Art Literacy

art literacy excerpt2
Clementine Hunter

 

In November of 2016 I read about a symposium that addressed the challenge of educating immigrant children.  The symposium was held at the Roosevelt School District, in Roosevelt, New York.  Not long after this symposium was held, I read that research indicates children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from cultural enrichment.   These two bits of information were connected in my mind and from that connection grew the idea for Art Literacy

Art Literacy is a showcase for artistic expression, and an invitation to create art.  The picture at the top of the page, of Clementine Hunter, and the excerpt below this paragraph, are typical of material students will find in the book.   A total of forty-three feature images are presented.  At least one smaller image accompanies the feature image.   In the case of Clementine Hunter, there are two feature images and two companion images. 

A caption that describes Clementine Hunter’s personal history:

clementine Blurb

A smaller image that helps to introduce Clementine Hunter to students:

clothesline website
Clothesline, by Clementine Hunter.  The Picture is Credited to the Ethel Van Derlip Morrison Fund.

 

With every picture, there is an invitation to act.  Students are asked to write a response and to create a visual work of art.  They are reminded of art’s essential nature:  It is a genuine expression of an individual’s perspective and experience.   

The kinds of images featured in Art Literacy range from a Sami family (Lapland) posing in front of a traditional residence, to children playing along the seashore in Zanzibar.  Subjects covered include Stone Age cave art and NASA space missions.  

There are quotes from James Baldwin, and there is poetry from Rabindranath Tagore. 

The question is asked at the beginning of the book, What is art?  By the end of the book, students may be prepared to answer,  Art is a form of communication, a way for people to share their perceptions and insights.

A supplemental guide to Art Literacy has been created.  This consists of keyed sheets that offer background information on some of the covered topics.   The sheets can be copied and distributed to students who want them.

Collages introduce the five thematic sections: Animals in Art, Fantasy in Art, People in Art, Places in Art and Things in Art.  The collages are visual demonstrations of the book’s operating theme: Let imagination be the guide as experience and perception are explored.

A representative collage, from the section entitled Fantasy in Art, is shown below:

 

collage fantasy elsas pig2 website

Art Literacy is for sale on Amazon.  However, the long-term plan is to set up an apparatus through which the book and accompanying material can be distributed, at no cost, to students.  

 

art literacy front cover website

 

A. G. Moore    June, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

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Avoiding the Summer Setback in Academic Skills

By A. G. Moore

summer

We all feel it, the summer lassitude that settles in sometime in June and doesn’t lift until trees start losing their leaves. Autumnal shedding reminds us that time is passing and we have to hustle in order to catch up.

 

For kids, the casual days of summer present an opportunity for adventure–and the risk of diminished academic skills.This is especially true for lower income children.

 

In general, children lose about two months  (according to standardized tests) in math performance and about the same in reading over the summer months. The result, however, is not consistent across income levels. Children from middle and upper income homes do not on average experience this decline in reading scores. On the contrary, in many cases there is actually a bump in those scores. In seeking a reason for the disparity between middle and lower class outcomes, one study suggests that the answer lies in access to books.

 

This study is described in an article published by The Institute for Educational Sciences (a US government organization).  According to the study: “…family socioeconomic status has been linked to the access children have to books in their homes and neighborhoods”. In order to reach this conclusion researchers divided a cohort of lower income students into two groups. In one group, students were allowed to self-select books for summer reading. The second group served as control; these students were not given access to books.

 

The results, as interpreted by the study’s sponsors, showed that access to books had a “significant effect”.  The effect was more pronounced in students from the lowest income group.

 

Of course, this is one study; its conclusions may be accepted or rejected. However, most people will probably not be surprised by the authors’ analysis. It’s pretty much accepted by parents and educators that the more kids read the better their skills are likely to be. Increased access to books, particularly ‘self-selected’ books, certainly increases the chance that reading will take place.

 

While most parents may be in agreement with the basic principle that more reading makes better readers, encouraging a reading regime in the lazy summer months can be a challenge. What the study and others like it show is that rising to this challenge is worth the effort.

 

Kids take the summer off; parents can’t. Parents don’t get a vacation from their job, not until a child is grown and parental responsibility has been fulfilled.

 

The American Library Association claims that 95% of all public libraries have a summer reading program for kids. Interested parents can check local libraries to see if one of these programs is near them.

 

Besides engaging in a reading program, parents may find that summer is a good time to offer so-called ‘enrichment’ material that the crowded school curriculum increasingly neglects.  The flexible summer months may be seen as an occasion to round out a child’s academic experience with informal exposure to ideas and subjects that otherwise might not be covered.

 

A summer break from school need not be paid for with a ‘setback’ in skills.  Children learn in many ways. What they learn–academically, socially or culturally–depends largely on environment.  With access to the right environment, including books, children may not only maintain skills but may experience a ‘bounce’–in academic skills and in their general store of knowledge.

 

In that case, when summer is done and leaves turn orange, time’s passage may be regarded not with regret but with anticipation.

Prompting Students to Write Poetry

Rupert_Brooke_Q_71073
Rupert Brooke was known for his war poems. On his way to battle, in 1915, Brooke was bitten by a mosquito. It was the mosquito bite and not a gunshot wound that killed him.
From: Teacher’s Manual The Artist Inside

•Suggest to your students that anyone can write a poem.

•Explain that, in a way, writing poetry is easier than writing prose. There are no punctuation or grammar rules in poetry. There is something called poetic license, which means an author can break all the rules if breaking the rules helps to advance the poem.

•Tell students that sometimes prose is like poetry and sometimes poetry is like prose. It’s usually up to the author to decide how to characterize a piece.

•Rules were much stricter years ago about poetry. Today there are almost no rules.

•Suggest to your students that poetry might give them more freedom to express ideas than a prose piece might. Poetry, more than prose, is the medium of feelings.

Sample Poems

Both selections in this section were written during war time.

•Explain to students that war provokes strong emotions.

•Ask students if they detect emotion in the two selections. If so, how?

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln of the United States gave one of the most famous speeches in American history–The Gettysburg Address. This speech was so artfully written and conveyed emotion so eloquently that it is has often been called a prose poem. The speech is printed in its entirety on the following pages. The first version of the speech is in prose, as Lincoln wrote it.

The second version of the speech is in verse, the way many people believe the poem sounds.

•Ask your students if they think the speech works as a poem.

•Ask them to find phrases that are particularly eloquent and moving.

•Ask students if they can hear a cadence, a kind of music, in the words, whether they are presented as prose or verse.

The selection following the Gettysburg Address is excerpted from a poem, Safety, by Rupert Brooke. Brooke was British; he wrote Safety in 1914, the first year of WWI. In 1915, as the poet was headed toward battle, a mosquito bit him. The bite became infected and Brooke died shortly after of blood poisoning. His poem, Safety, was written in sonnet form; this means it has a definite meter (like a beat in music) and it rhymes.

•Ask your students if they think this poem is of a very serious nature, or if the subject matter is not terribly significant.

•Ask your students to find words that help to set the mood. Ask them how they would describe the mood of the poet.

•Invite your students to try their hand at writing any kind of poem they’d like. Remind them that they want to choose their words carefully so that mood and tone are conveyed.

•Tell them to have fun; writing poetry is personal and can be a very rewarding experience.

lincoln PinkertonLincolnMcClernand
This photo of Lincoln was taken at Antietam by Alexander Gardner, in 1862. Allan Pinkerton, head of Union Intelligence Services, is on his right. Major General John A. McClernand is on his left. The picture is available from the US Library of Congress. It is in the public domain.