Martha Soto EDWARD R. ROYBAL LEARNING CENTER, LOS ANGELES, CA
11th Grade ELA : Unit #6 - Exploring Identity : Lesson #11

Formulating Questions About an Image

Objective: SWBAT determine what Khalo's painting suggests about Identity by formulating good questions about "My Dress Hangs There" using the Question Formulation Technique.
Standards: RI.11-12.1 RI.11-12.2
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Lesson Overview - 0 minutes
2 Students Formulate Questions About an Image - 15 minutes

In the previous lesson, students analyzed details in Frida Kahlo's painting, "My Dress Hangs There." Students shared their analysis and I heard some students making strong, eloquent statements as well as those who made less convincing statements. A couple of details captured the interest of many even if they did not quite met the criteria I gave them, which was to select those details that could clearly help us make meaning of the painting and could allow us to make connections to the concept of identity. For instance, a few selected the boat in the upper right corner and suggested that the painter was expressing an adventurous spirit because they connected this moving boat to a desire to travel. This is not a very convincing conclusion. Today, I want to give students the opportunity to engage with the details of the painting again in a different way. The ability to ask good questions is an important thinking skill that I have already introduced to my students in a previous lesson. I used a couple of strategies to guide my student to ask question about the material we are studying. One is the Question Formulation Technique and this is the one we are using today with one change. I have a step-by-step description in this QFT Step by Step document. They have engaged in this technique a few times this year already in small groups. Today, they will engage in it alone. It is the first time I try this and I expect they will come up with good questions. 

I remind students of the importance of asking good questions and of the Question Formulation Technique. I explain that they will be engaging in the technique alone. They appear very open to trying this on their own. I ask them to select one detail they are interested in asking questions about. At this point, I share with them my observations of the day before. Specifically, I tell them that there are certain details students chose to write about which may not have met the criteria I set for them. I use the toilet to make this point. I tell students that the toilet probably caught everyone's attention because we don't expect this object to be on top of a column in the middle of a city and also because it is a toilet. I ask them to consider whether this toilet is central in helping us make meaning of this painting and making connections to the concept of identity, or if it is just interesting because it's a toilet in the middle of a city. I don't answer the question. The toilet may or may not be useful in making meaning of this painting. I tell students this much and emphasize that they must use the criteria I gave them to select something like the toilet to focus on. Students understand this point. I tell students that the detail they select today may be one they wrote about yesterday or it may be a new one they select today. I tell them they will have 6 minutes to formulate as many questions as they can about this detail and to write these on the back of their copy of the painting. I remind students of the four rules of the technique and tell them that only the first one applies to today because they are not working in groups, ask as many questions as you can. Like the day before, they will have a color copy of the painting in front of them to reference as they formulate questions. This is especially useful today because they will be writing questions on the back of their copy and would have to keep flipping the page from back to front repeatedly. I give students six minutes to formulate questions. I walk around and gently remind students off task to focus and work on formulating as many questions as they can. I also look over their shoulder to get a sense of the questions they are formulating.

When the six minutes are up, I stop them and ask them to reread their list and select the three most important questions they came up with. I remind them that the most important questions are important to the question focus, the detail they selected from the painting. I also ask them to prioritize them and write them below their list so that question #1 is THE most important, question #2 is the second most important and question #3 is the third most important. In the Question Formulation Technique, the next step is to have each group of students share their questions and explain how they prioritized. However, since today they did this individually and it is a short period, I don't ask them to share. I am mainly interested in giving them the opportunity to engage with this painting once more in a different way. 

3 Students Examine Frida Kahlo's Identity - 20 minutes

The last thing I want students to do with this painting has to do with the entire reason I included it in this unit, analyze what they painter may be suggesting about the concept of identity. They have already been asked to keep this in mind as they selected details to write about, but I want this connection to be made more explicitly. To do this, I ask students to write a quick short paragraph where they explain what Frida Kahlo may have been suggesting about identity. I give students a few minutes for this task and let them know that they will have the opportunity to share what they wrote. 

Once they are finished writing a paragraph, I ask for volunteers to share what they wrote. As students share, I ask questions, they ask questions, I praise the strong statements made. In this manner, we are again having another discussion about this painting and about identity. 

Students Examine Khalo's Identity
Checks for Understanding

Most students were able to clearly articulate the negative light in which Kahlo painted the United States. As a group, they were also able to state that the dress in the center is an expression of her identity. Several were able to also perceive that she may have felt out of place and very much different from anyone in the city she was in. 

The questions they formulated seem to have helped them explore Khalo's identity. This student, for example, is asking good questions about the dress in the painting, which points to the value of the Question Formulation Technique.

4 Closing - 2 minutes

I take a quick poll by asking students to raise their hand if they think they are going to incorporate this painting in their essay. Only a few say they probably will, but many say they are not sure. Only a few say they will not use it for sure. I close by saying that we are moving on to another text in the following lesson.