1. How did you and your teaching partner decide to do this project? (Please describe the context of your project, this can include influence from previous projects, context of your school, community, etc.):
Ellen & Mellisa: When we wrote our proposal over the summer last year, we thought Mellisa would be teaching 7th grade again. Our plan was to use the novel, Scorpions, as a reference for illustrating events that students at Alex Haley deal with in their daily lives. We wanted students to make block print posters to take a stand about relevant current events such as gang violence, black on black crime and police issues. We thought students would be able to voice their concerns about situations that they face on a regular basis through their writing and art work. Last school year (2016), there were two shootings across the street from the school. In another incident, a well-known former Haley student was killed. The tragedy affected many students throughout the school. The students needed an outlet in which they could express their feelings about the crime in the neighborhood. It is extremely important to address the concerns students have.
Before the current 2016-2017 school year started, we found out Mellisa would be teaching 5th grade Language Arts. We still wanted students to be able to address current events in their community through their art work. We kept out inquiry question and focused our big idea around “change” as we selected a new novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963.
We wanted students to make connections and comparisons between the changes which the characters are experiencing in the novel and their own real life experiences that they are witnessing within their own community. In helping them learning about and better understanding these connections, we asked the students where they wanted to make a “change.”
2. Big Idea: Change
How can creating works of art based on a literary theme help students address the current situations within their community?
Our inquiry question helped us navigate the process of creating powerful works that would be seen by others in the school community.
4. Grade Level:
5. Academic Subjects:
Our unit was based in language arts. Students read the novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 and wrote responses identifying the elements of “change” both in the novel and in the symbolic messages of their art works.
6. Artistic Discipline:
Our artistic discipline was visual art. The students created block prints using rubber printing blocks as the base block into which they carved their symbols, messages and designs. In class, we introduced the printing blocks by their brand name, Soft Kut blocks, and the class used the term Soft Kuts when referring to them during the entire process.
7. How many years have you worked together as partners?
We have been working together as partners for two years.
8. Please describe your project:
For our project, Creating and Communicating in My Community, the students created block printed posters in which they addressed our big idea of “change.” We began the project by having the students read the historical-fiction novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963. As a basis for better understanding the concept of change, we focused on how change was happening, what was causing the change, to whom it was happening and how the characters approached these changes. Through their reading, students to identified some of the novel’s themes and made connections if the were applicable to their own situations.
9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?
We hoped the fifth graders would learn the following:
We wanted students to be able to make connections regarding the changes the characters faced to changes that they encounter in their own lives. We wanted the students to reflect on changes that can and need to be made not only in their school community but in their neighborhood and city. Not only did we want them to think about the change in the book and what they thought needed to change in their own community, but we wanted them to see how art can be that catalyst and visual marker for change.
Ellen showed the the fifth graders protest posters from various protest marches throughout the years so the students had a better understanding of using words and symbols together to communicate a message. The class talked about what changes came about from these marches.
It is from these discussions that we hoped the students would each address a change that they found important to them. We hoped they would be able to communicate their message through their imagery and words.
Finally, we also wanted student to learn how to use both symbols and colors to help express the meaning and message of their work. We spent two class sessions learning and discussing both design symbols/logos and color symbolism in popular culture.
10. What surprised you during this project?:
I have generally worked with students on block prints who are older than 5th grade. So I was surprised at the students’ mastery of carving on their Soft Kut blocks. After many carving demonstrations and reviews of the carving rules and techniques, all the students were very careful in their execution of the work. I attribute their focus to the fact that this was a completely new material that none of them had ever had the opportunity to use in art classes.
I also was very impressed with the way the students talked about their work when we came together for a brief sharing session at Convergence. They were very proud of their final products. – Ellen
11. What worked in this project and why?:
The students were able to translate their ideas through their symbols, drawing and colors to create very strong messages. Students tackled subjects such as gun violence within Chicago, bullying, littering and body-shaming (judging a book by its cover). Students were passionate about wanting to make sure their images resonated the messages simply yet effectively.
