Tomorrow will be the end of my next two-week set of team teaching! I initially made this plan for 2nd years, and then modified it to work for 1st years the week after. This time around I really wanted to try something that would get the whole class talking and thinking critically. I came up with the idea for an interactive art critique because the students are currently learning about the painter/sculptor Okamoto Taro and the public’s opinions of his work in their English books (Perspective II Lesson 4).
For the warm-up I talked a bit about sharing opinions and art criticism as it related to their lesson. I gave them a sample sentence: “I like/don’t like this piece because __________” and then displayed a painting by Okamoto Taro. The teacher and I gave a few example opinions about the painting and then we brainstormed more ideas and adjectives together with the class. I talked about how we share opinions every day in places like Twitter (showing the logo on the screen) and handed out small notecards to each student. I explained that I brought some paintings to show them and that each card was a Twitter comment or “tweet” that they could use to write a short (no more than 140 character) opinion on.
I then displayed each painting for about 3 minutes or until the students were finished writing. I tried to choose some paintings that the students would definitely like, and some they probably wouldn’t like.
After they finished writing their comments, I let them break into groups of four and discuss their opinions with each other, starting with the first painting, “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. They were a little too shy to start talking so I gave them a conversation example and modeled it with the teacher: “What did you think about the painting?” “I liked it?” “Why?” “Because I like the colors, etc.” After this I was happy to hear everyone actively discussing their opinions in English, even in my notoriously quiet classes.
Then came the fun part. After a few minutes I told the students that they would have a chance to talk about their opinions with the artist himself- Van Gogh. I said he was coming to this classroom today so I had to go. They looked really confused as I walked out saying goodbye. I waited a few seconds and came back into the class and shouted “Hello! I am Van Gogh! What do you think about my painting?” to lots of laughter. I chose a few students to present their opinion and then challenged them to explain themselves further (for example, if they said the painting was beautiful or ugly, I asked why.) I was surprised and impressed by some of the answers! I did the same thing with the next two artists, but I really hammed it up on the Picasso one especially if I noticed the kids getting tired. I jumped and shouted that my painting was the best in the world. Some of the students seemed especially eager to tell me they didn’t like the painting after that! Haha
In the last five minutes of class “Megan-sensei” returned to class. I asked them to discuss which painting was their favorite (and why) and then we voted on which painting was the best. Van Gogh won in each class, and Picasso was the least favorite.
I chose paintings for this lesson since it tied in to the book, but I think this format (writing, speaking, and sharing opinions) would work great with a variety of media.
Some of my favorite comments:
Me (as Van Gogh): Why did you not like my painting?
Student: It is ominous (good word!)
Me: Why is it ominous?
Student: Something may be hiding behind that tree.
Me (as Van Gogh): Why do you like my painting?
Student: Because I love you!
(It turns out that he was a big fan of Van Gogh’s work.)
Me (as Magritte): Why do you like my painting?
Student: Because it is scary!
Me: You like it because it’s scary?
Student: I like the face.
Other kids said “Because apples are so delicious.” which I couldn’t help but laugh at even if they were trying to act up.
Me (as Picasso): Why do you not like my painting?
Student: Because it is strange.
Me: Why do you think it’s strange?
Student: (thinking) Because…I don’t like you, Picasso.
(needless to say a lot of people found Picasso to be unpleasant, but a few kids really liked the piece and had interesting reasons why!)