Category Archives: arts integration

The ARTS of Mardi Gras

In this guest blog, Rebecca Brown, music teacher at Little River Elementary School, Orlando, shares her experiences teaching the arts of Mardi Gras.  This colorful celebration is a perfect opportunity to dig deeper into Jazz music and to experience cultural traditions.  Rebecca uses ideas and strategies from Teaching through the ARTS: WRITING in the lessons that she outlines below.

The ARTS of Mardi Gras – Rebecca Brown

Come January 1st, many Americans are busily putting away holiday decorations and starting to address their new year’s resolutions. In New Orleans, however, the celebrations are just getting started. January 6th marks the official start of Carnival season, which lasts several weeks and culminates on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. For the five years I taught in New Orleans, Carnival season was my favorite time of year.

The city truly comes alive in mid-January, as people decorate their homes with the official colors of Mardi Gras (purple, green, and gold) and elaborate parades start to roll through town with music that energizes the crowds. Many schools and workplaces have Friday King Cake parties, where the colorful ring-shaped dessert is served. School children also partake in the celebration with lessons on the history, art and music of Mardi Gras.  Since returning home to Florida two years ago, I include many Mardi Gras traditions in my classroom.

 

The Music of Mardi Gras

Essential Question: How do the arts enhance celebrations?

 Learning Goal: Students will be able to describe a cultural tradition through its music and art.

Music Content Standards:

  • Performing on instruments alone and with others;
  • Listening to, analyzing, and describing music;
  • Evaluating Music and Musical performances;
  • Understanding Music in relation to history and culture

Materials: Photographs of Louis Armstrong, pictures of a brass band or marching band, recording of Louis Armstrong’s When the Saints Go Marching In, recording of Dirty Dozen Brass Band When the Saints Go Marching In, rhythm sticks, jazz rhythm pattern cards

Lesson Outline:

The most natural way to introduce Mardi Gras is through music. On Day 1, I play Louis Armstrong’s When the Saints Go Marching In as students enter. Students complete an Active Music Listening Experience Guide (see p. 63 TTAW) as they listen again. After listening, discuss their responses to the melody, rhythm, and mood of the music. The students usually comment on how happy it sounds and how it makes them want to dance.

Next I introduce the Jazz style of music. I show students pictures of brass bands and parades and we discuss what instruments students heard in the recording. I explain the history of the music and of Louis Armstrong. There are many helpful books about jazz and jazz musicians (some are listed below). It’s easy to tie this reading into a variety of subject areas.

National E.L.A. Anchor Standards:

Relate ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

After our discussions, I play the Dirty Dozen Brass Band recording of When the Saints Go Marching In and ask students to compare the difference between this recording and Louis Armstrong’s recording.

I invite students to create a marching band along with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band recording.  Students move through general space with rhythm sticks, marching to the beat during the instrumental portion of the music. When the singing comes in, they freeze in place and student use rhythm sticks to play rhythms from selected rhythm cards. When the instrumental portion returns, students resume marching.

Partners share their impressions of the music of New Orleans.

 Integrating Visual Art of Mardi Gras

Another important aspect of Mardi Gras is the art. In addition to decorating their homes with festive colors and tinsel, many people in New Orleans use Carnival season as an opportunity to dress up for the parades. Some even wear hats, wigs and masks. Artists spend months creating parade floats. The Krewes, or societies that organize the parades often create floats and parade themes based on mythological figures (Orpheus, Morpheus, Proteus, etc.). Students in Louisiana created shoebox parade floats, modeled after the life-size versions from their favorite parades.

Using the Read the Picture strategy (p. 11 and 70 TTAW), students build background knowledge through reading photos and art images as well as pictures of Venetian style masks. Students can make their own decorative masks with construction paper and glitter to wear in a class parade

National Art Anchor Standards:

  • Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas.
  • Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Refine and complete artistic work,
  • Convey meaning through presentation of artistic work.

Summarizing

Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experience to making music and art.

Some Resources:

Teaching through the ARTS: WRITING by Mary Palmer and Susan Rosoff (TTAW)

The Jazz of Our Street by Fatima Shaik

If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong by Roxane Orgill

Mamma Don’t Allow by Thacher Hurd

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Re-Envisioning the Game of Statue Maker

We loved to play “Statue Maker” when we were kids. We’d spin and spin and when the leader called “statue”, we’d stop and try to stand still, still, still so we could continue playing. We re-envisioned this game using the arts integration strategy of tableaux (i.e. frozen pictures.)

Let’s get started by using the Read the Picture strategy with the two sculptures shown below. What is the same about these figures? Both are standing with their arms above their heads.   Canova’s figure of Winged Victory looks triumphant, but Atlas looks as if he is literally feeling the weight of the world. How is that difference communicated? How does the material chosen contribute to the mood?

E10620.jpgAtlas - Santiago

Antonio Canova,                          Unknown, Atlas, Praza do Toural, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Winged Victory, 1803-06.

Are there any similarities between the two sculptures below? Both seem to be standing quietly and starring off into space. What do you suppose The Little Dancer is thinking about? What is her mood?What do you imagine George Washington is thinking about? What is his mood? How did the artists convey these different feelings?

