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Research Notes

Page history last edited by jiwony@... 12 years, 9 months ago


Aghigh's Observations of portions of Mrs. Cilli's, Mr. Crain's and Ms. Grassi's Classes


Nancy Cilli’s Class:



On Friday February 27, Mrs. Cilli’s class was in the computer lab during the hour that we visited. She had informed me beforehand that her students would be working on a Webquest assignment designed by Ms. Grassi. When I walked in, the students were at their computers, working rather quietly. While they did appear to be working diligently, they were also very animated. Some pulled at the large headphones wrapped around their heads, some moved their mouse across the tabletops, and some swayed from side to side in their chairs. On several computer screens, students watched clips from Santa Claus in Baghdad. Periodically, a student would raise his or her hand and ask a question aloud, a question perhaps about whether he or she had to watch the clips more than once in order to find the answer. Mrs. Cilli would respond by addressing the entire class, repeating some instructions that she’d given earlier.



Some students had trouble with their computers and Mrs. Cilli and her assistants walked around to these students to help. One assistant (or was she an additional teacher? I could not ascertain) worked with a young male student individually. They sat on the floor and worked through the questions on his Webquest sheet. The assistant/teacher’s aide asked the young boy to read the question aloud. These questions were comprehension questions from the film, like “Where does the film take place?” Then, once the boy came up with the answer, he was to write the answer down in the appropriate blank, making sure to write in complete sentences. It seemed that this exercise was not only about comprehension in terms of the film, but about comprehension in terms of learning to read and respond to questions completely. For example, at one point, when the student had written down his response, the teacher/teacher’s aide made sure to remind him that something special should come at the end of a sentence, at which point he marked a period.



Towards the end of my stay, Mrs. Cilli announced that many students were having in that the film would freeze in the middle on their computers. So, the students whose films were freezing moved to share with those whose computers had no trouble doing so. The students eagerly moved out of their seats to huddle around a handful of computers that were functioning properly.



Mrs. Cilli took some time to show me a few collages her students had made earlier. In these collages, students used a variety of materials, including string and cotton balls and other such textured items, to visualize scenes from the book, The Breadwinner, which is set in Afghanistan. The story is about an 11 year old girl living in Afghanistan during the Taleban’s takeover and the struggles of her family to live under the new regime. The collaged scenes, consequently, were sometimes violent, including amputated limbs or prisons. She explained that the collages were an attempt to evaluate reading comprehension since the book itself had no pictures and was read aloud. During the reading of the book, Mrs. Cilli said she always worked to make the experiences of the Afghani protagonist real to the students, by helping relate it to the students’ own experience.



As I was walking out, Mrs. Cilli spoke to a female student about how to work through Culturegrams.




Jeff Crain

I walked into Mr. Crain’s class long after class had already gotten underway. Mr. Crain was sitting in a chair at the front of the class and the students were seated on the floor around him. He was asking the students about their brother/sister relationships, working to relate their experiences to the brother/sister relationship depicted in Santa Claus in Baghdad. After this point, he continued to ask questions about plot points, such as asking about what the uncle brought to the children and how the children responded. And with each question, Mr. Crain found a way to relate the question to the students. For example, when he asked the students to remember whether there were any boys at the school of the female protagonist in the film, he then asked the students whether they would enjoy going to a gender-segregated school. He also related the questions to other themes the students had discussed throughout their language arts learning.  



Every time Mr. Crain asked a question, several hands would shoot up in the air and cries of “ooh ooh ooh!” filled the space around him. Mr. Crain obviously captivated their attention and when they got excited, he was able to bring back their attention to the questions at hand. Also, as an interrogator, he valued each person’s voice: he called on as many people as possible and validated nearly every response, even if they were slightly off track. 



Eden Grassi

When I walked into Ms. Grassi’s room, she was wrapping up an activity in which the students were sharing with the class questions that they would like to ask the filmmaker of Santa Claus in Baghdad. The lights were off in the classroom, and some students were sitting on top of their desks and some in their seats. Some were just standing and pacing a bit. That is, the atmosphere was relaxed, but the students were quiet and listened to each other’s questions. Lots of students had their hands up and Ms. Grassi called on as many as she could to hear the questions they wished to ask the filmmaker. They gasped when she reminded them that the filmmaker would actually be visiting and that they could ask their questions in person.


Jiwon's Class Observation on Mr. Jeffery Crain's class at

Roberts Elementary School on February 27th



Prior to class, every student in Mr. Crain's class had been assigned to one Middle Eastern country and made a trimid about that country. The trimid – which included the name of the assigned country, the country’s flag drawn by the students, and five facts that the students felt important – were displayed in front of the class under the smartboard.



