As an extension of yesterday’s post, today will be a continuation of the visual rhetoric of monuments. I open by asking the students to pretend they are architects and have been tasked with creating a floor plan for a department store. I give them no other instructions in the hopes that the drawings will be varied and unique. Then, I ask some brave volunteers to present their designs and tell us why they constructed it in the manner that they did. The rest of the class pretends to be part of the judging panel and listens intently to each pitch, asking questions and posing situations that compromise the design. Of course, because I love a good competition, we then vote on the best design.
What I like about opening this way is that, even though “literature” isn’t involved, the Common Core standards for reading are still being met because students are still…
- Assess[ing] how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
- Integrat[ing] and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
- Delineat[ing] and evaluat[ing] the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence…
This also prepares us to discuss what must be considered when constructing anything that is large-scaled and must serve a massive amount of people, which closely mimics the synthesis prompt of the AP English Language exam.
Then, I provide students with monument articles. One is about a John Brown memorial in Akron, Ohio. The article captures how the memorial is being moved because so many are opposed to it. The second is about the most recent addition to the National Mall: the Martin Luther King, Jr memorial. It questions the effectiveness of the memorial to move beyond the conceptual and into the literal and evaluates the decisions made in the physical creation of it.
After reading these articles we begin to discuss how minute details can have serious impact on the overall design. This also leads to a discussion of what deserves to be memorialized. We debate the merits of John Brown, a controversial figure, and the pros and cons of honoring him with a monument. This leads us to their project: them determining a figure who deserves to be venerated in an area symbolic to our country, which will be described in more depth tomorrow.
Image from Marion Doss