The summative task for this unit asks students to compose a creative response - which may end up taking any number of forms depending on the interests, gifts and talents of any particular student. As a result, this next section on how to aid students in building the bridge from their analysis of a visual text and print text maintains the same spirit of flexibility from the previous section. In this section is a discussion of best-practices of how to use prompts and sentence-stems or sentence-starters to help students capture their thoughts in writing. This writing can be thought of as pre-writing for a creative response that will be prose or poetry based, or as notes to guide the creation of a visually based response such as a drawing, painting or collage. Regardless of the form that a students’ creative composition eventually takes, this critical step in the analysis process is designed to supports students’ continued processing of the visual and print texts, help guide their thoughts about composing their creative response, and may also be useful in the final reflection as students are asked to take stock of what they learned over the course of the unit.
The structure of how students will respond is supported by the work of Thomas M. McCann’s Transforming Talk into Text and They Say, I Say by Birkenstein, Graff & Durst. Both texts are written in a way that guides one towards a final product that is essay-like in form. And while this unit’s final product encourages students to compose a creative response, starting with the foundation of what might become a strong essay seems to be an appropriate way to construct or compose any number of creative kinds of responses. In Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale’s five “new principles of prose” include one that captures the pedagogical mindset supporting what follows in this section: “Aim deep, but be simple.”14 The goal of this portion of the unit is to encourage students to think deeply about their analysis of the visual and print texts, but in a manner that is as simple as possible to invite student to authentically engage in the creative and critical processes that follow.
Just as the initial analysis of the print and visual texts will be social as students look at the pieces and talk in a large group or with one another about them, how we encourage students to capture this kind of thinking incorporates a social element. Thomas M. McCann plainly states “students benefit greatly from their interactions with others.”15 Supporting this idea further, McCann references Nussbaum and Meier when he states that frequent discussion or conversation among peers around a particular text or topic of inquiry “fosters an environment of tolerance, critical thinking and democratic spirit.”16 This kind of environment supports the overarching Afrofuturist mentality for this unit, and as such, the first way students are asked to respond to the texts they analyze is done in a group of 2-4 around a discussion of statements. Students are encouraged to discuss the statements with each other but to make their assessments of the statements based on their own opinions. Following this discussion-based response to statements that support analysis of the pieces, students will move into a more writing-intensive portion of the analysis using the model of sentence stems.
The final stage for students to capture their responses to both the visual and print texts they will analyze in this unit continue the social aspect from earlier stages of the unit but ask students to engage in written conversation with ideas they have heard from others during the earlier stages of analysis, ideas they are identifying within the texts themselves, or ideas they may be wrestling with in their own heads. Inspired by the work of Birkenstein, Graff & Durst in They Say, I Say, the stems that support student responses in this final section of analysis are designed to support students’ continued thinking about the ideas within both the visual and print texts, regardless of the format that their creative response might take. Using sentence stems that mirror some of the “moves”17 of academic writing - encouraging students to think about their ideas as they would if preparing to compose an academic-style piece of argument writing. As a result, whatever kind of creative response a student chooses to compose, having the stems will serve as an ideological foundation for their work, which will support students in talking about how their creative response is continuing the conversation they see as happening between the visual and print texts.