Create deep, rich texts with your students

A OWI from Jennifer Chagoya’s French class.

You’re a CI teacher. You create One Word Images with your students, you lead Picture Talks and finish the discussion writing a class text via the Write & Discuss process. Your book talk at the beginning of the period inspired an imaginative prediction about what students think might happen in the book, which is completely insane but it is good input so who cares!*** At the end of class you look at the student illustrations created and the texts; you are left with a bunch of purple pineapples, singing hot dogs and wacky plot lines containing fecal and booger humor.

A OWI from Myra Morgenstern Rio’s Spanish class

All of this is good for language acquisition (assuming your students are interested), but part of you wonders how other teachers transform these texts into deep discussions about race & ethnicity, gender identity and what makes a fair society? How do other teachers shift the description of a purple pineapple into a discussion about honoring all members of society?

Wafflina, the happy but mean pink Waffle who lives at IHOP

The answer is simple. As you sense the possibility of a larger theme, ask one simple question in English: “oh wait kids, what is this story really about!? I mean, REALLY, what are we really talking about?” A waffle who laughs at all of the pancakes, not aware that humans eat waffles too… that story is about empathy, isn’t it? My students react vehemently, “NO MR PETO, it is just a WAFFLE!!” but I have already added a new layer to their story. That singing hot dog, let’s take a closer look at the illustration… is this a story about bad nutrition? No, this is a hot dog singing in a land of hamburgers, so we are talking about cultural difference. Should the hot dog mash himself up and pretend to be a hamburger, or should he continue singing his own song? What kind of world do we want to live in?

To do this well, keep a copy of the AP themes close at hand. Let the variety of themes inspire you to think creatively about your students’ ideas. Most of all, take your students’ ideas seriously. Look for deeper themes and some of your students will join the game. You can only spend so much class time talking about a purple pineapple, unless of course you were never really talking about a purple pineapple all along… wink wink.

***Want to learn these techniques and more?! Join the CI Master Class Online and get access to the best online PD available with video demos from my workshops, essays on every aspect of my teaching and class-ready materials designed to help you transition easily while you learn the skills needed to successfully lead a CI classroom.