In my previous post I shared some of my sources for creative teaching ideas!
Today I will get a little more in-depth and walk you through my thinking process to demonstrate how I start from an inspiration point and end up with a worthwhile, standards-based lesson plan.
Starting Point: My son’s teacher invited me to come in and teach an art-integrated lesson on the topic of weather (their current science unit.) I didn’t have a specific idea in mind and immediately went to my bookshelf to look for inspiration. I stumbled across Silver Seeds, a beautiful picture book of acrostic poetry about nature.
These aren’t the typical mundane acrostic poems one might expect. The poems in this book are full of literary devices: similie, metaphor, onamatapeia, personification, etc. It’s lovely writing.
Here is an example for “Trees”:
Reaching up from the
Earth, tickling an
I also like the way text is used in the illustration to clarify the topic of the poem. (See the page spread in the top photo for an example.) There are so many “artist techniques” on display in this book (the kind of things I learned to look for in Katie Wood Ray’s book, In Pictures and In Words.) Some illustrations are “zoomed in” or out and others are from a unique point of view. There are lots of interesting ground lines and color choices. There is so much about Art that could be taught from this one book!
I immediately thought that I could share Silver Seeds with the children and then we could “innovate” our own version integrating weather concepts. (Class-made books are so engaging!)
Since this is an arts integrated lesson, it’s important that my lesson plan has a dual focus. I will have one main goal for ELA (specifically, writing) and one main goal for Visual Art. There may be other learning points that will happen naturally, and there are many possible goals. In fact, I could teach 10 or 20 lessons from this one book but I don’t recommend that. Exhausting one source is counter-productive and the children grow tired. The trick is to pick out key goals that are important for my students and that are well supported by this particular resource.
Art Focus: The images in the book look like acrylic on canvas- not too detailed and lots of bold color. Should we paint? I also see that while there are many possible teaching points for artistic composition, I think this book really supports several key concepts: zooming in/ zooming out, strong foreground objects, and point of view. I think 2nd graders would find point of view challenging to implement (as it involves perspective.) I will point out the zoom in/out in case they want to try it, but I will emphasize the idea of a strong foreground object for this lesson.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought that we will need a two-step process for the art. First, students will paint a basic background. Next, they will collage a foreground object (or multiple objects.) That way I know they will achieve the visual art goal without becoming frustrated.
ELA Focus: As I studied the poems in the book for “author’s craft”, I found that personification and similie/metaphor were two of the strongest devices featured. I want to emphasize those devices for the children and give them practice with creating that kind of language. This lesson will also integrate with science content (weather.) Students will mimic the format of Silver Seeds as they write an acrostic poem that 1) Demonstrates understanding of weather concepts 2) Presents the concept through rich language that paints a picture in the mind of the reader.
As you approach a picture book as a point of inspiration for planning a lesson, here are some things to consider:
1) What is done well in this picture book? Ask that question in terms of the artwork and then ask it again in terms of the text. What are the elements of artist’s and author’s craft worth noting?
2) Of the things you found in #1, which ones are relevant to your teaching situation? Which ones would support your goals for your students?
3) If you want the lesson to be “arts integrated,” make sure you have a dual focus. Identify ONE language arts goal and ONE visual art goal for your lesson.
4) Get to the nitty gritty. How will you structure the lesson(s) so that students are supported? How many class periods will this “lesson” require? My example will probably require four 30- 40 minute blocks. Day 1) Read aloud and “notice” the craft. Have students experiment with creating their own examples of personification. Day 2) Science lesson during which students generate a list of weather words that would be good possibilities for acrostic poems. Perhaps do a little research to generate word webs for the terms on the list. Day 3) Art lesson during which the art techniques are modeled and students are given time to create images. This experience will require a longer block of time- about an hour. Day 4) Writing lesson where students are invited to write their own acrostic poems from their weather images (and this might require an additional period depending on whether pre-writing organizers are used.) Remember to model first!
Since my example will be taught in my son’s classroom, I plan to partner with my son’s (excellent!) teacher, Mrs. H, to maximize our time. She will share the book before I arrive and will point out key elements. She will also lead them in generating a list of weather words from their current unit of study that can be used for acrostic poems.
When I teach, I will focus on the art-making portion of the experience. Mrs. H will then finish up the writing portion of the lesson.
What do you think of this lesson idea so far? Any suggestions for me? I’m teaching it next week!
I hope this post gives you a spark for creating some of your own lessons based on picture books!