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NCSS 2010 Session Two – Teaching History with the Arts

(This is basically a live blog of the the morning’s second session, so please excuse grammar and spelling!)

Several weeks ago, I shared some info about the Picturing America site. Some great stuff for integrating the humanities into social studies instruction.

In the second session of the conference, Stephen LaMorte and Robbin Dehollander from Rochester, NY spent their time talking about how they use the Picturing America site with middle schools kids. They suggest that using the arts in social studies:

  • helps engage kids intellectually and emotionally
  • allows students to express themselves in a variety of ways
  • is project based
  • is a natural fit for Differeniated Instruction
  • is literacy based

They started their example by sharing the essential question:

How did the struggle for civil rights shape the culture of the time?

They used the Romare Bearden painting The Dove while playing some of Bearden’s music.

They used the very effective technique of breaking the image up in four parts while asking kids to “see” details in the image. (I’ve detailed this before.) Then show the entire image and ask the kids:

How does this image connect to your family, friends, pets, community, neighborhood?

Kids then read the poem:

Your World

Your world is as big as you make it.
I know, for I used to abide
In the narrowest nest in a corner,
My wings pressing clsoe to my side.

But I sighted the distant horizon
Where the skyline encircled the sea
AndI throbbed with a burning desire
To travel this immensity.

I battered the cordons around me
And cradled my wings on the breeze,
Then soared to the uttermost reaches
With rapture, with power, with ease!

Georgia Douglas Johnson (1880-1966)

Then kids are asked to look at another photo using the same “quartering” technique:

This image of the Selma Civil RIghts marchers is also on the Picturing America site. It’s also followed with a poem.


Locked arm in arm they cross the way
The black boy and the white,
The golden splendor of the day
The sable pride of night.

From lowered blinds the dark folk stare
And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare
In unison to walk.

Oblivious to look and word
They pass, and see no wonder
That lightning brilliant as a sword
Should blaze the path of thunder.

Countee Cullen (1903 – 1946)

In groups, kids then discuss how are the two images are alike and different. And finally,  kids write their own poetry. They didn’t mention it but  I would use the I Am poem strategy.

Overall, a nice way of using some pretty powerful stuff to help kids think about the civil rights movement. Find more lesson plans and goodies on the EDSITEment site.

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