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Translations in Colors

Subject:Art, ESL

Grade Level: 9-12

Description: In the tradition of a story quilt, students create an art quilt or mural based on their research of modern paintings. Each group creates a picture in a genre of a modern painting. Each picture functions as a square in the quilt that will tell the story of modern painting. The pictures will be united like the squares in a quilt and mounted on the wall to form a mural.

How it Works: Students expand writing and reading skills as they investigate modern art such as cubism, expressionism, and impressionism. They learn to use the Internet to research art and how to properly cite sources for a written report on the artist of their choice. Students analyze the elements of painting and identify genres of art and the techniques used in the selected genres. They reproduce these styles in their own pictures and reflect on the various phases of the project and be assessed for each phase. They mount their paintings as a mural in the form of a story quilt of modern art. They also improve oral skills by presenting their reports and pictures.

Final Project/Product: Students create a story quilt of modern art based on the genres they have studied. They research the artist of their choice using the Internet and write a report with three sources that are properly cited according to MLA standards. They share their reports and pictures in an oral presentation, evaluate each other’s work using a rubric, and evaluate the entire process in reflective letters.

Overall Value: The overall value of the art quilt is to make the classroom a place of exploration and creation. Using cooperative learning techniques, students’ “intelligences” are highlighted as they work together taking various roles: artist, writer, presenter, and researcher. This project is innovative because it works across the curriculum using technology and art to enhance language learning. Students are highly motivated by technology. They learn to identify reliable sources on the Web and to cite sources according to MLA standards, an essential tool for college-bound students. Most importantly, students become familiar with some of the greatest artists and the museums where we can find this art (teachers may wish to substitute local museums and include a trip as part of the unit). Students have the opportunity to “translate” their understanding of modern art into their own pictures, and display their achievement, an empowering process for ELLs.

English Language Learners: This unit focuses on ELL students because it reinforces oral, reading, and writing skills through group discussion and cooperative learning. All vocabulary is elicited from the students, shifting emphasis to the learners. Techniques such as choral reading, brainstorming, pairing weaker learners with stronger learners, group work, and group revision and reflection are all techniques that support English language learners.

Tips for the Teacher: The key to success with this project is eliciting vocabulary and analysis from the students. When discussing a specific painting, create a workshop environment by allowing students to identify and explain techniques in their own words. Encourage group discussion. Assign students to work in groups pairing stronger writers with weaker writers, students with higher technology skills with students with weaker skills, etc. Let students assign their own roles in the groups. Also, when working with computers and art, allow for set-up and clean-up time during the period. Though five units are presented here, this lesson may extend depending on students’ computer skills and the amount of time it takes for them to complete their pictures.


 Standards Addressed
Students will listen, speak, read, and write in English for information and understanding.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for literary response, enjoyment and expression.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for critical analysis and evaluation.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students listen, speak, read, and write in English for classroom and social interaction.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: ESL
Students respond critically to a variety of works in the arts, connecting the individual work to other works and to other aspects of human endeavor and thought.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: Art
Students actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.
  Grade: 9-12 Subject: Art

Day 1: In the Eye of the Beholder
Students identify the elements of painting.
Students analyze paintings.
Students evaluate individual paintings.
Students review vocabulary of colors and shapes and use new vocabulary in sentences.
Students brainstorm in small groups and share ideas in class discussion.
Reproductions (posters, color copies, etc.) of paintings in the genre of realism, expressionism, cubism, and impressionism
painting, paint, to paint, art, artist, tone, color, line, form, shape, texture, shading, realism, expressionism, cubism, impressionism, genre
Procedure 1
Motivate students by eliciting the aim: Tape one reproduction of each genre on the blackboard and ask the students how they would describe the paintings. What are the elements of a painting? How are these paintings different from each other? Ask them to formulate the aim based on the discussion.
a. Elicit the vocabulary from the students (except genres).
b. Students repeat vocabulary chorally and individually.
c. Students write a sentence using vocabulary word of their choice.
d. Students write their sentences on the board and read them aloud. Students discuss the sentences and corrections are made if necessary.
Procedure 2
Group work. Divide the students into groups.
a. Give each group a reproduction of a painting in a different genre. Have them brainstorm a list of what makes the paintings special.
b. Have students post the reproductions they worked with and report back to the class what they discovered about the paintings.
c. Teacher defines genres.
d. Summary: students identify which genre each painting belongs to and redefine the elements of painting.
Students take home a reproduction of their choice and analyze what makes the painting special and identify the elements of that genre in one or two paragraphs.
Assess students first as a group exercise the following day. Two students post their pictures on the board and write one of the paragraphs they did for homework on the board. The class will help revise the paragraph and discuss any other elements students see in the painting. The teacher collects all homework and makes individual corrections.

