This event featured FAS (Faculty of Arts and Science) and HGSE (Harvard Graduate School of Education) instructors discussing Pre-Texts, a program for educational professionals to employ close reading and critical thinking skills by making art based on challenging texts.
“To teach broad basis of poor people how to enjoy a difficult text to not to leave them behind the lettered city”. “Why not invite young people into rigorous freedom of making art and we can educate the world.” Doris Sommer
“Is pretext an appropriate way to learn as a second language english learner?” “…Participating in arts activity that are designed for and evolved around the targeted text that the teachers will teach will help them to be speakers and get into learning from non-traditional method” Gigi Luk
“Thank you for the Pre-Text activities. I enjoyed it so much because it really involved a deep engagement with the text and we play with the text.” A member of the audience
Learning Global Citizenship Through Shared Experiences Involving Art, Literature, and Culture with Syrian Refugees in Connecticut
Two UConn ECE teachers from The Master’s School in West Simsbury have been awarded a grant for their joint proposal for a collaborative, project-based learning initiative designed to address the psychosocial effects of war and resettlement on refugees in Connecticut. Sarah King (SI 12), who teaches ECE English 1011, and Lisa-Brit Wahlberg, who teaches ECE Political Science 1402, plan to use art, literature, and community activities to teach citizenship, social justice, and cultural awareness. Students and refugee participants will engage in journal making, writing, and activities to record their stories, discussions, and shared experiences.
The proposal developed for both teachers out of a concern for the global refugee crisis, which led to discussions that involved seeking ways to engage students in active citizenship. King and Wahlberg agree that the UConn ECE Small Grant for Classroom and Community Development application provided the encouragement and opportunity to generate their ideas into a planned initiative. Their project is titled “Finding Humanity in the Story of Resettlement: Learning Global Citizenship through Shared Experiences involving Art, Literature, and Culture with Syrian Refugees in Connecticut,” and will begin immediately with teacher training at IRIS—Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services in New Haven.
Part of the motivation to write the grant proposal resulted from King’s participation in the September 30, 2016 Pre-Texts workshop at Storrs, sponsored by the Connecticut Writing Project. The workshop, led by Doris Sommer from Harvard, trained teachers to use multiple art forms as expressions of story. Somers reinforced the power of creativity in learning, as it allows readers to engage in multi-sensory processing, enhanced memory, and deeper connections with texts, which inspire people to share their stories in community.
King and Wahlberg will continue to lead their students in their respective ECE English and Political Science classes, and have also scheduled joint classes for collaborative training sessions and field trips. Their project will connect students with child refugees and their families in various settings to teach global citizenship and cultural sensitivity. UConn provided another venue for King and Wahlberg to launch their ECE project ideas when the Dodd Research Center hosted the Children’s Literature and Human Rights Panel on November 10, 2016. UConn Professor Pegi Deitz Shea was a panel presenter who discussed her numerous children’s books about resettlement and her writing workshops with refugees. Professor Shea’s commitment to social justice and activism has prompted a new book project which will include refugee student writing and artwork. Syrian artist Mohamed Hafez will work with Shea to lead art and poetry workshops for refugee students in New Haven.
King and Wahlberg are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at these workshops in 2017 and are encouraged by this kind of support and continued networking provided by the UConn community. They look forward to leading their ECE students in activities and written reflections that are intended to encourage compassionate citizenship.
Sarah King and Lisa-Brit Wahlberg,
Connecticut Writing Project, TWR
Pre-Texts in China
In November 2016 I attended a Pre-Text training workshop in Shenzhen, China.
The Pre-text programme provided a great opportunity for me as a teacher to discover an innovative new method of teaching, and I discovered that there were many valuable aspects to it. What struck me most about the programme was the level of engagement elicited from the participants. By using literature as a base, students asked their own questions, created art and acknowledged other students’ achievements. Through engaging with the text in fresh ways, the students took full ownership of it, which in turn leads to deeper comprehension and appreciation of literature. Afterwards, students were asked to nominate and verbally express their admiration of another’s work. This allowed each participant to step out of themselves and foster a gracious and magnanimous mindset, and so develop themselves further on a personal level. I found the programme both interesting and worthwhile and would recommend it to other English and ESL teachers who are seeking ground breaking new ways to enhance learning in their students.
Sharon / ESL Teacher (Shenzhen, China)
Pre-Texts at UConn Brings Art and Social Justice to the Classroom
Harvard’s Doris Sommer Works With Teachers
Amanda Navarra (SI 08), Justis Lopez, and Matt Delaney of Manchester High School make cartoneras, or handmade books.
Doris Sommer hopes to do no less than change the world, and she plans to do so with art. Professor Sommer teaches Romance Languages and Literatures and African and African American Studies at Harvard, and she is also the founder of Cultural Agents, which is dedicated to the use of the arts and the humanities in public engagement. Specifically, Professor Sommer has developed a program called Pre-Texts that teaches teachers how to use the arts and humanities to teach their students to interpret texts in ways that disrupt and develop culture.
