Category Archives: Art

Annotating Unconventional Forms of Art by Shelby Goodfriend

For this week’s blog post, I invited the wonderful Shelby Goodfriend (MS and HS Art in Humphreys County) to share her thinking and planning for a recent art project. Not an Art teacher? Fear not! There is tons here to learn about analyzing primary documents, asking BIG questions, getting students excited to read and write, and more!
All of this, of course, is wonderfully aligned to our Priority 1:

Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

Without further ado… Here is Shelby’s post!


January has the least amount of school days in the spring semester, and with Black History Month right around the corner, I knew I wanted to create a short unit for my students that would be interesting and get us off on the right track for the new semester!

I came up with the concept of teaching unconventional forms of art to my students. I knew that with this small unit I could teach some things that would really hook my students, like body art, but I could also utilize this time to teach them about poetry, therefore making my classroom a supplement to ELA.

I’ve utilized the Internet and found some really great plans and resources to teach poetry and art at the same time. The overall mini-unit can be broken down into four lessons, which should take a total of six days in the classroom.

After reading all the awesomeness below, check out Shelby’s Frida Kahlo PPT!

Lesson One (one day): Teaching Annotating through Art

Extended Bellringer:  On a projector, I had my students look at two of Frida Kahlo’s portraits (Retrato de Dona Rosita Morillo, 1994; Retrato de Natasha Gelman, 1943)

Images used for the Extended Bell Ringer

Students looked at the images for one minute and then had ten minutes to write. I thought this would be too much time but the students honestly utilized every minute.

The rules for writing were as follows:

  1. Write the entire time
  2. Do not share your ideas until time has expired
  3. Have fun, relax, there are no wrong answers!
  4. Write quickly without letting the ‘critic’ in you escape
  5. While using this picture, think of the following: Who is the person? Is she happy with her life? How can you tell? What was happening before the moment was captured? What is she thinking? What is she wishing for? Make sure the picture is helping to guide your decisions; for example, if the person is wearing a coat, you may infer that it is winter.
  6. Write an internal monologue, you shouldn’t write, “I am a seventeen-year-old girl who is sad. Right before the picture was taken, I was…” Use dialogue to convey the voice of the person in the portrait

After students finished writing, I had three students and asked them to support the decisions they made in their stories.

Lesson: I explained what annotation is, and how it is typically used in English classes. However, the activity we did for the bell ringer is a form of annotation through art. I found that at my school specifically, they taught students that annotation is use of symbols, which caused some problems, but we eventually got to the root of what annotation is.

Annotation aides in the close textual reading of a work, whether it be a poem, book or artwork.

In my class, students often dissect a piece of art with a bubble diagram before we talk about it so that they are looking at the piece before I tell them anything. This is something we started last August, if you’re unfamiliar with using bubble diagrams, look to this lesson:–But-is-it-Art-/

Students were shown Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1949 on the projector

Frida 2

Students created their own bubble diagram in 6 minutes with the questions being:

  • What do you notice?
  • What do you think it may mean?

After time was up, we came together and created one large diagram for the classroom.

Following this, I discussed the painting with the whole class, pulling out the symbols, asking them what they believed they meant and finally giving them what the critics believe the piece means.

Exit Ticket: I then showed 8 of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits for 30 seconds each and had the students choose their favorite.

Frida 3

Students selected their favorite, annotated it, and then wrote an analysis of the work, supporting their claims with reasoning and support from the painting.

Lesson Two (three days): Teaching Self-Actualization Skills through Art

Students are to create visual self-portraits about how they internally feel about themselves and their life, using Frida’s work as a model.

Students are to use a color symbolism chart when choosing the colors that they decide to use in their portrait.

Lesson Three (one day): Moving from Art to Poetry – Annotating Poetry

Students will utilize close reading strategies during this lesson.

I informed students that they are going to read a poem by a woman who wrote it specifically about the moment in her life that she was currently experiencing.

This should be tied back to Frida Kahlo and how she painted her self portraits according to how she felt at that exact moment..

First Read:

  • Students are to read and annotate the poem The Thirty-Eighth Year by Lucille Clifton
  • Student then should create a bubble diagram organizer for the poem.
  • Students will then work with a partner to talk about the text.

Second Read:

Third Read:

  • Students watch / listen as other students read and annotate on the white board

Fourth Read:

  • Students Reread to find answers and evidence

Questions: What message is conveyed through the voice of the speaker? What petic devices does the poet use to convey the message? What is the tone of the work? How does this relate to Frida Kahlo’s paintings?

Lesson Four: Personal Narrative Writing

  • Students look at their completed self portrait and use them as inspiration for a narrative poem about their lives
  • Students write a poem that captures who they are and where they are in their life journey. Students will use Lucille’s poem as a model.
  • Students share their poems as a class!

