (page 3); chart paper.

Sequencing of Activities

Initiation: Students review the definition of the word immigrants and summarize salient points regarding immigration to America in the beginning of the twentieth century. I write down their responses as bullet points on chart paper.

Development: Because students have read some texts about immigrants' experiences on the way to America in the past, they have contextual knowledge about the subject of the photograph. This session is called "the initial encounter." I allow them enough time to examine the photograph and talk to a partner about their findings for two minutes. I prompt their talking about the photograph with the questions: "What do you see?" and "What do you notice?" Then we get together as a whole group to notice different details and record them on chart paper. Thus, in this photograph students may see many people on a ship deck bundled up in warm coats, hats, and shawls and wrapped in blankets. Mostly women are positioned in the front - they are sitting on some broad benches, and men are sitting or standing in the far end. People are scattered all around the deck, which must be the steerage area, the ship's bottom deck for poor people. People are wearing old-fashioned clothes. One man has a white beard. Women have their hair done in braids. One can hardly see their faces, but those that one can see look worried and thoughtful. There is a big bell in the far right-hand corner. There are also some mechanisms looking like big tubes with wheels around them. The photograph is black and white. Students describe the photograph. If a student is not able to find a specific word describing something in the photograph, he or she points to it, and other students and I help name the object. I urge them to talk only about physical features in the photograph, only about what they can see with their eyes, leaving any interpretations for the following lessons. As students talk, I write down single words worth recording on chart paper. In the next lesson, students will use these words in their questions about the photograph.

Closure: By the end of the lesson, we should have a long list of words related to the photograph. Together with students we read all these words aloud (perhaps several times), making sure students pronounce them correctly and fluently.

Methods of Assessment: informal - monitoring of students' comprehension through their oral responses.

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Lesson Plan 3

Length of Lesson: 45 minutes

Content Objectives: Students will be able to interpret the meaning of the photograph Passengers of the S.S. Pennland on Deck by developing questions based on the prepared list of words.

Language Objectives: Students will be able to ask questions about the photograph in writing.

Materials Needed: an enlarged copy of the photograph Passengers of the S.S. Pennland on Deck from the book Ellis Island: New Hope in a New Land by William Jay Jacobs (page 3); chart paper.

Sequencing of Activities

Initiation: Students observe the photograph again and review the list of words from the previous lesson ("the initial encounter").

Development: This is "the liminal phase," when students are challenged to write various questions about the image. They use the words in the prepared list to form their questions. I explicitly explain to students what their questions should ask: from very general things, such as "Do all these people know each other?" to specific details pointed out earlier: "Why is there a bell on the deck?" I direct students to question the origins of these people, their language, ages, occupations, family relations, clothes, intentions, and hopes; students may also ask about the circumstances of this trip - How long is it? What is the weather there? Do people have cabins or they have to be on the deck during the whole journey? What do people eat there? They may scrutinize one person in the photograph and ask specific questions about this person. I use a modeling strategy and begin writing my questions on chart paper: What time of the day is it? Why people are so close to each other? Why do some men stand by the railings? How does the photograph make you feel? Why do you think the photographer took this photograph? If you were going to take this photograph, where or on whom would you focus? Why? Students write from seven to ten questions for fifteen minutes. Then they read their questions aloud, and I write them the way they are given on chart paper.

Closure: To reinforce their reading skills, students reread their questions aloud from chart paper (each student reads his or her own questions).

Methods of Assessment: informal - observation of students' questions in writing and reading the questions.

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Annotated Teacher Bibliography

Barry, Ann Marie. "Perception Theory." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney, 45-62. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. The author discusses the impact of visual messages on our emotional development.

Burmark, Lynell. Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2002. This great hands-on book is published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; it explains what visual literacy means and how it may be used effectively in the classroom; the book has plenty of practical examples regarding the use of technology in education.

Crevola, Carmel, and Mark Vineis. Let's Talk About It. New York, NY: MONDO Publishing, 2005. Research and background information on teaching oral language.

Dake, Dennis. "Creative Visualization." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney, 23-42. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. This chapter introduces research methods in visual communication and aesthetics.

