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August 24, 2015 Teaching Reading Through Art Analysis By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Teetering on the brink of a new school year, my brain is crammed with classroom setup logistics and community building ideas. It’s hard to find the mental space for curriculum tweaking. But after discovering a new set of lesson plans right here on Scholastic’s "Open a World of Possible" page (scroll about halfway down), I’m inspired to shift art analysis from a once-in-a-while activity to a regular part of my teaching — and I want to get started the very first week of school.

    How do I plan to fit in this worthwhile, but “extra” work into my teaching? The OWP lessons model how art analysis can be incorporated into reading and writing lessons to concretize abstract comprehension strategies, build rich discussions, and enhance students’ vocabularies. So, art analysis isn’t going to be an extra lesson to teach — I plan on embedding it right into the lessons I already teach. Here are some ideas and tips for including art analysis into your own literacy lessons.

     

     

    Less is More

    Focusing on one or two works of art usually works better than surveying many works in a single lesson. My students have spent as long as 15 minutes discussing a single artwork, and the conversations become much richer when they have a chance to really dig in and “live” with an art object for a little while.

    For this lesson, my students compared two versions of Three Boys using this Venn diagram. The contemporary street-art version by Stik was inspired by the original from the 1660s.

     

    Art Can Be Anywhere

    I don’t limit the art we study to the paintings hung in museums. Children’s book illustrations are a great source of rich artwork worth analyzing. The annual Caldecott Medal winners are a good place to start when looking for discussion-worthy illustrations.

    Even though we’re surrounded by so much photography in social media, most children don’t think of photos as “real art.” An Instagram photo that catches your eye can work for a lesson — or check out the Pulitzer Prize photo winners and finalists.

    For more traditional fine art, both The National Gallery of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art have large, searchable online collections that I’ve used to find images for lessons. The Google Art Project has a huge database of nearly 200,000 artworks from museums and collections around the world! You can create a class gallery linked to a Gmail account to save all of the artworks your class studies. I’m going to assign “Art Curator” as a new student job, and the curator will get to select artworks to add to a student-managed cyber gallery. To get started, here’s a gallery I’ve created of art that features children.

     

    Open a World of Possible Art and Literature Lessons

    Here are four ready-to-go PowerPoint presentations that incorporate art into literacy lessons. Each lesson has a suggested grade range, although I think all of the lessons can be adapted for most any grade. These lessons pack a lot of images and concepts into a single lesson. For me, this is probably too much to get through in a single period, so I plan on streamlining these lessons and choosing one or two images to share with my class rather than all of them. You can teach these lessons as-is, or adapt them to work for your class.

    What Is Hope — A Read-Aloud Lesson (K-2)

    This lesson explores the concept of hope as a literary theme, both through the analysis of many pieces of art that illustrate “hope,” and through a read aloud of the picture book Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse.

     

    Making Predictions — A Comprehension Strategy Lesson (K-2)

    Students first practice making predictions as they analyze three paintings. They continue to make predictions about the four text excerpts included in the lesson. (Lion’s Lunch?, My Name is Yoon, Stone Soup, and Who Would Win: Alligator vs. Python)

     

    Comparing — An Academic Language Lesson (2-4)

    Students develop their own working definition for the word “compare” by analyzing the word in context and by looking at artworks that provide examples and counter examples.

     

    Summarizing — A Comprehension Strategy Lesson (3-5)

    Students begin by studying three artworks and summarizing the “story” portrayed in each work. They then apply the same summarizing/synthesizing strategies to three text excerpts that are included in the lesson. (LaRue for Mayor, The Journey, and The Ancient Maya)

     

    Have you incorporated art analysis into any of your lessons? What are your favorite works of art to teach with (or just enjoy!)? Share your ideas, questions, or suggestions in the comment section below. Best of luck heading back to school‼!

    As part of a sequencing lesson, Julia uses this graphic organizer to sketch what she imagined happened before and after the scene depicted in a painting.

