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.
Eileen Agar ‘Lewis Carroll with Alice’
by Amanda Koonlaba
Eileen Agar (1899–1991) was a British artist associated with the Surrealist movement. Below are some ideas for integrating her painting, Lewis Carroll with Alice (1961) with other subjects.
1. SURPRISE LOOKING. Give groups of students a printed version of the artwork with post-it notes covering the entire image. Have then take turns removing one note at a time. After they remove the note, have them describe what has been revealed to the rest of the group. Students will likely use adjectives heavily during this process. After they have removed several notes, they will likely begin to talk about what they think the entire work will be.
Once each group has completed the process, facilitate a whole group discussion around what was surprising about the artwork once it was revealed entirely. This will help them look at the elements that make up the artwork before noticing there are two human figures represented. It leads well as the preparation for the following art-making activity.
2. ANALYZING. Once students have completed the above activity, tell them the name of the artwork. Some might have background knowledge on Lewis Carroll and Alice, but others may not. Find a clip of an Alice in Wonderland video (any one will do as long as it is child-appropriate). Share it with them and provide an overview of the story. Tell them that Eileen Agar may not have seen a video clip of this story since the artwork was created in 1961. It is likely, however, that she read the book.
Have the students discuss why this work could possibly have been named Lewis Carroll and Alice. They will puzzle on this topic, and there are no right or wrong answers. You should look for justifications for the assumptions they make. Have them cite evidence in the artwork and based on what they know about the story and artist.
3. ART-MAKING. This is a really inexpensive art project. Have the students draw the head and neck of two figures on cheap construction paper and cut them out. Next, have them cut up the scraps of construction paper and additional sheets in different colors into different shapes. They can use crayons to add patterns to the shapes. Have them look through old magazines for patterns and cut those out. For instance, a student might find the torso of a woman wearing a shirt with rose prints on it. They can cut that into a square.
Additionally, they can cut shapes out of old newspapers and use crayons to draw patterns on them. Finally, have them use the shapes to piece together a collage on their two figures and a sheet of construction paper for the background. This is very open-ended. Encourage creativity and risk-taking.
4. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. The art project is great by itself, but if you want to incorporate some language-arts skills, focus on character traits and narrative writing. Before the students create the artwork, have them flesh out two characters. They can use a graphic organizer to write character traits for each. Give them time to solicit feedback from their peers. Then, have them write a couple of paragraphs about each of their characters.
Once this has been accomplished, have them think about these two characters as they create their artwork. Ask them to think carefully about what they are choosing to include in their work and how that might represent the characters they developed. Extend this by having them write a narrative using the two characters as main characters. Their narratives should be developed around a clear problem and solution.
5. PRESENTING. Involve the students in creating a hallway display with the works. Have them determine how their artwork should be displayed with their writing. As simple as it sounds, the decision to put the writing above the artwork or below it can be a big one for students. They may feel their artwork is the most important aspect of the entire project and want it displayed above their writing, or vice versa. Give them a stake in the display.
Use the display like a gallery and have them walk a peer through the gallery to talk about their art. If you have a parent involvement night coming up, have the students prepare to present their display to their parents. What a great way to hit those speaking and listening standards!
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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.