is an interdisciplinary unit composed of six components: self-perception; other-perception; artists’ perceptions; revelations; deceptions; and conceptions. The individual components consist of:
1. Self-perception—a. The students will record in their notebooks observations of what they believe to be the way that they are perceived by others (family, friends, acquaintances, strangers). b. The students will record in their notebooks how they perceive themselves.
2. Other-perception—The students will discuss stereotypes with which they are familiar pertaining to their own personal experiences or to those of people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
3. Artists’ perception—The students will study written/visual renditions of children’s experiences in children’s literature illustrated by the authors. The literary works will depict children from four ethnic backgrounds—European American (Italian), Hispanic American (Mexican), African American, and Asian American (Japanese). Observations will be recorded in their notebooks. The students will participate in art activities coordinated with each of the four groups. (Native American Indians are studied for a full academic year as part of the TAG Program’s three-year curriculum.Therefore, they will not be included in this unit.)
4. Revelations—Groups discussions will be followed with written thoughts, observations, revelations, and conclusions. The students will consider new information, insights, or corrections that they have experienced during this process.
5. Deceptions—The students will study the history and purpose of mask making. They will examine reasons people ‘seek’ to deceive (fun—Halloween/make-believe, hide identity—insecurities/deceit/ceremonies).
6. Conceptions—The students will design and construct a mask that will embody and reveal aspects of themselves. The students will determine which characteristics are important for them to depict in a three-dimensional format. The title of this unit is derived from this activity.
In order to continue the thinking/learning process between weekly TAG sessions, encourage a student-parent-family learning relationship, and intensify interest, bridging activities will be provided. These activities are designed to be fulfilled at home with family involvement. Meeting once a week can effectively limit how much can and what should be accomplished during class sessions. Bridging activities generally entail studies and projects that do not necessitate teacher assistance.
Activities planned are: developing a family tree; sharing experiences related to the curriculum; helping in the selection of a personal item to share with the group; playing “Life Stories,” a board game engaging family members in conversation, the sharing of life’s experiences; “Future Stories,” a board game involving the imagination in the hopes and dreams for the future; “In the Picture,” a board game requiring the identification of the masterpiece missing from the gallery; “Art Lotto,”; borrowing from a lending library developed by the TAG teacher (containing books pertaining to the unit content, spanning the reading abilities of the students); and parents’ participation in field trips. The students will realize increased learning capabilities and a sense of achievement during this study if families nurture their children’s eagerness to learn.
Self-perception is the introductory component of
. Throughout this section the students will go through a process of self-discovery and will develop a stronger sense of self-worth. The students will be shown several items—small shovels, soft-bristle brushes, magnifying glasses—and told that they are going to embark on a hunt, a search, for something—something that you have always had and that you take with you everywhere. Does anyone think that they know what it is? Entertain guesses.
Containers with clean, dry sand will be distributed to each student. Embedded in the sand will be small notebooks (inside plastic bags) with the word ‘Me’ written on the covers. The students will dig, hunt, to find ‘the thing that you take everywhere,’ always have taken everywhere, and will never be able to “leave home without.” What did you find? What does it mean? Can you really find yourself? How would you accomplish that task? You are going to find yourself with your very own words, with your very own hands. The ‘hunt’ is on!
Well, who are you? Write your name on your notebook. Discuss the fact that your name is a kind of label, a way of enabling people to identify you, to know who/what to call you. Do you know what your name means? How was it chosen? But, who are you? Are there other ways that you could define yourself? Are there other ways that you could answer the question, “Who are you?” Let’s reword the question. Ask yourself , “Who am I?” Share Felice Holman’s poem, “Who Am I?,” with the students. Inside your notebooks you will list as many adjectives, descriptive words, as you feel necessary to describe yourself. You may illustrate your ideas to help you express yourself.
After the students have had a sufficient amount of time (determined by the completion of the assignment) ideas will be shared, and recorded on an easel pad. This process will include teacher participation. Responses will be charted on a graph. Results will be discussed. Are any characteristics shared? Shared by a few? By many? By all?
Who are you? Who do others say you are? How do other people see you? Have you had times when someone thought something about you that wasn’t true? How did you feel? Did you try to correct that impression? Were you able to change that person’s mind? The students will record their responses in their notebooks without group discussion at this point. This will allow for privacy and will eliminate the possibility of the perpetuation of uncomfortable or embarrassing misconceptions or occurrences.
“Life Stories,” a board game that engages students in conversation, the sharing of life’s experiences, hopes and dreams, will be played. This game helps the students connect with one another since they come together once a week and usually don’t interact outside of their TAG sessions.
Blue nose, green teeth, short feet, hippo’s voice and lovely, very lovely states Karla Kuskin in her poem , ‘Me.’ After reading this piece to the students, elicit reactions. Would they like to be like that? Would they be friends with someone who was?
