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Lesson Plans

re:incorporating art in the classroom

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Teresa Tipton (
Mon, 15 Apr 1996 12:19:28 -0700 (PDT)

As an addendum to the poetry/surrealism unit as an example of integrating
English and Art, a successful surrealism activity I did with 6-8th
graders was (after looking at surrealist art and a clip of Dali and
Ernst's early filmmaking ventures), to have everyone brainstorm a list of
nouns and a list of verbs in two columns across a piece of paper. Then,
students combined words randomly to create clauses - i.e. "flying fish"
"walking hat" and created images from their clauses which they put into

I gave the students caron d'ache to layer wet and dry on
large sheets of paper. After they were finished with their work of art, I
then had students write a poem or paragraph as if their painting were speaking
to them and telling them something. What did their artwork say?
We shared the results during the crit. Students read their writing and talked
about the art, then we hung the student work in the school office and
school board conference room.

It was a very powerful example of the latent images inside each person.
The images were quite revealing, the most poignant of which was the work
of a boy who had been taken out of the class when he came to school with
a gun, his way of drawing attention to the fact that his father had been
raping him since he was a small child. Of course, everyone knew what the
situation was and when he returned no one wanted to even sit at the same
table as he was.

We worked together on the activity because he told me he couldn't draw,
and I walked him through it. He drew a cat bandit firing a gun at a running
cat thief. They were in a prison, with water rising up to drown them
both. When I looked at the gun, I saw it as a cutoff penis, the bullet
forming the tip. It was my introduction to the power and potential of art
therapy and I recommended it to his counselor.

I think I'm sharing this graphic story to add to as the discussion
about what it takes to make a good art teacher. Art education classes
didn't prepare me for working with kids in street gangs, or the kids who
pelted my car with rocks because they were asked by the school to leave
an after-school artclass I was teaching or the little
girl who ran into the bathroom screaming "no, don't do it, no, don't do
it," during a puppet play because some interaction of the characters caused
her to act out her rage from what I learned later, was also an abuse situation
she had just been removed from.

Somehow, as teachers, we need not just to care about what our students
learn from us, but to develop the compassion and empathy that helps us reach
out to kids who are coming into first grade already damaged and dismembered
psychologically from terrible experiences they've endured (like the man
who climbed over the locked school fence and attacked a third grade girl
with a knife.) How can our art education classes help prepare
us to deal with these experiences? They, too, are part of the "hidden
curriculum." That seems just as important as "P&E" these days.

Teresa Tipton