The primary objective of my curriculum unit, entitled Look Before You Think: How To Appreciate a Painting, is to facilitate my third-graders' enjoyment of and response to fine artspecifically, paintings. Every year we make visits to both the Yale Art Gallery and the British Art Center where the docent takes us around and we view samples from each category of artwork (landscape, portrait, still-life and abstract art) and talk about what we see. The students are always so enthusiastic about these museum visits that I see a wonderful opportunity to further stimulate and enhance their art appreciation experiences. To this end I have created a teaching tool that will help my students to become more closely engaged with particular paintings on exhibit at these museums.
I have focused on paintings of four well-known artists from the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries: Vincent Van Gogh's
The Night Café
(1888); Salvador Dali's
The Persistence of Memory
(1931); Pablo Picasso's
(1943); and Edward Hopper's
Sunlight in a Cafeteria
(1958). Each painter will offer us the opportunity to more closely 'study' a different aspect of art. With Picasso we will look at his expressive use of lines and shapes. We will consider how Hopper is able to create moods and suggest 'stories' in his scenes of modern life. We will examine Van Gogh's distinctive feeling for color and we will explore Dali's imaginative expression of ideas.
Our study will begin with a brief and simplified presentation of the history of painting. I have used the book,
The Usborne Story of Painting
, to design this component of the unit. This will provide my students with an historical context for the four artists on whom we will be focusing. After that, it is useful to explore the craft of painting to give the students an idea of what painters do and the materials they use, introducing them to such terminology as easel, palette, studio, gallery, hue, canvas, sketch, modeling and composition. I plan to use Laura Conlon's
in this section of the unit.
I hope to encourage my third-graders to look more closely at paintings as special objects and to come to a more conscious sense of how they are viewing them. Our seminar has provided me with the opportunity to learn and practice the method of object-analysis as taught by Prof. Prown. I have employed this method in my own study of these particular paintings (and others) along with my readings about these works.
I have discovered several especially valuable books that will help me to introduce art to children more effectively: Richardson's
Looking at Pictures
, Knapp and Lehmberg's
Off the Wall Museum Guides for Kids
National Gallery of Art Activity Book
Meet The Masterpieces
by Chertok, Hirshfeld and Rosh. These select sources introduce basic concepts and vocabulary of art in a very interesting way through their simple yet entertaining prose, creative layouts, and beautiful color reproductions of famous art works.
The curriculum unit is interdisciplinary with a strong emphasis on literacy, and so I plan to immerse the children in readings about the lives and works of the selected artists whom we are studying. For this purpose I will use biographies by Mike Venezia, who has written (and illustrated) an excellent children's series entitled,
Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists
. In the final section of the unit I have provided my students with opportunities to explore how artists use color and to experiment with what they learn in creating artworks of their own using various media on paper, such as tempera paint, watercolors, craypas, crayons and colored pencils. Of course, the unit will also include a number of planned visits to the Yale Art Gallery that would go beyond the general focus of the initial visit set up by the Comprehensive Arts Program.
I teach third-grade in a self-contained classroom at Lincoln-Bassett Community School. My students are primarily of African-American descent, a heterogeneous group with varying abilities in the 8-10 age range. Although I have designed this unit with them in mind, I am confident that it could easily be adapted by teachers to suit the K-3 grades, if not older.
This unit will be divided into five sections:
I. An Introduction to the History of Art
II. Meet the Artist and His Painting
III. Art elements of a painting
IV. Looking at a Painting
V. Experimenting with Color