Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Diorama MacGyver? - 3.22 #sol16 Story Challenge

Before the Internet, there were dioramas. (For all I know, there may still be dioramas.) Dioramas, though, have largely ceded territory to new media as this post by Adam Schoenbart reminded me this morning -- thoughts that triggered a memory from elementary school meriting a slice.

My family had scooped me out of school to visit grandparents and, as I recall, the teacher charged me with creating a diorama to capture my understanding of what we would be reading together in class, which I'd be missing. The text under our teenybopper microscopes would be an illustrated, abridged edition of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

I recall my grandma setting me up with a shoe box, plush carpet samples, scissors, glue, and a stack of magazines. After reading, I proceeded to recreate a scene, a sort of 3D collage, in the count's opulent lodging as he plotted against those who had betrayed him. (Caveat: I used the Internet just now to refresh my memory of the novel's plot.) However, since elementary me was operating in the pre-Internet era, I actually had to pack the finished project in my suitcase to carry back to school to share with my teacher and classmates.

Through the haze of years, I remember this whole experience fondly. I enjoyed reading; I had a good time making something; I felt proud of my creation. (I cleverly used cut-up straws stuck into the thick carpet to mount the count and one of his benefactors! I was diorama MacGyver!)

My view now as an English teacher is more muddled. Did the diorama project really do much for my understanding or appreciation of Dumas' text? Was it, rather, a teacher's improvised whack at accountability for a student who was about to duck out from the umbrella of her influence? How does the elephantine presence of the Internet change any of these dynamics nowadays? Is sharing about books via online creations just a diorama analog (one even easier to game thanks to sites like SparkNotes, Schmoop, or YouTube), or does the ability to create, publish, and share on a potentially global scale have a demonstrably different impact?

I wonder what the community of slicers thinks about these questions... I hope you'll share in the comments -- or via diorama, or any other medium you choose.

8 comments:

  1. Ah, dioramas...I still hate to toss shoeboxes into recycling.

    My students recently made book trailers on their iPads. Some of them weren't very good. Few students demonstrated anything beyond basic understanding of the plot and, if we were lucky, mood.

    BUT. There's more to life than literary analysis. The students worked together to come up with a plan and then execute it. They collaborated and brainstormed and overcame obstacles. They planned ahead ("May I go to my locker? I brought extra black sweaters for everyone today.") and yes, they developed their tech skills. In a building where all arts have disappeared from the curriculum, I felt that the trailers were a good use of our time.

    And if we didn't have iPads, I might have had them working on dioramas, for the same reasons.

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    1. "More to life than literary analysis" - a rock-solid BUT. I appreciate the other learning you highlight that stems from, er, project management.

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  2. Well, I laughed out loud throughout this slice, starting with the title; and believe me, I needed a good laugh today! Although I love all the tech-savvy projects my kids turn into me, I'd still find something to treasure in a good, old-fashioned diorama. I want my students to treasure a book and enjoy it enough to convey their love of it to me. Sometimes, that happens!

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    1. Happy to hear of your laughter, Lori. Keep searching out occasions to smile.

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  3. I love this Slice! Here's what I think- I think schools should try to replicate what real readers might do when a book is finished, yet also give students opportunities to show their thinking and create. When I finish a book, I never make a book trailer or a diorama, however I could see how either one would push me to think creatively and more deeply about the reading. The book trailer would have that added element of authentic audience and sharing with a global community. One of my all-time favorite assignments was in graduate school. It was a children's literature course. We read Walk Two Moons and had to come up with a personal response that connected to the book. This was in 2004 when technology was far different. I made a collage of things that matter to me, under a brick paper covering (symbol from the book). I bought in an Alan Jackson song about 9/11 which connected to the idea of what really matters. This was 12 years ago. It was a school assignment and yet it held so much meaning for me. The opportunity to create something personally meaningful connected to a book I read was incredibly worthwhile. Would I do it for every book? Hell no. Was it a good assignment that taught me something? A resounding yes. So maybe no right answer...

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Kathleen. (Feels like your comment should count as its own slice!) The measure of meaningfulness resonates with me, maybe enough to make a crux of learners' reflections about whatever projects or formats toward which they might gravitate in the future.

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  4. I loved making dioramas! I thought they were a genius way to show what I knew about a book. But I'm not sure I was right. As I became a teacher and wanted to share the same learning experience with my students, a parent asked me once what her child was supposed to learn from HER making a diorama...hmmm. Times have changed. I don't think there is a correct answer. I've had some excited students present video or powerpoints full of their learning and others that were a complete waste of time. Once again, we are all different learners and different projects touch us in different ways. I think that when we are born, we should come with some kind of manual that lets parents and teachers know what is going to light our learning fire. That sure would make it easier!

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  5. Great question!
    I don't like arts and crafts responses to reading. I HATED them as a student and did not appreciate them as a teacher.

    What's the goal? What's the purpose? What's the question to be answered?

    When I finish a book that I dearly love, I TALK, tweet, or blog about it in various combinations. I also read all other books by that author.

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