Standard #4: Content Knowledge. The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the discipline(s) he or she teaches and creates learning experiences that make these aspects of the discipline accessible and meaningful for learners.

Learning experiences that are accessible and meaningful to students encourage them to understand, question, and analyze ideas from diverse perspectives.  Students come into my classroom with preconceptions about art and art-making. This means my teaching practices must draw out and work with students’ preexisting understandings to make their thinking visible and central to their learning.  The following artifacts were used to tackle a real world question, issue, and controversy- the affects of technology on art- while developing questioning, research and communication skills in my Advertising & Design students.

To begin the activity, I asked my Advertising & Design students to  watch two video clips and read a short article on the subject of technology.  This provided the students with some background knowledge regarding the affects of technology on society as well as on art, and at the same time offered them a few (humorous) perspectives on the subject.  The video clips may be viewed here- Kids React to Old Computers, and Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy The article is shown below.

ElectronicPioneers1 ElectronicPioneers2

 I then asked my students to do some research of their own by posing the following questions on Schoology:

schoology- tech research

I included a student response below:

Gabby Response

The video this student found can be viewed here- Van Gogh Interactive Painting.

After the students completed their research, they replied to an online classroom discussion (shown below).  Their responses to the question directly follow.

Tech Discussion


 In this activity, I attempted to create classroom tasks that were worthy of my student’s time and attention, were relevant, connected to the world and organized around the ‘big ideas’ of my subject.  I find that this kind of teaching develops understanding, intellectual interest, and engagement within my students.

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Standard #5: Innovative Applications of Content. The teacher understands how to connect concepts and use differing perspectives to engage learners in critical/creative thinking and collaborative problem solving related to authentic local and global issues.

What every student desires from their education is a clear connection between what they are learning in class and what they are experiencing in the real world.  Learning must be relevant and applicable.  While every teacher understands the benefits and  importance of their respective discipline, this knowledge means nothing if not communicated in a way that engages  student learners.  The following artifacts are from a unit designed for a high school level Drawing & Painting course.  The unit takes a lesser known and under appreciated art movement of the 17th century, Baroque Art, and turns it into a favorite of my modern day students.

A quick overview of the unit can be seen here in the Baroque Art Accessible Text.  The text acts as a review tool for students on the concepts and artwork we covered on the Baroque Art Movement in class.  Voice recordings, interactive games, and video clips are included to support the material and engage all learners. 

The text also introduces the students to a contemporary artist, Audrey Flack, who was greatly influenced by the Vanitas Still-life paintings of the Dutch Baroque artists.The prosperous Dutch were proud of their accomplishments, and the popularity of still-life paintings- particularly images of accumulated material goods- reflected this pride. Paintings such as Vanitas Still Life, 1630, by Pieter Claesz (shown below), reveals the pride the Dutch had in their material possessions.

Pieter Claesz, Vanitas with Viloin and Glass Ball, 1628

However, the ever present morality and humility central to the Dutch Republic’s Protestant faith haunts these scenes to remind  the viewer of life’s fleetingness.  References to mortality, or memento mori, include the skull, timepiece, tipped glass, and cracked walnut to suggest the passage of time.

Audrey Flack created a series of modern day Vanitas Still-life paintings, like her 1978, Wheel of Fortune shown below (to view more of Flack’s work visit the Audrey Flack Webpage).

Audrey Flack, Wheel of Fortune, 1978.

By introducing my student’s to Flack’s work, they were able to see a clear connection between a 17th century idea and their own contemporary life style.  To further prove that point, students completed a group activity where they researched Vanitas symbolism and brainstormed modern symbols for their own still-life paintings.

Each group was given a different Vanitas theme to research. The  Biblical scripture references from which their theme originated were provided for each group.  The scripture was given in two different translations to better support different reading levels.  Students who wanted the challenge of reading the scripture in the 17th century vernacular were able to read from the King James Version.  Students who wanted a modern version of the text could read from the New Living Translation. Example of the scripture provided for the students can be found here- Riches, Beauty.

I did not want the religious nature of this particular material to alienate or discourage students from enjoying this project. To circumvent this, we discussed how these themes are still present today in many other mediums, like movies.  Each group was also given video clips from popular movies that supported their given theme.  Examples of the clips can be seen here- Mr. Deeds, Fun with Dick and Jane, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The groups then filled out a worksheet on their theme answering questions about the lesson given in their scripture and how the movie clips supported that lesson.  They also brainstormed modern day Vanitas symbols for their theme and answered essential questions such as, “Do you agree or disagree with your theme’s lesson? How much value should we place on your theme? And how does art influence what we can learn about ourselves and our society?”  A blank group worksheet can be found here-Vanitas Symbols Group Sheet. Copies of completed worksheets by my students can be found below-

Philosophy & Education  Death  Works & Hobbies  Riches

Students were then asked to bring in a modern day object to represent a Vanitas theme.  They used their object along with still-life objects provided by me to arrange and photograph their own Modern Day Vanitas Still-life painting.  Examples of the finished paintings are shown below.

 Megan  Cara   David

IMG_1083  Lina  IMG_1082

Through the use of technology and meaningful discussion, my students learned: that art is greatly influenced by the political, economic, social, and religious happenings of a society; that an artwork can teach a concept to its viewer; how to teach through their own artwork; and most importantly, that they can enjoy doing it!

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