Bulb Archived: Fort Dearborn ATLAS 2015-2018: Houston-Moore, Herring & Acker (Year 3, 2017-2018)

School Name: Fort Dearborn

Teacher Name: Kimberly Houston-Moore, Cynthia Herring, Larissa Acker

Section I: Arts Integration – Documentation. 

1. Documentation should not only provide a narrative, or story, of your project, but should also provide evidence of students’ engagement in the unit inquiry. 

2. Through your documentation, please provide student artifacts that depict the range of work completed. For example, what were the various ways in which students responded to various aspects of the project? 


Section I: Arts Integration – Inquiry 

3. What is your Inquiry Question for your ATLAS curriculum unit? What big ideas does this inquiry question address, and why do you think the question successfully addresses these?   

The big idea for this unit was FRAGMENTS. The inquiry question that addressed this big idea was: “How do pieces come together to create meaning?”  This question touched on the idea that many of the things that we are familiar including ourselves) with are the sum total total of many fragments; and that although an object is a compilation of many elements, it has more value than merely the sum of  parts. This question allowed teachers and students to apply new meaning to the idea of construction and deconstruction when looking at even simple objects that the students are familiar with–fractions, puzzles, themselves. We began with the story “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt”. Students collaboratively discussed how fragments were used in the story (fabric, information, etc). This was an opportunity to discuss symbols and slave code quilts.We then began to discuss what fragments we could find in our own lives. We concluded that as humans, we were even made up of fragments, and are also part of a larger community of pieces, but like our other examples we possess greater meaning when the pieces are assembled.

4. How did student research help them to engage more deeply with the unit inquiry question? Explain how your students conducted research for their ATLAS project, and how that research opened up avenues for further inquiry. 

After reading and discussing the story, student research began with a survey that was used to interview a parent or family member about their inherited traits in addition to experiences and learning. This served as a springboard for the discovery and reflection. Students also researched  the history of slave code quilts which  introduced them to the idea of fragments in this unit. 

The story of slave code quilts introduced students to symbols and meaningful parts to a whole
Students brainstorm and discuss the concept of “fragments”.
Student survey

5. Describe how the unit inquiry opens up avenues for interdisciplinary connections between the arts and academic content. How did arts processes and/or research practices facilitate students’ understanding of the academic topics addressed in the inquiry question? 

Language arts and social studies as well as mathematics and social/emotional learning  were all a part of this unit. The language arts and social studies served as background for the art-making decisions. The social/emotional learning played a big role in the reflective piece. 

6. How did the curriculum evolve based on the unit inquiry process? 

The use of mathematics piece of this unit has faded and reappeared throughout the project. The initial plan called for the fractions to play a prominent role in the creation of their quilt squares, reinforcing their current math lessons. For fear that using the fractional shapes would become too complex a process, I eliminated the requirement. The students, however, needed the structure of those shapes to keep them on track designing symbols and not pictures, so we brought them back into the unit. The reflections became more necessary: when they had to explain the symbols, they were less likely to just create random pictures.

Students incorporate their knowledge of fractions to create their symbols.

Section I: Arts Integration – Create Works 

7. How did students self-direct while creating their artistic work during the ATLAS project? Please provide any examples for the ways in which students made their own aesthetic choices and direction for creating their artwork. Examples might include but are not limited to: how did students make choices about the use of materials, how did they decide what they wanted to communicate, how did they make decisions about how to present work? 

Students were able to check their understanding with a partner before beginning their final quilt. Squares had to connect directly with a character trait that was discussed on their survey. How they designed their symbols and colors used were left up to the student. Students made good use of each other as resources and shared ideas as they moved through the project.

Students used simple geometric shapes and some fractions to create quilt squares

8. Please explain what opportunities the students had to reflect on their experiences and react to the work of their peers. 

Students were able to check their understanding with a partner before beginning their final quilt. Squares had to connect directly with a character trait that was discussed on their survey. How they designed their symbols and colors used were left up to the student. Students made good use of each other as resources and shared ideas as they moved through the project.

Students use anchor chart to check work.

9. How did the students’ artifacts from various stages of the ATLAS Unit impact your teaching practice? Please provide artifacts that exemplify your points. What did you learn about your teaching practice from looking at these artifacts? 

