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Lesson Plans: Comprehensive Reading: Art Appreciation

Comprehensive Reading: Art Appreciation 
"Deborah Butterfield"

Project URL:

Purpose of the Project

Over the year, students are assigned 12 artists to study. All research is done outside of class. On the day the project is due, students must bring to class all the research sources they used, including books, magazines, videos, and material downloaded from the Internet. In class, students are taught techniques used by the selected artists. Students design a work of art in the tradition of the artist being studied. Final works of art are completed outside of class. Following the completion of research projects, students spend several days in class – in large groups and small - discussing the assigned artist, pooling their findings, and sharing opinions. The students do this to expand their knowledge. Following the completion of art projects, students study each other’s work, discuss it, and celebrate exceptional achievement. The art is then placed on display for all students and staff to see. The year ends with students in groups of three of four selecting an artist of their own choosing to study and present to the class. This final presentation is expected to be exceptional, for example, a video, or a PowerPoint presentation, anything the students can conceive of that is exciting. Final art projects are also independently selected. The students may use any medium, any concept that they feel exemplifies their most creative effort. The requirements are that the idea and the execution of that idea are the student’s and only the student’s.


Students read and understand [above] grade level appropriate material. They write research reports. They use organizational features of electronic text to locate information. They compose documents electronically.

Software and Materials Used

A computer with an Internet connection, a scanner, a printer. Also, traditional art supplies.

The Students

Students should have some basic knowledge of computers but that is not required. Mentor students can assist students who need training. This program is designed for highly motivated 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. All students at our school were tested for their de-coding and comprehension reading levels. The students selected for this class scored at the top. The class included 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.

Overall Value

Students and their parents/guardians enthusiastically supported this class. The students greeted each new project with excitement. They willingly put in an extraordinary amount of time to excel. For example, most art projects could be completed in about 4 hours. Many students regularly spent as much as 10-20 hours on their projects because of the level of excellence they were motivated to achieve. Likewise in doing their research, students took enormous pride in what they could find out about an artist that other students didn’t know. Parents frequently wrote to me expressing their pleasure in learning along with their child. Parents were incredibly cooperative regarding the demands I placed on their children. The most important value of this class is that by empowering students to teach themselves, by having extremely high expectations of them, and by informing parents on a regular basis of what is expected of their children, students generate their own desire to learn.


Most of my students had never visited an art museum or a technology museum. As a motivating factor, I told my students that I would work hard to secure a grant to take them to a major art museum and technology museum in San Francisco. The grant, which covered transportation and admission fees, was made available primarily because of the linking of science and art.    When I was in graduate school, all of the research I did occurred outside of class. Class time was for discussion and presentations. It was the most exciting and memorable educational experience I ever had. It occurred to me that what made school so wonderful for me might also be good for my students. My middle school students responded to this approach with incredible enthusiasm. They were motivated to excel in ways I could never have imagined. And the more I asked of them, the more they gave. They seemed to be thrilled to be challenged to reach the highest of levels.

About The Teacher

Rolene AuClaire decided in 1996 that she wanted to teach middle school ESL children in San Jose, California. In a school where fine arts and technology classes were non-existent, she created a class that requires students to do independent Internet and traditional research on selected artists and their work, to use computer technology for the presentation of that research, and to learn techniques for creating art in the manner of the selected artists. In 2001, she won the Sue Fialer Award for Excellence in Middle School Teaching. She has taught for Foothill College since 1980.

Email: roleneauclaire@juno.com

Estimated Class Periods to complete: 10

Subject: English, Art

Beginning Grade Level: 6
Ending Grade Level: 8


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