When Mr. Crain asked any volunteers to present their trimid in front of the class, more than two thirds of the students were raising their hands to present their trimid and got disappointed when there were not selected to present their work. Countries that the students presented included Iraq, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and Qatar.  Students selected five important facts about their assigned countries that included their official language, religion, population, popular food, number of public school students per class, popular sports, and the age people can start work. When their classmates were presenting, students attentively listened. Mr. Crain often tried to relate these facts to the students' own lives by comparing and contrasting with what students are experiencing in the U.S. At the end, Mr. Crain asked students if they could guess why Mr. Crain had them come to the front of the class and talk about their trimid. After hearing the students’ answers, Mr. Crain said that he wanted them to practice public speaking since they often would be expected to speak publicly in the future. Mr. Crain went on to tell the students that even though they might feel uncomfortable speaking in front of others, they would get better with practice.


Then, Mr. Crain changed the setting of the class from the regular setting where students were sitting on their chairs to a “story time” setting where students were sitting on the carpet around Mr. Crain. Mr. Crain started talking about the film Santa Clause in Baghdad. The students had watched the film already as a class and knew much about the film. Mr. Crain started the discussion by asking "What is the title of the film?" and "What do you think about the title?" Students were very engaged and eager to speak up. One student said that the title is not good because Santa Clause did not play an important role in the film. Mr. Crain also asked the question "How was the relationship between Amal, the young girl, and her brother Bilaal?"  One student said that the relationship was good because they are brother and sister. Then, Mr. Crain asked the follow up question, "So we all know that our brother or sister is always good and never does wrong, right?" Students shouted "No" altogether, and Mr. Crain talked about the relationship between brothers and sisters, such as fighting, disagreement, and other issues with this relationship.



Mr. Crain then moved on to talk about the content of the movie, by asking "Why is Bilaal excited?" One student responded by saying, "He really thought Santa Clause would come." Mr. Crain asked, "Then why did the children get excited when their uncle came?" and students answered, "Children got excited because they thought they would be able to get what they want" and "Uncle gave good medicine to adults but to children, he didn't have anything but gave them money."



Then, Mr. Crain changed the topic to the relationship between Amal and the other girl in her school. After the students shared their thoughts about the relationship between Amal and the other girl, Mr. Crain asked if they would like to go to an all girls school or to an all boys school. Many students said they would like to go to all girls school or all boys school with such reasons as "without boys, it would be more quiet."



The other questions that Mr. Crain asked students include "Why did uncle Omar say he was sorry?" "Why did the father say he was ashamed?" "Why was the picture and table taken from the house?" "Why was the lady playing the violin during that time?" "Even though Amal didn’t have enough money from her friends at school, how was she able to purchase the book for Mr. Kareem (her teacher)? "How do you think she felt after she bought the book?" "Would you have done the same thing and why?" and "After Amal gave the book to Mr. Kareem, why was he happy and sad at the same time?"



Students participated passionately and answered each question. Mr. Crain always made sure to apply each issue brought up about the film to the students' real lives as well as to morals and ethics. Mr. Crain also talked a great deal about giving and sharing, since the main theme of the film was about giving and sharing despite economic hardships.



Mr. Crain then asked the students again if they thought the title was good. One student said that it would be great to include the word "giving." Then Mr. Crain asked the students what they would like to ask the filmmaker if he were to visit them. Students' answers included:  "Why did he choose that title?" and "What inspired you to make the film?"



Mr. Crain wrapped up the class by announcing to the students what they would be doing in the afternoon. They would write an essay about (1) what point they think the author/ director was trying to make to the audience and (2) their favorite part of the movie and why.




Nuala’s Notes

Observing Eden Grassi’s class: February 27, 2009

Ms. Grassi read the story Christmas in Baghdad to her students the day before screening the film. Students, already familiar with the plot, were still engaged in the film. By their response, I think students most identified with the younger brother in the film, who looks like a 3rd or 4th grader himself. Throughout the screening Ms. Grassi paused the film several times, asking students questions about what they just heard or saw. Some of these questions were comprehension based questions like “What just happened?” or “How is this different from what happened in the book?”

Other questions were more subjective and sought the opinions of students, for example, “How do you think this character feels?” Students were eager to express their opinions about characters and what they understood of the film.

After watching the film and discussing it a bit more, students announced questions they would want to ask the filmmaker. Here are some examples of their questions: Why did you want to make this film? How did you make it look like it was filmed in Baghdad? Is this a true story? Are you from Baghdad?

The discussion and analysis about Christmas In Baghdad centered around the story, the plot, characters and the filmmaker. Now that students are familiar with this film, I think it is worthwhile for Ms. Grassi and her students to switch gears and watch the film from a media literacy standpoint.  If we (the Temple Team and participating Roberts’ faculty) teach key concepts of Media Literacy to students, I suspect that they will be able and eager to apply these concepts to the film and eventually new forms of media as well.


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