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Blue Savanna by Dahlov Ipcar (1978)

Dahlov Ipcar
Blue Savanna, 1978

Visual Arts Lesson

Teacher Reflections by Debbie DiGregorio

Reflection 1

Prior to teaching the Looking to Learn lesson, I taught a lesson on several styles of art including Fauvism, Cubism, Realism, Pointillism, and Abstract. This gave the students some prior knowledge that they were able to apply when looking at Ipcar’s Blue Savanna and Bierstadt’s Royal Arches. They observed that some of the colors in Ipcar’s painting looked unrealistic and reminded them of Fauvism and some of the animals looked abstract. They also commented on how all the shapes in her painting made it look like Cubism and how Bierstadt’s painting looked like Realism. I taught one other lesson prior to A Colorful Puzzle to help with the concept of stylizing. We looked at drawings by Frank Lloyd Wright for his Hollyhock House. The drawings showed how he abstracted the image of a hollyhock to use as a motif in the design of the house. The students selected an object to draw from observation, making it realistic. Next, they drew the object again, simplifying it into basic design elements, making it abstract. This proved helpful when the students practiced stylizing their animal for the Looking to Learn lesson.

Reflection 2

The students talked about and studied Blue Savanna in science class first. They felt familiar with the work upon seeing it again in the art room. In talking about the painting in art class, I asked the children to change their focus from using their “science eyes” to using their “artist eyes” when making observations about the painting. The most important thing I learned is that it is okay to spend time to do an in-depth lesson that takes many weeks to complete. In our world of instant gratification, a lesson like A Colorful Puzzle encourages the ability to work toward a goal, and to sustain enthusiasm and focus until the goal is reached. Students learned many concepts in the process, as well as developed a richer understanding and appreciation of Blue Savanna. It was wonderful to integrate science and art. It gave the students an opportunity to see the connection between the two subjects and a chance to study Blue Savanna in-depth. Scheduling time to meet with my team teacher was a challenge, but worth it.

Reflection 3

I used the following formative assessment techniques:

  • Sharing Learning Expectations – the learning objectives and directions were clearly displayed and referred to throughout the duration of the lesson, along with key vocabulary words of elements of art and principles of design. This provided students with the focus and direction for the lesson.
  • Questioning – effective discussions, questions, and learning tasks were engineered and tracked through the Teacher Observation Checklist – Art Vocabulary. This helped me to see whether or not the students understood the lesson concepts and provided a quick visual cue to see gaps in student understanding.
  • Feedback
  • Self-assessment – activating students as the owners of their own learning through the “Is my composition ready to paint?” checklist and the final Student Reflection. The “Is my composition ready to paint?” checklist helped students look carefully at their own work to determine if they had met the criteria before moving on to the next step.

My concept of assessment has been altered by this project because I am now thinking of and working on assessment for learning, seeking out ways to customize what formative assessment techniques work for me. Evidence of student progress in this lesson was that I observed greater student understanding and use of art vocabulary.


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