The students had to think about which color best represented their message before we even purchased the ink. The ink color they chose had to help express the theme or message. I felt that the students were extremely interested in learning about color symbolism and how they could apply it to their own work.
12. What didn’t work and why?:
We had several students who didn’t come to class for several days at a time. Many students were behind while others were ahead. By the time everyone had completed their prints, it was difficult for us to have a feedback/critique session. We had a short sharing session at Convergence, however I really wanted a more in depth discussion. I think in any future work, we may need to have a calendar or timeline that maps out the project and we need to have it in the classroom in a prominent space.
13. What was your approach to assessment for this project?:
There was ongoing formative assessment in which students were observed and monitored constantly to ensure that they were following the directions for the project. Students were also asked questions and provided suggestions to guide the symbolic images of “change”. There was a rubric to provide a summative measure of following directions, identifying an element of “change”, and a connection to The Watsons Go to Birmingham.
There was ongoing formative assessment in which students were observed and monitored constantly to ensure that they were following the directions for the project. Students were also asked questions and provided suggestions to guide the symbolic images of “change”. There was a rubric to provide a summative measure of following directions, identifying an element of “change” and a connection to The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963.
14. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?:
During the printing process, the students completed three prints. Of the three, one print was sent to Convergence, CAPE’s student exhibition from the Artist/Research Partnership Program. Another print was hung in the first floor hallway of the school and the third was for the students to keep.
Students, teachers and visitors from other schools were able to view the completed prints at Convergence. During a class field trip to the exhibit, our students finally had the opportunity to share with each other the meaning of the work and why they chose certain symbols and ink colors. This was extremely important because we had not had a final sharing opportunity in the classroom. Throughout the process, there were many discussions about symbols and choices and students gave feedback to other students particularly during the drawing process. All of these conversations were helpful as students created their imagery.
15. Did sharing your students’ learning occur according to your plan for social engagement in your proposal? Why or why not? Please explain.
Sharing the students’ learning did occur according to the plan of having them displayed in the hall. The prints were posted in the hallway of the first floor. Emails and “Group Me” messages were posted to let teachers know about the fantastic project the class completed. Many staff members were completely impressed by the quality of the artwork and the explanation students gave them for their pieces.
16. How are you as teachers, artists and students social engagers through this work?
There was continuous dialogue throughout the project to discuss the ideas for symbols of “change”, color representations, safety procedures, suggestions for improvement, and feedback about the quality of the prints. Students expressed themselves verbally, written, and creatively throughout the entire unit. The teachers and artists had rich conversations with the students about their thoughts of what should be changed within their communities and the connections to The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963.
17. Did sharing your project with others influence how you will approach future projects?
There was continuous dialogue throughout the project to discuss the ideas for symbols of “change”, color representations, safety procedures, suggestions for improvement, and feedback about the quality of the prints. Students expressed themselves verbally, written, and creatively throughout the entire unit. The teachers and artists had rich conversations with the students about their thoughts of what should be changed within their communities and the connections to The Watsons Go to Birmingham.
Having an audience view the work at both the school and at Convergence was very important to the students. They were very proud of their work and they wanted others to learn about how to help the community. If we are to do a future project at Haley School, I would like the class to engage more with the school community maybe even having an exhibition at the same time as one of the school plays at which parents attend.
18. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts):
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.3 Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.7 Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
National Core Art Standards
VA:Cr1.1.5a Combine ideas to generate an innovative idea for art-making.
VA:Cr1.2.5a Identify and demonstrate diverse methods of artistic investigation to choose an approach for beginning a work of art.
VA:Cr2.2.5a Demonstrate quality craftsmanship through care for and use of materials, tools, and equipment.
VA: Cr2.3.7a Apply visual organizational strategies to design and produce a work of art, design, or media that clearly communicates information or ideas.
VA:Cr3.1.5a Create artist statements using art vocabulary to describe personal choices in art- making.
VA:Re.7.2.5a Identify and analyze cultural associations suggested by visual imagery.
VA:Cn11.1.5a Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.