I have visited Tikkakoski Comprehensive school (grades 1-9) three times since I arrived in Jyvaskyla one month ago. Tikkakoski is about 25 km north of Jyvaskylaa and the teachers I met there refer to it as a small village school. My main contact there is a woman who teachers textile craft and English.
Last week, I spent a day with her classes teaching them about Colorado and doing a great observation exercise called "what's going on in this picture," an exercise I do with my students in Colorado. "What's going on in this picture" is a project offered on the New York Times website. Every Monday, the NYT publishes a photo, current or historical, without the caption and students from around the world post ideas about what they think is going on. Students can comment on other comments and sometimes moderators from the NYT will comment on insightful student postings. On the following Thursday, the NYT posts the caption and some background info on the context of the image.
In the Tikkakoski class we did the exercise with an image posted from last spring because we had access to the caption when we were finished with the discovery part.
First step: Each student says out loud something that they see in the image. Ask each student to find the object or item that their classmate has noticed. This allows students to see things that they might not have noticed themselves. Students can not name something that someone else has already stated. I will point out each item or object so that everyone sees where it is. If the group is small, go around the group a couple of times.
Second Step: Ask students to use their detective skills to determine what is the general location of the image and the time of year. Clothes, street signs, vegetation, machines, land characteristics and architecture are clues. For both where and when, students should back up their ideas with evidence from the image.
Third Step: Ask students to hypothesize about what is going on in the picture from the information they have noticed. Again, they should give evidence from the image to back up their ideas.
This is a great exercise for all students in all class subjects because it encourages practicing observation skills and moving to higher level thinking of analyzing and evaluating the information discovered. English Language Learners enjoy it too. They can practice vocalizing individual words and then use simple sentences to describe their ideas. Even though their spoken English is at a beginner level, they are engaged in higher level thinking. In the art room, students practice with this exercise for a few weeks and then use the process to analyze art where meaning is often less clear or certain.
Here's the link for the NYT:
Try it! It's fun, active learning and the kids enjoy it.
I am a high school art teacher from Boulder Valley School District in Colorado studying craft education in Jyvaskyla, Finland. I am in Finland through a grant from the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching program and the Fulbright Finland Foundation.