Meaningful Art

*Disclaimer – I teach in a Catholic school.  This post is a little bit Churchy but not preachy (I hope).  

I love when students ask me why we do art.  I love talking with them about ideas that can’t always be expressed with words.  Sometimes music can express thoughts better.  Sometimes pictures can express thoughts better.  Sometimes movement can express thoughts better.

Right before the Christmas break, I got one step closer to creating meaningful art with my students.  The art was used to help demonstrate understanding of texts by making inferences/interpretations.  Students analyzed texts and extended their understanding by connecting texts to things that they see on a regular basis, images from our community.  All expectations were taken from our provincial curriculum.

The texts we used were two prayers that are very familiar to the students.  One is the The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), and the second is Hail Mary.  Both prayers were chosen to highlight reading for meaning.  This is not a reading assignment that focuses on unfamiliar words or decoding.  

To begin with we broke the texts into their component parts.  We had whole class conversations around what is a complete idea.  Does it have particular punctuation?  Is it an abstract idea or a concrete idea?

(Our Father)

(Hail Mary)

Once that was done, we took a lot of time to brainstorm ideas for images that might represent each of these thoughts. 

Once that was done we started talking abut which of these images might be found in our neighbourhood.  Then we mapped out a route and made a plan for getting pictures that we needed.  

Students had to submit one photo (or a collage of several photos) to express the part of the prayer that they had selected.

(photo 1)

(photo 2)

After the walk, they were really hard on themselves for the quality of pictures that they had taken.  They wanted their photos to be better.  So, we took a small tangent in our learning and focused on photography basics for a week.  Check out some of their learning and the application of that learning.

Students took time to articulate how they could improve their photos, and then we went on a second photo walk: 

(self assessment for photo 1)

(second attempt)

(self assessment for photo 2)

(second attempt)

Once the second photos had been submitted we did some written responses to their photos and the parts of the prayers that they had chosen:

(response for photo 1)

(response for photo 2)

… But I almost wish we hadn’t.  

The photos speak louder to me.  The photos show a deep understanding that words seem to cheapen.

… and that’s why we do art.  There are a lot of thoughts that words can’t capture.  Finding ways to show that in class is vital.  

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