During a few of our art classes, we were given the opportunity to work cooperatively on a group unit plan, for a series of art lessons of our choice. I started out working in a group, but decided it would be easier to follow my own path to create a unit plan solo. I decided to explore the element of design colour, and the image making strategy of personification at a grade 6 curriculum level. We were asked to assess the new BC Curriculum’s 6 Core Competencies through a series of activities all relating to one Big Idea from the art curriculum. I focused on the Big Idea of, “experiencing art is a means to develop empathy for others’ perspectives and experiences,” with the following unit plan:
Big Idea: Experiencing art is a means to develop empathy for others’ perspectives and experiences.
Element of design: Colour
Image Development Strategy: Personification
Potential Starting Points for Topic
- Personification can be easily introduced when students are overheard talking about many animated films
- Colour can be introduced when teacher respectfully and non-invasively points out a student’s colourful attire.
- Empathy for others’ perspectives and experiences can be introduced by students reacting to an emotional moment
- Creative thinking
- Critical thinking
- Positive Personal & Cultural Identity
- Personal Awareness and Responsibility
- Social Responsibility
Centres Exploratory Introduction
Objective: Students will engage in a non-judgemental exploratory centres process before diving into the complexities of the study of colour and personification.
Activity: The stations will be numbered and students will be given corresponding numbers so that centres do not get overloaded and the flow from activity to activity is reasonably smooth.
- Students will choose 1 of 2 different colour schemed plasticine. They will have the option between a box of neutral colours (black, white, brown), or a box of warm and cool colours (yellow, red, orange, blue, green, purple and white). Students will then make a little creature inspired by their colour choice.
- Students will create a little magazine collage, using an animal cut out from a magazine. They will then use warm, cool and neutral tone coloured tissue paper pieces to create a background that represent the feeling of the students’ chosen picture.
- Students will take a selfie on the class iPad(s), or their own device if they have one. The will either upload their selfie into photo editing software, like Adobe Photoshop, or print a copy of their selfie. They will then add the colours they like that they feel represent their feelings or something they relate to their family’s culture.
Following the activity, the students will participate in a non-judgemental critique discussing the relationship of colour to emotion, culture, and personal interests. Students will be invited to share examples of what they reflected on for each aspect.
Reasoning and Reflecting #1:
Criteria: Interpret creative works using knowledge and skills from various areas of learning.
- During this activity, students will interpret the works shown using prior knowledge of learning in social studies and of narrative concepts used in the English Language Arts. In particular, students will draw on knowledge of regional and international conflict to examine their own and past perceptions of the sculpture of Shiva based on individual cultural context. Students will further develop empathy for other perspectives while learning about them, as well as respectfully interacting with the views of others during small group discussion.
Activity: Critical Analysis of Historical or Contemporary Art Works
- Objective: Students will empathize with and note differences in perception of art pieces based on personal, cultural and social values. They will note differences in cultural context with Shiva, the use of colour (and perhaps line) with Van Gogh, and aspects of personification with Chip. Students will identify their feelings about each image.
Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja)
Van Gogh Self-Portrait
Students will be given the opportunity to reflect and generate ideas on each image, either individually or in small groups. They will focus on critically analysing one piece at a time, starting with noting their first impressions of the piece. Students will then describe the work, attempting to determine what message or purpose the artist intended. Following this initial summary, students will be given some background information on each work. They will then be prompted to consider their understanding of the Shiva sculpture based on cultural context; to examine the use of colour in Van Gogh’s self-portrait; and to analyze aspects of Chip’s personification (e.g. How is he personified? Why might the artist have chosen a tea-cup? Why does he have a crack? How does his colours make the student feel?). Students will be challenged to examine pieces through a cultural lens posing questions like, “where does this art come from? What can I guess is important to those communities from this work? Are those values different from mine and if so, is that okay?” At the end of this critical analysis, students will reflect on how they interpreted the pieces before and after having thoroughly examined them.
- Communication Competency Profile, 1) Connect and Engage with Others (to Share and Develop Ideas), (Profiles 1-8).
Teacher will circulate during small group discussions and note participation. Students will be expected to be active listeners when it is another’s turn to speak, and respond where appropriate to the ideas of others. Teacher will assess students’ ability to acknowledge different opinions and disagree respectfully.
- Critical Thinking Competency Profile, 1) Analyze and Critique, (Profiles 1-6).
Teacher will circulate and listen in on conversation during small group discussion to identify students’ ability to make purposeful judgements about the works. Students will be expected to provide their criteria used to examine evidence that supports their conclusions. Students should be able to consider views that do not fit their own assumptions and beliefs as they arise in small group discussion.
Exploring and Creating #1:
Criteria: Explore relationships between identity, place, culture, society, and belonging through the arts.
- During this activity, students will be asked to explore the above while contemplating how best to personify something to represent someone that they are close to. This will require students to begin to empathize with their chosen person’s perspectives and experiences to create an accurate representation.
- Objective: Students will begin to explore why artists choose certain colours (e.g. emphasis, emotion, cultural and/or societal norms, etc.). Students will also begin to explore why personification may be employed (e.g. to show abstract concepts, emphasis, to give cultural and/or societal context, etc.).
Students will be asked to think of a close friend or (human) family member. They will be asked to think about how this person’s life experiences might be different from their own. After giving students a moment to reflect on various aspects of their chosen person, they will be asked to think of a single non-human thing that they feel represents that person. They will then be asked to choose a colored piece of paper of their preference as a background on which to create a rough drawing of their chosen person as their non-human representation personified. At the end of the activity, students will be invited to participate in a non-judgemental critique commenting on why certain colours and personifications may have been chosen to represent certain people.
