Art is at the Core offers tips on integrating for visual art teachers and teachers of other subjects. Arts-integrated lessons offer students the opportunity to meet objectives in art disciplines and other subjects. Arts integration strengthens traditional core classes, but does not replace art-specific courses.
Barrington Watson ‘Conversation’
by Amanda Koonlaba
Barrington Watson (1931–2016) was a Jamaican artist who first came into the spotlight as a football [soccer] player at Kingston College. After traveling extensively, he returned to Jamaica to become the Director of Studies at the Jamaica School of Art. He also cofounded the Contemporary Jamaican Artists’ Association. Below are ideas for integrating Barrington Watson’s 1981 painting, Conversation, with other subjects.
1. HEADLINES. Have students view the artwork for one minute without talking. Then, provide minimal background knowledge. Essentially, you should only share the name of the work and the brief bio of the artist.
Allow them to continue to view the work while they complete this activity. Have them work with a group of no more than three to create a headline to accompany the image. This requires creative thinking! For example, the women could be having a conversation about local news. Perhaps the headline could read, “Restaurant Owner Offends Local Patrons.”
The headlines, which do not have to be completely accurate since you are not providing much background, will activate thinking that both provokes questions and forces students to use visual information to make decisions.
2. WRITING ABOUT ART. Have the students use their headlines to write a fictional blog post about the event. The students can continue to work with their partners to develop the content, or they can work independently. Use your discretion and teaching context to determine what best suits the needs of your students.
Have them go through the entire writing process. They can use a graphic organizer to develop the main idea and details. Tell them to be sure to include quotations from the people who are involved in their work of fiction. They can even give names to the women in the artwork. Allow them time to write a rough draft, solicit peer feedback, edit and revise.
3. ART-MAKING. Students will be eager to create their own work once they have written their pieces about the image. Have students use the elements of drama/theatre to work as a team to create a tableau that tells a story. You can select stories for the students or have them recreate one they are familiar with.
For example, you might give one group a sheet of paper with the following story written on it: Two men are walking a dog when they notice it is about to rain. The students could create a tableau of one student on hands and knees as a dog, another standing on tiptoes with arms in the air showing an excitable expression about the weather, and another student squatting just a bit with one hand over their head to protect from the impending rain. Allow the students to photograph each other’s tableau.
Have them work with a group
of no more than three to create a headline
to accompany the image.
This requires creative thinking!
Have the groups share with the whole class as their classmates try to guess their story. Once the students have completed this activity, they can use their photographs to draw their own images. They should focus on proportion with the figures. Tell them to think about height and how each section of each figure relates to the rest according to size. They can use any medium to add color.
4. WRITING AGAIN. This entire lesson sequence is great for getting students engaged in the writing process. It also allows multiple opportunities for them to write routinely over extended time frames.
Students have already created a blog post with a headline as a writing exercise. For the next step, have them extend the story they started with for their tableau. If they wrote about a familiar story, have them change key plot points to create an entirely different story.
For instance, if the students chose a fairy tale like Little Red Riding Hood as their familiar story, have them change the main character and the destination. Have them think about how those changes would impact the overall plot and use that to develop their own work.
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Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Amanda Koonlaba (NBCT), is a Curriculum Specialist and Teaching Artist from Saltillo, Mississippi.
The activities described in “Art is at the Core” may encompass Common Core State Standards for Math, the English Language Arts Anchor Standards of Writing, Speaking and Listening, and the Next Generation Science Standards Performance Based Expectations of Science and Engineering Practices for Analyzing and Interpreting Data. They also encompass the National Arts Standards processes of Creating and Responding. Please refer to particular grade-level standards for specifics.—A.K.