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Composing Culture

Written by Lacy Manship
February 16, 2011

As classroom texts, the documentaries became embedded in our classroom culture.  Using these texts in everyday ways made both the stories and the idea of ourselves as composers a valued and normal thing in our classroom.  When I was talking to a colleague about this video, he commented that no one in the videos is surprised that Everardo was coming around with a camera.  I can see that, too.  This documenting thing wasn’t a week long or even unit long project for us; it was something that evolved and changed over time but was a consistent presence in our room.  In the same way that our daybooks (writer’s notebooks) were ingrained in our school lives, pulling together our thinking and learning across all parts of the day, all content areas and activities, the camera threaded together our social learning.  Being a persistently collaborative and communal tool the camera told our collective learning stories. 

Working from behind the camera is a participatory activity. The camera in your hands means that you are making decisions about what viewers will see and hear (and not see and hear).  Camera and pen are not so different mediums.  It’s all the composition of stories and that necessitates (however consciously) the writer to participate in the conversation of genre, form, craft, sociality and action.  For Everardo, in this page’s documentary, the camera mediates his social activity as he goes around and talks to everyone in the room, a thing he didn’t often otherwise do at school.  With a classroom culture that values composition, specifically composition in progress, composition as an evolving, rolling entity, Everardo finds a space to engage in the composition of a story that matters.  As the digital reader follows Everardo’s classroom trail, we write with him in movement the script of what it means to be in first grade, what it means to be in school.

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