Professor Sommer came to UConn on Friday, September 30, to run two workshops for K-12 teachers, professors, and graduate students. Her visit was sponsored by the English Department, the Connecticut Writing Project, the Equity and Social Justice Committee of the Neag School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
The majority of the 31 educators in attendance were middle- and high school English teachers, but there were also many art teachers, social studies teachers, language teachers, and K-6 teachers, as well as a smattering of English graduate students and professors of education.
The first workshop was preceded by ice-breaking activities based on the work of Agosto Boal, author of Games for Actors and Non-Actors and Theater of the Oppressed, which extends the work of Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed into the world of art and art education.
Once everyone was sufficiently warmed up and familiarized with one another’s names, Professor Sommer introduced an activity based on the work of the cartoneras of Buenos Aires and the lectores of the Cuban cigar factories. The cartoneras made books from scrap cardboard for mostly middle class readers during the depths of the Argentine great depression, which lasted from 1988 to 2002. The Cuban lectores read books to the cigar rollers, many of whom were illiterate and few of whom had access to other forms of literature or literacy. The practice began in the 1860s and continues today in some parts of Cuba.
One of the teachers, Mary Gelezunas of Ellington High School, read the first chapter of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos to her colleagues while the rest of the teachers created cartoneras from art supplies, and then wrote questions on papers that were hung from an improvised clothesline (also an adapted practice of distributing poetry in poor communities in parts of Latin America) strung beneath the high ceilings and tall windows of the North Reading Room of the Wilbur Cross Building.
The second activity was called figuras and involved creating physical sculptures (figures) that embodied figures of speech in the text. This was done in groups of four, fishbowl-style, so that the teachers sitting in the circle had to use the text to locate and identify the figures of speech being embodied by the figural sculptures.
After lunch, two teachers from the group led their peers in different art-based interpretive activities. James Shivers, an English teacher at CREC Public Safety Academy in Enfield, had the teachers create something akin to blackout poems but based more on the work of Tom Phillips, whose “A Humument” can be seen at MassMOCA.
Then Elisabeth Caplan, an art teacher from North Branford High, had the teachers create haiku from keywords selected from the text.
The final activity of the day was musical. Professor Sommer asked for three volunteers to sing songs, and then the other teachers were asked to identify passages in the text that exemplified the tonal quality of the songs sung. Amanda Navarra, an English teacher from Manchester High, sang the theme song from Titanic. Justis Lopez and Matt Delaney, social studies and English teachers also from Manchester High, did a human beat box. Sarah King of the Master’s School in Simsbury sang “Counting Stars” by One Republic. The teachers identified passages that exemplified the melancholy tone of Titanic, the staccato rhythms of the beat box, and the upbeat, welcoming tone of “Counting Stars.”
The teachers thoroughly enjoyed their day of creative expression and interpretation, and while some expressed doubts about their ability to effectively insinuate these activities into the data-driven classrooms characteristic of today’s schools, most were encouraged and hopeful about the potential for Pre-Texts activities to re-shape the cultures of their classrooms. Sarah King of The Masters School said, “This workshop was refreshing and exciting. As a public school art educator, I find it is rare that the professional development workshops we take at school relate to my discipline—or relate to helping our students in the classroom at all. This workshop can be useful for so many students in so many subject areas.”
Connecticut Writing Project, TWR
Pre-Texts in Adolfo Ibañez University, Chile
In mid-January, a diverse group of teachers and professionals from different disciplines gathered at the Adolfo Ibanez University, in the pre-mountain range of Santiago de Chile, with one interest: participating in the Pre-Texts workshop with Professor Sergio Araya, Dean of Design at the AIU, and Professor Doris Sommer, Director of Cultural Agents.
Briefly, Doris facilitated the first activity: a warming up that was a corporal work, a human knot, that had to be unraveled. This served to “break the ice”, because many of us did not know each other yet. Then, we made cardboard books, listened to read aloud, asked questions to the text to publish in the “cordel”, etc. The group dynamics around the texts surprised us, day after day.
The text that we chosen was “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury. It is a science fiction story, and we approached it in different ways: from plastic arts, acting, biology, food, design with laser cutting, electronics, pedagogy, journalism and different tangents of the texts. This tangents are especially important on Pre-Texts and refer to how the text is approached by the reader when unraveling it from different angles. Doris recommended us to bring some documents related directly or indirectly to the story to crumble it and “Go off on a tangent”. Therefore, we printed different documents from internet with different contents. For example, a new discovery about the geography of the planet Venus and an article about female power.
These papers were hung on the “cordel” and served us to read the texts and understand the story through the perspective of our colleges. This activity will be very useful to work with our students and the most varied disciplines.
After five days together in the foothills of the pre-mountain range of Santiago, we approached, we moved and we united around a text in an experience that we will never forget. All thanks to the pretexts.
Read the article about Pre-Texts in AIU (spanish content): http://artepopular.cl/2017/02/02/pre-texto-en-la-precordillera/