Friday, March 21, 2014

Art as Informational Text

A few weeks ago we had a rather exciting morning at PS 250, when I had the privilege of leading Professional Development for the Staff! I recently received several sets of Fine Art Posters through a Donor's Choose Project that I got funded (thank you Donors!!), and wanted to share these new resources with my colleagues. A big push in the general ed classroom is using informational text during instruction (as a part of the Common Core). The focus of my PD was showing how fine art (the posters) can be "read" informational text in the classroom, then be used as a segue for cross-disciplinary projects at all grade levels.
I began by discussing with teachers how they use informational text in their classroom, then explained that we, as teachers, can facilitate a discussion in which students' own observations and inquiries lead to learning about a master-work of art when we use art as an informational text. One way of leading the discussion (that I use in my classroom) is called the Feldman Method of Art Analysis was developed by Edmund Feldman, a Professor of Art at the University of Georgia, and it serves as a 4-step framework for analyzing a work of art. What I like about this process is that it's easy to follow, and it addresses each of the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels that we, as teachers, aim to strive for in student learning.
A brief overview of the Feldman Method:


1. DESCRIBE – What can be seen in the artwork?     
- Who made the artwork?
- What is the title of the artwork?
- What do you see in the picture (Describe only, i.e., Do you see animals? People? A place?) 
- What medium (e.g., painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, etc.) is this?
- What materials (e.g., oil pastels, clay, paper, pencil, etc.) might have been used?                    

2. ANALYZE - What relationships exist with what is seen?
- What colors do you see?
- What shapes do you see?
- Do you see any patterns?

3. INTERPRET - What is the content or meaning, based on steps 1 and 2?
- What do you think is the relationship of the title to the picture or meaning?
- What areas do you notice first? Do you think there is a relationship between
   what you notice first and what you notice later? If so, what is that relationship?
- What story do you think is being told?
-  How does it make you feel when you look at this picture?

4. JUDGE - What is your evaluation of the work, based on steps1, 2, 3?
- What do you like or dislike in this work of art?

- If you could add or change anything in this work of art, what might that be?

After introducing this method of art analysis, we put this new information into action by having a discussion about a masterwork, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by George Seurat. 

I led teachers through each of Feldman's steps, then explained how a discussion about this work of art could be used as a jumping-off point for a cross-curricular assignment or classroom extension. Some examples of cross-disciplinary extensions that I shared with teachers are:
- Choose one character in the work of art and write a 1-page diary entry from that character's point of view
- Write an opinion piece about a topic seen in the painting - for example, using this painting, students could write an opinion piece about the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon
- Identify primary and secondary colors in the painting
- Find geometric and organic shapes, then count how many you see of each
- Act out a part of the scene that is occurring within in the work of art
- Research the artist that created this work of art on the Internet, then write a biography about this person
- Research the environment that is seen within the work of art and write a science report about this environment (e.g., climate, geographic location, etc.)

Next, teachers were divided into their grade level teams and were given 1 fine art poster. Each team received a work of art based on the theme of "Community", but each work (i.e., medium, artist, genre, etc.) was different. They were then given about 10 minutes to analyze the work using the Feldman Method with their teams. A few photos of the teachers in action:

Kindergarten Teachers discussing Romare Bearden's Collage, "Pittsburgh Memories"

First Grade Teachers (background) discussing the Carmen Lomas Garza painting, "La Feria En Reynosa"

Me with the 2nd Grade teachers, who were discussing an illustration from "Tar Beach" by Faith Ringold

3rd Grade Teachers discussing Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting, "Children's Games"

5th Grade and Cluster teachers discussing a painting by Diego Rivera

Grade 4 discussing "Cliff Dwellers" by George Bellows

Next, they used a graphic organizer to plan a lesson or unit (based on their classroom curriculum) that could be done after analyzing this work of art with their class. The following was their handout:

Planning a Lesson/Unit Using Art as Informational Text for Inspiration
By considering the components of Domains 1 (Planning and Preparation) & 2 (The Classroom Environment), work with your grade team to plan a lesson (or unit) based on the work of art you have been given. Keep in mind the lesson/unit would come after a discussion/analysis of the work of art (using the Feldman Method) between you and your students.

Domain 1 – Planning/Preparation

1a) What subject/theme will you focus on based on work of art?
What prior knowledge do students have for this subject/theme?
1d, 1e) What subject & theme will this lesson/unit address?
1c) What is the instructional objective?
1f) How will you assess this objective?

Write anything else that is of value for planning and preparing this unit/lesson

Domain 2 – Classroom Environment

2a) How will you encourage quality and equitable discussions?
2c) What resources will you need?
2e) How might you need to arrange the classroom?

 (This graphic organizer was adapted from a document created by the NYC DOE Office of Arts and Special Projects Visual Arts)

At the end of the PD session, teachers were asked to share the ideas for their extension lessons. 
Kindergarten Team

Grade 2 Team
 Teachers came up with really wonderful ideas! The fourth grade team said they could have a discussion about "Cliff Dwellers", then have students compare and contrast what life might have been like 100 years ago in NYC versus now; they also said a possible social studies extension would be taking students to the Tenement Museum in Manhattan after discussing this work of art. The 2nd grade team said they might have students talk about NYC landmarks they see in the illustration from "Tar Beach", then research these places. 
How do you use art in your classroom? Do you use it as informational text or a jumping-off point for other curriculum areas? Leave some feedback! 

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