- Creative Thinking Competency Profile, 1) Novelty and Value, 2) Generating Ideas, (Profiles 1-5).
Teacher notes students’ ability to generate a creative non-human representation different from those of their peers. Teacher allows students to demonstrate how their representation is meaningful for them during the non-judgemental critique. For students who do not participate in the critique, they may write a short paragraph about their creation. Teacher will note students’ ability to comment on the contexts and perspectives shown by the personified images.
Reasoning and Reflecting #2:
Criteria: Reflect on works of art and creative processes to understand artists’ intentions.
- Students will reflect on works of art and creative processes to understand artists’ intentions while critically analyzing personifications by other artists, and creating contrasting works based off of them. Students will practice developing empathy while reflecting on why an artist may have felt certain personifications and colour combinations evoke certain feelings.
- Objective: Students will be able to critically analyze the personified works of others, including original artist’s choice of colours, to determine with what intent the colours and personification were chosen. Students will then practice creating a contrasting personification based on their reflections.
Students will be asked to look at examples of personified images or to find and bring in their own examples if they would prefer. Students will individually engage in a quick critical analysis of the images selected focusing contextually on why the artist might have chosen that personification and colour scheme. Students will then be invited to share their findings with their peers in a small group. They will then be asked to write up or draw what a contrasting personification might look like (e.g. What colours and other aspects might change about a personified Earth as “Mother Nature” if they were representing being devastated by pollution rather than how we should treat it to keep it healthy and green?).
- Personal Awareness and Responsibility Competency Profile, 1) Self-Determination, (Profiles 1–5).
Teacher will observe the students’ confidence in advocating for their ideas and artistic choices. Students who are self-determined should feel a sense of accomplishment and joy, recognizing their efforts in the creation of their adaptation. Teacher can observe if students take the initiative to create an adaptation that contributes to personal growth or speaks to global controversies.
Exploring and Creating #2: (Inquiry)
Criteria: Demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of personal, social, and cultural contexts in relation to the arts.
- Students will demonstrate their understanding and appreciation of personal, social, and cultural contexts by relating those contexts to artistic intentionality with colour and personification and comparing them to personally help beliefs and biases. This thoughtful and respectful comparison will help students to develop empathy toward the experiences and perspectives of others.
Objective: Students will inquire about how cultural and social perspectives might have an effect on colour choice.
Students will choose a colour to research. They will present 2 or 3 different cultural and/or social meanings associated with that colour. Students can then choose how to demonstrate their learning from:
- Students will choose 1 of those cultural perspectives to personify and sculpt using the correspondingly coloured plasticine. If the student wishes a greater challenge, they may attempt to create a personification that encapsulates each cultural and/or social meaning that they discovered.
- Students will create either a digital or print collage comparing and contrasting the different social and/or cultural perspectives that they discovered of their chosen colour. Students will either include images of corresponding personifications of 1 or more of those perspectives in their collage, or include a written description.
- Students will draw or paint a personification that demonstrates 1 of the different cultural and/or social perspectives that they discovered using the corresponding colour paint, crayons, etc. If the student wishes a greater challenge, they may attempt to create a personification that encapsulates each cultural and/or social meaning that they discovered.
- Critical Thinking Competency Profile, 2) Question and Investigate, (Profiles 1–6).
Teacher will observe students’ ability to ask open-ended questions to gather information by verifying the validity of their research and providing descriptive feedback on how they can better inquire when developing a question.
- Social Responsibility Competency Profile, 3) Valuing Diversity, (Profiles 1-5).
Teacher will note students’ demonstration of respectful and inclusive interpretations of different social and cultural perspectives on colour and symbolism (through personification). Students should be beginning to understand and explain how ethnocentric judgements on other perspectives can be unfair. In doing so, teacher will observe students’ ability to advocate for others. Teacher will note students’ reflections on how diversity benefits them.
Communicating and Documenting:
Criteria: Interpret and communicate ideas using symbols and elements to express meaning through the arts.
- Students will have interpreted and communicated many ideas throughout this unit using symbols (the personifications) and elements (colour) to express meaning through the arts. They will demonstrate their overall learning on empathy in this unit by creating this reflection piece.
- Objective: Students will reflect on what they have learned during this unit about the intentional use of colour and symbolism, in the form of personification, comparing their initial views to their current understanding.
Students will compile their exemplars from this unit in an annotated sketchbook. They can do this either digitally or not, making sure to include a work and small reflection from each activity. Their final reflection will be about what they have learned about their personal, cultural and social biases, what they have learned about how colour and personification are used to express meaning, and how their experience with this unit has helped them to develop empathy for others’ perspectives and experiences.
- Communication Competency Profile, 4) Explain/Recount and Reflect on Experiences and Accomplishments, (Profiles 1–8).
Teacher will note how well the student can recount simple experiences and activities while circulating during the students’ opportunity to interact with their peers during the pair and share session. They represent their learning through their reflections in their sketchbook.
- Critical Thinking Competency Profile, 1) Analyze and Critique, (Profiles 1-6).
Teacher will observe that students considered the purpose of the mentor artists’ choices of personification and colour scheme from various different perspectives. They compare this with their own assumptions to be able to draw conclusions and make defensible judgements or assessments.
- Positive Personal and Cultural Identity Competency Profile, 2) Personal Values and Choices, (Profiles 1-5).
Teacher will note that students are able to compare their perspectives and experiences against those of others, knowing what is important to them and how it affects choices they make as stated by their reflection pieces.
- Personal Awareness and Responsibility Competency Profile, 1) Self-Determination, (Profiles 1-5).
Teacher will observe students’ sense of accomplishment and joy while engaging in non-judgemental critiques and/or pair and shares displaying their evidence of learning. Their reflections show that they can advocate for themselves and their ideas.