Other-perception will deal with stereotypes and prejudice. The students are going to be searching for ‘Me’ but what about the people that we call ‘You?’ Who are they? Do you know any ‘You’s?’ Are they different from the ‘Me’s?’ What makes them different, or appear to be different? What do you know about these different people? In what ways can people be different? (physical attributes—skin, eye, hair color; height; gender; age; religion; language; diet; clothing; capabilities; interests; ideas; values)
Introduce the term prejudice. What does this big word mean? Prejudice means to prejudge, to judge ahead, to form an opinion or make up your mind before knowing enough or anything about someone or something. What about the ‘Me’ with the blue nose and hippo voice? Did you make your decision after meeting and getting acquainted? What if the blue-nosed, hippo-voiced ‘Me’ is just like you and wishing for a friend? Would your decision regarding friendship cause loneliness or pain for ‘Me?’
The following scenario will be told to the group:
There was a child running down the hallway, banging on the walls, throwing papers and crayons around, even yelling out foolish things. What a ruckus! I realized that children don’t behave very well. I see that they are not nice people. I figure that I should not be friends with children. It would not be good at all if any of them moved next door to me!
Allow the students, the children, to react to this situation. Discuss the conclusion. Do they have a problem with it? What is this type of thinking called? It’s another big word—stereotype. Explain the meaning—making assumptions about a group of people based on the belief that they are all the same. (The word is derived from the process of printing from stereotype plates that were made from a mold with a raised surface similar to type.) What about the child in the hallway? Do you suppose it was a boy or a girl? Do you know children like that? Would you be friends with a child like that? Are you a child like that? Was that stereotyping—determining that all children are like that child? Was I being fair? How did it feel? Did I take the time to get to know that child? Do you think that child always behaves like that? Is it possible that I could behave like that child? Do you think that was a true story and that I really feel that way? Why did I tell you that story? Could I work with young children and enjoy my job if I felt that way? “. . . I am a you and you are an I” making us the same even though different states Mary Ann Hoberman in her poem ‘You and I.’
At this very moment people, children, all around the world are going about their lives. Do you know the names of any of the countries of the world? Do you know where these countries are on the globe? On the map? Do you know any people that are from other countries? Do you know any people that live in other countries? Are the people from these other countries different from people in our country, the United States? What do you know about other cultures? What would you like to learn about other cultures?
Bread Bread Bread
reveals through a simple text and full-colored photographs the many forms bread takes all around the world. Included are pictures of the people who partake of this universal food. Following the reading and discussion of this book the students will sample an assortment of breads. Do they know the names of the breads? Do they know the countries of origin? Prior to sampling the students will determine which ones ‘look good,’ which ones they will like.
Perhaps we can get to know ourselves, the ‘Me’s’ and the ‘You’s’, by learning about other people. A good way to do this is through literature and art. We will read stories written especially for children by writers who are also illustrators in artists’ perceptions. This means that they wrote the stories and made the pictures for their books. A children’s book illustrator must combine visual arts skills with the ability to communicate with children.
Joey is feeling very anxious about the prospect of his friend, Eugene, meeting his old-fashioned Italian grandmother in
Watch Out for the Chicken Feet in Your Soup
by Tomie de Paola. New foods, customs and foreign words are a treat for “Eugeney.” The visit is a success with Joey’s friend thrilled with the experience. Italian bread dolls will be made using the recipe on the last page of the book.
I will discuss my connections with this story. The similarities as well as areas that do not relate. The chicken feet in my mother’s first chicken soup, my father’s surprised reaction, her embarrassment at not realizing the need to remove them. Of course, there was my Italian grandmother, Nonny, and the foreign (to me) language she spoke and the egg biscuits, pepper biscuits, molasses cookies, anginettes. . . .
Italy is known for its famous painters. One of the greatest in history was Leonardo da Vinci. Besides his artistic achievements, he was an inventor, a scientist, a mathematician, an architect, a musician -a brilliant thinker and one of the most gifted creators of all time. The students will study the life of Leonardo with special attention to the childhood of this universal genius. Since note taking is an important aspect of
Leonardo’s unusual mirror writing will be examined and attempted. The students will make self-portraits painted on canvas boards. There will also be a trip to the Yale University Art Gallery.
The Mexican-American artist, Carmen Lomas Garza, introduces readers to her childhood rich in Spanish tradition when the children read
Family Pictures. Cuadros de familia
. The ‘Fair in Reynosa’ conjures up every good memory about the booths with food and crafts and games. Beautifully decorated pottery is offered for sale in one of these booths. The students will make a folk art clay candleholder called a Tree of Life. Shaped in the form of a tree and embellished with colorful patterns and figures (usually biblical stories). Trees of Life are used in Mexican villages for decorations, ceremonies, and carried in festival processions.
