Drawing from the Well

Chapter One - Digging the Well
Lesson 1 - Getting Started

Setting the Stage:

To begin a Drawing from the Well project you will want to orient your class to a specific way of learning. This project requires students to be investigators as well as responsible learners. It requires teachers to facilitate student learning by encouraging student dialogue, inquiry and the creative process. Integral to this work is the development of relationships: teacher to student, student-to-student, students to community members and community/school relationships. By using oral history interviews, students, teachers and community members often reach a greater understanding of their own cultural heritage. Our goal for Drawing from the Well is to foster deeper connections and commitments to ensuring healthy communities and life-long learning.


This first lesson is an orientation for students to understand the scope and requirements of the Drawing from the Well program and to identify areas of interest in their own communities.


  • Students will comprehend the overview of the program
  • Students will identify people, places and events within their community for potential study

Materials and Resources Needed:
Blackboards or large sheets of paper to record and display ideas Handouts: #1 - Overview of the Process (Appendix/Samples and Activities) #2 - Initial Questionnaire for Students (Appendix/Methods of Evaluation)

Duration: a class period


  1. What is Drawing from the Well?
    Pose to the class the image of a water well (la noria). You may have a student draw this image on the board and/or have students make a drawing of their own. Ask the class:

    • A. What is a metaphor?
    • B. How do you think this image of the water well is a metaphor for learning?
    • C. How does this metaphor apply to learning about our community and ourselves?
    • D. What would you like to "pull up" from your community's heritage?
    • E. Pass out the initial questionnaire for students and have students answer the questions individually or within a group. Have students report back some of their findings.
    • F. Referencing the image of the water well, along with the Overview of the Process, (Appendix/Methods of Evaluation) lead students through an explanation of the Drawing from the Well program.
  2. Overview of the Process:
    Explain to the students that each phase of the Drawing from the Well program builds upon the next. If you carry out the whole program, students will learn to work in groups, have discussions, make decisions, take part in technology and hands-on activities, learn interviewing skills, write narratives, develop public speaking skills, create a final project and host a final celebration. Core to this curriculum is the students' experience of how one's own community can be the source material for academic learning and skill development. Ultimately students will develop a trust in their own natural inclinations of inquiry and know how to be active and participatory learners.

    In media production we use a process known as the 4 P's: pre-production, production, post-production and presentation. The work we do in Drawing from the Well follows this process with additional components of assessment and evaluation, in accordance with New Mexico Public Education Department Standards and Benchmarks.

    Optional: Experiment with ways to be interactive with the students as you explore the description of the project and the process. After giving students the overview you may utilize the "jigsaw" method of instruction by breaking the class into 4 groups and have each group responsible for re-telling a specific phase of the project, plus adding questions and ideas these phases may trigger. Just as in constructing a jigsaw puzzle, the parts are reassembled into a whole. Have the groups report back to the entire class their new understandings and concerns. The groups can be formed through using the 4 P's or phases of the Drawing from the Well program plus the assessment practices.

    Overview of the Process—Four Phases

    Pre-production: Identifying the area of investigation, determining the essential question and webbing exercise; portfolio development, writing exercises, technology skills, listening and re-telling exercises, video viewing and listening to radio documentaries, and developing interviewing techniques. (Chapter One - Digging the Well)

    Production: Step One: Group work, research, technology skills development, interview questions, oral presentations; coordination of community interviews; scheduling interview sessions, transportation, and correspondence with the interviewees. (Chapter Two - "Lowering the Bucket")
    Step Two: conducting interviews, write-up of experience and observations, documentation - photos, video, audio, journal/portfolio entries (Chapter Three - Filling the Bucket)

    Post-Production: Listening/viewing, logging footage, selecting highlights, designing the communication - audio, video, student publishing, photographic or theatrical. Writing narration including impressions, interpretations, analysis, historical references and descriptions of subjects interviewed. For radio or video: record narration, sound effects and music selections; editing process - rough edit and final project. (Chapters Four Pulling Up the Bucket and Chapter Five Transporting the Water)

    Presentation: Historically, Drawing from the Well projects have culminated in a community celebration. For this celebration students have prepared an oral presentation, a display of their writings, photographs and artwork, a mapping of the community and a presentation of their final product. The presentation, including the portfolio, is the ultimate assessment of the students' work. Other forms of presentation can include: younger, older or peer classroom presentations, visits to senior centers, hospitals, prisons, community centers to present their program; radio or TV appearances, book signings and readings, and/or the design and implementation of a public exhibition. Student learning is anchored when students are held accountable for presenting their work. Additionally, a public audience increases the value and quality of student work. (Chapters Six "Water as Nourishment" and Chapter Seven "Supporting the Growth")

  3. Assessment Practices: What is assessment? It is simply measuring what a person is doing or has done. In Drawing from the Well the work will be assessed by the teacher, classmates and the student. Parents and community members involved will have the chance to experience what is learned and may be asked to assess student work as well. The purpose of assessment is to help students improve and learn, by considering what they do well and what they need to do to improve. The knowledge and skills in Drawing from the Well that will be assessed are part of the state of New Mexico's State Standards and Benchmarks that are required for all students.

    You may be asking yourself: How will this assessment be done? It will be largely through the use of rubrics and portfolios, both of which you will be taught how to use and understand while you do tasks and activities. Rubrics are just lists of what it takes to do something well. They will be explained in the Appendix as you proceed so you know what is expected. Portfolios will be the evidence of all the students' hard work and what they have learned.

    Have your students ask themselves: 1) "Why should I assess myself and my classmates?" When students learn how to honestly assess themselves and reflect on the work they do, they become independent. They won't always need the teacher to tell them how they did or what is wrong, because they'll be able to do it themselves. 2) "What will I gain?" Explain to the students that they will be able to see their own progress and improvement. The goal is to have students identify for themselves their own good work.

    Have students take home their initial student questionnaires and interview parents and/or relatives to see how they would answer the questions. In addition, have students write up and print out a Letter to Parents informing them about this new project. This can also be an assessment piece for teachers and students to see what they understood from the Overview Process.

    Assessment: Since this is an introduction and orientation, the focus of assessment should be on student responses, both verbal and nonverbal. Obviously students are not expected to have a deep understanding at this point. Student participation and attitude can be cultivated early for a more enjoyable and successful experience. Pay attention to what students say as they work and report out.

    If you do not already have a system for anecdotal records, you may want to try a simple three column sheet of paper with a "+"(plus), "-"(minus), and "I"(interesting) as headings. You are looking for ways to facilitate achievement in the project, and the information gathered will help you.

    These are some things to listen for:

    • Plus (+) Note enthusiasm, new ideas, unique knowledge and/or experience, abilities students could share, potential leaders not previously recognized, untapped talents, productive working relationships
    • Negative (-) Note problems, conflicts, issues, obstacles, resistance, confusion, fears, counterproductive working relationships
    • Interesting (I) Note anything that surprises you.

    Assessing student work: Have students turn in their initial student questionnaires to you. Scan them to add to your list above. Put a check on completed surveys, which have been done with thought. If you wish, you can put a minus on unsatisfactory work (incomplete or shallow), and a plus for those who elaborated the work beyond expectations. You may wish to hand back the minus surveys to redo or complete. The true purpose of assessment is to help students continuously improve their work.

    The homework can be shared orally or assessed in the same manner as above.

    WORKING PORTFOLIO: Keep the surveys until the students have their portfolio ready. These can be referred to later when students are looking for resources and interviewees.