I have this tendency to want something incredibly creative from students as we end the study of a unit. I want something bright, colorful, thoughtful, artistic. I want to be blown away. I forget the following: I’m no artist and most of them aren’t either. Drawing always ends badly in my class. Even though we long for something “creative” that spans multiple disciplines we still have a responsibility to have students consider motivation and purpose.
The New York Times ran an article about a high school student who curated a city-wide art show for teens. The story was remarkable. It reminded me that often we do our students a disservice when we don’t make them reach. They are capable. This article reminded me of a synthesis question the AP Language and Composition exam used in 2007. The premise of the prompt was that every single exhibition depends upon a series of “decisions” made by a curator. It is in this that we have the basis of an alternative project. This project itself asks that students identify themes. It’s particularly good for weightier works like The Grapes of Wrath, The Odyssey, All the King’s Men, MacBeth, The Poisonwood Bible, etc. The basic premise is that you want the novel or the characters or the unit to serve as the exhibition itself. You will have students become “curators” for their own exhibition using the microblogging platform Tumblr.
1. Construct a list of characters from the actual novel or the unit you’ve been studying. These characters need some “meat” to them; for example, Myrtle from The Great Gatsby is a perfect choice but Klipspringer might not be.
1a. Chunk the novel or the unit into sections. Each chapter in the book could serve as a section.
2. Determine if students will work individually or in groups of two. I like groups of two. Fewer, higher quality assignments. Collaboration.
3. Assign students to characters or sections. Have them create a Tumblr account/page for themselves.
4. Tell students that they are “curators” for an exhibition that focuses on their assigned character or chapter. As a result they must determine a thread/theme/argument they want to display and more importantly they must consider how they will offer an audience a well rounded experience. They want to offer this audience a “layered” view and perhaps even show them something they overlooked. Something meaningful.
5. Come up with requirements. To have a good exhibition, students will need 4-5 “pieces” or artifacts from the character or the chapter. Remind them it can’t just be a list. They need to be creating an “experience.”
6. Show students examples of museums that currently use Tumblr. Here are some of my favorites:
7. Have students write up proposals. Simple ideas for a proposal could include:
- Title (10 words or less makes them more creative)
- Description of the theme and its purpose. (25 words or less makes them practice word economy)
- Description of each “piece.”
8. Have student construct their online exhibition based upon the proposal you’ve reviewed. Remind them that all artifacts will need captions/explanations on their tumblr page. This needs to look like the real thing.
9. Let students “walk” through each other’s exhibits.