Throughout their life children have been exposed to art in many different forms: billboards, graphic designs, advertisements, comics, etc. Children react to art in a very impulsive and often rudimentary manner. My unit challenges my fifth grade students to learn about Colonial America through the visual arts and literature. In supporting the fifth grade history curriculum with art, I hope to teach my students to approach art, specifically painting, in a similar manner to which they are being taught to approach literature.
Students who are considered active readers are able render text by making connections, predicting, figuring out, visualizing, noticing, and asking questions. It seems necessary to approach art in a similar manner: children must become active participants in the interpretation of art by
the images, colors, hues, shading and lighting,
the artist’s message,
to historical events, personal experiences, literature, and other artist’s works,
. Simultaneously, they must begin to ask questions: how do I feel when I view this painting? what time period is the artist representing? what historical events occurred at this time? The child is not always going to have an answer to these questions, but it allows them to begin to think about the picture in a more analytical manner and to actively engage in a quest for knowledge. As educators, we must expose children to a variety of modalities in the hope of enhancing their multiple intelligences. By integrating art into the literary realm and teaching children to observe, analyze, and synthesize both art and literature, we are broadening their horizons and exposing them to a world that could stimulate their senses and intelligence, thus furthering their desire for knowledge.
My unit is comprised of 8 lesson plans each of which includes historical background and either a painting or a literary work relevant to Colonial America.
It is my intention to create a more vibrant and exciting history class by supporting historical information about Colonial America with both paintings and literature. The lessons are preceded by historical facts and background that will enable the students to understand the religious, political, social, and economical perspectives of Colonial America. Having acquired the historical background necessary to understand the motivating factors and philosophies of the colonists, students apply this knowledge in interpreting both art and literature.
This unit consists of the paintings of John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, Thomas Smith, Henrietta Deering Johnston, and John Durand, as well as other artist’s depictions of Colonial America. My students will also be exposed to the literary works of Avi, Clyde Robert Bulla, Marcia Sewall, and James E. Knight; each directly relates to a specific time period in American History: Colonial America (1620-1750). By analyzing and interpreting paintings and both fictional and non-fictional literary works pertaining to this time period, I will enhance my students’ learning experience and increase their understanding of Colonial America through both a visual and written history.