Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Art Engagements

The Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by the talented team at Two Writing Teachers.
 Link up your slice on Tuesdays all year.
 Thanks Stacey, TaraDanaBetsyAnna and Beth.

Students marked their places in the books they are reading. They folded page corners and tapped screens, some slide a photograph or a sticky note between book pages as book marks. I gave them a minute to finish a paragraph or find their stopping point,then I asked them to turn and talk to their table groups about the books they were currently reading.

The conversation was hard to contain for some. As her table talk came to an end, Maya spotted Yvonne reading The Evolution of Mara Dyer . She skipped over to Yvonne's table to compare notes about the book. She may have even jumped over a chair to get there quicker.

I. Love. That.

I love that students get excited about the books they are reading. I love that once hooked on a title, students become walking book commercials. Maya convinced me to read the Maya Dyer series earlier in the year and they have become touchstone texts for us.

After reading students went on an art explore to investigate the next Modern Art movement we are using as a lens to interpret and examine poetry for our Art of Analysis pieces. For today's explore I set students up by sharing Susan Rubin's gorgeous picture book, Andy Warhol Pop Art Painter. I talked about Warhol for a few minutes and did a picture walk through the book using the document camera. I pointed out the Lichtenstein image in the book and told students how Pop Artists took commercial products or images from popular culture and made them into art. Then I sent them off to explore with the direction to note five Pop Art artists and five facts about Pop Art in their academic journals.

Clicking, screen tapping, screen sharing, pens scratching and whispers ensued. They discover more Lichtenstein, and Johns, Rauschenberg, Keith Herring, and Romero Britto and more. They discovered that pop artists, especially in the United States: were young and sometimes considered brash and aggressive; created iconic images that commented on manufacturing and commercialism; used primary colors and blurred the lines between high and low art. Oh, we had such a good share and discussion once they'd explored.

Two boys had come into my classroom to make up a common assessment that was given by teachers in my PLC last week. The assessment reviews the standards the teachers have taught by asking students to read Walker's "Flowers" story and answer sixteen or so multiple-choice questions. The boys were quiet and focused on their passage during our reading time; they were nearly finished when I shared the Warhol book.  I told them they could return to their teacher if they were finished and one responded with, "I'm going over my answers."

"Okay," I replied as I continued to walk the room.

By the time I gathered students back from their explore the boys were clearly done.Yet they lingered in the room. I thought they were listening in and sure enough, I got an email from the teacher:

Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 11:27 AM
To: Spillane-Larke, Lee
Subject: 3rd period student

One of the kids I sent to you came back and said “That class is so much more interesting than this class, they talk about art and stuff as a whole class… What does she teach?”

Made my day that quick note--high praise from a fifteen-year-old that remark. I commiserated over email with the teacher. She is a fantastic teacher and while the boy's comment made my day it may not have made hers.

I could have reminded her that things always look better on the other side of the fence, especially to teenagers. The grass is always greener or at least it looks that way sometimes--we  teachers know it isn't.

The comment reminded me that students will engage, even when they're not supposed to, if the content is interesting and they get a little time to dig out the details on their own. Interest and independence matter.


  1. You have provided a perfect example, Lee Ann, of what engagement looks like and how it is vital to students' development as learners. Thank you.

  2. Couple of thoughts: I saw a Lichtenstein sign in Barcelona. I took a pic, but it was from the bus.

    I wander what "pop art" kids could create based on classic poems. I wander what poetry kids could write based on pop art.