Tuesday, November 18, 2014

TC Tuesday: Art and Writing with Jen Nelson


Art and Writing: A Thoughtful Journey

      I was honored to be a part of the 2014 Red River Valley Writing Project’s Institute at NDSU this past summer. During this extensive two week professional development opportunity I was educated on many different reading and writing strategies, and inspired to be brave and incorporate more writing in my art classroom.


      As I headed back to school this fall, I was challenged by our school improvement plan to include critical reading into my art curriculum once per quarter. I looked long and hard for an article that I deemed appropriate, and while scanning the pages of NPR, I came across a wonderful story about an art exhibition in London honoring the thousands of service men and women that gave their lives fighting in World War I.  The article we read is linked here.


     Students read the article and following our AVID criteria for a critical reading, circled important words and underlined main ideas. Students also wrote a summary of the article and their learning. To me this is the boring, technical part of the lesson, but I do think it was a great exercise for both the students and myself. It allowed me to model for them that in order to stay current with what is new and exciting in the art world, I have to look for and read about art daily.


     This critical reading inspired me to do a project I have never done with students before. We made flowers. We took the lead of the artist, Paul Cummins, who thought up the poppy installation to make a flower to give to someone or in remembrance of someone. I asked the students to think about who they would give the flower to, and to think about that person while they made the art.


     For our art project, I had students think about someone in their life that was important to them. We talked about the emotion that can be involved when making art, and how the act of making art for someone can be a very special process. I had students pinch the flower petals individually and then slipped and scored them together. I fired the flowers, and we painted them with red acrylic paint and students had the option of gluing them to wood sticks, or leaving them as is to sit flat on the table.


     After making our flowers, students had to write a poem as a tribute to the person they made it for or the person they were making it in remembrance of. I taught the students how to write a haiku and a tanka. They had the choice of using one of those, or they could write freely. Students brainstormed ideas, wrote out their poems, and typed them on the computer. We printed final poems and laminated them to accompany the flowers on their journey home. 


     It was a proud moment for me to see my students walking down the hall with their flowers tucked safely under their arms. I was honored to have given them the opportunity to make something special for someone special in their lives. Art is bigger than all of us. It says things we are unable to say with words. 


-Jen Nelson, Horizon Middle School, Moorhead, MN