Friday, October 21, 2011

The "Words to Live By" Project

LIEP instructor Jess Haley
Throughout the semester, students in the Advanced Listening & Speaking class of the Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) are exploring the English language through a vocabulary-building photography project called "Words to Live By." This post shares with you one segment of the project -- the segment focusing on Jesuit values.

Loyola University New Orleans is run by an order of Catholic priests called the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola in the 16th Century. A Jesuit education seeks to instill important values--the twelve ideals of a Jesuit education-- in the students. LIEP instructor Jess Haley offers this explanation of her class's project and of the project segment focusing on Jesuit values.

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By Jess Haley and Her Advanced Listening & Speaking Class

All of us live in a world built of language. We are surrounded by words that guide us both physically (such as those found on traffic signs) and mentally (such as those found in advertisements). As members of our own culture, we largely take these messages for granted. Inundated with them as we are, we don't even consciously see them. But for visitors and learners in a new culture, these everyday symbols of our social grammar can become confusing.

In the "Words to Live By" project, students chronicle -- photographically, literarily, and verbally -- their exploration of this language. Students seek out, photograph, present to the class, and then discuss the words we live by this semester. Each week the project has a different theme, for example, Jesuit values, the Intensive English Program experience, traffic jams, humorous words, and New Orleans through adjectives.

Jesuit Ideals Marker
For their first "Words to Live By" project, the students visited Loyola's Peace Quad, located in front of the Danna Center (Loyola's student center). After a brief lesson in photographic composition, they were asked to look around for language. They identified words everywhere, but only a few noticed the gray stones in the center of the red brick sidewalk upon which they were standing. Each stone bears a Jesuit ideal, forming a path to the door of the library. These are words that Loyola students encounter every day but don't necessarily spend much time pondering. However, these words are important for international students, who may or may not understand what a Jesuit education means.

LIEP Advanced Listening & Speaking Class
The students read and contemplated all fourteen of the stones before choosing one that represented their personal ideals. They then photographed their chosen ideal, that is, they could photograph either the stone with its printed words or something else that represented the words to them. In writing and in a brief oral presentation, the students investigated the literal meaning of the words, the over-arching meanings of the expressions, and their own reactions to the words.

Here are some examples of the many ways the students chose to capture and articulate their Jesuit "Words to Live By."

Photo by Maximiliano Braga
Maximiliano Braga chose "Development of Personal Potential" as his favorite of the Jesuit ideals. Max discussed the literal meaning of the words and then stated that, for him, the development of personal potential required freedom to improve and explore his purpose. This was a freedom he felt while studying at Loyola. Max intentionally composed the photo from this angle and altered it digitally to imply the journey and direction of personal development.

Photo by Edilberto Reis
Edilberto Reis chose the Jesuit ideal of maintaining an international and global perspective, but he used a different strategy with his photograph. Instead of photographing the words on the stone, Betto took this picture of his classmate Luis Morales walking near a sign that reads "Part of the Pack." (Loyola's mascot is the wolf, an animal that lives, hunts, and plays in a pack.) Betto explained that the coincidence of seeing his friend and those words together was powerful for him. Luis is part of Betto's "pack," and together the words and the image of Luis exemplify Loyola's dedication to diversity and community.

Photo by Luis Morales
Luis Morales argued that all of the Jesuit ideals on the sidewalk stones were important to him, but he placed "Contemplative Vision Formed by Hope" in the center of his photo-montage because he said that he is a dreamer, always looking to the future. Luis explained that he lives in hope for a better future and that he has faith and hope that he is going the right way. He believes that everything will be fine as long as he meditates about what he wants and has hope for the future.

Photo by Raul Amado
Not only has this project already begun introducing students to new vocabulary, it has offered them a creative way to incorporate their learning into their daily non-academic lives without feeling school-like. The students can inquire about and interpret the sometimes puzzling words around them.
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Our thanks to LIEP instructor Jess Haley and her Advanced Listening & Speaking class for sharing their "Words to Live By" with us.

Our next post will introduce you to interesting styles of New Orleans architecture through a project of the LIEP Culture class.

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