Day 2: On the Trail of Great Artists!
Students use the Internet to research an artist.
Students learn to discern reliable sources from unreliable sources.
Students learn how to cite sources according to MLA standards.
Students reinforce computer skills.
laptop computers or computer bank
Internet access
MLA handbook
printer, paper for printer
citation, to cite, quotation, to quote, source, search engine, website
Procedure 1
Review of homework
a. Two students post the reproductions of the paintings they had to analyze on the board for homework.
b. Students write one of their paragraphs on the board and read them aloud.
c. Class collaborates to revise the paragraphs.
d. Choral reading of the paragraphs
Procedure 2
Motivate students by eliciting the aim: narrate a humorous experience about being lost trying to find information on the Web.
a. Ask them how they find information on the Web. What are the best search engines? How do they know if a website isn’t good? What is the difference between a personal website and a website pertaining to an organization?
b. Ask students to formulate and aim based on the class discussion.
Internet searching tools http://noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/5locate/adviceengine.html
Procedure 3
Elicit vocabulary from the students.
a. Students chorally and individually pronounce words.
b. Students write a sentence with the word of their choice.
c. Teacher presents MLA standards for citing resources.
d. Teacher divides students into groups the teacher has chosen according to their reading, writing. and computer skills so they can support each other in these areas.
The OWL at Purdue University: MLA Formatting and Style Guide http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/557/01
Procedure 4
Students pick an artist of their choice as a group and research bio and art on the Web. Teacher should recommend some websites suchas the ones listed below for MOMA and the Met, which have online databases.
a. Students write a brief report on the artist using a minimum of three sources and copy and paste a painting from the Web into the report.
b. Students brainstorm the artistic techniques used by the artist and write an analysis of the painting.
c. Teacher circulates helping students find search engines and reliable sources as well as checking for proper citation.
d. Students print a draft of the report.
MOMA http://moma.org
Procedure 5
Two groups volunteer to present the drafts of their reports.
a. Summary: students discuss how they found reliable sources and which search engines were the most useful.
MET http://metmuseum.org/
Students create a preliminary sketch of the subject of their choice using the techniques employed by the artist they studied. Also, the teacher collects drafts of the reports to correct them at home.
Assess students first as a group exercise. Two students post their preliminary sketches on the board the next day. The students discuss how their sketches use the techniques employed by the artist and why their work falls into that genre. The teacher then distributes corrected reports from the previous day. As students work in groups, the teacher circulates to all groups making suggestions for improving the sketch and reports.

Day 3: Translations in Colors…
Students create pictures in the genre of the artist they chose.
Students revise reports.
Students practice oral presentations of their project.
colored construction paper for background for pictures
crayons, pastels, colored pencils, markers
sketching paper, rubber cement
pencils, sharpeners, good erasers
Procedure 1
Review of homework
a. Two students post sketches they did for homework.
b. Students explain how their sketches incorporate the techniques used by the artist they researched.
Students respond to the work in class discussion.
Procedure 2
Students divide into groups.
a. Teacher distributes art supplies and returns corrected drafts of the reports.
b. Teacher circulates checking other sketches and giving suggestions for improvements.
c. Students work in their designated roles—artist, researcher, writer, and presenter, helping each other when necessary.
d. The students' finished pictures should be mounted on the construction paper with the date, names, class, title of picture, and a reference to the genre.
Procedure 3
Summary: one student reports back from each group about the process thus far .
a. The artists may show the pictures they have created thus far.
b. Researchers and writers discuss revision process .
c. Presenters may wish to take a trial run at oral presentation.
Students continue working on their projects.
We assess work on the presentation day through a student-created rubric.