Denton, Craig. "Examining Documentary Photography Using the Creative Method." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney, 405-426. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. The author examines documentary photography and the role of the photographer in the outcome of a documentary photograph.

Echevarria, Jana and Anne Graves. Sheltered Content Instruction: Teaching English Language Learners with Diverse Abilities. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1998. A useful source of theory and practical applications of sheltered content instruction for teachers of English-language learners.

ESL Standards for Pre-K-12 Students. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc., 1997. Standards and goals are illustrated by vignettes for all grade levels.

Fourth Generation CMT Objectives. New Haven Public Schools Reading Department. Draft 1/14/05. The objectives are accompanied by a few examples of the type of stems created to measure each content strand.

Herndon, Scott and Kristin Dombek. "Conversations beyond the Gallery: Teaching Art and Expository Writing to College Students." In Third Mind: Creative Writing Through Visual Art, edited by Tonya Foster and Kristin Prevallet, 143-153. New York: Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 2002. The authors describe the method they developed to help students write about art in a threefold process.

Hoffman, Donald. Visual Intelligence. New York: Norton, 1998. Fascinating reading and graphics claiming that vision is "an intelligent process of active construction."

McQuade, Donald and Christine McQuade. Seeing and Writing 3. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. A highly engaging textbook loaded with visual images, texts, and assignments for college students.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. An Introduction to Visual Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. The book provides a comprehensive introduction to the exciting new interdisciplinary field of visual culture.

Sontag, Susan. "In Plato's Cave." In On Photography, 3-24. New York, NY: Picador, 1977. This essay engages the reader in the discussion of the many uses and meanings of photography in our lives.

Walker, John and Sarah Chaplin. Visual Culture: An Introduction. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. Another comprehensive analysis of the role of visual culture in the contemporary society.

Williams, Rick. "Cognitive Theory." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney, 193-210. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. The author provides a comprehensive review of a theory of cognitive balance he calls omniphasism, meaning "all in balance," and compares his theory to other significant theories related to the understanding and use of visual cognition.

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Annotated Student Bibliography

Bode, Janet. New Kids on the Block: Oral Histories of Immigrant Teens. New York: Franklin Watts, 1989. Teenage immigrants from various countries recount the emotional experience of fleeing their homelands and adjusting to a new life in the United States.

Brimner, Larry Dane. A Migrant Family. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company, 1992. The book portrays the life of twelve-year-old Juan Medina and his family, migrant workers living in Encinitas, California.

Cohen, Barbara. Gooseberries to Oranges. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1982. This is a realistic fictional story of a young girl, Fanny, who comes from her cholera-ravaged village in Eastern Europe to America where she is reunited with her father.

Gilpin, Daniel. Penguins: Lifestyle, Habitat, Feeding, Behavior. Bath, UK: Parragon Publishing, 2007. Written by a natural history author, this book explores the lives and natural behaviors of the seventeen species of penguin found in the wild.

Jacobs, William Jay. Ellis Island: New Hope in a New Land. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1990. The book traces the history of Ellis Island and immigration to America and describes the experiences of immigrants arriving in 1907.

Jimenez, Francisco. "The Circuit" In The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. These are touching reminiscences of Francisco Jimenez about his migrant childhood in California in the late 1940s.

Klingel, Cynthia and Robert B. Noyed. Ellis Island. Chanhassen, Minn.: The Child's World, Inc., 2001. The book briefly describes the history of Ellis Island, what happened there when it was used as an immigration station, and how it came to be a national park in 1965; this is a text for a low reading level; it has photographs of immigrants in the early 1900s and views of Ellis Island today.

Levine, Ellen. …If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1993. This book provides answers in small chapters the titles of which are questions about the process of immigration to America from the 1880s until 1914.

Reimers, David M. A Land of Immigrants, edited by Sandra Stotsky. New York, Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996. A detailed overview of the history of immigration to America, which is accompanied by documentary photographs of immigrants from different countries and times.

Senker, Cath. Immigrants and Refugees. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library, 2005. This book has many contemporary photographs of refugees and immigrants; it presents many factors surrounding this twenty-first century issue as it explores the history, experiences, and treatment of immigrants and refugees in different countries and examines our changing attitudes toward them; the book has a solid glossary.

