Second grade students designed Chumash covers based on individual pasukim from Lech Lecha or Vayera. They brainstormed ideas and charted their creative thinking, making the steps of their process visible. The final image they designed and embroidered into their Chumash cover synthesizes symbols they generated based on words from the pasuk and colors the words represented to them.
The ideas in this entry are inspired by the CSI protocol discussed in the book, Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart. I have attached a selection from this book to this entry as a pdf file. Additionally, after attending Harvard’s Project Zero conference at the International School in Washington, DC this summer, I decided that I would like to create a culture of creative thinking and of making in the classroom. This particular project is a bi-weekly project spanning 6 weeks in the classroom and culminating in a Chumash party in January. Each session is 1hour and 15 minutes in length.
In this entry, I would like to explain the procedure and the outcome of this hands on project that I am currently working on with all 47 second grade students, a total of three classes, at Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, MD.
Initially, students work as a whole group. The facilitator projects a pasuk on the board and says, as we read this pasuk, I want you to tell me which words help you make a picture of the pasuk in your mind. The class briefly discusses what nouns are and the teacher underlines the words that students suggest. In one of the classes, student’s read the first pasuk in Lech Lecha and suggested that the teacher underline, eretz (land), beit (house) because they could see these words. I, the facilitator, suggested that they look for verbs that help us know what is happening in the pasuk, to help us better see the whole pasuk. Several students suggested that we underline, Lech Lecha (G0).
In the next step of the procedure, I provided a chart that I adapted from Ritchhart’s book and projected it on the screen. My chart had 4 columns titled: Word. Color. Symbol. Image.
I said, let’s put our words in this chart under the heading:
We had eretz (land)
Lech Lecha (Go)
and Beit (house) in this category. Then I asked students what color does Eretz remind you of? What color does Lech Lecha remind you of and so on. Then under the heading: Color
I wrote their responses: eretz: brown, gold
I said, we can’t see ‘lech lecha’ (go), as easily, but what color do you think when I say, Lech Lecha.
Students hands shot up. One student said, “green.”
“Why did you say green?” I asked. “because they walked on the grass.” she said. (Even though that probably isn’t what Avraham and Sarah walked on in the desert, the student’s thinking is moving toward a more symbolic thinking.)
Then I pointed to the next category: Symbol
I said, a dove and an olive branch are symbolic of peace. What symbol could you think of to represent ‘lech lecha’?
One student suggested making a road. Another suggested grass. Another suggested having a picture of Avraham and Sarah walking to a land.
Then, I asked them to synthesize or combine two symbols to make one image. One student suggested making a maze with Avraham’s family at start and a golden Israel at the end of the maze. This shows that the students were synthesizing, which is higher order thinking.
After students practiced the procedure as a group, each student was given a pasuk and went through the same process, highlighting key words, writing them on the chart, writing a color to describe the word, coming up with symbols and image.
After students came up with an image, they had to draw it in a 5 inch diameter circle.
In the next class, I worked with 5-6 students at a time, taught them step by step to punch needle embroider their design on the back of the cloth. Since any sewing would come out backwards on the front, if they had any Hebrew lettering, I had them trace the letters backwards by using a glass door and the light behind it.
Then, they used tracing paper to print their design on the cloth. They placed their cloth into an embroidery hoop and I showed them the punch, lift, slide, punch stroke used to outline and fill in their designs.
Interestingly, one of the outcomes was that as students reached the embroidering step, they began to try different colors and make different symbols and meanings as they were working. In other words, the process enabled the kind of intuition artists have once they reach the flow stage in their work. For example, Alex designed a door and wanted it to have warm colors since his pasuk was about Avraham standing in his tent door in the heat of the day. As he kept working he talked about what he was doing and he said, now I decided to make Israel inside the door frame. (it looked like a child’s version of a map of Israel) inside the red door frame. This illustrated that Alex was using intuition to guide his creating, and he ended up reaching more symbolic thinking as he worked.
Why is this beneficial in education? This will enable students to develop creative problem solving strategies, to think outside the box, to come up with multiple interpretations, which all enables higher order thinking and can become a habit of mind. I am including Alex’s whole process, from pasuk, to chart, to sketch to final embroidery as an example of the process that all students went through as they worked.
Additionally, I am including other student’s work, so that you can see some of the variety of ideas that this exercise generated. Marcella’s pasuk, chart and drawing show synthesis. She has the road as a smiling mouth on a face and the lips seems to be a camel. She has not yet sewn her design onto cloth, so I included her sketch and thinking routine, so you can see that we as a class are working on this process.
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