Bulb Archived: Bateman Collaboration Laboratory 2017-2018: Soto & Zacsek

2017-2018 Collaboration Laboratory

Samantha Soto and Betsy Zacsek

1) Describe the context of your school, neighborhood, or classroom. 

For our CAPE Collaboration we worked with the entire 4th grade class at Bateman Elementary. Bateman is located in the Irving Park / Albany Park neighborhoods. The school is about 89% Hispanic, and 85% low income. The 4th grade students are in their last year of music at the school and we wanted to give them a lasting experience that would help them move closer into middle school. We decided to base our unit around the tensions we all face in the community we are in and how we can express that through visual art and music. Towards the end we had two classes (one gifted) on track to create their own graphic notated compositions and perform them, and one class who needed extra SEL support and created a project that targeted community and how to show respect in that community. 

2) Big Idea:  Tension – Recognizing different perspectives and interpretations. 

3) Inquiry:  How can we create community from individual tension?

4) Academic Content(s): 

Our academic content areas were art and music.   Our unit centered on Social Emotional goals to create a student led collaborative learning environment. 

5) Artistic Discipline(s):  Art + Music

6) Standards Addressed:

MUSIC Standards:

MU:Cr1.1.4 a. Improvise rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic ideas, and explain connection to specific purpose and context (such as social and cultural).

MU:Cr2.1.4 a.Demonstrate selected and organized musical ideas for an improvisation, arrangement, or composition to express intent, and explain connection to purpose and context.

b.Use standard and/or iconic notation and/or recording technology to document personal rhythmic, melodic, and simple harmonic musical ideas.


Present the final version of personal created music to others, and explain connection to expressive intent.

ART Standards:

Collaboratively set goals and create artwork that is meaningful and has purpose to the makers.


Revise artwork in progress on the basis of insights gained through peer discussion.


Create works of art that reflect community cultural traditions.

SEL Standards:

1A.2a. Describe a range of emotions and the situations that cause them.

1B.2b. Explain how family members, peers, school personnel, and community members can support school success and responsible behavior.


Describe the expressed feelings and perspectives of others. 

7) Please describe what you did and what you made for this project: 

Day 1: 

We exposed students to new pieces of music and art that we knew would be unique, shocking, exciting or disarming — or create individual tensions for them — and encouraged the class to feel their experiences /reactions and record that feeling as a shape in construction paper.

Experience our Sights and Sounds presentation for yourself.

Students shared their reactions with the class… then selected one of their favorite shapes to hang in an installation in the hallway created by the community of all three 4th grade classes. 


Day 2: 

We started our class with a discussion of our grade level installation in the hallway, reviewing last week’s exploration of feelings, and observing the differences between our individual shapes/pieces and our community installation.

Students were instructed to claim one reaction that stands out to them (not their own) and take it off the wall.  We asked students, “What does it feel like to take responsibility for some one else’s feelings?”

Classroom community composition

Then we re assembled these pieces into a classroom community composition.  Each student got to place their feeling/shape onto a large sheet of roll paper, considering where they wanted to place it compared to the other student’s shapes and feelings. Conversation questions included, “Do you feel different now that you’re not holding onto some one else’s feelings?” “Who is responsible for them now?” “How do you feel about this composition being made with originals from someone else?” Can you hear the music of our community’s feelings?

Students then began to explore ways to translate the composition into sound focusing on tempo, dynamics, and timbre.  Classes ended with students sharing their initial improvised sounds and the question: “Could these shapes/feelings be as valid as musical notes?”

Day 3: 

After two intensely student centered, experience focused classes we focused on Tension and Composition.  By centering our conversation on these two ideas we helped students see how art and music could be used to relay the same idea, and take ownership of  the feelings and experiences they’ve had so far.  Composition has a different meaning in art and in music:

Art: The placement of lines, shapes, and colors on your page.

Music: The arrangement of rhythm and pitch on your page.

Tension also had two meanings: the state of being stretched tight and mental or emotional strain.  We asked, “Did any one feel tensions so far in class? When?”  Was tension always a bad thing?  Can there be tension between art and music?  Can art be music?  How would we play this visual arts composition as if it were a musical composition?

Then students explored making improvised music from the classroom art project individually!

Day 4: 

 Collage Day!  We introduced Students to a variety of collage materials and encouraged them to  create their an abstract, mixed media art piece that expresses their own story and their own feelings through shape color and composition.  Our compositions had to be very intentional because students knew we’d be turning them into our own special songs next week!

Graphic Notation Collage
Graphic Notation Collage

Day 5: 

Students worked in small communities to react and respond to each others compositions and record their performances using Flipgrids.com. Each group of 3 had an artist a musician and a drawer.

Recording our art!

o Artist: The artist presented their individual composition to the musician — and only the musician so the drawer can’t see it!

o Musician: The musician used instruments to interpret the artwork and create a song.

o Drawer: The drawer responded to just the music to create a drawing to compare to the original collage.

Recording our art!

Once everyone was done performing they could use Flipgrids to watch and comment on each other’s performances!

See our Flipgrids!

Room 209                  Room  210

8.) What did you learn about yourself, your partner(s), and the students? How might what you learned impact your teaching practice? 

We practiced being radically student centered in this unit.  After each class we checked in with each other as co-teachers to assess the students’ learning. When one class didn’t seem to be understanding or participating we created a new curriculum just for them that gave them the structure and encouragement they needed to join in, make art in different mediums, and share their reactions. I saw problematic student become engaged in smaller groups and learned that they had a lot to say. I had a strong emotional reaction to becoming a more authoritative figure in the classroom but through collaboration we were able to strike a great balance. Our grown up conversations about respect, classroom management and giving our students time to discover on their own were as compelling as our creative exchange.

Working with an artist for this collaboration really caused me to push myself out of my comfort zone a little bit. I had to loosen some control of my classroom in order to benefit the students and let them exist and succeed in a classroom with two teachers, teaching alongside each other. It helped to look deeper at the individual needs of each specific class and how to adapt almost completely while still maintaining the desired outcome. 

9.) How did the collaboration challenge your understanding of teaching, learning, and art-making?

The collaboration though CAPE was a great experience to learn how to adapt and be flexible not only between me and my students, but also another teacher who is not always around the building.  It took a large amount of communication outside of school, in order to make the class time run smoothly. It was interesting to combine such organization in order to make the student centered art making possible. There were so many times during this project where it seemed chaotic in class but if any of the students were asked, they were able to explain because of the preparation through collaboration.