Unit Reflection

Unit Reflection 2012:

Abstract Expressionism:  Painting Music

This year was the third time I taught this unit.  I began this unit with a bit of independent research.  Students researched the art movement of Abstract Expressionism, it’s artists and it’s language.  This is very different than the way I’ve began this unit before.  In the past, I’ve begun by discussing abstract expressionism painting and asking students the question “What do you see”.  Often students had not encountered abstract art before and would comment” I don’t understand”, or “my little sister paints like that”.  They were sometimes not open to discussing the work because of these preconceived ideas.  The research component I think was a successful way to begin.  Students understood the philosophy of abstract artists and the underlying principals of the movement.  This gave them a conceptual framework about what they were doing and why they were doing it when they began to create their own paintings.  Students also were given an opportunity to interact with a variety of abstract painters; they choose one that inspired them.  This gave them a visual reference for when they painted their own work.  I thought the quality of work was better and more thoughtful than when I’ve done this project in the past.  This opinion come from the conversations I had with students about their work, they were able to better articulate their intentions and each mark had a meaning.

Some problems were that we didn’t have enough time, the project was rushed at the end of the semester, I wasn’t able to add discussion or presentations about their research or the artist they chose.  I also didn’t give enough time for the written component at the end.  We should have discussed or debated the topic first, hear from a variety of opinions then they could write their own position independently.

Completion rate:  73%

Cartoon Character:

This is the second year I taught this project.  Both years used the film Spirited Away as a lead-in to the project.  Students enjoyed the movie more than they thought they would every year.  The key to using this movie is to make a clear connection as to why we are watching it.  I felt that I was more explicit and transparent with my intentions this year than last year.  I was much better at making the connection on WHY we were watching the film.  Did it help?  It showed cartoons aren’t just for kids; there is an artistic, aesthetic side to cartoons.  They understood the symbolism and the evolution of the main character; I was able to make the connection to what they learned in English.  However, this year, I don’t know if it helped with the design of their own character.  I need to have them do more planning and thinking about their character.  I also need to consistently refer back to the essential question and make the connection to the movie more than once.  Also, the project itself needs to have a focus…i.e. instead of just saying “design a character”, say “design a character that has a hidden power”, or “design a character that represents the power you wish you had in your life”.  The task needs to be more focused.

Students seemed interested in project.  Many students who in the past were difficult to motivate were more engaged in the project.  Problem is that I didn’t reinforce the essential question towards the end of the project, so the level of thinking was not where I’d like it to be.  Many expressed desire to do more plaster, but they were engaged in the project because of the novelty of the material not the activities and thinking that lead up to the project.

Percentage complete: 82.5 %


Unit Reflection 2011:

My Personal Utopia/Dystopia: 1 point perspectiveEssential Questions How does the creation of dystopias and utopias allow us to evaluate our society’s faults?  How can we use a vanishing point to create the illusion of depth on a 2 dimensional sheet of paper?


SWBAT use a vanishing point and the 1 point perspective formula to create the geometric shapes of buildings and man-made structures.


Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, Futurism


Lesson Sequence:1. Looking at ART:  What is perspective?  What is a Utopia and Dystopia?  How have artists depicted ideal or terrible worlds as a method to warn others of impending doom?  Students will create a sketch of their own utopia and dystopia.2. MATERIALS EXPLORATION: Guided PracticeStudents will create a structure that uses 2 boxes, 4 geometric shapes and 2 windows to show they understand the formula of 1 point perspective.1. How to draw boxes with a horizon line and a vanishing point.2.  How to draw geometric shapes and combine shapes into a building.

3.  How to draw windows

4.     How to draw intersecting roads.

3. Final Project:   Creating your personal Utopia or Dystopia

In progress peer interview “What techniques do you want to learn from your classmates?”

4.  Gallery Walk:  Students will discuss work in groups and present their work to their peers.

Enduring Understandings Artists often create worlds exaggerating the ideal or the horrible to inspire audiences to think.  Artist uses formulas to create the illusion of depth on a 2 dimensional surface.


Vanishing point, horizon, utopia, dystopia, perspective

Assessment Evidence

1. Guided practice drawing: evidence of knowing how to draw boxes, shapes and windows in 1 point perspective.2.  Written work:  Brainstorming, peer review and artist statement.3.  Final Drawing4.  Gallery walk group participation, presentation


What went well?

I taught this last year, but had the lessons in a different sequence.  I started first with the looking at art this year.  It gave students the conceptual framework for the project.  I think it helped.

So much better than last year!  I shortened the practice drawing to just he basics.  Instead of using imaginary landscape, I like the use of Uptopia and Dystopia.  Gives the theme more weight.  I was better at explaining the steps to one point perspective.

We also included an in-progress peer feedback session, where students interviewed each other about different techniques they used in their drawings.

What can be improved?

I want to do some more writing and discussing on the essential question at the very beginning of the project.  I aim to include more free writing or sketching at the beginning and use the essential question in the artist statement at the end.  Maybe having student write how their own uptopia or dystopia comments on the social problems they see or what statement their artwork makes about current society.

What needs to be rethought/redone?

The gallery walk needs to be done in a different way.  I think I want to do more presentations.

Overall how did it go? They loved it.  This project had the highest turn-in rate, the highest grades, and the happiest students.



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