Myself, along with my partnering classroom teachers found that this unit had many ideas that created some pretty  complex connections. The good thing was that the student artifacts were a pretty accurate measure of their understanding of character traits.  After reviewing the initial artifacts that the students created, we found ourselves making many readjustments and doing lots of reteaching. We created teaching tools and used breakfast time each morning to team teach. Students were eventually able to make  connections their fragments from their survey, the resulting character traits and later the symbols that they would create to represent them. It was time consuming, but it resulted in a deeper understanding of character traits; a critical concept in reading comprehension.

anchor charts were created to assist in student comprehension

10. Describe how the students’ work was shared in the school or publicly. Why was this an important part of this unit? 

Students determined where squares should be placed based on their relationships with each other.

Student work was exhibited in a gallery setting. Quilt squares were arranged based on students’ relationships with one another (students who were related were the closest in proximity, relative, best friend, etc.) A video of their learning journey was placed in the center of the display. The sharing allowed students to have a voice in how their work was viewed as well as completing their learning journey–seeing themselves as a fragment of a larger group. they were impressed with the finished product and could see all of the fragments put together.

Section I: Arts Integration – Collaboration 

11. How did students collaborate at different stages of the project? Examples might include but are not limited to: did the students research together, did they create together, did they critique together, did they present together? 

Students first worked in teams to create symbols of a single idea and compare their solutions. They were also able to consult with a partner on their symbols to check for understanding.

12. In what ways did you collaborate with the students for this unit. How did the students impact the way in which the curriculum was implemented? For example, how did students help you plan, develop, and/or implement the curriculum? 

Students also generated their own list of character traits that was used as a resource. while designing their quilts. Students also played a big role in determining how the quilt would be assembled and exhibited. They collaborated with the teachers to determine what the finished piece would look like. 

13. How did you collaborate with other teachers in your school to plan and/or implement the unit? 

Classroom teachers worked to supply much of the background information concerning  slave quilt codes in social studies class, as well as working through a portion of the survey questions as a language arts activity. The math component, (fractions), was a part of their scope and sequence at the time. When we realized how complex some of the themes were and the difficulty students were having, we went back to reteach the idea of character traits, spending  time team teaching to allow us the opportunity to use the language arts themes and connect them with the unit.

Section II: Technology Integration 

14. What was your process for selecting this form of digital media technology? Why did you think this form of digital media technology would be ideal for student learning? 

Our approach to the technology as a tool greatly changed during the course of this unit. We began the unit thinking that we would let the students do some sort of stop-action animation as part of their end product,  but as the unit progressed, it became more important to use technology to document their reflections on this journey (it did become a journey of sorts) than for them to create a digital end-product.

15. How did students use digital media technology to direct their own learning? Provide artifacts to show evidence of how students used the technology to direct their own learning. Examples might include but are not limited to: making choices about technologies to use, using technology to facilitate experimentation, using technology as a research tool, to express themselves artistically, and/or to make meaning of their experiences. 

In this unit, technology was used to creatively chronicle the student learning and reflections. The conceptualizing part of this unit was difficult for third graders, and this video allowed them as well as their audience to retrace the steps that they took to get to a place of better understanding.

16. How did you use technology to enhance the learning environment for both you as a teacher and for the students? 

Students were able to review pictures and videos done throughout the time we were working in class to help some students who were struggling better understand what we were aiming for in our learning of character traits.

17. In what ways do your chosen technology resources align with your goals and outcomes for student learning? Looking back at the unit, how did the technology meet, not meet or exceed your expectations for facilitating student outcomes. 

The technology did help meet the learning goals, but not in the way that I had originally planned. My intentions were to have the technology play a more direct role by being the tool that students used to create their projects. This did not meet my expectations, but not due to the technology. There were other constraints that did not allow us to continue on that path.

18. How did the use of technology contribute to students’ application of higher order thinking skills? Examples of student higher order thinking skills include metacognition, self-reflection, analysis, and application of knowledge or skills. 

The technology, I believe, allowed for both analysis and reflection.

19. How did the use of technology drive student creative artistic expression? Please provide student artifacts that exemplify how technology supported their artistic expression. 

In this unit, the technology did not play as important role creatively as I would have liked. Originally, it was planned to have the students design their quilt squares using a design app. but that idea did not work for this group. 

20. How did the integration of digital media technology impact your teaching practice? 

Digital media allowed us to keep the learning process flowing. We were able to look back at some things that we achieved through photos and short video clips. I believe it kept us from “getting stuck” in the spots that were more difficult to understand. When students were struggling with making the connection between their survey answers and actual character traits, I was able to play a clip of one student taking another through the character trait chart and correcting mistakes. They were thinking aloud, and it was captured to benefit everyone. The final video also illustrated that bridge between each step of this unit. It allowed us ( as a class and as teachers) to look back and understand how and why we went through this process, what we learned, and the next possible steps.