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Surviving the First Day"

    Two years ago: "Classroom DIY — New Use for Your Old Chalkboard"

    Three years ago: "Getting to Know My Students — My Most Important Research Project"

    Four years ago: "What’s in a Name? A Back-to-School Literacy Unit"

    Teetering on the brink of a new school year, my brain is crammed with classroom setup logistics and community building ideas. It’s hard to find the mental space for curriculum tweaking. But after discovering a new set of lesson plans right here on Scholastic’s "Open a World of Possible" page (scroll about halfway down), I’m inspired to shift art analysis from a once-in-a-while activity to a regular part of my teaching — and I want to get started the very first week of school.

    How do I plan to fit in this worthwhile, but “extra” work into my teaching? The OWP lessons model how art analysis can be incorporated into reading and writing lessons to concretize abstract comprehension strategies, build rich discussions, and enhance students’ vocabularies. So, art analysis isn’t going to be an extra lesson to teach — I plan on embedding it right into the lessons I already teach. Here are some ideas and tips for including art analysis into your own literacy lessons.

     

     

    Less is More

    Focusing on one or two works of art usually works better than surveying many works in a single lesson. My students have spent as long as 15 minutes discussing a single artwork, and the conversations become much richer when they have a chance to really dig in and “live” with an art object for a little while.

    For this lesson, my students compared two versions of Three Boys using this Venn diagram. The contemporary street-art version by Stik was inspired by the original from the 1660s.

     

    Art Can Be Anywhere

    I don’t limit the art we study to the paintings hung in museums. Children’s book illustrations are a great source of rich artwork worth analyzing. The annual Caldecott Medal winners are a good place to start when looking for discussion-worthy illustrations.

    Even though we’re surrounded by so much photography in social media, most children don’t think of photos as “real art.” An Instagram photo that catches your eye can work for a lesson — or check out the Pulitzer Prize photo winners and finalists.

    For more traditional fine art, both The National Gallery of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art have large, searchable online collections that I’ve used to find images for lessons. The Google Art Project has a huge database of nearly 200,000 artworks from museums and collections around the world! You can create a class gallery linked to a Gmail account to save all of the artworks your class studies. I’m going to assign “Art Curator” as a new student job, and the curator will get to select artworks to add to a student-managed cyber gallery. To get started, here’s a gallery I’ve created of art that features children.

     

    Open a World of Possible Art and Literature Lessons

    Here are four ready-to-go PowerPoint presentations that incorporate art into literacy lessons. Each lesson has a suggested grade range, although I think all of the lessons can be adapted for most any grade. These lessons pack a lot of images and concepts into a single lesson. For me, this is probably too much to get through in a single period, so I plan on streamlining these lessons and choosing one or two images to share with my class rather than all of them. You can teach these lessons as-is, or adapt them to work for your class.

    What Is Hope — A Read-Aloud Lesson (K-2)

    This lesson explores the concept of hope as a literary theme, both through the analysis of many pieces of art that illustrate “hope,” and through a read aloud of the picture book Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse.

     

    Making Predictions — A Comprehension Strategy Lesson (K-2)

    Students first practice making predictions as they analyze three paintings. They continue to make predictions about the four text excerpts included in the lesson. (Lion’s Lunch?, My Name is Yoon, Stone Soup, and Who Would Win: Alligator vs. Python)

     

    Comparing — An Academic Language Lesson (2-4)

    Students develop their own working definition for the word “compare” by analyzing the word in context and by looking at artworks that provide examples and counter examples.

     

    Summarizing — A Comprehension Strategy Lesson (3-5)

    Students begin by studying three artworks and summarizing the “story” portrayed in each work. They then apply the same summarizing/synthesizing strategies to three text excerpts that are included in the lesson. (LaRue for Mayor, The Journey, and The Ancient Maya)

     

    Have you incorporated art analysis into any of your lessons? What are your favorite works of art to teach with (or just enjoy!)? Share your ideas, questions, or suggestions in the comment section below. Best of luck heading back to school‼!

    As part of a sequencing lesson, Julia uses this graphic organizer to sketch what she imagined happened before and after the scene depicted in a painting.

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Surviving the First Day"

    Two years ago: "Classroom DIY — New Use for Your Old Chalkboard"

    Three years ago: "Getting to Know My Students — My Most Important Research Project"

    Four years ago: "What’s in a Name? A Back-to-School Literacy Unit"

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