Sixth grade students recently completed a unit studying The Harlem Renaissance. We applied the concept of imagery in relation to music and poetry. Students listened to music by Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, and Jelly Roll Morton and described what visual imagery they imagined while listening. Students illustrated poems using imagery by Langston Hughes, Clarissa Scott Delaney, Claude McKay, and Gwendolyn Bennett.
We took this knowledge one step further and created an original project incorporating the arts: visual art, literature and music.
After learning about visual artists of The Harlem Renaissance: Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones and Romare Bearden, students discovered that artists are often inspired by their own environment, history, and personal interests. Students were asked to create a list of interests to help determine the subject matter of their project.
From their list of interests, students were to create an original story or poem. Once students completed the writing, they were to use the descriptive words of imagery to produce a 12x18" artwork. Each student was encouraged to use the art media of their choice: watercolor, tempera, oil pastel, chalk pastel, marker, crayon, colored pencil, collage, or a combination.
Once the artwork was completed, students were asked to select a song to accompany their story and artwork. As students presented their work, we took time to listen to segments of their selected music.
Below are a few examples of the students' work.
After 18 years of age, and 12 years of school, imagine me long gone. Imagine me halfway across the continent in the famous city of Hollywood. Imagine me one the screen of the movie theaters. Imagine me on the billboards of every town. Imagine yourself buying to my very own worldwide tour. Imagine me sweeping the nation Imagine me in an amazing Broadway show. Imagine all of the people that never thought I could do it, sitting at home drowning in their own rage. Just imagine. I will be famous. I could be a house hold name. You just watch!
Song Accompaniment: “Hall of Fame” – The Script
There once was a cat who lived in a forest. One day, the cat-catchers found him and took him away. Oh, but this cat is a clever cat and he escaped onto a boat that was going to Africa. He got trapped where all the zoo animals were and became friends with a cheetah. When they got off the boat, the cheetah and the cat were supposed to go to the zoo, but they escaped. “Where are we going?” the cat asked. “Away from here” said the cheetah. The cheetah and the cat found a jungle. Even though the cat had never been in a jungle, he liked it. To this day, the cheetah and the cat rule the jungles of Africa.
Song Accompaniment: “Yellow Flicker Beat” – Lorde
The fire breathing beast has awakened. He raises his wings and roars to warn the village he is coming for them. He arrives and burns down the village and finds a man that stuck a sword in his foot, so he throws him across the beach. To make sure he would not get up he ripped open his chest and ate his heart. So he could live he gave the man a magic heart.
Song Accompaniment: “Scream” – Avenged Sevenfold
We were between the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee. We were at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Our campsite was right next to a creed, and on the other side was the start of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The creed was pure with lots of rocks. As we looked across the creek, there was huge elevation going higher and higher. Then all of a sudden there right in front of us was about 6-10 Turkeys. These Turkeys were not regular Turkeys; the top of their head was almost 2-4 feet tall. But then they went back across the river to the Smokey Mountain National Park. We had a campfire that night that was strong, bold, and bright with our dog Milo by our sides. We decided to go to bed, and in the morning on the Nation Park side of the creek, was a deer getting an early morning drink. Up on the Mountainside was the sun rising over the Mountains. The sky turned instantly from black to blue to begin our day.
Song Accompaniment: “Animals” – Maroon 5
Once upon a time there was a frog in the mud on a lily pad. The other frogs were having fun, but the one frog, Hoppson was not having fun because he had no one to play with so one day a leech came and said hi and if he would play so Hoppson said yes and they played all day and 20 years later they were still friends, and they just float in the water.
Song Accompaniment: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” – Randy Newman
This was it. Emma was running down the field. There no one by her. She runs as fast as she can with the soccer ball by her feet. Suddenly, as a person on the opposite team tries to get it away from her, but she goes the opposite direction away from him. The she passes it to a teammate. The teammate did not grab it, and Emma’s in fear. Then someone else form her team stops it with her foot, and dribbles it to the goal. I look at the score board to see how much time is left, we were at a tie. The she passes it to Emma. Emma kicks the soccer ball with all her strength. The goalie jumps up, touches the ball, but it was too high to catch it. As the black and white ball goes over the goalies head, everyone is silent observing if it is about to go in. The ball touches the net, and Emma’s team cheers.
