When thinking about the reasons to teach certain units, my thoughts always focus on the increasingly important task of opening up young eyes to the vast world beyond their sight line. The poetry/art link is important to teach. In the teaching of interdisciplinary units of study, students are more likely to be enriched by both subject areas, and truly learn from the experience. I am proposing in this unit the linking of senses, which will lead the students to experience both of these forms in a positive way and create expressive works on both sides.
I personally teach art for such a wide variety of reasons, and the more I read about the importance of art and the benefits of an arts education, the more motivated I become to further enhance my own development and the development of my students.
In a report published by the National Endowment for the Arts, the links between Arts and Education are drawn and it seems as though the data is supportive of arts in education. Schools with a strong arts program regularly gain such benefits as:
Intensified student motivation to learn;
Better attendance among students and teachers;
Increased graduation rates;
Improved multicultural understanding;
Renewed and invigorated faculty;
More highly engaged students;
Development of higher order of thinking skills, creativity, and problem-solving ability; and
Greater community participation and support
The report further concluded:
The arts contribute to an overall culture of excellence in a school. They are an effective means of connecting children to each other and helping them gain an understanding of the creators who preceded them. They provide schools with a ready way to formulate relationships across and among traditional disciplines and to connect ideas and to notice patterns. Works of art provide effective means for linking information in history and social studies, mathematics, science, and geography. A work of art can lead to many related areas of learning, opening lines of inquiry, revealing that art, like life, is lived in a complex world not easily defined by discrete subjects.
Poetry is an aspect of Language Arts that most middle school students are interested in and it serves as a source of inspiration. Over the years, I have read students' poetry displayed throughout the hallways and have seen aspects of them through this poetry that I never knew existed. Their honesty and emotion continues to intrigue me. I have always wanted to harness the intensity of these poems in their art. My primary reason for writing this unit is so that I can utilize the emotive nature of poetry and draw out creativity through each student's artwork.
Connection of the Senses / Synesthesia
Synesthesia is defined as "a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color."
Wassily Kandinsky is an artist who is known now as a Synesthete. His paintings have a strong connection to music. His book,
Concerning the Spiritual in Art,
is a resource that reinforces the idea of Synesthesia. There are also many contemporary artists and musicians who are known as Synesthetes such as Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Stevie Wonder, Tori Amos, Billy Joel, Duke Ellington, Marilyn Monroe. These artists, and musicians attribute music to color or textures, or actually see colors through different musical notes. The connection is made between more than one of their senses at a time.
Connecting the senses has always been of great interest to me. There have been times where I have experienced art in many different ways. I have heard the sound of music, or smelled the green of grass while looking at a painting, or somehow became a shape in an abstract piece of sculpture. I am looking for my students to use sound to connect to their art and to use art to connect to poems. The more ways we can reach our students, the more fulfilling their educational experiences will become. Interdisciplinary units of study truly enrich the students' understanding of all the material covered in that unit. Using this connection of the senses will enhance students' awareness of both art and sound, each in the light of the other.
When considering areas of focus within Visual Art units that I am writing, I often utilize Bloom's Critical Thinking questioning strategies to enhance students' learning through the teaching of the unit. Students will primarily be focused on Bloom's levels five and six, which are synthesis and evaluation. Synthesis deals with "compiling information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternate solutions."
This connection is the academic version of Synesthesia. Students will do this by creating works of art that are connected to poetry. The poetry will serve as the information and the combination will be the poetry and art connection. The focus on evaluation is "presenting and defending opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality based on a set of criteria."
Students will hone their evaluative skills by analyzing poems, pieces of art and questioning their meaning, making conclusions, assessing value and importance, as well as attributing sound to specific works of art.
Connecting the Visual Arts and other disciplines, such as Language Arts, is a National Standard, Connecticut State Standard, as well as a New Haven Public Schools Power Standard. We connect Visual Art to other disciplines to further enhance learning, understanding and mastery of both subject areas. We also teach interdisciplinary units of study to provide students with an understanding of connections in our world.