Writing about Art On-site: Field Trip to the Art Institute of Chicago (Day 2 of 2)

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SWBAT observe, note, and analyze visual art by respectfully discussing art pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Big Idea

We will see artistic creations in an upfront and personal setting, making our writings about art more real and compelling.

Reviewing/Setting Behavioral Expectations

10 minutes

As we gather on the bus, I will quickly revisit behavioral expectations for the trip.  We have already reviewed these in depth the day before, but a quick reminder of norms has been proven by research to get participants in the right frame of  mind.  We are after shared construction of meaning today, so observing norms will be key (SL.9-10.1b). 

Writing On Site

20 minutes

Informal Writing.  As we have discussed in previous lessons in this unit, our goal has been to focus on various genres of writing, all applied to visual prompts that are major art pieces at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The experience of actually going to the museum, it stands to reason, is vital to this unit.

In order to maximize our time together, I wanted to strike a balance between too much paperwork to do on site and too little.  Both extremes have been problematic on past fieldtrips: too little writing, and the students can zoom through the various exhibits, not knowing what to look for; too much paperwork/writing, and the experience of going can become a joy killer.

The Packet.  Everybody likes a scavenger hunt, and this packet is pitched that way.  It's really pretty fun!  Here, the art institute assignments is the notes packet that the students used.  I am indebted to at least three of my colleagues at my high school for creating the prompts because they invite the students to engage in various art forms, much in the ways that we discussed recently with the Billy Collins poem, and while there is not too much writing to do, this packet will certainly keep them actively engaged in taking in the art works through several short, informal writings (W.9-10.10).  The focus today will be on taking notes on various pieces of art work, and in the coming lessons, students may translate these notes into the basis for longer essays in various modes. 

Imaging in Comprehension.  At several points, the students are asked to draw the art work, and I do allow students to take photos of the art so that they can later do the drawing at home.  I also encourage them to photograph the info plaque next to each art piece because that will help them when they do their artist's statements, the Informative/Synthesis writing prompt in this unit (the first of which is a narrative, W.9-10.3, the second is informative, W.9-10.2, and the third is an argument, W.9-10.1).  That said, being able to turn words into images and back again is a key reading skill, and we will definitely continue to recruit imaging as we finish the year.  Already, the students have read a graphic novel (American Born Chinese, see that unit) and have done some storyboarding type of activities, but imaging and inferring can be higher level skills for grade 9, so I plan to leverage the artsy work that we are doing today as we do future readings.  

The Fieldtrip Experience

180 minutes

The Tour.  We toured throughout the Art Institute for 2+ hours!  The students took notes on the paintings, according to the prompts in their packets, and they also took turns leading the group to the next exhibit, which turns out to be a new strategy for me, but one that my class is ready for and a lot of fun, too!


 Which Galleries and Sites?  There are a few places in the Art Institute that I expected us to visit, just a few... but one of them is the Marc Chagall window display.  I will bring the to this site because the windows have an accessible but dreamlike quality that the students seemed to find interesting when we discussed surrealism.  The color is also a pleasant backdrop for a photo!  

That said, I did not over-plan our visit.  I have done that before and have found that the museum often puts certain paintings on loan to other galleries the day before my visits, invariably.  We need to work with what is there, right in front of us.  Thus, I asked the students to lead us from exhibit to exhibit. 


Our Group.  Here is a photo of our awesome group English 1 at art institute that one of my students took!  He's like a professional photographer already!!




10 minutes

Back in class, I will ask the students about what they learned and what they enjoyed most although it is clear to me that they were having fun and enjoying each other and the work (SL.9-10.1).  

I will ask:

1.) What exhibits did you find most rewarding?

2.) What writing prompts were difficult for you, and do you need any help?

3.) What do you learn when you sketch a piece of art work?  When you create a visual sketch of a short story? 

4.) How can you use some of these shorter writings to inform your longer writings? (English1WritingAboutArt.)