Song Accompaniment: “We Are One (Ole Ola)” – Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez & Claudia Leitte
Once upon a time, there was a boy and he loved archery. The boy got a bow when he was little and was told he could shoot it, but the boy could not pull it back to hunt. So he got a 20 gauge and a hunting license permit. So when he went out hunting he shot a deer. He was little so he was really happy and so was his dad. So he climbed down the stand and started to gut it. The boy was allowed to move his dad’s truck to the closest clearing. When he got back from moving the truck, he helped his dad put the deer in the back of the truck. They then cut up the deer and ate it.
Song Accompaniment: “Come with Me Now” - KONGOS
Once there was a wolf that lost his way in the woods. He found a giant rock and slept through the night. When he awoke, the woods were still. He could only hear the chirp of birds in the trees. Then all of a sudden, a pack of wolves jumped out of the woods. As they approached, he sang a song. Then all of the wolves sang along. The wolf found wolves of his own so he wouldn’t be alone ever again.
Song Accompaniment: “Animals” – Maroon 5
Otis is my dog. He passed away when he was 13 years old. The vets told my parents he was supposed to be 7 or 8 when he died, but he was 13! That’s 91 in dog years! Otis was very lazy as he got older. I called him a couch potato. Whenever he was younger and we would take him on walks, he would always walk past other dogs that were in their yards, like he was a king. You could never stay mad at Otis. Once he ate all of my dad’s birthday cake, and my dad was about to explode, then Otis looks at my dad with his puppy eyes. Otis had always loved to sit in the sun. His black coat would absorb all the heat so when he would come inside he was a furnace. Otis was my best friend for the longest time. My friends would ignore me sometimes and I felt terrible. So I would take Otis on two mile long walks. I wish I had him here because I don’t get acknowledged as much as I would like. Otis was a great dog. When he died, it was the day before I started school. I was devastated. Otis will always be my best friend and no dog and no one will understand me like Otis did.
Song Accompaniment: “How to Save a Life” – The Fray
Breathe in, breathe out
Pull the bow out of your pouch
Be still so the deer does not see you
Pull back your bow so you can shoot
Aim in your peep hole
Look down at your sites
Let go of the string
Watch the arrow fly through the air
Watch it hit the deer
Watch the deer fall over
Song Accompaniment: “Buck Fever” – The Bone Collector featuring Rhett Atkins & Dallas Davidson
There was a young girl who was not accepted for who she was. She loved piano, but couldn’t express from the emotional breakdowns for people judging her and making her believe she’s not good. She started to gain her confidence back, when she did, she started small in a restaurant. Then, later she auditioned for a high end college and she became big. She ended up playing piano all over, and got better and better and proved everyone wrong!
Song Accompaniment: “All of Me” – John Legend
The mighty pack surrounds the tree
They prepare to hunt, you see.
The magnificent beasts prepare to bite,
into a deer on this very night.
As they prepare to hunt right now,
they actually start to howl.
The alpha wolf begins the song,
then all the wolves join along.
The wolf pack howls at the moon.
Song Accompaniment: “Centuries” – Fall Out Boy
To coincide with our Harlem Renaissance unit in the classroom, fifth and sixth grade Art Club students collaborated to recreate an artwork by Jacob Lawrence. Students volunteered last week during their lunch and recess time to paint pieces of Lawrence's "Library" to assemble a 4x5 foot mural.
I removed all color from an image of Lawrence's painting in Adobe Photoshop. I enlarged the image to print across 36 sheets of 8.5x11 inch construction paper. The pieces were pinned to my classroom bulletin board surrounded by figures and works of The Harlem Renaissance.
Students who were interested in participating came during lunch and recess, a total of 42 minutes. We ate together in my classroom and as students finished eating, they were encouraged to select a piece of the mural to paint.
Students used tempera paint, just as Lawrence had used. Each student had to mix paints and identify their placement based on an image of the original painting.
This activity tied in well with our classroom discussion about how the arts reflect and impact communities. The students' creation will be viewed prominently in their own community at the Oregon Public Library this month.
As we continue our study of The Harlem Renaissance, each student will create an original artwork with accompanying written story or poem as well as a personal selection of music. Each class will curate an exhibition of their peers to also display in the community.
I am very proud of how hard these students worked and for volunteering their time last week to participate. The mural looks amazing thanks to their dedication!
The students' mural is now on display at Oregon Public Library!
Mr. DeWilde's Blog
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