In the past academic year (1995/96), many teachers from New Haven participated in the Anti-defamation League’s “A World of Difference” diversity training workshops. In these workshops, “empathy” was promoted as the primary means by which diverse ethnic/cultural groups can come together, learn about each other and from each other, and ultimately foster a nurturing environment in which to provide multiculturally-focused curriculums in our schools. In this regard, the main objective of this curriculum unit is to enhance student awareness of various cultures through film study. Along with interdisciplinary emphasis in the arts and academics, the unit offers students the opportunity to contrast and compare these cultures in relation to their personal experiences; and to build exponentially to a global, humanistic perception of culture by recognizing commonalities and developing an expanding appreciation for diversity.
People, Places & Pictures
is intended primarily for 7th and 8th grade writing students, but is also applicable for 7th and 8th grade theatre students. The unit is comprised of eleven film (video) presentations covering various topics concerned with diversity and culture. (There is an appendix at the end of this unit that briefly describes the films mentioned herein.) The film topics offer activities in main curricular areas for writing students, i.e., language skills, reading and writing; as well as activities in related areas, i.e., film, art, drama, social studies and science. Each film will either be shown in excerpted clips or in it’s entirety (which would be scheduled as an “in-school” field trip). Most film presentations and related topics will require a minimum of three classes.
All film makers begin with the “word” and the word is made “film.” Therefore, writing is the main activity of the unit. Students will be engaged in viewing video tapes of films and a few TV shows, subsequently followed by discussion, research and reading in order to gain insight and information and to foster critical thinking regarding the topics presented. Writing is then featured as a creative way to gain visceral awareness of the film topics presented and to express creative thought. Evocative, original writing that begins to make the students’ individual writing voices recognizable is the main objective of the writing exercises. The unit largely focuses on poetry. Therefore, brainstorming, clustering and vignette writing will be featured as a way to engage right-brain creativity and lend an aesthetic quality to student writing. Poetic forms included in writing assignments include: Found, Acrostic, Calligram, Blues, Chant, List, and Cento.
Rather than introduce new topics to the school’s already packed curriculum, 8th grade Social Studies topical areas are the main focal point from which films (and related curricular activities) have been selected. Interdisciplinary activities are employed as diversified methods to explore information on individual film topics within a historical context. And rather than “reinvent the wheel” by introducing a plethora of new data sources, the unit largely relies on existing text books and resource materials—already in use by 8th grade teachers—in order to reinforce a connectedness with academic and arts content areas and to demonstrate an interdisciplinary approach to learning. In this way, continuity between course studies is established for the student and learning becomes more relevant than by rote as education is approached holistically.
The unit also offers three project lesson plans. Project assignments will rely on prior writing, and students will be apprised of writing form and techniques as well as editing mechanics. Related academic focus in the disciplines of Social Studies and Science are largely offered as background research; and related arts focus, such as in the disciplines of Film, Visual Arts and Drama, are offered to support project assignments.
Students will keep four folders throughout this curriculum: 1) a
Student Work File
that will contain all preparatory written work and will include a table of contents listing assignment titles (to be attached to the inside left-hand flap of the folder). Work in progress will remain in this folder until finalized; 2) a
Student Resource File
for various handouts distributed at the start of each film “screening” in class, such as bibliographies, and technical info sheets on film, poetic form, art and drama; 3) a
Student Research File
for reading enrichment assignments, independent research and critiques; 4) a
for final work.
Library Media Center
“Product” is the hopeful conclusion of any process, although process, in and of itself, can be an invaluable life and learning experience. Most students will respect their own work efforts to the degree that their work is respected. Our Library Media Center at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School has expanded its activities in order to offer more representation of student work by including plays, storytelling sessions, poetry readings and art shows. Therefore, the student project work will be presented in poetry readings, readers theatre performances, and displays in the Library Media Center. Student work will also be included in our in-house anthology publication,
The Poets’ Posse
, which will be produced in the Library Media Center.