by Bruce Neff
How is a classroom community affected when
students share visual images that represent who
they are outside of school?
Visual, non-verbal communication plays a powerful role in how we see each other
in society. Living in a multimedia society where television is a prime source
of entertainment, diversion, etc., our society relies heavily on visual communication
to convey a variety of messages, culture being just one.
When we come to know that
this is the reality of our world we are better
prepared for ways
to perhaps challenge the taken-for-granted beliefs
that stem from this form of "culturalization" and
in doing so it allows for a deeper more appreciative
understanding of who we are and where we come
from to form a stronger community built on understanding
If students can use pictures to capture some
element of that missing piece of their identity
and, through dialogue, be able to share with
others in their classroom that side of them that
is not seen, perhaps we can begin to challenge
the taken-for-granted beliefs, or assumptions,
we hold about each other and rise to a new form
of community in our classrooms.
This action research study involved twenty-seven fourth grade students and
one teacher from one elementary school in San Jose, California, during the
months of October 2003 through April 2004.
Analysis of Data
This study focused on how the student's level of community would be affected
when they shared pictures about who they were outside of school. This study
- Over the course of the study there was a
noticeable decline in the amount of concerns
that were being reported by students in the
areas of safety, caring, and respect.
- Interactions among classmates
changed in a variety of ways. Such as students
in social activities together outside of school,
students broadening relationships to include
people outside of their normal group of friends,
and students' willingness to help one another
in class regardless of who they were.
- Three case studies that revealed increased
academic performance in district assessments
ranging from 10% to 25%.
- A 13% increase in academic performance in
Houghton Mifflin Theme Skills Tests for the
new Language Arts adoption by the entire class.
- A shift in student's perceptions
about each other, which led to dialogue about
thereby empowering students.
In order to produce citizens that can be successful and make meaningful contributions
to our society we need to address the needs of the "whole" child. This includes
not only academics, but also the valuable social skills that are needed look
past the taken-for-granted beliefs that we may hold about on another. Support
must include funding to provide the following:
- The equipment necessary to conduct this activity
at each school and continuous funding to support
ongoing annual costs.
- Professional development for teachers that
is ongoing and sustained.
- A district level employee who is solely responsible
for the professional development and support
of district employees.
- Annual stipend for on-site program mentor.
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