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Websites for Teachers

Goldberg, Shirley. "The First Six Weeks: A Writing Guide for Third Grade Bilingual Class." http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/2002/4/02.04.02.x.html This Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute unit addresses the challenges of teaching writing to bilingual students in the first six weeks of a school year.

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/101226/chapters/Getting_the_Picture.aspx An official web site of Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/about/index.html The official website of Library of Congress offers free and open access to the American Memory Collection of materials that chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that document American history; these materials are written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music.

http://www.mondopub.com/pages/articles/GA_letsTalkFlyer.pdf This page contains information about Oral Language Reading and Writing Program Let's Talk About It! developed by Mondo Publishing.

http://www.mondopub.com/c/r.dFX_1ElSmTs/Pages/orallangcharts.html This Mondo Publishing website provides a detailed description of materials of the Oral Language Reading and Writing Program Let's Talk About It!

http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/word_docs/curriculum/language_arts/framework/englishlanguagelearnerframeworks2005%20.doc The Connecticut State Department of Education English Language Learner (ELL) Framework contains content standards for the three goals and indicators for the three levels of English language proficiency: beginning, intermediate, and advanced.

http://www.starpulse.com/Movies/March_of_the_Penguins/Summary/ A popular website featuring entertainment news, movies, music, television, celebrities, photos, videos, etc.

http://www.vtshome.org/pages/a-vts-discussion This site presents Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS); it has videos of professional development on VTS for teachers.

Massa, Katherine. "Storytelling as a Strategy to Increase Oral Language Proficiency of Second Language Learners." http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/2008/2/08.02.01.x.html Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute unit which incorporates storytelling as a major technique to develop oral language of English-language learners in the second grade.

Mazzucco, Roberta. "A Moment in Time: Teaching Point of View Using Photography." http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/2006/1/06.01.06.x.html This Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute unit uses a rich arsenal of photographs to teach point of view in the third grade.

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Appendix A: Implementing District Standards

My curriculum unit incorporates a number of content standards in Goal 1 ("Use English to effectively communicate in social settings") and Goal 2 ("Use English to achieve in all academic settings including language arts, math, science, and social studies") of English Language Learner (ELL) Framework published by Connecticut State Department of Education, as well as a number of strands in the three (out of four) Objectives of the 4th Generation of CMT Reading Objectives.

Thus, in the process of building contextual knowledge, by doing readings on migration and immigration in each discipline block, students address CMT Reading Objectives: they "determine the main idea or theme" of the reading (Strand A1); "identify important characters, settings, problems, events, relationships, and details" (Strand A2); "use stated or implied evidence from the text to draw and/or support a conclusion" (Strand B3); as well as "make connections between the text and outside experiences and knowledge" (Strand C1). At the same time ELL Standards are being applied because students at all levels of English proficiency "activate prior knowledge," "develop academic vocabulary," "expand knowledge of content," "connect prior knowledge to new information," "make inferences from visuals"; students at the intermediate and advanced levels "retell, explain and expand the text to check comprehension," "increase fluency," "interpret" and "summarize the text," "generate key questions about a text before, during, and after reading"; students at the advanced level "analyze, synthesize, and construct meaning from text" (Content Standards 2-2 and 2-3).

At "the initial encounter" stage, students examine photographs and generate words about them. They "seek support and feedback from others" when they ask whether a particular word or phrase is correct. They use context (visual images) "to construct meaning" and therefore "to increase understanding" (Content Standard 1-2). Students also "engage in effective prewriting activities," such as "brainstorming" and "discussing" (Content Standard 2-2).

In "the liminal phase," students construct questions about a photograph. In this writing activity, students at all levels of English proficiency "produce original sentences," "use visuals to prompt writing," "use observations and experiences (especially family and cultural)" (Content Standard 2-3).

