Meaning Beyond Words (grade 4 HWEO art integration)

Meaning beyond words… poetry… meaning… message… intention… interpretation… words… letters… form… shape… design… hmmm Typography (?!) were the stream of thoughts that preceded being asked to be involved with the Grade 4 How We Express Ourselves unit of inquiry.

Central Idea:
Being a poet gives us the freedom to express meaning beyond the words
  • Following, adapting and changing the many forms of poetry (concept: Form)
  • Poetry invites us to respond with different interpretations  (concept: Perspective)
  • Reflecting on experiences and knowledge through our own poetry (concept: Reflection)

The students moved through a series of provocations that involved group typography challenges (see some of the final outcomes here). And giving meaning to fake words (fun!). This was all with the intention of students to experience what it is like to deconstruct, reshape and introduce unusual materials to give type/words a new and enhanced meaning. Student to student feedback was used frequently to see if they had indeed done that.

Sounds fun so far right? Here is where it started to really pick up pace and intensity. Each grade 4 student came armed with their poems to the art class. They were then asked to select specific words from their most treasured poems to transform into a typography art piece for their MiniX. We had 3 weeks — enter thoughts of plausibleness…

Did I prescribe the size? No. Did I prescribe the materials? No. Did I prescribe 2D or 3D? No. The only prerequisite was that their artwork enhanced the meaning of the word and the message in their poem. This planning sheet allowed my AMAZING art assistant and I to prepare and plan materials for the students. Did I have enough space? I don’t think so. Did I have enough manpower? Probably not. Did I have enough time? Definitely not. What I did have was an amazing grade 4 team of teachers who were flexible, supportive and encouraging. I had a tech integrator that worked tirelessly with LED’s, circuits, robotics, programming and 3D printing. I had energized students that ran to class and wanted to work through their lunches. I had an art assistant that not only kept everything organized (80+ projects on the go!) she conferenced students through the designing stage and helped them troubleshoot through the creation stage too.

In the end they did it! They finished their work on time, they finished work that they truly owned, they were proud. I finished reading all their reflections yesterday and not a single student wrote they were disappointed in their work. They all relished in the chance to exhibit their work in such a lovely setting. Now, to reflect on the logistics for next year so students have easy access to the materials so more time making and less time “Ms Anna where is the…?”

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Decapitated heads and amputated limbs… Have I found the perfect artwork to introduce art analysis?

If you don’t already know Camille Rose Garcia she’s a fantastic Los Angeles based painter/illustrator. Students are instantly drawn to her creepy, nightmarish worlds adorned with scary/cute characters that somehow look familiar to them (they are based on Disney characters). Amputated limbs and decapitated heads sit along side super cute ribbons and rabbits – students love it! My deepest apologies Mr Rauschenberg and Señiorita Kahlo you don’t quite capture the attention of my students at the moment, in time you will, but for now Ms Garcia is lighting the way for our art analysis and interpretation.

snow white and the black lagoon

Through a series of group activities I guide my students through a four step process of: 1. Initial Reaction 2. Description 3. Analyse 4. Judge & Evaluate (thanks to this wonderful ANALYSING AN IMAGE document made by Frank Curkovic).

By the time the students reach the judge and evaluate stage they are describing the work as being a commentary on a toxic/polluted environment with the witch being the antagonist in the narrative. The one who has caused suffering.

When we reach this point I have the students read an extract from an interview found here:

“I started it last year during the Gulf Oil spill and I wanted to do a re-telling of Snow White combined with the ecological disaster going on there. The fairytales of Grimm always talked about people that lived in forest that were very close to nature and their environment…I wanted to use the symbolism of things like the evil Queen to represent the evil empire and capitalism; and the white animals and Snow White representing the purity of nature – something precious to be protected. Of course, there’s the battle of good and evil.”

The reaction is priceless. I’ve got them hooked.

Helping Grade 7 ESL students Analyse Artwork

We have an excellent ESL programme here at BISS, every teacher works incredibly hard to get complicated content and concepts across to our students. For me, the hardest part is the terminology required for analysing artwork. Google translate cannot translate grid and mixed media into an art context so I try a variety of ways to help students but today’s differentiation idea worked! Hoorah! I made this task sheet (KUSHNER group research page) for students to work on in pairs. I paired the students; an ESL student with either a native speaker or someone whose language ability is higher. Before they set to work I gathered the students around in a big group and together (with a lot of questioning, hand movements and drawing across Robert Kushner’s artwork with red markers) we ended up with the orange chart below. The student’s referred to this as they started their analysis. You can see from the examples below the students definitely have an understanding of the pictorial devices used in Kushner’s work. The next test of my differentiation will be seeing if they continue to use these key words and concepts in their annotated notes and reflections. I hope so! Watch this space… have you had successes in teaching artwork analysis to ESL students? I would love to have some more ideas.