Identity Poem Assignment


Resource Dump #1

Don’t become a nugget. Equip yourself with some awesome resources from your fellow teachers!

Our recent discussions as a team during the Humanities leader summit have spurred an awesome flurry of sharing and caring! Is there a better time than THANKSGIVING to share that awesome teamwork that we have started to establish, and say THANK YOU for it?!?!

Indeed, for this blog post, I have compiled some of those resources (as well as some extras!) in a manner that may be useful to you and your fellow teachers.

Find a resource you really love in this blog-post? Shout out the teacher who made it!

Updated Resource Sharing Drives!!!!

  • Art Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans, Unit Assessments, and Project Plans!
      • Main Contributors: Amanda Welch, Mary King, Cat Johnston, Salma Akhtar!
  • Music Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans and Unit Assessments
      • Main Contributors: Alice Hasen, Camille Loomis, Gabriella Sharpe
  • Social Studies Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans, Unit Assessments, and MUCH MORE!!!
      • Main Contributors: Ali Hager, Stephen Fritz, Brandon Rauch, Julia Braunreiter, Dan Clason, Tim Abram, and Laura Butler
  • World Languages DropBox
    • Featuring NEW Culture Plans, Unit Assessments, and more!
      • Main Contributors: Nels Akerson.

Resources from photos Jacob took in classrooms!

Other Fun Resources!

Some content on this page was disabled on November 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from The DBQ Project. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

Art Online Resources

Featured Resource:

Common Core and the Arts – Wondering how Common Core is going to affect your instruction, and how you can start supporting your students in the transition NOW? Look here!

All Grades


Deep Space Sparkle

Teach Kids Art

Thomas Elementary Art

High School

Art History

Local Art

Art Elements and Principals

Teaching For Artistic Behavior

And of course, if you don’t use it is a great way to keep and organize ideas.  Here are a few people I suggest to follow for art related stuff:

Getting things for your classroom:

Arts Articles, Videos, Resources, and More!

What An Arts Education Meant to Me – A writer meditates on how the Arts impacted her life, regardless of the fact that she ended up being a writer instead.

Austin’s Butterfly – See how simple critique in the classroom can help a student of any age transform his or her art!

Six Reasons That the Arts Are the Ideal Vehicle to Teach 21st Century Success Skills  – Pretty self-explanatory title!

Art: Pathways to Opportunity

As you formulate your vision for this year, consider what you hope will be accessible for students thanks to what your classroom is accomplishing this year. What new opportunities will be available to them? How will you prepare them to take advantage of those opportunities, and be competitive for them?

A list of potential Pathways to consider for your vision are below!

SPOTLIGHT: Mississippi School for the Arts

We are starting a partnership with MSA! They want us to send them our students so that they can audition and try to get into their school on a scholarship! They are also starting a summer program next year, and are hoping to draw many more students in that way. We will also be partnering with them for some professional development later this year… SO, they have been kind enough to give us a glimpse into their audition requirements. Check them out!


Other Competitions:


Art Vision for Content

Our Vision for Content in Art

Children … come into the world … mindless. I know that must sound a bit strange to you. They do not come in without brains. Brains are biological; minds are cultural. Minds are a form of cultural achievement. And the kinds of minds children come to own is in the large measure influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have in their lives. And the kind of opportunities … is largely influenced by the kinds of programs and options that are made available to them in the course of their childhood. 

– Elliot Eisner, Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

With the idea that “Brains are biological; minds are cultural,” we are confronted with the fundamental importance of ensuring our students have the highest quality and the greatest breadth of opportunity we can offer in the arts. To be cultural is to have firm grounding in your identity, to express yourself creatively and uniquely, to feel you have a voice and a critical mind. All of this, and more, can be provided by an arts education.

Developing Key Skills:

Research shows a positive correlation between arts education and cross-disciplinary skills. Students who do not have the opportunity to engage in arts education are often found to be at a disadvantage in the following pillars of learning (for more, see

  • Literacy and Language Development.
  • Reading and Writing Readiness.
  • Reading Comprehension.
  • Mathematics Achievement.
  • Creative Thinking.
  • Problem Solving and Reasoning.
  • Engagement and Persistence.
  • Positive Behavior.
  • Social Development.

Pathways to Opportunity:

While this logically follows from the development of key learning skills, it’s impressive to look at the numbers for how the arts affect future success. Life-long opportunities are at stake for our arts students.

