What's Fuzzy, Thin, and Bendable?

The article Visual Arts As Critical Thinking, posted in Edutopia online magazine, is one that echoes professional beliefs I hold as an educator. One of the beliefs at the core of CTL is “Learning about, in and through the arts is a vital dimension of effective classroom practice”. When CTL staff engage with clients (students, teachers, and administrators), we intentionally use the arts to deliver the content.

Amongst the tools we carry, you’ll find an array of art supplies including construction paper, glitter, feathers, oil pastels and chenille straws. Chenille straws are those fuzzy, thin, bendable objects you probably grew up calling pipe cleaners. They come packaged in primary, fluorescent and earth-tones. Teachers can buy enough for a learning experience and spend under $5.00.

I’ve included three pictures from classrooms where teachers have adopted the value that the arts enrich lives, deepen learning, and extend perspectives.

Symbolism

1. Picture one is a class collection of student work demonstrating understanding of symbolism. Students were asked to identify a theme from a novel and then use chenille straws to symbolize that theme. Students then used an index card to translate their thinking into words. Students made their thinking public by dispalying both the symbols and cards throughout the room.

Comparing and Contrasting

2. Picture two is a student working on the skill of comparing and contrasting. He was asked to create two images to compare and contrast two major characters from Lord of the Flies. One student sought out this teacher after school and reflected, “The lesson today was so great. I never really understood how to compare and contrast characters until I had to create meaning with my hands first and then write about it second. Thank you.”

Metaphor

3. Picture three shows a student’s understanding of metaphor. The students were asked to create a visual metaphor comparing characters from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The student reflected George to be mashed potatoes and Lennie the gravy. His notecard was an explanation of how those two food items served as metaphors to two classic literary characters.

How might you use these fuzzy, thin, and flexible straws in your own classroom? Or how have you used them as a tool for students to communicate understanding?

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