Day 8: Word Choice, Metaphors, Knowledge and Envisionment

Word Choice

A Fellow did a presentation called Making Each Character (and Metaphor) Count today which was centered on a high school lesson.  Although the population he teaches is almost the exact opposite of mine (SES too), I'm excited to think about how I can apply these important concepts.  He began by talking about writing and asking if we thought students are writing less or more.  We decided it was more because of Facebook, Twitter, email, and texting.  He agreed, and led us in a brief analysis of those types of text.  We looked at what kids are saying, how much thought goes into it, and how long the writing was.  It was not pretty.  He showed us one conversation in particular that was just two sentences, but said so much about the two people.  There were bad words, bad grammar, and words that had very little resemblance to what they supposed to be.  It was bad, but illuminating.  We went on to discuss the language kids carelessly throw around in class.  It all built up to the idea of word choice and poetry.  In poetry, every word is selected very carefully and the message is delivered in a succinct way.

So why is poetry only taught in a confined unit?  Why not throughout the year?  Things many of us don't even consider.  Poetry is a great way to emphasize word choice and express ideas in a creative way.  It's not something that just happens in a week or a month.  It should be something that is revisited throughout the year.


The next step in the presentation was to look at word choice and combine that with metaphors in poetry.  We looked at haikus and how in such a small space, metaphors are a great way to take advantage of word choice in a powerful way.  We also looked at a poem based on metaphors with relationships.  For example, students would choose something (an object, place, event), and deconstruct it.  Then they would use those components as metaphors to describe their family.  One student wrote that their family was like the 5th of July because of their parents' divorce: the explosions, day-after-fun feeling, etc. Another example was comparing family members to the instruments in a band.

Kinder connection:

This was harder, and took me a few days to think about.  I think that word choice is a valuable lesson, especially because my kiddos are only ready/able to write so much.  Why not start them off with the idea that you can say a whole lot more (and something more powerful) when you choose your words carefully?  I can also introduce synonyms and thinking about different ways to say something.

As far as poetry, we can definitely incorporate that!  I like the idea of doing metaphor poems because it makes them look deeper and make connections.  I think we may read a story, look at the characteristics of each character, and then form metaphors to connect them with characters from other stories.  They don't have to be so in depth, but making connections between characters would be a great skill to work on.  The character in this book was nervous, just like the character in that book, just like I was, just like my friend was...etc.  After making those connections, we can write them together and create a poem as a class.  It's really all about the scaffolding!

Knowledge and Envisionment

What is knowledge?  Background information, schemas, making sense of information, seeing patterns, noticing changes and relationships...If knowledge is the product, envisionment is the process.  So what does that process look like?  It can be transitional (giving students information) or transactional (leading and guiding them; giving them the tools to find it).  This was a fascinating topic to discuss.  Envisionment is the evolution of knowledge: always changing and applying in new ways.  According to Judith Langer, there are two types of envisionment: point of reference and horizons of possibility.

Point of reference is a "hunting" way of acquiring knowledge- the type when you have a specific question that has a specific answer.  Once you find that answer, the search is over.  An example would be when an event occurred. After finding the date, the process ends.

Horizons of possibility implies an on-going search- an essential question that once "answered," inspires new questions.  Was something the right decision? Why or why not?  What did that decision look like; mean?  What were the implications?  How does that affect the justification of it?

A lot of teaching seems to focus on point of reference.  Both have importance and a place in education.  I love the idea of horizons of possibility because it fosters inquiry and take students a step further, deeper.  Point of reference seems to be more of the surface.  Do we really want our students to just know the facts, or know the facts and ask, Why? How? What does that mean?  I believe that being able to ask questions shows a deeper understanding.  I want my students asking questions and participating in an inquiry.

Our group talked about how different subjects require different methods.  Not every lesson requires the same approach.  Some subjects are more point-of-reference-based, while others are more horizons-of-possibility-friendly.  It is interesting to consider, and there is value in both.  Sometimes we just need a piece of information to move on, and other times we need to dig deeper to truly understand.  Understanding both ways of constructing envisionment will help me when planning lessons, and guiding my students to finding the information and ideas I want them to gain.

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