Last time, we were discussing how artifacts teach the first two of the five elements of language arts: reading and writing. But, artifacts can teach communication as well. Place an artifact in front of your class and ask, “What is this and why is it important?” Immediately your students will move into higher-order thinking, accessing prior knowledge, analyzing the artifact for clues, synthesizing the information, and drawing a conclusion about significance. If they work in pairs or groups, communication will occur throughout this process as students share their information and their ideas. If you have students report their discoveries and conclusions to the rest of the class, expository speaking skills are reinforced. If there are differing opinions, persuasive speaking skills are employed. Regardless, using an artifact first engages the students’ interest and then employs higher-order thinking to reach a conclusion. Throughout this process, communication is not only required, but also reinforced.
Listening skills are also taught through the use of artifacts. Throughout the process of determining what an artifact might be and why it might be important, listening is absolutely required. Communication is a two-way process: speaking is one and listening is the other. The two go together. Without listening, speaking is just talking. Without the speaking side in a conversation, there process is dead from the start. There is nothing to listen to! Describing and explaining an artifact and its significance combines speaking and listening, two critical 21st century skills, effectively and efficiently.
The final element in the Language Arts is “viewing.” Artifacts teach viewing, too. Again, viewing is defined as “the ability to interpret, negotiate, and take meaning from information presented in the form of an image.” I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like analysis to me. Placing an interesting artifact in front of your class and asking, “What is this?” requires your students to “negotiate” (analyze) the artifact closely, gathering information along the way. From the descriptions they compile (evidence) they can identify its use in the past and predict its potential in the future (take meaning from) as well.
Artifacts focus your students’ work in the Language Arts. Reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing are all enhanced when a teacher begins the lesson with an artifact. The object can be old. The object can be currently used. The object can be colorful or drab, or torn or crumpled. It can have any characteristic, but the best objects are those that pertain to students’ lives now. Focus your students reading, writing and communications skills with those items that are relevant to their lives. Pick an object and begin,
ARTIFACTS TEACH THE LANGUAGE ARTS