Art, Book Recommendations

I See. I Think. I Wonder.

During one set of art classes, I hung a print of The Duck Pond by Claude Monet, and employed a method I learned from Teaching Critical Thinking Through Art. That day, I chose the See-Think-Wonder routine. *

“I see”—which is observation—yielded expected answers. “I think”—which is interpretation—yielded less predictable responses. However, I learned the most about my six-to eleven-year-olds from “I wonder.”

I wonder if the lady would invite me into her house for toast.

I hadn’t noticed the tiny woman by the door

I wonder if the ducks are arriving or leaving.

I thought the ducks were hanging out.

I wonder if there is always that much water.

I had considered the water level unchangeable.

I wonder if the ducks get along.

Hmm …

Am I negligent if I mainly experience art with my students? If I don’t focus on information? I hope not because I teach art appreciation for the love of both my students and the subject. I want children to have accessibility to art. I want their enjoyment of art to take precedence over knowledge.

What do you see, think, and wonder?

*For more information see Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison.

Art, Book Recommendations, Memories

World Letter Writing Day #2

Because today is World Letter Writing Day, it seems appropriate to share my favorite published letters. (See here)

From October 1951 to May 1952, Juan and Rie Munoz taught native children on an Alaskan Island in the Bering Sea. Their main contact with the outside world was by radio. They received one airdrop and one visit by an icebreaker. Even knowing that their letters could not be mailed until their service ended, they wrote over forty to their families.

These letters and accompanying photographs were discovered in 2005 and compiled by their son. Like the letters of my family, The King Island Journal contains the mundane: bathing, tanning hides, making clothes, gathering food, cooking, and, especially, their dogs’ and students’ antics. Also like my family, their mundane is both revealing and entertaining.

My current kitchen posters

Rie Munoz settled in Juneau and is best known for her artwork depicting native life in Alaska. I love both Alaska and art, and my search for an Alaskan artist led to what I consider an even greater treasure—letters.

Rie Munoz’s watercolors, (See here for more)

My husband enjoyed reading John and Abigail Adams’ correspondence. Any favorite published letters?

Art, Book Recommendations, Homeschooling

Art Responders

“No, Benjamin can’t be in my art class,” I said.

The six-year-old was known for his extremely bad behavior. Not only was the class already crowded, but also he was younger than the average student. Most importantly, I had volunteered to teach, not wrangle with a difficult child.

The next time I saw his mother, she was cool. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“You didn’t give my son a chance. You wrote him off.”

I was convicted. “You’re right. He can come.”

And he did. He behaved. He responded. He was transformed. I was amazed.

Another year, in another art class, another child had a bad reputation. His mother—who was in charge—assigned him to my class because she had “Nowhere else to stick him.”

He participated well. At the end of the semester, I took my students to the National Gallery of Art to see the works we had studied. He begged to go. His mother said, “No.” My class was “Just a place to keep him out of trouble.” It had. Marvelously.

My favorite resource.

Two examples are not scientific research, but other art teachers confirmed my experiences.

Have you witnessed a child responding to art?

Art, Homeschooling

Art: Play Name that Painting

Do you need a short break from structured learning or want easy art appreciation? Naming works of art will accomplish both objectives.

I started this game to distract a five-year-old while her family wondered through the National Gallery of Art.

As a warm-up, I asked my restless charge to name an object in a nearby painting. After she said “girl” for Cassatt’s Girl with a Straw Hat. I praised her and asked, “What is she wearing?” followed by “What kind of hat?” Rachel was pleased when I read the title, and she realized that she could guess a painting’s name.

Choose well and your student will be successful. Consider Girl with a Watering Can by Renoir; The Mill by Rembrandt; Sunflowers by Van Gogh.

If you get “I don’t know?” explain that some artists also didn’t know. Their works are “Untitled.”

Extend the activity by asking your child to think of a different title or a subtitle.

Identifying a painting’s main idea extends to choosing topic sentences and recognizing themes in literature.

Tip: If you don’t live near an art museum, buy art calendars when they are discounted after Christmas and use them.

What games have you quickly invented ?