Bulb Archived: Haley 2018-2019: Kazlauskas and Tritschler (2018-2019 A/R Partners)


Getting to Know My City and My Community

1. How did you and your teaching partner decide to do this project?

Ellen and Mellisa: Over this past summer (2018) when we met to write our proposal, we looked to our most previous work with the Haley 5th graders. Knowing My Community: Roseland was our arts integrated unit based on the students researching aspects of their neighborhood, Roseland and then using that research and personal history to create art works that represented their own personal viewpoints and goals for the community. The fifth grades created powerful messages through block printing of symbols that represented the changes they hoped for in their community.

We wanted to continue with the them of community, however the group of students working on the project would be third graders because Mellisa would be teaching one of the third grade classes in the fall.  Since Chicago is part of the third grade curriculum, we decided that we would combine Chicago and Roseland into the same unit. We wanted the third graders to learn about the smaller and the larger communities of Chicago.We titled our arts-integrated unit Getting to Know My City and Community.

Because Mellisa is the coordinator of Haley’s annual Career Day, she was able to connect with some of Haley’s alumni who presented at last year’s event, and her idea was to invite them to speak about the Roseland community to the third graders. As you read, you will see how that idea for a speaker came about, however it changed from alumni to a community member the third graders already know.

2. Big Idea: Community

3. Inquiry:How can creating a collaborative work of art based on self and community help students discover how to become more knowledgeable and involved Chicago citizens and neighborhood community members?

4. Grade Level: 3rd

5. Academic Subject(s): Social Science and Language Arts

6. Artistic Discipline(s):Visual Art specifically, bookmaking and painting

7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: This was our fourth year working together as partners.

8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project:

Beginning Questions:When we began our unit, we asked the students to write on Post-it notes, what they already knew about Chicago and what they wanted to learn about Chicago. Some things they already knew included:

The beginning folds of the handmade sketchbook.

Handmade Sketchbooks: The first art work the students created was a handmade 8-page sketchbook from a large single sheet of paper. Over the course of the project, students drew ideas, pasted images of Chicago, took notes on color and wrote down ideas within the pages of these sketchbooks. Immediately after folding all the pages of the book, the students wrote the title of our unit on the cover Getting to Know My City and Community, and then drew their version of what this phrase means to them.

Once the books were completed we began having class discussions about symbols and what they can represent. Students began to name symbols of Chicago. We also talked about the best way to represent Roseland, and it was unanimous that the symbol be a rose.

        Chicago pizza and the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
Alex Haley school makes the cover of one third grader’s sketchbook.

Guest speaker

Roseland community member and Alex Haley volunteer, Mr. Funches.

We were fortunate to have Roseland community member, Mr. Funches, come to the classroom and speak to the students. The students know him as the gentleman who leads the after-school chess club and who volunteers his time to help at the school. Prior to his coming to our classroom, the students created a list of questions to ask him. This was a great way for students to learn about their community because not only is Mr. Funches still living in Roseland, but he is also very active in several community organizations. Some of the third grade questions included the following:

  • How long have you lived in the Roseland community? (A: for over 35 years)
  • Did you go to school at Haley? (A: No, but my kids did.)
  • Where did you work? (A: I worked for the Post Office, at the old main post office in downtown Chicago.)


There were several steps of designing prior to beginning to paint the mural. The students created a very large painting which we began calling a mural.

Collaborative Collages

One of the five collages

The class was divided into five different groups with four students in each group. The task of each group was to work together in deciding how to overlap the Chicago symbols that they were given. The students then had to present to the entire class, how they worked together and what their symbols represent. Ellen took photos of the collages and put them together using the computer.

   The five collages combined

Tracing the Collages

Third grader tracing the mural design onto the canvas.

We projected the students’ collaged design onto the canvas and the third graders took turns tracing the symbols.

Painting the Mural

To allow for the paint to dry quickly and to give the work a different look, Ellen decided to have the students with watered down acrylic paints to give a art work washed effect.

Student tracing one of the roses in the design.

Once again, the students had to take turns painting the mural. It was during these sessions that the students read about Chicago and watched videos about Chicago.

Students painting the mural.
Student painting one of the roses that represents Roseland.

9. How did you share your student’s learning process with your school faculty or community?

Mr. Funches helps trace the design onto the canvas.

Staff members, parent volunteers, and a community member/LSC representative were frequently invited to observe the students’ learning process throughout the unit. Mr. Funches not only spoke with the class, but we also invited him to come back to help trace the students’ design on the canvas and to paint with us.

Teaching Artist Assessment:

How did you assess student arts learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)

What were the results of the assessment? What did students learn in your class/project?

Out of 20 students, 13 passed the written assessment.Students displayed knowledge of the process of our working to create a mural.


What did you learn from analyzing the student assessments that informs your Arts teaching practice?

I learned that maybe this type of assessment was based too much on the vocabulary that was being discussed throughout the process. I think next time I will not rely so heavily on it and instead I would use a portfolio based assessment where the vocab can be prominent in stages of the process. I think because of the age of this class, the portfolio would work better.

Illinois Arts Learning Standards Addressed:

VA:Cr2.1.3a Create personally satisfying artwork using a variety of artistic processes and materials.

VA:Cr2.2.3a Demonstrate an understanding of the safe and proficient use of materials, tools, and equipment for a variety of artistic processes.

VA:Cr2.3.3a Individually or collaboratively construct representations, diagrams, or maps of places that are part of everyday life.

VA:Re.7.2.3a Determine messages communicated by an image.

VA:Cn10.1.3a Develop a work of art based on observations of surroundings.

Teacher Assessment:

How did you assess student academic content learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)

Students were given written and verbal  formative assessments throughout the unit to check for understanding of the content they were learning about Chicago and their community. On some of the written formative assessments, students were able to work with a partner or small group to discuss their answers. Through the verbal assessment, students were able to ask another student to assist them with their answer.

What were the results of the assessment? What did students learn in your class/project?  There were students who did well on the assessment and were able to demonstrate their understanding of the content learned about Chicago and Roseland.  A small group of students struggled with this assessment (as it was at 3rd grade) because they are performing below grade level and struggle with comprehension.

Students learned the history of the settlement of Chicago, historical landmarks along the Chicago River, information about the trade among settlers and Native Americans, the establishment of Roseland, symbols, and vocabulary related to the city and community.

Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, SEL, Etc.): 

Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.4

Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.


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