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Students Don’t Need to Write- Assessing Theme and Symbolism with Art


Night Art Pin.png

Whoa! An English teacher writing a blog post about not writing? What kind of alternate dimension have we entered?

But it’s true. I learned a valuable lesson last year, and I know it’s one that could benefit other teachers, so I thought I’d share my experience. First off, if you don’t know me, I should tell you that I’m super old school, hard core, traditional, and I have extremely high expectations for my students. I do teach outside the box quite often, but I don’t use technology, the kids never have their phones out (ever), and we work our butts off in almost every single class. Since I teach 8th and 9th grade English, my students know that we are probably going to write something every single day. They know that my goal for them is for them to crush any writing that comes at them in the future, and if they can’t, they will know what questions to ask their teachers and professors so that they can learn the skills they might be missing.

When I began planning for our unit over Night by Elie Wiesel, I did what I always do- troll the internet, FB boards, TPT, and my old materials for stuff to use to put together a unit. We don’t have set curriculum, and I have almost complete autonomy in what I teach as long as it addresses the standards, so I’m always reinventing at least some portion of my units throughout the year as I see the need. As I was doing this, I found the link for a 3D art project over the memoir. Hmmmm…that doesn’t sound like me, but it could be cool. It came with a rubric and everything, so I decided to give it a shot. I must have been on cold medicine or something to even consider this because it’s so far outside my teacher comfort zone.

You. Guys. Number one, all but one student turned something in. As all teachers know, that is a major victory (especially in secondary!). Number two, I was BLOWN AWAY by what my kids came up with. They hit it so far out of the park that you couldn’t even see the ball anymore! Number three, it was an awesome way to include some public speaking without a lot of pressure. The kids had to defend their projects in a Socratic seminar format where the other students could ask them questions about their motivation, inspiration, etc.

This was the culminating assessment grade for the unit, and I could not have been more proud of their work. We were able to display their work in my room and in the library, and other teachers and students commented frequently on how amazed they were by the work the students had done. They were rock stars.

Here are a few examples of their work:

The innovation, symbolism, and creativity that they showed me was inspiring. I think I cried after a couple of classes because I was just so impressed with them. I will definitely be including this project again this year, but I will need to revamp the rubric a bit to better fit my grading categories. Below, I have included a copy of the original project I found, and it includes the name and school of the author of this project, Jeana Link- Bunker Hill High School – Catawba County Schools & Connections NC.

Night Thematic Art Project

I think my experience with this art project has forever changed my thought process on how students show me what they know. As a teacher in my 20th year in the classroom, this has proven to me that I must never stop learning, investigating, improving, and pushing myself as an educator so that I can be the best facilitator of learning I can be.