Friday, January 25, 2008

Thinking Maps and Drama

This past semester English 10 teachers used Thinking Maps to help students with their reading comprehension in the two plays studied--Arthur Miller's All My Sons and Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

One successful comprehension check involved students completing a multi-flow map at the end of each act of All of My Sons. Students analysed the causes and effects of the main conflict of each act and were able to build the next act's multi-flow onto the previous one. In other words, the effects of Act 1's conflict became the causes for the conflict in Act 2. This compound multi-flow is similar to the change over time continuous multi-flow that works for analyzing historical events.

The English 10 Shakespeare unit was shortened this year to fit into the 12 days between winter break and the end of the semester, so teachers did not have the time to repeat the continuous multi-flow process with Much Ado About Nothing. However, when I teach Othello this spring with my seniors in World Literature, I will have the students create the continuous multi-flow so that they see how the dramatic structure builds in Shakespeare. Traditionally, I have taught Shakespeare with the triangle dramatic structure of exposition (Act 1), rising action (Act 2), climax (Act 3), falling action (Act 4), and resolution (Act 5). With the continuous multi-flow, I will still be able to use those dramatic structure terms by labeling the appropriate section of the multi-flow map.

My hope is that students will see how Shakespeare builds his drama from one act to the next. The multi-flow map is also a great tool for discussing themes, so students should be able to see how Shakespeare's theme development is closely tied to the dramatic structure.

Logistically, I will have students build the continuous multi-flow in their notebooks and as a whole class on long sheets of construction paper. Since I teach three sections of World Literature, I will be able to roll up those sheets after each hour and un-roll the next hour's multi-flow.

The bubble map has also been used successfully with both English 10 dramas this year. Students were able to describe characters and find textual support for their adjectives. Sarah Jarrett recently used the bubble map as an assessment after Act 2 of Much Ado About Nothing, and here's her reflection on the assignment:

"The character bubble map assessment worked very well with my
sophomores. They were focused, were forced to work specifically with the
text, and came up with some great descriptors for the characters. I also
think it helped them feel more confident about their knowledge of the

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