My 8th grade students use a reading series called "Collections" in their ELA class. Recently, they took on a unit that explored the horror genre. I decided to team up with my awesome colleague to create an art lesson inspired by the text of Edgar Allan Poe's Tell Tale Heart which was one of the main stories they analyzed within English class.
On the first day, students chose an iconic image plucked from the text -- I had quintessential spooky imagery printed out for the students in case they were stuck -- a stop watch, a shadowy figure in the doorway, a heart diagram, a portrait of Mr. Poe himself. They used charcoal for this observational exercise.
The art mediusm I wanted to explore for this lesson was collage. I brought in a variety of collages materials from my collection that students could use. I asked them to do something shocking that a teacher of mine once asked me to do.... Cut your drawing into at least THREE pieces! This was a hard concept for many of my middle schoolers to embrace. Many of the students were quite proud of their charcoal drawing and hesitated at the cutting step. Because I have wonderful, brave artists, they followed my lead and eventually were open to the idea that our artwork can not become "too precious" or we'll never be open to new ideas!
Students were asked to find five sentences of phrases from Poe's text that resonated with them. A phrase they found interesting, or haunting, or a good example of the horror genre. The students incorporated three of these textual passages into their final pieces.
And finally, below is a picture of how I decided to display their courageous collages.
Philly is a city filled with some seriously historic examples of architecture, but for this lesson, I wanted my students to get a better sense of some of the amazing architectural feats from around the world. After a quick round of "Name That Famous Architectural Silhouette" (which served as a warm up and intro to some of the most iconic buildings and constructions from around the world) students used iPads to research important attributes about a famous building of their choice.
One of my favorite parts of the project was having the students display the artwork themselves. I hung of a global map and after students staples their silhouette to the board, I asked them use 1/8" masking tape to create a line connecting their building to the city where it is located. The bulletin board served as a great school-wide learning opportunity! The 8th graders enjoyed seeing younger students come up to the map and trace the lines back to the map. I told my students to promise me that someday they will make a journey to behold their architectural wonder in person!
Life as a traveling art teacher is filled with unforeseen challenges. Today, the copy machine broke down and I couldn't make enough of the "Color Experiment" worksheets I use to guide my intro to color mixing for my youngest of artists. I had to reimagine my lesson plan on the fly and figure out how to keep this art ship afloat. I decided we would bravely crusade forward by making the worksheets by hand!!!! My 1st graders ended up having to set up their own page by listening and watching specific directions and they nailed it! It turned out to be good writing/listening practice and their results are all so varied and downright adorable! i actually found there were less "oopses," perhaps because they were more engaged with actually scribing the color equations. Their unique personalities definitely shined through in the way they set up their page and I will never do it the old way again! #worksheetshmerksheet
One of my favorite lessons I taught last year was a unit on the art of Greek "personas," or masks. I came up with this lesson after one of my hippest 8th grade art enthusiasts told me how much he loved the show "Face Off," a show from the SyFy network that focuses on the art form of special effects make-up. I hadn't ever seen the show, but a few days after he asked me, I happened to see this episode while running on the treadmill at the gym! When I realized the episode was all about transforming the model into a Greek god or goddess, a light bulb went on over my head, and I wondered, "What would it look like if 8th graders were given the same challenge?"
My 8th graders absolutely rocked this project and I owe it all to the fabulous work of the English teacher they had in 7th grade, Ms. L. She instilled this group with a deep love and appreciation for Greek myths. When they came to me, their knowledge was extensive. That's right, folks, 8th graders were downright passionate about retelling these stories in class! They were sticklers about pronouncing names and places correctly and seemed to know each and every myth down to the tiniest detail.
Upon interviewing Ms. L a bit, she told me that she loved reading Greek myths as a girl and thus, it has become one of her favorite topics to teach about. She recommended this book to me, "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths," which is filled from cover to cover with beautiful, kid-friendly illustrations. She let me borrow her class set and this is what we used to guide most of our research. I highly recommend this book as it is completely school-appropriate and the illustrations are rich, colorful, and inspiring. A lot of the pictures contained symbols that the students ended up incorporating into their mask designs.
Here's how we made our masks!
STEP 2: Research & Brainstorm
Next, I asked students to jump into the brainstorming process, using an array of Greek myth books from the library and iPads. I provided students with the directives below and this blank worksheet.
STEP 3: Building the Mask
The students used one of those basic plastic face forms you can get from any art supply catalog. We covered the mask form with Press n' Seal Syran Wrap (I love this stuff!) and then pressed Crayola Model Magic over the form to make an oval-like face shape. This project wouldn't have been possible without a very generous supply donation from our local F.O.P (Fraternal Order of Police). Each student end up using 3-5 of the individual 8 oz. packages. That can get pretty pricey, I know, but the material was so easy to work with and clean-up was a cinch. The MM bonds together quite easily. We found that a few dots of school glue was needed to bond pieces if they needed to continue building onto the dried MM from a previous work session.
STEP 4: Painting the Mask
The next step was painting the masks! We used a monochromatic approach to paint our work so that our audience could fully appreciate the hard work we put into our sculptural details.
STEP 5: Making A Name Tag
I wanted to use the allure of these masks to get younger students at my school excited about Greek mythology, so the final step I asked of my 8th graders, was to make a flip-up name tag. The name tag displayed the God/Goddess name on the front and you could flip it up to reveal pertinent fun facts about each mythological character. This reinforced and recalled my students' previous research and served as an interactive component to our art display.