A MiddleWeb Classic
A Million Words:
A Wonderful Activity to Connect with Parents
The Million Words activity basically works this way: In the first month or so of school, the teacher asks parents to tell you about their child, in “a million words or less.”
Sounds simple – and it can be very powerful – but as you’ll see in this MiddleWeb Classic conversation from 2003, there are many permutations. Fortunately for all of us who want to try this idea, this particular MiddleWeb listserv chat was populated by a group of insightful folks, many of whom had tried the Million Words tool — and in a variety of different school settings and contexts.
We’ve captured the conversation in this MiddleWeb Million Words Resource file (PDF). Feel free to download it, check out the links, look at the sample teacher letter at the end, and visit the Education World page where our chat and other related activities are considered.
The teacher-parent-child relationship is an “evergreen” topic. See, for example, this 2012 article at the New York Times blog Motherlode: “When to Brief the Teacher, and When to Bite Your Tongue.” And this 2015 article by teacher (and Million Words user) Cheryl Mizerny, who shares many tips for strengthening the classroom/home connection.
Our take-away is this: Many parents want to tell teachers about the things that make their children unique. This activity can open that door for them!
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
- Length: 739 words (2.1 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Photography may be a more effective and reasonably inexpensive alternative to drawing or painting, but more thought and feeling goes into a painting than a photograph.
Photography is relatively simple in comparison to painting, which is a much more complex task. With photography, the composition is already completely arranged, but with a painting the objective is much more open to interpretation by the artist. The artist has the ability to capture much more emotion, understanding, and significance in an event and apply this fiery drive to his paintbrush when creating his own masterpiece.
When dealing with reality, I think a photograph may represent an actual physical recollection of a person or object, but a painting created from scratch adds the reality of perception to the equation. Reality is always open to a different observation and interpretation.
Artists during the Realism period concentrated on the real world as they saw it, and chose to construct their pieces of work with normal, everyday activities, therefore making it all the more real. One painter during this time period was Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. In his piece titled Ville d’Avray, he chooses to capture a woman in a forest-like setting. The text states Corot worked very quickly so that he could capture the “underlying rhythm of nature” to make his landscapes reveal the magic moment of truth. In my interpretation, his quick brushstrokes in light and dark values are meant to create movement; you can practically see the wind blowing through the rustling trees, gently swaying the woman’s long, flowing skirt. With his choice of colors, I can feel a slight chill from the breeze due to the haziness and dimly lit sky. If this were a photograph, the image would be less blurred, and I would see a woman, a couple of trees, and more defined colors. I wouldn’t feel anything from the photograph. I would just see objects. With this painting however, I interpret it to make me feel a certain way (serene and lethargic), and it provokes me to ponder as to why this woman is amongst the trees on such a blustery day. This painting allows me to reflect and speculate upon whether the artist had similar feelings while creating such a magnificent composition.
Another thought-provoking painting created during the Realism period is Gustave Courbet’s Burial at Ornans.
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Thousand Words Worth Picture Capture Time Period Photograph Real World Ville Chill
Courbet was viewed as the leader of Realism in art, and he said “to paint a bit of country, one must know it.” This may be the foundation of realism, because the artists chose simple, everyday events (such as Courbet chose a burial in this particular painting), and made them into complex narratives. In Burial at Ornans, Courbet makes me feel mournful from the dark composition, as it unfortunately reminds me of a funeral I recently attended. When I read that Courbet demanded the subjects in his picture of numerous sittings, I can only imagine what they had to think about to achieve such sorrowful dispositions. It is especially heart-wrenching when the viewer painstakingly examines all of the detailed faces, especially that of the altar boys. One innocent child is looking up towards an elder man, probably questioning “Why?” This simple action may be symbolic of so many of us looking up towards Heaven and asking God “Why?” when we lose a loved one. This painting is a true example of realism, and it was probably primarily rejected because people of that time period wanted optimistic pieces of art; not work that made them pessimistically question real life events.
In conclusion, a picture is worth a thousand words. When the picture is a photograph, a sense of reality is achieved in that the colors, size, and details or the composition are real. There is a lot to be said about a photograph, but there is always something missing. The missing link is what inspires an artist to create a masterpiece with a paintbrush and a blank canvas. Countless hours are spent debating on the colors, the brushstroke, and the detail to be given to each subject. Then, emotion takes over and the artist desperately tries to convey his thoughts and feeling all through a simple painting-a mundane task indeed! Finally, after the artist has committed everything to his masterpiece, only one thing is left to be done, and that is hope his work inspires and provokes thoughts to question the perception of reality in the viewer.