Bulb Archived: Linne Collaboration Laboratory 2017-2018: Benetti, Gillott, Whiteman III & Hughes

2017-2018 Collaboration Laboratory

John Benetti, Thea Brenner Gillott, Ernest Whiteman III, and Aaron Hughes

1) Describe the context of your school, neighborhood, or classroom. 

Our school is in the Avondale neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. Our school is predominately Latino, and we are considered to be at a poverty rate of approximately 90%. While these statistics are commonly linked to low-performing schools, our students perform at levels that are competitive with some of the highest-performing schools in the city.

Linne Elementary is in Avondale on the northwest side of Chicago. It is one of those Chicago classic brick schools that look like they have been the heart of the neighborhood for a century. On walking into the building  building the first thing I noticed was the art by students that filled the walls and kids working with tutors in the halls. 

2) Big Idea: Unity through Varying Perspectives

Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth grade students discussing poetry and photography.

3) Inquiry: 

How do diverse communities develop a sense of unity?

Diverse communities are united in thought. The mind of a fourth grader and the mind of an eighth grader vary in multiple ways including maturity level and academic level. To create unity the partnered students read the same poem, this was a bonding experience to share the same reading. To create a unified mindset we set a time for the students to meet and have a discussion that bonded them together. To further unify the group, we set time for them to construct their photographs and interpretations together. Finally, students presented their work in partners to different classes at the school. Having students work together unified them in thought and art. 

Students prepare to discuss their work.

4) Academic Content(s): 


Listening and Speaking

Critical Thinking Skills

Media Literacy

Hannah, an eight grade student, interprets her poem for curious fifth grade students. 

5) Artistic Discipline(s): 


Esmeralda captures Aby and Fatima jumping off of the playground. Photo by Mark Diaz

6) Standards Addressed: (Common Core) 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.1 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

The eighth grade hallway before the school gallery walk. Students prepared the hallways after school.
Students created an aesthetically pleasing hallway for peers to view and ask questions about projects.

7) Please describe what you did and what you made for this project: 

  1. Selection of poems.
    1. Students explore a variety of poetry.
    2. Learn about figurative language, rhyme scheme, etc.
    3. Practice conducting analysis of poems.
    4. Select favorite(s) and conduct deeper analysis.
  2. Selection of partners.
    1. Fourth and eighth grade students read the poems from the other class. We build matches based on shared interest in a text.
    2. Students then conduct analysis of the poem from their partner. We will do this blindly so that the interpretation is pure.
  3. Shared interpretation of a poem.
    1. Students meet together for the first time to discuss each poem.
    2. Analyze further based on the input of their partner.
    3. Choose certain parts of the text for focus of photography component (specific word, line, or stanza).
  4. Interpreting Images
    1. Students discuss a series of slides and discuss interpretation
    2. Students identify important photographic considerations (light, composition, focal point, subject)
    3. Students use viewfinders to explore (composition, focal point, subject)
  5. Photography Instruction.
    1. Based on artists – Basic Camera operations, Composition, Ideation
    2. Possible field trip component.
  6. Photography Exploration.
    1. Based on part 3c above.
    2. Each student shoots photographs inspired by the text.
    3. Eventually, they will choose one photograph for each part of text chosen.
  7. Photograph Analysis.
    1. Student will analyze their own photographs, explaining why each one connects to the text and what photography techniques they used to capture that idea/feeling.
    2. Student will analyze the photography of their partner the same way. Again, this should be done blind initially, but will likely be the jumping off point for great discussion between the two students.
  8. Exhibition.
    1. Students will print poems and photographs.
    2. Other students and families will attend a gallery opening at the school.
    3. Students will discuss their choices and interpretations with guests.
  9. Reflection.
    1. Students will reflect on all parts of the experience
      1. Finding poems
      2. Choosing partners
      3. Analyzing
      4. Developing skills as a photographer
      5. Choosing their best work
      6. Comparing work with partners
      7. Discussing their choices with others
The hallway was crowded with students discussing their photographs and their favorite poetry. More than 100 students came to see over 25 poems and over 100 photographs.

8.) What did you learn about yourself, your partner(s), and the students? How might what you learned impact your teaching practice? 

Whiteman: I continue to learn that students will have a need to express themselves. That the student that talks a lot simply needs to find and avenue to articulate clearly, and for the shy student, that they have a space where their thoughts are given merit. That to work on focusing on how is what I tried to show them in this project, beyond merely stating an opinion, but to think deeply about how an image can represent an idea, or that there is a space where there thoughts and opinions are respected and taken in. How this impacts my teaching method is to never treat a student as a “good” or “bad” student, to give them a task, a space to do the task, and a focus for their voice to intgrate into the task, and to listen to them when they speak.

Hughes: I have just begun to learn what it means to work with and teach youth. This collaboration exposed me to the wisdom and knowledge that different age students bring to classroom. Through a clear project structure and the use of action and reflection everyone simultaneously becomes the teacher and the student. I also learned about different strategies to engage students in the learning process such as first showing the process to the students, then doing the process with the students, before finally the students do the process on their own. This is a teaching strategy that can benefit all ages and I found works better then then giving simple instructions. 

Brenner: I have learned that my students have a creative side to them that was unexplored till now. My 4th graders who have been taught what interpretation is and can discuss interpretation, had not had a chance to creatively explore meaning till now. I have learned that the camera allowed them to “see” the poem in a new light. I have learned through my partners that multiple voices teaching students about their expertise allows new bonds to be made and more students to make meaningful connections. What I have learned is that bringing art into my lessons, creates a longer lasting bond to the academic aspect of the assignment. 

Benetti: I learned that my students are impacted by poetry in a way that taps into their expressive side. I learned that my partners can adapt to just about anything, and their passion towards art takes many forms. I learned that I sometimes need to let go and let student creativity lead the way. 

Moved by a photograph, Ernest contemplates the meaning of life.

9.) How did the collaboration challenge your understanding of teaching, learning, and art-making?

Whiteman: With any collaboration the primary challenge is logistics – carrying out a plan that includes and is dependent on so many varying perspectives and roles, and the need to rely on another student to complete the project. With so many “moving parts”; between the number of student partners, the grades, the ages, the schedules of four adults, planning, and rethinking of steps and structures, to work to end up with a finished project – you may not end up where you wanted to go exactly, but where you need to be at the moment.

Hughes: Coordination with with three other teachers and creating a unified vision takes time but is crucial to working through a collaboration with so many variables. The time spent together as a teaching team during the CAPE trainings and prior to even envisioning the project built trust that allowed our teach team to adjust on the spot and work through lessons even if they did not go as we individually imagined. I was inspired by the negotiation between preplanning lessons and learning objectives and the free flow and improvisation of the classes.  

Brenner: Collaborating with dozens of students and four adults was a challenge. I learned that communication is key. The art partners and teachers were able to assess the lessons and reflect on challenges immediately to improve on our next teachings. Have students interact was exciting for everyone. Have collaboration among students was not easy logistically but worth it in the end!

Benetti: The collaboration pushed me a lot creatively and collaboratively. Coordinating four adults and over sixty students was not a simple task, but allowing the students’ curiosity propel the project was the secret. I learned that ambitious projects are worthwhile, but it is best if we are willing to adjust on the spot. Additionally, we need to go with the flow; things are going to change and resisting that can stifle the creative process. Altogether, it opened my eyes to the fact that my students should be expressing themselves in an infinite amount of creative ways.

Ernest and Mr. Benetti go over some last-minute notes before students head out to shoot photographs. Photo by Mark Diaz.