Currently, I am a 9
-Grade Resource and Inclusion Teacher at James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut. The school I teach at is in an urban setting, where the standardized test scores are in the bottom 5% of the state. Jason Fletcher's article, "Is Identification with School the Key Component in the ' Black Box' of Education Outcomes?" states that students who obtain free or reduced lunch scored lower on the mastery tests than students who do not receive free or reduced lunch. At James Hillhouse High School, 73% of its students receive free or reduced lunch. Unfortunately, a majority of the students I teach do not have the parental involvement to reinforce academic skills outside of the school setting. After analyzing my students' current informal and formal writing assessments, I noticed that writing is a difficult task for these adolescents. Secondary students are expected to compose longer documents than elementary or middle grade students, use complex text, and sentence structures to integrate and manipulate information from a variety of sources. Some written-language Learning Disabilities include difficulties with content generalization and cohesion. This means that students have difficulty organizing and retaining information that they learned. After reviewing my students current test scores, I looked back on their Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT), Connecticut Modified Assessment System Tests (MAS), Degrees of Reading Power Educational Assessments (DRP), and English District Quarterly assessment scores. I noticed a large number of my students have scored "Below Basic"
on the Writing Section. Composing/Revising was a weakness that several of my students exhibited on the CMT tests they took in 8
grade. My students have difficulty describing and organizing thoughts to produce a structured, detailed writing product.
After viewing my students' current and past assessments, I decided to do some do research on strategies that will help my students improve their writing. Dr. Lynell Burmark's article on visual literacy mentions that a human being's brain is wired for sustain visual images. According to research from 3M Corporation, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
When humans are viewing images that are filled with color or texture, they are naturally more enticed to learn about the image or the product or event that the image is referring to. However, based on my students' writing, they seem to respond well when the assignment is related to an event or situation they can make a connection to in their daily lives. It is important for an educator to captivate a student's interest on the writing topic. Donald and Christine McQuade state, "Learning for students to see more carefully will help them write more easily and successfully."
My curriculum unit consists of two images from each time period, the 1940s and the 21
century. I believe researching and creating lessons plans that integrate visual images from these time periods on products and events my students can relate to will help them understand the importance and enjoyment of the writing process. The images I am using for my unit are from the events of Pearl Harbor and September 11
, and the pictures of inventions I am going to utilize are the ENIAC and Netbook computer. The first of my three goals for my curriculum unit is to have my students think of themselves as writers. Having my students enjoy and understand the importance of the writing process will help them use more clarity in their work. Secondly, I would like my students to understand how to write for an audience. The third goal I have for my students is to use descriptive detail in their writing. Ideally, I plan to collaborate and co-teach the unit I create with the English General Education teacher in an Inclusion setting, with differentiated and modified instruction for the special education students based on their Individualized Education Plan (IEPs). I will provide more scaffolding for those students by allowing them to have extended time to complete their graphic organizers and expository essays, and by providing step-by-step modeling on what key points to pay attention to when viewing a visual image. I will also accommodate my students by allowing them to read a shorter text that describes the visual image being represented.
The purpose of my unit is for my students to use and expand their higher-order thinking skills to demonstrate a strong understanding of how to describe visual images and apply that knowledge and skill to their written work. This unit will consist of my students' observing pictures from the 1940s to the early 21
century and write in descriptive detail about the messages that photographs are trying to convey. I believe it is imperative for a teacher to link visuals to adolescent learning across the English curriculum to promote the development of general knowledge about current and past cultural issues.
Janet Block's article "The Effects of Auditory and Visual Stimuli on Tenth Graders' Descriptive Writing" discusses a study that investigated whether 10
-grade English students would write more effectively when being presented with visual imagery. Block's article suggests that imagery is a verbal language that should be seen as an alternative coding system.
This study suggests that the meaning of a literary work involves images and emotions evoked by the language of the written text. The pattern of images and emotions leads to a "central imagic and emotional meaning" that dominates the idiosyntic images of the reader.
Images serve as a vault of information that is stored in the human mind. Researchers who have been studying imagery and its role in comprehension have investigated how imagery relates to prior knowledge and the thinking process.
Most of us need things physically in front of us to describe them in detailed and accurate terms. Even if we have all seen a picture of an object, event, or person, our descriptions would likely be different, depending on our backgrounds, the perspective from which we view the object, and the details we find important in it.
Observing the ordinary is both the simplest skill to start exercising as a writer and a practical means of training yourself to think and write analytically.
The visual images selected will contain values that allow students to think about issues that are important and relevant. My curriculum unit will also increase my students' comprehension, critical and analytical skills to make personal connections when interpreting literature. It is important for teachers to provide positive writing experiences that promote student enjoyment, as well as help students express themselves with clarity and power. I believe my unit will teach students to write in descriptive detail as a form of communication and feel more confident about their written work.