Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kunstwerke und Schönheit

In my combined German 3/4 AP class we're in the midst of our Beauty and Aesthetics unit.  It's a longer unit that I generally break up into shorter chunks.  Right now, since we're just starting out, we're discussing what is beauty and trying to better understand our own personal concepts of beauty.

To tie in some culture, we usually look at some famous works of art from the German-speaking world.  We look at some pieces to figure out which we like and don't like, coming up with different things we like (some kids like the classic stuff, others like the modern or abstract stuff - it's a great way to know your kids better to find this out!).  Then each student picks a piece of artwork and researches it a bit, finding out about the artist and the work itself.  They then present their findings to their class, additionally explaining why they think that particular painting is beautiful.

I've always enjoyed this part of the unit (Who doesn't want to take a break to look at some art?  There's some great history behind some of these works!), but I felt like this wasn't as memorable for the students as it could be.  So what we did is this year, I teamed up with one of our fabulous art teachers.  In addition to researching their particular work of art, I had students then re-create it using watercolor, oil pastel or colored pencil.  Check out the results!

If you'd like to do an activity like this - and I totally recommend it since it was a lot of fun - here's how to set it up:

  • If you'd like the Power Point with the rubric and works of art my students chose from, it's available on TPT - just click here.
  • I gave students a copy of the Power Point.  We went through each piece of art briefly and they took notes on which they liked or didn't like.  I then had them pick their top three to research.  Warn them that they will also be painting their own version!
  • To make sure I didn't have 26 kids all reproducing der Wanderer or Hase, I limited it to two students per work of art.  I randomized student names.
  • I was nice and gave students time in class to research (about 30 minutes, the rest had to be done at home).  I also gave them some information about the work of art as a starting point (author or name of painting, this information is in "notes" section of the Power Point slides).
  • Students had three days to actually reproduce their work of art.  The first day was all about the line art - getting that ready so they could jump right into painting the next day.  They then had two days to finish their work with whatever medium they wanted.  The art teacher was there to help guide them through both parts of this process (which was amazing and super helpful since painting is never something I've been particularly good at).  If students needed more time, they could come in after school or take it home.
  • If students wanted to do an adaptation of the work, they could... but they would need to address what changes they made and why during their presentation.  For example, some students had paintings that were black and white, so they added color to them.
  • I did give students a grade for the actual art work... but it was for completion.  If I had seen them trying in class and they had something to show at the end, they got their 15/15 points.  
  • Students presented their information and their own adaptation.  We then discussed which ones we thought were the best reproductions of the original.
  • Obviously I hung these up - some of them were amazing!  
  • To get the lower levels involved (i.e. to pump them up for when they'll get to do this activity), I had them do a gallery walk and vote on their favorite.  Kids loved seeing what their friends from Deutschklub or what their older siblings were doing!
This was a fun activity, and honestly it was a great "mental break" from the work we've been doing.  It was at the end of first quarter, so it also felt like a reward for students - it's been a hard transition for most of them since we're a combined German 3/4 AP class, which is new for both groups.

- Frau Leonard

Here's a freebie activity on Was Kinder über Schönheit denken - works well as a reading and leads into some great discussion points!

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