Day 4: Rubric Awareness
Students learn how to use a rubric.
Students reinforce oral skills through class discussion.
Students create their own rubrics.
Sample rubric
Blank paper to create rubric
Sample pictures, reports, and presentations created by teacher (preferably one excellent presentation and one not so good, so students can compare and contrast presentations and pictures)
LCD projector/computer for teacher presentation
Procedure 1
Motivate students by eliciting aim.
a. Ask students how they can give constructive criticism. How do they evaluate each other’s work? What guidelines do they need to give an educated opinion?
b. Have students formulate an aim based on the class discussion.
Procedure 2
Teacher presentation
a. Teacher distributes sample rubric and the class discusses how it functions.
b. Teacher gives two presentations .
c. Students rate teacher’s work using the sample rubric and report back to class their rating.
d. Teacher responds to the rating and class discusses how the rubric was used.
Student-Generated Rubrics http://teachervision.fen.com/teaching-methods-and-management/rubrics/4586.html
Procedure 3
Teacher gives blank rubric and opens discussion about the possible categories for a new rubric .
a. Students break into groups.
b. Students brainstorm categories for a new rubric and report their suggested categories to the class.
c. Teacher, as facilitator, helps finalize the categories for the rubric.
d. Students fill in the categories of the rubric on their blank forms.
Procedure 4
a. Teacher elicits from students what they will be looking for in the presentations the following day.
b. Students review the categories and make any changes if necessary.
Students continue working on their reports, pictures, and oral presentations, and the teacher types up the rubric created by the students and make copies for presentation day.
Students are assessed on their presentations.

Day 5: Our Art Quilt—A Presentation
Students complete work on projects.
Students give oral presentations of their work.
Students evaluate each other’s work.
Students create mural!
Typed copies of rubric created by students
LCD projector & computer
Wall space
Strong tape
Procedure 1
Teacher jumpstart
a. Teacher reminds students of the procedure for presentation and evaluation.
b. Students work in groups to organize themselves.
c. Researcher and writer present the report on the artist as well as the reproduction of a picture and explain why this painting represents the a particular genre. They use the LCD projector and computer, so students can see the uses of sources and the original art by the artist.
d. Artist and presenter present the picture created and what techniques were used to emulate the work of the artist researched.
Procedure 2
Evaluation based on rubric
a. Students work in groups to evaluate each group’s presentation.
b. One member from each group explains how they rated the other group.
c. As a class, students discuss the various responses to the evaluation. Do they agree or disagree?
d. Teacher gives a rating and class compares and contrasts the student and teacher ratings.
Each student writes a reflective letter about the process.
Teacher evaluates each group’s reports, pictures, and presentations. The teacher also evaluates reflective letters.

Tena Cohen


Louis D. Brandeis High School
145 W. 84th Street
New York, NY 10024

Tena Cohen has been teaching ESL and Spanish in New York City since 1993. She worked as an Orleans Parish Teaching Fellow in New Orleans from 2003-2005 and helped recruit teacher fellows. She has written curriculum for summer school and given staff development workshops in theater, poetry, and technology at the Jefferson Library and in various high schools. As a writer and actress, her work has been heard on WBAI-FM and seen at Nuyorican Poet’s Café, Hostos, and Hunter Colleges. She has a Masters in Spanish from Hunter College, where she received the Luis Del Rio Award, and a Masters in English from the Bread Loaf School of English. She is presently completing a memoir about teaching in New Orleans called “A Love Letter to Louisiana.”

Important documents for this lesson plan.



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