"The Big Picture" Takes Shape

For the last two weeks, my kids have passed by a large black butcher paper mural in the hallway outside our classroom door that only had one small purple hexagon in the bottom left corner. The hexagon says, "Why do humans perpetuate social injustice on others?"

For two weeks, they've either ignored it or simply noticed that it features one of our Essential Questions. No one asked me why it was there.

On Wednesday, they finally learned why it was there.

On Wednesday, I challenged my kids to come up with an image or symbol that helps them visualize all of the components we've been working on this unit: the historical fiction novel they've been reading, their understandings of social injustice, and the connections between these ideas. Then I gave them a hexagon of their own with the directions to draw this visualization, write a concise explanation of their choice, and to use an assigned color to represent their novel.

Learners color-coded their hexagons to represent the historical fiction novel they are reading.
I enjoyed watching my kids "productively struggle" as they wrested with what would be the best image and how to fit everything they wanted to draw and say on a relatively small space.

Austin, Trusten, and Michael discuss what images they plan to draw on their hexagons.
Tori looks up a picture of a burka before drawing on her hexagon.
Megan and I discuss her plan for her hexagon.
Courtney utilizes her Dialectical Journal and a brain image search to complete her hexagon.
Camila outlines her hexagon in pink to denote her novel choice, Love in the Time of Cholera.
Once they were satisfied with their hexagon, learners brought their hexagon into the hallway, where I instructed them to post them to the wall. The first hexagons connected directly to our Essential Question.
Stephanie and Kristin are some of the first to place their hexagons on the wall.
More connections begin to take shape as more hexagons are added to the "Big Picture."

The real magic began as more hexagons were added to the wall. I told my kids to find a place where they could connect their hex - whether it was that the visual connected in some way to their symbol, or the explanation resonated with them, or maybe they both discussed the same social injustice.

Watching all of the connections being made was like watching a huge puzzle coming together.

Rohan reads the wall to find where his hexagon will fit best.

I am blown away by what my kids came up with. Below, you can see a series of three connected hexes, each featuring a different symbol - a mousetrap, a fishnet, and a claw machine - that represent the idea that the United States Draft during the Vietnam War restricted individual freedoms.

"The Big Picture" at the end of day one.

When my kids came to class the next day, I asked them to go back out to the mural and take a picture of their hexagon and the ones connected to it.

They were then directed to add a new Dialectical Journal entry that explained why they chose to place their hexagon where they did, and to make new connections to hexagons added after they placed theirs on the wall. I modeled the process with my own hexagon (pink). The "sexism" hex outlined in purple was where I made my initial connection, and the grenade hex outlined in purple is my additional connection.

I initially connected to Tori because her hex talks about the injustice of sexism, in the case of her novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, it is the oppression of women, and as a mom to a little girl, this is an issue close to my heart. I want JoLeigh to know that she can do big things, and nothing - not her gender, size, age, anything - can stop her if she works hard to achieve her dreams.

I have no made an additional connection to Roy's hex, which shows a grenade for his novel The Things They Carried. The grenade symbolizes the weight of expectations on soldiers in war. I feel that symbol can represent the weight of societal expectations imposed on women, and I know that I will have to teach my daughter to fight against societal perceptions of beauty, weight, ability, and appropriate roles for women. These things and others will weigh on her, must like expectations of survival weight on soldiers.

I am so excited about some of the connections my students were making. They never cease to amaze me with their creativity and ability to make complex and unexpected connections.

I hope you are enjoying coming on this journey with my students! My next post will delve further into the Dialectical Journal and you'll get to hear from my kids themselves. My principal will also be making an appearance!


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