I always include some type of art in my units. I have found students love to work with art, because it allows them another means to gain understanding. I can teach analytical and critical thinking skills in a different way. If a student is a poor reader or a poor writer, using art takes away the difficult medium. Because students are taught how to analyze paintings in other units I teach, I will focus on the use of photography to tell a survival story. We will look at various photographs from different time periods, but I will focus on those that relate to these texts. I have many photographs from the Holocaust. The models they use will cover the concentration camps, the ghettos, the SS, liberation, etc. We will read excerpts from Marianne Hirsh’s
Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory
to show students why photography is an important medium in collecting memories. We will spend a day or two discussing photographic composition, how to think about the frame of a photo and how to fill it. I will demonstrate this by making a big cardboard frame that I can move around the classroom and put over students’ faces in different ways. I will then ask students to describe what they see within the frame. The purpose of this exercise will be to show students that photographs don’t simply show objects, they group lines and colors and textures and shapes within a frame. Students will then create their own individual or community memory using photographs. They may use photos they already have or they may take photographs specifically for this project. I will provide each student with a disposable camera, unless they’d like to use their own camera. Students will then create a type of photo album and present them to the class. In the event that the subject is confidential, students may choose to present the album only to me in a conference. The idea is to get the students to think critically about how the information is being presented to the viewer. How are they telling their story? Is the viewer seeing their story as they want it to be seen? Is the viewer left with the effect intended by the presentation?
Once all the survival photo presentations are made, students will be asked to pick one picture that represents the essence of their story. We will then take the compilation of photos and create a story quilt. The quilt will represent all of their stories. Students will have to decide which order the photos will be put in to tell their cumulative survival story. Colors and textures will have to be decided on, as well as fabrics. I will have each student design and make their own square, and the classes will then simply decide on what order makes the most sense. In my experience, students get so excited to present their work in a way that can be made public. By presenting the quilt as a whole, the risk of exposure for nervous students is lessened.