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.
Antonio Ligabue “Self-Portrait with Dog”
by Amanda Koonlaba
Antonio Ligabue (1899–1965) was an Italian painter who began his work around 1920 after a tumultuous move to Reggio Emilia, Italy, where he lived as a beggar. He spent many years of his life in mental institutions and did not have his first solo exhibition until 1961.
Following are ideas for integrating Antonio Ligabue’s “Self-Portrait with Dog” (1957) with other subjects.
1. PARTNER LOOKING. Have students silently view the work for two minutes and write down words that come to mind. The goal is for students to have at least 20 words written at the end of the two minutes.
Then, have students work with a partner to compare lists of words. They should cross off any words on their lists that are the same. For example, if both students have the word “dog” on their lists, they would each remove that word. Repeat this with two more partners until students have crossed common words off of their lists. Students should have around five or six unique words remaining on their lists that are not found on any of their partners’ papers.
2. WRITING ABOUT ART. Have the students use the list of words generated in the Partner Looking activity to write a descriptive paragraph about the work. They should use the crossed out words minimally and only where necessary. For instance, it might be necessary to use the word “dog” to describe the image since it contains an actual dog.
The goal of these exercises is to help students think of their own more interesting, vivid words. Once they see that others are using the same words as them, they can begin to think outside the box and use more vivid language in their writing.
3. ART-MAKING. Students will be eager to create their own self-portrait after studying Ligabue’s. They can select something significant to their lives to accompany them in their portrait the way the dog accompanies Ligabue. Have them draw themselves on a sheet of paper and add color with crayons, markers and/or paint. Then, have them draw their significant object on a separate sheet of paper and add color.
Have them draw their background on a third sheet of paper. If their background is a landscape, remind them to use a horizon line. They should add color to the background as well. Finally, have them cut out the drawings of themselves and their significant object. They can arrange these and glue on top of the background that they created.
4. ARTIST STATEMENTS. Self-portraits are great for composing artist statements. Here, the initial writing activity based on Ligabue’s work is a very natural opening activity for them to write their own strong artist statements.
Have them generate another list of words for their own work. Then, have them view a partner’s work and generate a list of words for each other. Each student will then have two lists of words (one he or she generated, one a partner generated) to use as they write. These words serve as prompts and help them remember to use vivid language.
Post questions for students to respond to if they need further guidance for their writing. They can respond to the questions and use their word lists in those responses. Some great questions include: What is your significant object and why did you choose it? Why did you choose the colors in your work? What do you hope people feel when they view your work?
5. PRESENTING. Have students share their self-portraits and their artist statements by each creating a small presentation board (half sheet of poster board) with both items attached. They can get creative and decorate the boards or leave them plain. Give them two minutes to share with the class in an oral presentation. Then, have students add these to a hallway display for viewers.
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Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Amanda Koonlaba, NBCT, teaches at Lawhon Elementary in Tupelo, Miss. Before teaching art, she was a classroom teacher, and used arts integration as the cornerstone for instruction.
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.