As many of you know, I’m a big visual literacy advocate. I just find the intersections between the visual and classroom “stuff” to be really neat and noteworthy because in the end I’ve found they help students make more meaningful connections.

I have utilized the visual in many ways in the classroom so far, including having students create Canterbury dictionaries and mandalas. So, as promised, my long awaited mandala post, ha!

Basically, the mandala exercise looked similar to this lesson plan I found online (googled “character mandala”), so check it out and to get a better idea of the how-to’s. Now, on to what I discovered through my students work…

  1. Students will laugh at hands-on activities and claim they feel like they are back in kindergarten. (Keep in mind I was working with seniors here.) That’s ok. Laugh it off and keep them both entertained and focused on the characters.
  2. I integrated this activity with a high percentage of struggling students. (My thoughts on struggling vs. reluctant students can be found here.) Basically, these were not necessarily “high-achieving” students, and they were in the “general” English class. Yet, the responses I received from these students blew my mind away. Their responses were critical and showed that they did in fact “get” the main point of this exercise (as well as Chaucer’s underlying themes!).
  3. Evaluation of the visual was tricky here. Students had to create the actual mandala and then write a reflection on why they did what they did. Some students’ reflections simply stated, “I used red to represent … blue to represent …” — now what I wanted. I wanted to know why they used red in the tiny dots and not in the main center part because those were conscious decisions on their parts! So, to get around this and find out if 1) the visual was helping and 2) if students were getting the point, I asked them questions. Literally just walking around the room saying, “Hm that’s an interesting combination” and listening to their responses. What surprised me is that students who struggled with the writing part, could verbally tell me very in-depth, textual supporting reasons why they choose to accent different parts of the mandala with different colors.
  4. Though students were “hesitant” at first, I realized that they really did enjoy the activity, as well as get a lot out of it. How did I know this? Once again, I asked them. Write down on a piece of paper what worked/what didn’t work. (Besides, who doesn’t like to color, right? :-))
  5. In the future, I think it would be interesting to have students try to guess which characters are represented by their peers’ work. I think it might help drive home the point even more!

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