LOOK, LOOK AGAIN - Van Sickle Middle School, Springfield MA


Jean-Paul Maitinsky, Magnet Resource Specialist at Van Sickle Middle School, Springfield MA, writes:

"If you walk through the halls of Van Sickle Middle School you will encounter the Voices and Visions Masters Series posters mounted on the school walls along with thought-provoking questions to jump-start the interpretive process.   Asking open-ended questions is a critical part of how we learn. Understanding types of questions is an essential part of good teaching. The right questions can open up a conversation, unfolding ideas and creativity; the wrong questions can shut down thinking and end the cycle of growth and learning that teaching is all about. The Masters Series provides visual and linguistic opportunities to teach and learn by studying their evocative quotes and images.

After a workshop on Higher Order Thinking Skills (aka HOTS) Van Sickle Middle School decided to install the posters in its hallways along with questions designed to elicit critical thinking skills. The images were strategically placed, making thematic connections to classrooms.  For example the Humanities classes that study civil rights have the Paula Scher poster interpreting the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel quote ("When I marched in Selma, I felt my legs were playing") adjacent to their classrooms with the question “How do you know when it is the right time to stand up for something?”, and the English Language Arts classrooms have the Arnold Schwartzman poster interpreting the Susan Sontag quote ("Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech") outside their doors along with the question” How is what you don’t say as important as what you do?”  (SEE ABOVE PICTURE)
The Masters Series posters visually grab you, and offer a great opportunity to start a discussion that can lead to learning opportunities across the disciplines. Teachers and students are excited to see them and have remarked upon the opportunities they present.  The school’s principal Cheryl DeSpirt, as well as several key staff members, recognized their learning value, and are now supporting the initiative by assembling a group of teachers to develop curriculum units around the posters. The vision is to have teachers and students working in the school halls, using the Masters Series as a springboard to learning opportunities in their core subjects. Principal DeSpirt says: 'The Masters Series posters are aligned with the school’s International Baccalaureate Programme and Global Communication Magnet Theme, so it’s a great fit for what we are trying to do here at Van Sickle Middle School.'
Here is the introduction we posted on the school wall: 
'To get started interpreting these posters, it is important to take a good look at the picture. In it you will find clues that will help you understand the image in a deeper way. It is also important to match your own interpretation with the evidence you find in the picture. So look and look again, and then begin the dual process of bringing your own interpretation to the work in front of you.'
And here is the list of interpretive questions we posed for each Masters Series poster.  If you try them out, drop a line (info@voices-visions.org) to let us know if they were useful." 


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“Silence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.” - Susan Sontag