Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thoughts on Common Core and the Arts

I just spent the last 2 full days learning about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the PARCC test that will go along with them. While at first overwhelmed and confused about how to apply these new literacy standards to the existing art curriculum, I have spent time researching what others are doing and working with my teammates to come up with some ideas. I am now very excited about these new standards. It has been said that the shift from the OGT test and current standards to the PARCC test and CCSS will switch our focus as teachers from teaching students what to think to teaching students how to think. And while the OGT’s never tested the arts, the CCSS for literacy is being introduced as everyone’s responsibility. They even have specific standards for us to meet, grouping all electives into a category called “other technical subjects”. Though this gives us art teachers more to cover in our classes and more curriculum to write, I am happily embracing this challenge to help our students become better thinkers. It seems to me that the CCSS are here to encourage us all to be better educators and really prepare our students for college and careers. Looking at the standards there were many things I was unclear about. One point of emphasis in the literacy standards was having students read complex texts. At first I wondered where we would find these complex texts for our students to read (online we do not have a text book to refer to) and also how these complex texts might relate to visual learning. I started googling “common core and the arts” and found a very helpful blog post (here) that outlines how a piece of art can be a “text” that students read. This really helped me get past my confusion and helped me come up with my first CCSS aligned lesson for my Art 1 classroom. Students complete a project in Art 1 where they create two portraits where at least one contains symbolism. In our live session we look at Renaissance portraiture and how artists communicate to the viewer about their subject such as personality or social standing. Though we always discuss this topic, I never have them write about it. Therefore, this lesson was one that could use a writing portion, and why not align it to the CCSS? Below is the assignment I came up with that I will be trying out next semester. It encourages students to “read” the pieces of art, analyze them, and provide evidence for their conclusions (evidence is very important in the literacy CCSS).

Portrait Analysis
You will begin your study of portraits in this lesson by looking at and analyzing the way that artists create portraits. Portraits often contain symbolism within them. Symbolism is the use of something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance. When artists use symbolism in portraits they are communicating about their subject to the viewer. For example, the type of clothing a subject is wearing in a portrait can tell us about their social class or the culture they come from. The objects surrounding the subject can tell about them too, if they are surrounded by books perhaps they are a student or scholar. For this assignment you will act as a detective to find clues within 2 portraits that inform you about the subject of the work!

Artemisia Gentileschi, 1615
Self Portrait as a Female Martyr
Paul Gauguin, 1886, Self-Portrait
Frida Kahlo, 1940
Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
Kehinde Wiley, 2007, Dwayne I

Your Assignment
  • You will need to choose 2 portraits to write about from above. Write a detailed paragraph about each portrait answering the following questions:
    1. What kind of social class is the subject from? (wealthy, poor, middle class, royal...etc.) How does the artist communicate this?
    2. What do you think the subject's personality is like? How does the artist communicate this?
    3. Are their symbols present in the portrait? What do you think they mean? Why?
    4. Why do you think this portrait was created? Is there a story behind it? Why or why not?
  • Make sure you are giving specific examples of evidence from each portrait for your answers.
  • Think about how these artists captured their subjects in these portraits when creating your own portrait drawings! How can you show this person's personality and likeness? How can you incorporate symbolism?
  • Submit your finished essay to the dropbox.  

I am just beginning this task of aligning curriculum with the CCSS but I expect I’ll be posting more lesson ideas soon!