In the preceding weeks, before this unit is introduced, students will be actively engaged in a daily journal writing activity. This is an activity that is part of my Visual Arts classes in every grade. The activity is based on the need for an inclusion of the standard of Response to Art in every class. Responding to pieces of art helps students to see, think, understand and evaluate images. Each marking period, or with classes that meet twice per week, each month, students answer questions about a different piece of art. These responses are scored by a rubric and count as one-third of the students' final marking period grade in my class. I have used Bloom's Critical Thinking questioning strategies to write these questions. There are different questions for each grade level with overlapping similarities in seventh and eighth grades and the same in fifth and sixth.
These questions also can be used as preparation for the Connecticut Mastery tests. We are required to connect to CMT preparation in our school to help the students and this is a great way to do that all year long. Below I have listed some of the questions for seventh and eighth grades.
1. Identify the art elements and principles that you see in this piece of art.
2. How has the artist used the Elements of Art to convey implied meaning of this piece? (What is the artwork telling the viewer?)
3. Each viewer has a different interpretation of the meaning of the piece of art. What is your interpretation of the meaning of this artwork?
4. How can you relate to this piece of art? Connect this artwork and/or its meaning to an experience in your life or in the world.
5. Can you assess the value or importance of this artwork? In your eyes is this artwork successful? How can you determine the success of the piece?
6. What changes would or could you make to this artwork?
7. How would these changes alter the meaning of the piece?
Although this activity is an on-going classroom activity, it is a strategy that will prepare students for this unit, as well as many other things in life! I just began to implement this writing activity this past school year, and have noticed the improvement in the students' writing in that short period of time. The students also learn how to effectively use art vocabulary to accurately describe what they are looking at. In the beginning, I would model generic responses for them to help them understand how to go about completing this activity, as they have not had too much experience with journal writing up to this point in their education. It is also a way for me to get to know them better as people. The question about connecting always elicits interesting responses.
Why is journal writing a strategy for this unit? This activity is an important preparation for the unit I am teaching for a number of reasons. First, it will help students look beyond the obvious in the pieces of art we use for discussion, which will enable them to see real sounds in a piece of art that does not actually create a literal sound. It will also continue to enhance writing skills, which they will utilize in their writing of poems. Connecting the artwork to their own life and experience will mirror some of the activities of the unit, like using images and writing poems in their own voice.
In addition to the journal writing activity, students will also be asked to listen. I will choose a poem and have a few students or all of them, recite it in class. Then students will listen to it read by the poet him/herself. We will note the differences in tone and voice and evaluate whether these differences affected our perceptions of the meaning of the poem. Another listening activity, which was briefly stated above was the creation of a painting based on music. I will use parts of Wagner's
as an inspiration for students. This is the piece of music that convinced Kandinsky of the power of music. "The violins, the deep tones of the bases, and especially the wind instruments at that time embodies for me all the power of that pre-nocturnal hour. I saw all my colors in my mind; they stood before my eyes. Wild, almost crazy lines were sketched in front of me
." I will try to see what type of emotion it invokes within the students and what types of pieces of art they will create in response.