Finally, when students write a creative interpretation of a photograph, further perfect it, and participate in a culminating activity, they "write on a topic," "develop clear ideas with supporting details and evidence," "attend to writing mechanics (punctuation and spelling)," "adjust language, as appropriate, to audience, purpose, and task," "seek advice of a teacher or a peer to revise," "expand and edit a draft (writing conferences)," "use technology to enhance writing," "publish and share final drafts"; students at the advanced level of English proficiency "use elaboration and specific details" (Content Standards 2-2 and 2-3).

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1 Echevarria, Jana and Anne Graves, Sheltered Content Instruction: Teaching English Language Learners with Diverse Abilities (Needham Heights, MA: Allyn &Bacon, 1998), 10.
2 Echevarria and Graves, Sheltered Content Instruction: Teaching English Language Learners with Diverse Abilities, 44.
3 Comprehensible input means that "the spoken or written message is delivered at the learner's level of comprehension. The concepts being taught should not be simplified, but the language used to present the concepts must be made comprehensible. Basic concepts should be presented in a variety of ways." http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/essential_vocab.php
4 http://www.mondopub.com/pages/articles/GA_letsTalkFlyer.pdf
5 Katherine Massa. Storytelling as a Strategy to Increase Oral Language Proficiency of Second Language Learners. Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute curriculum unit. http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/2008/2/08.02.01.x.html, 2.
6 Donald Hoffman, Visual Intelligence (New York: Norton, 1998), 14.
7 Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 5.
8 Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture, 2.
9 Ann Marie Barry, "Perception Theory." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005), 56.
10 Barry, "Perception Theory," 56.
11 http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/101226/chapters/Getting_the_Picture.aspx
12 Hoffman, Visual Intelligence, 15.
13 Hoffman, Visual Intelligence, 14-15.
14 Hoffman, Visual Intelligence, 15.
15 http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/101226/chapters/Getting_the_Picture.aspx
16 Dennis Dake, "Creative Visualization." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005), 30.
17 Hoffman, Visual Intelligence, 6.
18.John Walker and Sarah Chaplin, Visual Culture: An Introduction (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997), 18.
19 Rick Williams, "Cognitive Theory." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005), 202.
20. Barry, "Perception Theory," 61.
21 Susan Sontag, "In Plato's Cave." In On Photography ( New York, NY: Picador, 1977), 6-7.
22. Sontag, "In Plato's Cave," 3-24.
23 Walker and Chaplin, Visual Culture: An Introduction, 113.
24 Craig Denton, "Examining Documentary Photography Using the Creative Method." In Handbook of Visual Communication: Theory, Methods, and Media, edited by Ken Smith, Sandra Moriarty, Gretchen Barbatsis, and Keith Kenney (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005), 406.
25. Sontag, "In Plato's Cave," 11.
26 http://www.mondopub.com/c/r.dFX_1ElSmTs/Pages/orallangcharts.html
27 Scott Herndon and Kristin Dombek, "Conversations Beyond the Gallery: Teaching Art and Expository Writing to College Students." In Third Mind: Creative Writing Through Visual Art, edited by Tonya Foster and Kristin Prevallet (New York: Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 2002), 145.
28. Herndon and Dombek, "Conversations Beyond the Gallery: Teaching Art and Expository Writing to College Students," 145.
29. Herndon and Dombek, "Conversations Beyond the Gallery: Teaching Art and Expository Writing to College Students," 146.
30. Herndon and Dombek, "Conversations Beyond the Gallery: Teaching Art and Expository Writing to College Students," 147.
31.Herndon and Dombek, "Conversations Beyond the Gallery: Teaching Art and Expository Writing to College Students," 147.
32. Alfredo Schifini, Deborah, Short, and Josephina Villamil Tinajero. High Point: Success in Language, Literature, Content, Level B (California: Hampton-Brown), 331.
33. "Scaffolding refers to providing contextual supports for meaning through the use of simplified language, teacher modeling, visuals and graphics, cooperative learning and hands-on learning. One type of scaffolding is simplifying the language: the teacher can simplify the language by shortening selections, speaking in the present tense, and avoiding the use of idioms." http://iteslj.org/Articles/Bradley-Scaffolding/
34. This plot summary, written by Mark Deming, is found on the website: http://www.starpulse.com/Movies/March_of_the_Penguins/Summary/

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