Visual Arts Lesson
Teacher Reflections by Sally Mitchell
I really enjoy teaching this lesson. I love the connections the students make between the Joseph Marriner Gerrish Family and their own family portraits. The lesson is fun and engaging for the students. The class discussions that evolve around the Gerrish Family portrait are very intriguing and students immediately become interested in learning more about the 1820s. Using the poster of the Gerrish Family portrait is effective in introducing students to early 19th-century America. I used the poster every day when teaching the daily assignments because the criteria for the lesson are visible in the portrait, making the poster a good visual reference for the students as they moved through the various components of the project.
I wanted students to think about the history of their own family and to consider what is special about their family. We discussed how there are many different kinds of families, and how the special personal details about their family were the key to making their portraits unique. By coordinating this project with the social studies teacher and the unit on immigration, the students acquired information about their own heritage, established greater awareness of and connections to their families, and created meaningful works of art. Students were able to connect the immigration work they were doing in the social studies classroom and their own family stories to the family portraits they were creating in the art classroom. The Gerrish Family portrait was the link for all the different activities.
The daily checklist was aligned with the project criteria and allowed me to follow student progress by roaming the room and assessing their work. This freedom to “roam” opened the potential for student-teacher discussion and feedback. Along with the Art Process Journals and the final products, this one-on-one contact provided me with an effective measurement of what each student actually learned from the lesson. I first reviewed and evaluated their understanding of each component as found in their journals. I was able to check to see if the criteria of each step was understood and properly shown in their work. I try to inspire an imaginative, original, and creative method of art making in my classroom. I remain open to the students being able to justify their artistic decisions. I don’t look for or encourage similar-looking final products from each student, so I really feel that these formative assessment techniques work the best for me!