Degas, Edgar - Little Dancer NGA croppedHoudon, Jean-Antoine, George Washington

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer, 1878-81.        Jean-Antoine Houdon, George Washington, 1788-92.

The two sculptures below were designed as public monuments. Ernst Barlach (Bar’ – lah) work was designed to honor soldiers who died in World War I. It is a monumental bronze sculpture that is now housed in the Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany. The uniforms and headgear of the soldiers are significant. Why? The two standing soldiers as well as the soldier kneeling in the center wear different styles of uniforms and of headgear to represent German, French, and Russian soldiers. What is the figure on the bottom left showing? He seems to be hiding in fear, afraid to look out at the destruction. The figure on the bottom right is covering his ears to block out the sound of war.

In 1929, the people who commissioned Barlach to create the sculpture expected him to depict only German soldiers, and that the figures would look glorious and heroic. Why? Did Barlach have the same idea? He chose to depict the tragedy of war, no matter what nationalities are involved. As students create a tableaux of Barlach’s figures, ask them to describe the mood they are recreating. What are they doing with their bodies to communicate these moods? How does the pose make them feel?

Frederick Hart created Three Servicemen in bronze as a tribute to American soldiers who fought in Vietnam. How can you figure out which branches of the service are depicted? The figures on the left and right represent the Army, and the figure in the center represents the                                                                                                                           Marines. Talk about the expressions on the faces of the soldiers who are standing. Ask students to describe the feelings shown by each man. How do their poses communicate their feelings and thoughts? What do their clothes tell you? What else is communicated? How is Hart’s message different than Barlach’s?

Barlach, Ernst -Magdeburge Cenotaph   ??????????????????????????????????????

Ernst Balach,                                     Frederick Hart, Three Servicemen, 1984.

Magdeburg Cenotaph,*  1929.

Try creating tableaux of various sculptures that “fit” with what you are studying in various subject matter. Divide the class into small groups to create their tableaux. Vary the experience by having one or two students per group act as the sculptors. If the sculptors are the only people who see the art image, they will direct the tableaux-makers (i.e. create the sculpture) by using words to describe the poses and feelings depicted.   This definitely helps students hone their skills of observation and communication!

Extend this work with tableaux by having students create their own scenes based on characters or historical events they are studying. When we use games, the learning is fun and has lasting power!   With a little research, there seems to be an endless supply of amazing art work to help us connect in meaningful ways to just about any aspect of the curriculum.

Play on!

Susan and Mary

*A cenotaph is an “empty tomb,” meaning the remains of the people honored in the sculpture are in another place.

Reading: Make it DRAMATIC!

Take advantage of sound possibilities as you read with children. Pump up the drama in your voice to make the words exciting. Children will imitate your example.  As adults, we find that readers who speak dramatically on commercially produced “books on CD” draw us into the story in very compelling ways. At home or in school, our own dramatic reading does the same thing. Research shows that children who read expressively have greater understanding of what they read and are more interested in independent reading. Your expressive reading is a model for children to emulate.

Here are some ideas to help you get started.

With its repeated (and short) refrains, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins with illustrations by Eric Gurney, has many possibilities for engagement and bringing words to life for the younger set. Written with a strong beat, the story easily lends itself to rhythmic reading. The repeated refrain     “Dum ditty     Dum ditty     Dum dum dum”   as well as multiple rhyming couplets (thumb-drum; hum-drum) invite participation. As the millions of monkeys gather to play their drums, the reader escalates the tempo as well as the volume to reflect the changing scene.

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb

In the Wild with stunning poetry by David Elliott and gorgeous woodcut and watercolor illustrations by Holly Meade can build interest in poetry as a means of describing the world. We especially like the analogies suggested in the poetry. For example, did you ever think about likenesses between an elephant and a cloud? By reading the poetry with expression and perhaps even a touch of drama, you help to elevate the power of the words and the illustrations. We’ve found that that this book resonates with teachers and students alike.

In the Wild

For older students, the Carl Sandburg poem Jazz Fantasia (http://allpoetry.com/Jazz-Fantasia) offers a great link to reading with a recording of jazz music. Listen to a variety of music to find something that “works” with the feeling of the poem.

Adding Sound Effects is another great way to “up” the interest in reading. For example, as you read a train story, create the sounds of the train. Repeat in an almost whisper voice: “Chug-a, Chug-a”; add a “Whoo-oo” for the train whistle; how about a “Shhh—ooo” for letting off some steam in an old-fashioned train? Putting these sounds together creates a Soundscape that gives us a “sound picture” of a train.  Try creating a story and adding sounds to  Train in Snow,  by Claude Monet, 1875.

Monet, Train in Snow, 1875

Playing instruments to “tell” a nursery rhyme, song, or story is a great way to help children focus on the essence of the rhyme. Click here for a video of Mary and Susan performing a “mystery” nursery rhyme. Can you identify it from the sounds only? Keeping the steady beat of this rhyme allows children to “think” the rhyme as they play the sounds to accompany the words that they are hearing inside of their heads. Talk about brain development!

