Creative Expression and Poetry: A Case Study of Cross-Cultural Collaboration in Mother Tongue Language at ISL Qatar
In autumn 2021, the Mother Tongue Language department, led by Odile Younes-Hajjar undertook Professional Learning in using a arrange of Microsoft Learning Tools including Minecraft: Education Edition, Microsoft Flip and Immersive Reader. They worked with the Tech Hub Education team to develop their curriculum plans, and explore the ways in which these tools might enhance language learning in the school.
The project they devised together used Minecraft: Education Edition as a tool for exploring creative expression through language and digital art in the Grade 4 and 5 Poetry Unit of Inquiry. Students studied a nature-themed poem in their Mother Tongue Language and were challenged to transform significant language features such as vocabulary and figures of style e.g. personification and metaphors and so on in their text into visual representations using Minecraft. For example, in the poem Primavera, Spanish students worked with the concept of the cycles of change. In their Minecraft interpretation of winter, they worked with similes and metaphors to represent 'death', while in their interpretation of spring they depicted ‘hope’ through blooming trees and flowers, and the birth of young animals.
Students had opportunities to reflect on what they created in Minecraft, and to consider what their creation might illustrate about their own heritage and culture, compared to those from other countries. Students also produced reflective videos about their experience using Microsoft Flip, and have had opportunities to comment upon, and leave feedback on the videos of other students across the Mother Tongues languages. It is hoped that the sharing of ideas between peers will deepen the sense of cross-cultural respect already highly valued and embedded in the school, and spark conversations about heritage, culture and identity among our learners.
Evidence of Student Learning
Artefacts of student learning included Minecraft Builds, written reflections and Flip videos, providing multiple ways for students to express their understanding, and demonstrate their learning:
Minecraft was employed as a tool to help students to illustrate their interpretation of the poem. It was used to help make student thinking visible to educators and peers. Importantly, this visual representation of their interpretation was used by the students themselves as an anchor, around which they could relate complex ideas about language (similes, metaphors, personification and so on) in their video and written reflections.
Student written reflections provide evidence of deep engagement with the language elements in the poem (written in Mother Tongue). In many of the reflections, student writing indicated a personal connection to the poem, as a direct result of the creative process offered by Minecraft. In this example (from Italian Mother Tongue), students named the tree they built 'Bianca' (Italian for white). The poem itself makes no mention of a name, but this illustrates the children's understanding of the use of personification, as well as the more literal interpretation that in the poem the writer describes the tree's branches as being covered in snow. Upon discussion with the class teacher, we also feel that the 'naming' of the tree is indicative of children developing a personal, emotional connection with the tree, and the poem - something that doesn't always occur with G4/G5 students when learning poetry in a more traditional way.
Students were invited to present their Flip videos in English to enable them to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences with peers in other Mother Tongue classes. This encouraged students to learn from each other, to provide feedback to each other, and it created a comparative lens through which children could view their own literary culture and heritage.
This project enabled students to engage with poetry in a meaningful way. Using tools such as Minecraft and Flip empowered them to become creators in the process of interpreting and analysing language. The powerful digital learning environment created by Minecraft provided students with opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other, as well as making their thinking visible to themselves, their peers and educators. There is evidence of deep reflection, personal connection and a developing understanding of the ways in which writers use language to convey meaning in poetry.
Educator & Student Feedback
Odile Younes-Hajjar Leader of Learning of Mother Tongue Languages says that she has seen strong evidence that using these tools in the poetry project has enhanced students' creativity, problem –solving, self-direction, and helps foster their social and emotional learning.
Asa Karlsson, Mother Tongue Swedish teacher, a key driving force behind the innovative project said:
‘Typically in smaller classes it can be difficult for the students to get opportunities to collaborate. This project helps create connections between students who would otherwise be working on their own. Using tools like Minecraft that excite learners and foster a sense of joy, can help students see traditional subjects like poetry in a completely new light.'
When asked to discuss what surprised them (or challenged their existing ideas) about learning poetry, students provided some wonderful insights into their learning journey:
'I have learned that there are many different ways to express poetry, like in a picture, or even in a Minecraft build' Student A, Grade 5
'I have learned that when you interpret poetry, it's about what it means to you. It's about how it makes you feel - your feelings and your values' Student B, Grade 5