Though I will complete my first lesson plan after the group has covered the material on enslavement, a teacher may wish to do all three on these activities together as a conclusion to the unit. Lessons two and three are intended to be linked and will serve as the units culmination, after all of the above activities have been completed. I intend to use all three in this capacity, bringing back the previously completed doll and her story. Hopefully this will involve some type of group presentation for parents and other students.
Lesson One: Remembering History through a Doll
Subject Matter Areas:
Reading, creative writing, art
Coth, needles and thread, five or more simple doll patterns in the shape of a gingerbread person, some material for stuffing, and things which could be used for making eyes and hair.
Students will understand the significance of dolls that were made by African American women for children who faced life during the period of enslavement.
Students will create a simple cloth doll similar to those dolls students have read about.
Students will create a narrative story written by their doll in which the doll tells about its life with the student, including any advice the doll might give to its owner.
The roles played by the dolls in the
will be reviewed. Students will speculate about how the dolls helped the girls who owned them. Questions similar to the following should motivate discussion: Could these dolls, as easily, have been owned by boys? How might the dolls have felt about what they saw around them? How did they feel about enslavement? Have you ever had a doll or stuffed animal that helped you get through a difficult experience? Explain. Why do you think these African American women made these dolls for their children?
Students will be motivated to create their own doll. If any of the boys, or even girls, resists making a doll for themselves, they can make it for a younger child whom they think might like to have it. You might be lucky enough to have a parent to come to class to help. The dolls are quite simple in form, but many students may have some trouble making a backstitch around the body. If you have a variety of material, students may have some choice in determining the cloth used for their doll or even try to have the doll resemble themselves in some way.
The teacher should make a number of cardboard gingerbread shaped figures. The size should be determined by the teacher. Students will then trace the figure on their cloth and begin the backstitch around the figure. With some students, the teacher may want to make a line for them to follow as they sew. Students may help each another with this sewing. The stitching should not go completely around the figure. An opening of about two inches should be left, in order to turn the doll inside-out. If the teacher, or some other volunteer is available, the stitches that students made can be reinforced by a sewing machine. Be sure to stress the importance of the role played by the student's initial stitching so that they will retain ownership, despite the use of the sewing machine to reinforce their work.
The doll is now ready to be stuffed through the remaining opening. This hole is eventually closed by the student sewing over it or by the sewing machine. Students may now make simple additions such as eyes, hair, mouth, buttons, or whatever the student wants and is capable of making. It should, however, be stressed that these dolls were simple and that this is part of their beauty.
Students will now name their doll and begin writing an imaginative, narrative authored by the doll. In this narrative, the doll should tell us something about life with its owner, who, of course, is the student who made it. The doll can offer any helpful advice which it thinks will make the student's life more enjoyable. Even if the student plans to give the doll to someone else, this story should be written as though the student kept the doll. Stories may be shared with the class if the student has no objection. Dolls and/or stories might be displayed. Both could also become part of a culminating activity for parents or other students.
Lesson Two: A Woman Who Is Important to Me
Subject Matter Area:
Each student will develop a list of positive terms describing a woman who is important to their life.
Each student will write an interesting description, containing at least one representative event, about this woman.
Students, who wish to, will share these stories with the class.
Students will be asked to consider the African American women we have encountered during our study, attempting to identify the qualities that each possessed. The "I am. . . ." lists should be a help in doing this. They will be then asked to select a woman from their life who is important to them. Naturally, this woman might not be African American. They will be urged to select someone who has played a continuous, significant role in their life, someone they know well. The student will then be asked to list some of the qualities that make this woman significant, important, to them. You may need to probe in order to get some in depth answers, beyond "she buys me stuff." Keeping these qualities in mind, each student should now introduce this woman in writing, so that the reader can really understand what this woman is like. They should include at least one event that typifies a positive aspect of this woman. "I remember one time when. . . ."
After they have been corrected and rewritten, the stories will then be shared voluntarily with the class and perhaps displayed where others will be able to read them. They will also be a part of the next suggested lesson, where students create a quilt piece.
Lesson Three: Creating Your Own Quilt Piece
Subject Matter Area:
Art, Effective Speaking
Students will become more familiar with the art work of Faith Ringgold.
Students will transfer the main idea of a written piece to that of a visual piece.
Students will be able to effectively present their work orally to a group.
The first approach requires a variety of 12" by 18" construction paper, glue, various drawing tools, magazine pictures, and possibly photographs, while the second approach requires enough plain material for the students to each have a 12" by 18" foundation and enough colorful material to border this piece. Naturally, the most important requirement for this approach is someone able and willing to sew.
The class will review some of the quilts pieces made by Faith Ringgold, along with the other illustrations we have seen in her books. As we did before, we will mention the bold, colorful representations in these works. We will note that she often incorporates bright African patterns in many of her works, especially along the borders. We will also look at story quilts where the written material is included within the quilt. A number of examples of both types may be found in
We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold
which is listed in my bibliography. Searching for "Faith Ringgold" on the internet will yield other examples.
Students will now be motivated to create two quilt pieces with pictures representing various aspects of the woman whom they have recently written about in their essay, "An Important Woman in My Life." Both pieces will be bordered, but one will contain a copy of the essay glued to the center piece and the other will be decorated with the pictures they make. These pictures that they make should be practiced on scrap paper before they are drawn on the quilt piece. They may include actual photographs, pictures from magazines, words, and drawings made with crayons, markers, ink, and/or paint. The borders may be strips decorated with repetitive designs or consecutive squares containing individual pictures or designs. Again, many examples may be found by looking at Ringgold's works. Another approach to the border is to cut strips of colorful wrapping paper that, like the other type of border, should be attached to the main, center, part of the quilt piece.
If the teacher sews or has a relative, friend, or a student's parent who is willing to take on the task, the quilt pieces may be made of cloth. With a plain piece of cloth serving as the center, colorful strips of cloth should be sewn around the quilt piece. The students may then use the plain center part for the representations they have decided upon, transferring them in the same manner that they used with the paper quilt pieces.
Another approach that may be used with cloth quilt pieces involves students drawing on copy paper with fabric crayons, placing their drawing face down on the quilt piece, and ironing it with a warm iron. This will transfer the pictures to the cloth. Students need to know that any writing they use must be reversed before they iron. This may be done with relative ease by holding the word or phrase backwards to a window and tracing it. I would highly recommend that all ironing be done by an adult.
When the two quilt pieces have been completed, they may be attached or remain separated. If attached, they could easily cover an entire bulletin board, appearing somewhat like a giant quilt. This bulletin board display could also be done with just the picture pieces or just the story pieces. If used as part of a culminating activity, the essay could be read aloud by its author, while a classmate holds up the picture. When reading is completed, the student could give the quilt pieces to the woman for whom they were created, if she is able to be present. This could make an excellent culminating activity that could contain a segment during which students show their history dolls while reading their related story. (See first lesson plan.) Including a simple, or not so simple, reception following the program is an excellent way of involving parents and even other staff members.