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Culture and history: tried & true tips for art teachers.

Happy New Year! Another year has passed and, for me, this has been a year of new opportunities and exciting art making. This fall I started teaching middle school and now I am incorporating much more art history into my curriculum. As many states start to infuse Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I am aligning my curriculum to include more writing and reading about art. Students are writing artists' statements, and art critiques from reproductions of famous artwork.

tip #1

PICTURE THIS! When introducing a new painting, Tracy Fortune from Hudtl-off Middle School in Lakewood, Wash. often gives table groups a baggie with "puzzle pieces." Typically she creates the puzzle pieces by cutting up 8.5" x 11" copies of the artwork into about 16 pieces. As the students put the puzzle together they look closely at the colors and shapes in the painting, which is a good lead in to critiquing the artwork.

tip #2

CAVEMEN TO THE RESCUE I started teaching Art History to my middle-school students this year. I started with showing them pictures of the cave paintings from Altamira, Spain (the Sept. 2013 A&A Art Print came in handy!), and Lascaux, France. To my surprise the students loved learning about what happened 15,000 years ago. The discussion progressed to the invention of the written word, architecture, technology, and life, as we know it today. Talk about incorporating Common Core into the art classroom!

tip #3

BRING MULTICULTURALISM INTO YOUR CLASSROOM Most of our classrooms and schools have a very diverse ethnic population. We must remember when talking about different cultures in your classroom, it is very important to be sensitive to all groups. November is Native American Heritage Month, and my students were discussing totem poles of the Pacific Northwest.

I wanted them to create a totem, but I did not want them making something up. Totem poles are about tribes and families, and in a sense tell stories about the history of the family. I had my students make two-dimensional black-and-white abstracted totem poles. They had to include at least one personal character trait that coincided with our character-education program, and at least two hobbies or things they liked. They were instructed to put these pieces together like puzzle pieces. The results were amazing; beautiful vertical graphic designs that had the whole school commenting on how unique and beautiful they were (see Avant Garde Abstractions, Sept. 2011).

tip #4

MEMORABLE MULTICULTURAL MAGIC Integrating multiculturalism within the special area team has been one way Marette Wixted from Franklin Academy in Cooper City, Fla. has gotten her team on board with cross-curricular lessons. The students were able to achieve a broader understanding of how the arts (visual art, music, physical education, literature and media) reflect the culture. This event jump started an annual PTA family night that was a showcase for the enrichment teachers, showing how important the arts are in educating the whole child.

tip #5

LIVING MUSEUM ART SHOW A cooperative learning project that Donna Casanas from Coral Park Elementary in Coral Springs, Fla. does is a living art museum. Her students are grouped in threes and they work together to research an artist. At the art show, one student is the narrator and introduces the artist, another is dressed as the artist and tells about his or her life and the third is the art critic who displays the artwork and talks about it.

tip #6

FAMILY COAT OF ARMS Pam Brown from Nova Blanche Forman Elementary in Davie, Fla., has her students create a family coat of arms. She starts by showing them a slide show of medieval and modern coats of arms, and explains that the kings employed the artists who created the designs. Students must then "interview" their family members and, using symbols, create a coat of arms (shield, supporters, crest, and motto) that includes five things they learned about their family.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Marsden Hartley (Jan. 4, 1877), Yves Tanguy (Jan. 5, 1900), Berthe Morisot (Jan. 14, 1841), Paul Cezanne (Jan. 19, 1839) and Jackson Pollock (Jan. 26, 1912) and Claes Oldenburg (Jan. 28, 1929). Be sure to check our the Artist of the Month study print, on page 41.

Thank you Tracy, Sheila, Marette, Donna and Pam for sharing your tips.

A&A Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and is an adjunct professor at Broward College.
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Author:Lubiner, Glenda
Publication:Arts & Activities
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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