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Re:[teacherartexchange] Mystery Picture -- Full Lesson Plan


From: Rebecca Burch (mamallama_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Feb 13 2008 - 06:35:02 PST

Wow, I'm getting a lot of requests for the lesson plan! Here's the
plan as I wrote it down when I did it for the 2nd or 3rd time, with a
little editing for this email. I can't take credit for this lesson
plan, because I found it online (and then lost it again! So I was
kind of flying blind when I did this the first few times.) I think I
covered everything -- I added info each time I did the lesson -- but
don't hesitate to email if you have questions:

The mystery lesson is a favorite of mine. I like to do this with
pictures of famous people and let the kids guess who the picture is of
as it is being put together. (I didn't do this with the tribute to
Bobby, of course -- that could be an emotional shock to some of his
close friends.)

You need to start with two identical printer-paper sized printouts of
a portrait. The best ones to use are good-quality, high-resolution
images of facial closeups, although I've done full-body images, too.
The more close-up the original portrait, the more abstract the squares
will be that the students will copy -- the more likely they are not to
panic about having to draw noses, eyes, etc... (the more interesting
textures you'll get, too!)

Okay, so the first thing you do is to create identical 1" grids on
both portraits. Then, you number the squares the same way on both.
(I put the number right on the image, but you could do it on the back,
too -- just make sure they're both numbered in the same direction.)

Cut one portrait up into squares and put the squares into a cup
labeled "NOT DONE." Have a second cup labeled "DONE" for students to
put the photo squares in after they've been copied. Set the un-cut
portrait aside to use as a map to help you put the pieces together.

Next, get a large piece of paper big enough to hold all the squares
and copy the grid accordingly. For instance, I gave students 3" X 3"
squares of blank paper to copy their photo squares onto, and the
backing paper I used needed to be 33" X 24", and of course the grid
was 3" squares instead of 1". (There was a thin strip of the photo we
just left off because it didn't quite fit.) Then, you need to cut
enough drawing paper squares in the size you want to use. You can
really go as big as you like with this, as long as you have an area
big enough to lay the finished squares out and attach them together
somehow. (I have this dream of doing something really huge and in
color -- maybe on pieces of gessoed canvas -- and sewing them
together.) Number the grid on the big paper in the same order you
numbered the original photo... this will help you to put it back

Ask students to take a square from the "NOT DONE" cup, copy it onto
their drawing paper squares EXACTLY, and put the photo square into the
"DONE" cup when they are finished. Point out that it is very
important that they put the number of the photo square they copied
onto the back of the drawing paper square so you can put it back
together! (This is why you need the map... somebody always forgets to
do that.) Then, you just assemble the pieces on the large paper,
glue, and voila!

Assembly can be a little tricky, so I recommend not glueing anything
down until everything's done. You might also want to touch up the
finished product just a little after it's put together -- some
important details might get left off if it landed on a line where the
photo was cut. It's best not to touch up too much, though -- the
disjointed look of this project is just really cool! Here's another
example -- a portrait of Gandhi created by my 6th and 8th graders
about 3 years ago:

I am probably going to show my students the documentary "Chuck Close:
A Portrait in Progress" if it's appropriate (not sure if it's the one
I'm thinking of. I'm going to preview it tonight.) We're also going
to try to see one of his portraits in a local museum if we can get in
to see it -- they want to charge us full price to get in just to see
that one painting, which is kind of lame. I wouldn't mind paying it
to see the art, except we're just a block away and go there often, so
you'd think they would cut us a break!


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