Culture and History: Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers

Article excerpt

Happy New Year! Another year has passed and, for me, this has been a year of new opportunities and exciting art making. This fall I started teaching middle school and now I am incorporating much more art history into my curriculum. As many states start to infuse Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I am aligning my curriculum to include more writing and reading about art. Students are writing artists' statements, and art critiques from reproductions of famous artwork.

tip #1

PICTURE THIS! When introducing a new painting, Tracy Fortune from Hudtl-off Middle School in Lakewood, Wash. often gives table groups a baggie with "puzzle pieces." Typically she creates the puzzle pieces by cutting up 8.5" x 11" copies of the artwork into about 16 pieces. As the students put the puzzle together they look closely at the colors and shapes in the painting, which is a good lead in to critiquing the artwork.

tip #2

CAVEMEN TO THE RESCUE I started teaching Art History to my middle-school students this year. I started with showing them pictures of the cave paintings from Altamira, Spain (the Sept. 2013 A&A Art Print came in handy!), and Lascaux, France. To my surprise the students loved learning about what happened 15,000 years ago. The discussion progressed to the invention of the written word, architecture, technology, and life, as we know it today. Talk about incorporating Common Core into the art classroom!

tip #3

BRING MULTICULTURALISM INTO YOUR CLASSROOM Most of our classrooms and schools have a very diverse ethnic population. We must remember when talking about different cultures in your classroom, it is very important to be sensitive to all groups. November is Native American Heritage Month, and my students were discussing totem poles of the Pacific Northwest.

I wanted them to create a totem, but I did not want them making something up. Totem poles are about tribes and families, and in a sense tell stories about the history of the family. I had my students make two-dimensional black-and-white abstracted totem poles. They had to include at least one personal character trait that coincided with our character-education program, and at least two hobbies or things they liked. They were instructed to put these pieces together like puzzle pieces. …