Using Art in the Classroom
I love art! Love it!! I can spend all day in a museum looking at everything. The back wall of my classroom is filled with art reproductions from students and posters that I’ve “borrowed” from the art teacher. (Two art teachers ago, so I think they’re mine now.) If I do get to Paris the only thing I insist on seeing is large format paintings in the Louvre. When I did my master’s degree we had an amazing instructor who explained art to us and how to look at it and since then I have always incorporated art into my classes. In French II we used to do a massive art unit (in French and English) where we looked at different art periods and artists and paintings and they chose a painting to explain in French. It was extensive. And I used overheads to do it all. Overheads!! You remember- back when we had to walk barefoot uphill both ways to school. (This art unit was also the cause of what I now refer to as The Great Powerpoint Debacle of 2002 in which I swore I would never ever ever use Powerpoint again. Ever.)
We are only a couple of hours from Los Angeles and I’ve taken students several times to the Getty Center as a culmination activity for the art unit. One time went to the Huntington Library to view the Gutenberg Bible when we had studied the middle ages. Usually I had them find something that spoke to them and fill out an art critique form. Recently, I’ve swapped out some homework choice assignments if students go to a museum. I want them to get out and see what Los Angeles has to offer art wise, so I give them an overview of the different museums nearby-ish and encourage them to fill a car full of friends and take the day exploring. At the very least they’ll learn that they don’t like art and museums. They fill out the art critique form and turn it in in English.
There are other ways to use incorporate art in the classroom in a less formal manner and technology is what makes this possible and accessible to students on a daily basis. Going from grainy overheads to having full color reproductions available to each student without expensive copying is revolutionary.
Three Activities Incorporating Art
Here are three examples of how I’ve incorporated art into my lessons. (I’m saving my lessons with Google Arts and Culture for another post.)
- La météo – A weather based description activity based on famous paintings.
- La Chambre de Van Gogh – Students describe Van Gogh’s room. I’ve used this also as a speaking activity and had them compare their room to Van Gogh’s. I’ve also had them describe what kind of person they think Van Gogh is based on his room. What does what’s in your room say about you?
- Parau Api Paul Gauguin – Did you know Gauguin painted two different versions of this? I stumbled upon this one day and I knew it would be perfect for talking about clothes and where people are. When students look closely they notice that the women are actually in different places. We do it as a partner activity where they first write about the image and then describe it to their partners to see what the differences are. Go further and talk about how the colors influence the mood of the works. What are they talking about? What do the objects in the painting suggest the women might be doing?
Google Earth’s recent updates are just waiting for you and your students to explore! Looking for something for them to do at the end of the semester? This short video will get you and your students started.
Where can your students go today?
You can view all of the Tech Bytes on YouTube.
Wow. What a topic- How do you use pop culture in class??… Well, first, because I teach French, I have to have two pop cultures: mine and French; or even Francophone, which to even think about keeping current of “Francophone” pop culture gives me heart palpitations.
I find pop culture a bit of a hit or miss; by that I mean in my family unit I have a picture of the Kardashians and some students don’t know who they are! (I know right?!) And I have a picture of the Royal Family and some students don’t know who they are! (Mind Blown!) I prefer to use Pop Culture references that are humorous or will get a reaction out of students. So, I have decided to stick to the bare basics: The Simpsons, Beyoncé and Brad Pitt. (Justin Bieber* used to also be a regular reference, but not so much lately.) It sounds silly, but you can’t do comprehensible input and ask students questions about people if they don’t already know who they are and it’s hard to go wrong with those three. I’m so grateful that the Simpsons have been around forever, because they are features in many a unit. And there’s rarely been a time that I can’t throw in Beyoncé or Brad Pitt and not have that work out.
As far as French pop culture goes, I give myself a grade of “eh… significant room for improvement.” First, I don’t have the time or inclination to be spending hours exploring the latest in French culture. I’m happy if I get everything planned and the laundry done in one weekend. I follow Cyprien and Norman on Instagram and along with all the news French Twitter feeds I follow, I call that Good Enough to Get the General Idea. If I were going to plan something specific about Topic X, I would spent some quality time on the Internet researching current French popular culture on Topic X. And I imagine that if College Me were in college now, College Me would be as connected via Internet as any 20 year old French person, but I just don’t have the time that College Me had. College Me would have already watched everything in French on YouTube. College Me would be following everything getting as much as possible from all of that. (College Me doesn’t realize how good she’s got it.)
(* Let’s go with 7ish years ago I used to talk about Justin Bieber a lot. Freshmen girls loved talking about Justin Bieber, so so did I. So much in fact that some girls brought me a four-page size poster of Justin from some teeny magazine which I put up on my wall immediately. One day I was out and I came back and my Justin Bieber poster had been signed, “To my number one fan, Bethany, Love Justin.” This was my colleague being funny. So the next year when I got a new group of Freshmen girls who loved Justin Bieber, I had some girls walk up to me after class and they said really quietly, “Madame, is that poster really signed by Justin Bieber?” We were bestest buddies after that.)
I was out wandering the Internet a few weeks ago, when I came upon musicuentos.com’s Homework Choices and I said, “OMG, I need that.”
I was looking for something in my college class to get them to have some other cultural experiences. I’ve tried different tactics in the past and most were not as successful as I would have wanted. (Read: Good intention, bad idea.) I was all over this homework choices. I particularly loved that some of the choices said listen or watch more than once.
First, I made my own French version which you can here here. I added a category for students who had had French before because they needed their own category. Then because I was no kinds of interested in actually counting up points, I created a Google Sheet that automatically adds up all their points. I used data validation to create a drop-down menu of the choices in that category. I shared the spreadsheet with students as “make a copy” so they could edit it. My goal was that the total number of points would be visible in the thumbnail in Google Classroom, but alas, this was not to be. (Maybe if I take out some of the rows at the bottom? I’ll try again next unit.) The students are required to do ten points for one unit or roughly every three weeks. I didn’t want them to have to do something every day, but a couple of times of week. This is more about pleasure and exploring the language.
Spreadsheet Template (You’ll be asked to make a copy)