  • College-Readiness: The College Board has examined the impact of arts education on SAT scores. Math  SAT scores improve by 41 points, and verbal scores improved by 57 points for students who benefit from a music education. Studying the arts for extended periods of time (four years or more) improved total SAT scores by 119 points (68 for verbal and 51 on math).
  • College Applications: Should our students want to apply for an Arts and Design College or Conservatory College, they will need to be prepared to speak cogently about their own development, exploration, and ideas on their artistic discipline. Whether heading to the Rhode Island School of Design, Julliard, Memphis College of Arts, or any other Arts institution, our students will need a transcript with competitive GPAs, high standardized test scores, writing samples, as well as a demonstration of their performance skills, and a portfolio that shows depth, research, and ideas. All of these materials – and the opportunities they make available – are correlated to and products of a strong arts education.
  • Job Opportunities: The College Board has also researched the job listings that their AP Studio Arts (2-D, 3-D, Drawing), their Art History, and their Music Theory classes make more accessible to students. They list over 100 career paths ranging from Aerospace Engineering to Composers to Computer Programmers to Editors to Fine Artists. Whether or not a student takes these specific courses of study, an arts education will make these careers more available and real. Our students deserve to have these pathways available.

A National Problem

Despite wide-spread, consistent findings that participation in the arts is correlated with higher academic achievement, the National Endowment for the Arts has found that the proportion of students receiving arts instruction has been in constant decline since 1985, especially among poor and minority students (see the NEA’s “Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation”). While the NEA, the Cultural Learning Alliance, and the Arts Education Partnership have all confirmed that “Low-income students that have the opportunity to engage in extensive contact with the arts are 12% more likely to earn a BA, 33% more likely to read the newspaper on a weekly basis, and 12% more likely to participate in student government at a college level”, it is these same students for whom arts education is least available. In fact, “arts instruction is often least prevalent in schools reporting large percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches,” and a study conducted in 2008 found that only 26% of African American 18-24 year-olds had received an arts education. As we undertake teaching art, we must consider not only how we can generate opportunities for our students this summer or this year, but how we can leave a legacy of change that makes a quality arts education the norm, and not the exception.

The Arts in Mississippi

A recent study conducted by Paul Theobald and Kathy Wood, and featured in Rural Education for the Twenty-First Century, revealed that “rural students and adults alike seem to have learned that to be rural is to be sub-par, that the condition of living in a rural locale creates deficiencies of various kinds – an educational deficiency in particular” even if they are being offered an excellent education (18). This holds true in the numbers: only 6.8% of adults in Mississippi hold a graduate degree, and only 12.6% hold BAs (Measure of America, 2012). If our students are to succeed and become life-long learners, we need to enact a cultural shift that places value on rural culture and cultural identity.

Given these studies as well as our own regional experiences…

We believe that a strong Arts Education is instrumental to overcoming educational inequality for our students in Mississippi. We know that our students deserve equal opportunities in education so that they may have equal opportunities in their futures. The arts are one of those critical opportunities, and one that is too often ignored. Our students deserve confidence in their cultural identity, pride in their creative expression. They have the right to the long-term benefits of a strong arts-education.  They deserve to see the arts as providing them with viable pathways to opportunity, and engage with the arts in their own communities.

It is no mystery that Mississippi is rich in culture, history, art, and music. From entire musical genres such as the blues and jazz, to some of our nation’s most celebrated writers like Faulkner and Walker Percy, from the pottery of McCarty to the portraits of Chris Kruse, to the birth of the Civil Rights movement to the recent ratification of the 13th amendment, Mississippi is brimming with beautiful and difficult culture.

However, the fertile cultural grounds of Mississippi are seldom if ever exposed to our students. Most elementary schools in Mississippi offer arts instruction to their students on a weekly basis at best. In the Delta, where regulation is less consistent, students may not have an art or music class for years on end. While the arts have been federally recognized as a core subject, they are untested and therefore often left to the wayside. Comparing our students’ rural experiences to their urban counterparts, it is only logical that they have less access to museums and concert venues as well as exposure to art we take for granted: buskers, concerts, street art, and other cultural events. Even if they do get a solid arts foundation, they have limited options in terms of real performance venues or opportunities to compete on a national level. It is therefore instrumental that we begin such exposure in the classroom and draw upon the communities we work within to enact a paradigm-shift for the arts in Mississippi.

What an Arts Education Looks Like for Us in the Classroom:

We have found that Discipline-Based Arts Education to be a highly effective pedagogy and structure for ensuring our students receive a holistic Arts Education. While we encourage invention, creativity, and exploration of different pedagogies, we want to ensure that every classroom focuses on the following strands throughout the year :

Production: Creating or performing. How do we know if students are getting it?  Creation Rubrics (Elementary Childhood Education Rubric as well as the Delta Creation Rubrics).

History/Culture: Encountering the historical and cultural background of works of art or music. How do we know if students are getting it?  Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, artist statements, and more.

Aesthetics: Discovering the nature and philosophy of art or music. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, visible in artworks, artist statements, and more.

Criticism: Making informed judgments about art. How do we know if students are getting it? Through written or verbal assessments aligned to the New York State Standards and Art Regents, artist statements, and more.