The Napping House by Audrey Wood with illustrations by Don Wood allows readers to choose sounds to represent the action in the story. When these representative sounds are played together, children are creating a Soundscape, or collage of sounds, that helps to advance the mood of the story. Select instruments to represent the characters in the Napping House: snoring granny (softly play the guiro or other notched instrument); dreaming child (gently “swish” wind chimes); dozing dog (scrape fingers over a drum head); snoozing cat (lightly twirl maracas); slumbering mouse (tap the rim of a tambourine); and that wakeful flea who changes the scene (crashing of finger cymbals.) As characters are introduced in the story, sounds are added until all sounds are playing together. Things get frantic (louder and faster) when the wakeful flea arrives! No instruments? Try using “found sounds” (things in the environment such as paper flapping, crumpling, or tearing) or “vocal sounds” (such as snoring, whistling, heavy breathing.) You’ll be greeted with “Let’s read it again.” Truly music to a parent’s or teacher’s ears!

Imagine going to the movies and hearing no sounds other than the voices on the screen. The result probably wouldn’t draw you into the story. To remedy this, enter the Foley artists (who create and record natural, everyday sound effects in a film), the sound designer (who produces the special audio effects), and sound producers (who put it all together in a professional soundtrack for the movie.) An added bonus: adding sound effects and soundscapes to reading can provide a unique career exploration opportunity!

Whether reading at home or at school, try videoing a reading with your own sound effects and soundscape to heighten the interest. Click here to hear a Soundscape created by teachers at a recent workshop presented by Mary and Susan. This Soundscape brings Van Gogh’s Farmhouse in Provence to life.

Sounds really do bring a story, rhyme, poem, or dramatization to life. Often children’s interest in books and reading is ignited by the opportunity to experiment with sounds to help tell the stories.

We hope that you’ll share some of your favorite dramatic reading materials with us.  Through the ARTS… read on!

Mary and Susan

SCIENCE and ART???    DIVE INTO A CORAL REEF… SOMETHING’S FISHY HERE!

An elementary school student’s burgeoning interest in science inspired some awesome art making. The book Coral Reef: A City that Never Sleeps, by Mary M. Cerullo, motivated us to learn about reefs.

Coral reef book

With a long piece of paper for a mural (taped up on a window wall), father and daughter went to work at creating a reef of their own. We needed a large space since the reef had such a variety of aquatic life. We couldn’t fit a whole reef into a small space!

Drawing coralDrawing Reef

Together, we noticed that coral came in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. The father/daughter team of artists started with branch coral and tube coral.

Scuba diver and fishDad's coral and fish

The wide variety of beautiful fish reminded us of the seldom-visited world on the ocean floor. In her red and black wet suit, a young scuba diver is going to take a closer look at the brightly colored fish. There are only a few of each kind of fish on a reef, so their neon colors are meant to help them attract mates, (With too many of the same species in one spot, competition for food would diminish their chances for survival.) The brilliant colors help the fish find each other.   Once the fish pair up, their sparkling colors make it easier for them to defend their territory.

Unfinished

There’s lots more to do before we’re finished with our reef mural, but this framework was a good start.

Next time we’re going to take a look at Christopher Still’s painting, Beyond the Seven Mile Bridge (http://www.christopherstill.com/murals.htm), which is a wonderful and well researched mural currently hanging in the chamber of the Florida House of Representatives .

Still, Christopher - beyond the seven mile bridge

Christopher Still said that the coral reefs in the Florida Keys were a resource to be protected, and no doubt the presence of this detailed underwater scene reminds legislators every day of our state’s treasure. Still paints from direct observation, so he engineered special equipment to use for his underwater sketching.

Still’s painting is another rich example of life on the sea floor. Using a variety of resources builds depth in children’s thinking about a subject. Talking about the overall underwater scene as well as the detail observed will enhance the artwork created.

Turn up the impact of your ocean reef by adding music. Choose music that helps to take artists and viewers into the image. Listen to music in order to decide on a “fit” for this image. Sometimes composers create music specifically to describe a person, place or feeling. French composer Camille Saint-Saens wrote a collection of short pieces, The Carnival of Animals. These pieces describe particular animals and scenes.   While viewing the coral reef mural, we love playing “Aquarium” to help to create the feeling of underwater life. This music is readily available at online resources and elsewhere. In addition, there are many children’s books about The Carnival of Animals suite. Two choices that include a CD of the music are: The Carnival of the Animals by Jack Prelutsky, United States Children’s Poet Laureate; and Carnival of The Animals: Classical Music for Kids by Sue Williams.

51wF0m-UD5L._AA160_

Whether at home or in a classroom, mural making can be a great time for collaborative planning and doing.  In addition to learning more about coral reefs, the experience of art-making helps to open eyes.  It’s surprising how many murals you’ll suddenly see around your town once you delve into mural making!

We hope that you’ll dive in to an ocean reef. The water’s fine – and so are the sites and sounds!!

Susan and Mary