Here are just a few great shots from my classroom that don’t have a home (or a blog post), but I would like to share anyways.
For one module, to coincide with African American History’s curriculum, we studied the art of the Harlem Renaissance. The first artist we looked at was Aaron Douglas. We studied his paintings and focused on the key vocabulary that is important when looking at his work: silhouette, skylines, and symbolism. The students were then challenged to paint a Philadelphia skyline, similar to how Aaron Douglas would have painted the New York skyline. They would paint the skylines as silhouettes and then add symbolism the same way that Aaron Douglas would have included symbolism about African American daily life in his paintings. Back in the Harlem Renaissance things were different for African Americans so my students were asked to think about things in their everyday life that they could use symbols to represent. These paintings came out very nice.
Next we looked at Romare Bearden who was not a Harlem Renaissance artist, but an artist who had grown up and experienced the Harlem Renaissance. We looked at his collages and students were challenged to make collages of their own neighborhoods. They had to focus on creating their own people out of many pictures of people, just like Romare Bearden, and try to represent their neighborhood using symbolism, just like in our Aaron Douglas projects.
Our Final project was a combination of everything we had learned over the course of the module. Students could pick paint or collage and they could take themes from both artists. In order to turn in final products my students had to do presentations of their own work. They told us about their techniques, their symbolism, and themes, and finally answered questions about their work of art from their fellow students. This was by far one of the most challenging aspects of their assignment, but I was very very pleased at the high level of respect and kindness I saw during these presentations. I cannot wait to teach this curriculum again.
After a whole unit of surrealism with loads of research, written assignments and painting I wanted to end out summer session on a positive and fun note with a care-free activity. (No not movie day! That is generally a teacher a cop-out unless you are teaching the history of film) Once presentations were done I wanted us to play a game as a class. This is a game invented by the surrealist and know to most all art teachers across the universe. It’s called the exquisit corpse. It involves the creation of a creature or person. Each creature is the work of 3 different people, and sometimes more, but in our case 3. By folding the paper into thirds, and making marks over those folds for a neck and waste, you are ready to go. The first step is for everyone to draw a head that conforms to the pre-determined neck lines. Then by re-folding the paper each student hides their head from view and hands their paper off to the next person to blindly draw the body, and then the next person blindly draws the legs. In theory the final result is a surprise and usually of mixed gender and species. It’s terrible looking and often funny.
After the first one my students demanded we do one more.
During the hot and humid month of July I spent a wonderful 4 weeks enjoying the airconditioning with my high school students in Philadelphia. During which time we studied and explored surrealism This was a subject that most of my students were uninformed in, although some were familiar with Salvador Dali’s famous painting of the melting clocks. Over the course of 4 weeks we defined surrealism, we explored automatic writing, and we determined who our favorite surrealists were. Our final product was a revamped, reinvented version of one of our favorite surrealists paintings or photographs and a presentation of this work of art along with information we had found while researching said artist. For example: Did you know Man Ray was born in Philadelphia?
Can you tell which paintings are based on Rene Margritte? Salvador Dali? Leonora Carrington? Man Ray?
Every summer now for 7 years straight I have worked at Glen Echo Park Partnership for the arts. About 5 years ago I became the lead teacher and it has been the most wonderful experience. See previous posts for more information: https://emmastevenson.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/one-of-the-amazing-things-we-do/ or https://emmastevenson.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/camp-has-started/
So this past summer it was once again time to head down to DC for the summer and get things going at Glen Echo. I was only able to stay for part of the summer, because of the summer session at my high school position. Still, I had a blast, and the change from high school back to elementary was energizing!
Last year, at the high school where I currently teach, I dedicated an entire half module (4 weeks) to studying comic book art and creating comic books of our own. And I say “our own,” because I was creating my own along with my high school students. I brought in my own personal collection from home. It was a mix of classic superhero Marvel and DC comics from the 1990’s as well as indie comics, zines, and manga inspired graphic novels. I loved comic books when I was younger. Also, I had taught the most amazing comic book class to a group of boys ages 5-6 some time in 2009 back in New York. So I figured it was high time I tried it with my older students. We learned about layout, spacing, timing, speech bubbles, and read online comics, as well as my own personal collection. It was a very well received curriculum, and I was surprised at how many of my students had read comics as young children. I shouldn’t assume it’s all computers and TV, some children are still choosing to read.
Since I have started working at my High School in North Philadelphia I have fallen in love with my whiteboard. I like to buy lots of colorful expo markers and make my board not just a place for information, but a fun place for information! There is also a projector mounted above my board so when I do elaborate designs I always have to keep in mind space for the projection or be OK with wiping it all away the next day. It seems my fascination with my whiteboard is contagious because now I often have students stopping by after school to hang out and just doodle. They seem more open to explore given the impermanent nature of the medium.