Another folk craft originating in Mexico is papel picado, or pierced paper. Intricate designs are cut into thin materials, usually tissue paper, glued to long pieces of string and hung high across the streets. Each page of
Pictures includes one of these images. The students will learn how to make these colorful paper banners.
Faith Ringgold remembers her Harlem childhood in
. Originally depicted in a painted five-quilt series, “Woman on a Bridge,” the story and pictures were adapted to a book published for children. Sleeping on the tar roof, “tar beach,” of her apartment building afforded eight-year-old Cassie opportunities to devise magical dreams of flight (an African American metaphor for freedom predominant in many folktales and songs from the time of slavery). The flight represents setting a goal and working toward its achievement. The students will write a dream fantasy in their notebooks and illustrate their plan to be executed on small individual personal fabric quilts.
Adinkra are symbols with special meanings. These symbols are carved into dried gourds and used as stamps to transfer the inked designs onto fabric.
The Asante of western Africa created this method of decorating cloth with repeating shapes and patterns. The borders of the fantasy quilts will be printed with Adinkra stamps made by the students.
The very small, shy Japanese boy named Chibi, tiny boy, is the subject of Taro Yashima’s
. Afraid of the teacher and the other children he was unable to learn or make friends. Teased by his classmates because he behaves differently he retreats into a world full of distractions and daydreams. Chibi’s individualistic tendencies bring about rejection from his peers and isolation from both his classmates and his teachers. In the sixth grade the new teacher is Mr. Isobe. He takes the time to get to know Chibi and discovers his many talents. This is a very sensitive story guiding the reader to develop a sense of empathy for Chibi, for others.
reveals basic human characteristics existent in all cultures.
Despite the children’s treatment of Chibi he continued to go to school. Why do you think he did that? Have you ever been treated as he was? If so how did it feel? What did you do? How do you think Chibi felt? What did he do about his problem? What do you think he should have done? Should people have to change themselves in order to affect the attitudes and behavior of others? Were the children fair to Chibi? If you could have helped him what would you have done? Mr. Isobe did something for Chibi that no one else had ever done before. What did he do? What happened to Chibi? Why is Chibi called Crow Boy at the end of the story? How does this effect him? Why did the artist paint a butterfly and a flowering peach branch on the endpapers of the book? What has this story taught you about our responsibility to one another?
Chibi made many beautiful black-and-white drawings. In keeping with his artistic style the students will learn how to make Sumi-e. This Japanese art form means Sumi, black ink, and e, picture, painting. Employing few calligraphy brush strokes, the idea of the depicted subject is captured. Literal, realistic representation is not the objective. Founded on self-discipline, concentration, detachment and contemplation Sumi-e is a stylized, decorative, philosophical artistic expression.
A personalized seal, a type of signature used by Japanese artists to sign their work, will be designed by each student. Initials, a special symbol, or calligraphy may be incorporated onto the seal. Red ink will be applied and the image will be transferred to the students’ art work, the Sumi-e.
A mask is generally thought of as a form of disguise. How long has the practice of hiding one’s face behind another face been around? Determining when or where or why is probably not possible but it generally is believed that man has been concealing his identity this way since the beginning of time. Why do people cover their faces with masks? In deceptions the children will offer as many reasons as they can imagine to explain this world-wide custom of deception. Besides the desire to disguise ones looks masks are used for transformation, protection, ceremonies, theatrical productions, festivals, and simply for fun. The students will study the history of masks, observe many types from around the world and examine the purposes behind seeking to prevent someone from seeing ones true identity.
Conceptions will be a balance between image and structure as the students create a visual presentation of their answer to the question, “Who are you?” A three-dimensional plaster gauze mask will be planned, designed, constructed, and embellished. This personalized representation will be a symbolic, metaphoric, or realistic interpretation. Each mask will be an embodiment of each individual, a celebration of uniqueness, a statement of belonging.
The goal of
is to foster self-awareness and self-acceptance in young learners. Children learn to accept and value others if they have learned to accept and value themselves. Children are better equipped to handle the slights of others if they realize and believe that the problem lies within the perpetrator. Children need to be strong enough to hold fast and walk tall despite unfairness and obstacles. After all, if children don’t truly believe in themselves can, will they trust that anyone else could, would, should?
Life may be a masquerade but life shouldn’t be full of pretense. Each individual may go through contortions, distortions, deceptions but through it all each person will still be. . . .
“Like a tree.
Like a willow or elder,
An aspen, a thorn,
Or a cypress forlorn.
Like a flower,
For its hour
A primrose, a pink,
Or a violet-
Sunned by the sun,
And with dewdrops wet.
Always just me.”
Walter de la Mare