October 26th Class

This was a very good class for learning how to use AI to inspire writing.  I think we should have a few more classes like this, because writing is one of the hardest things to get kids to engage in.  There were 3 activities that stood out to me.

One activity we did was to look at self-portraits by Rembrandt and Van Gogh.  We had to express an opinion as to which one we thought was more successful.  Based on that, we got into groups and read 2 short articles on the artist.  After that, we engaged in philosophical chairs.  One person from a group says why he/she thinks her chosen painting is more successful.   Then a person from the opposite group has to repeat what the person said and then add their own argument.  The objective is to try not to be so emotional in one’s argument vs. trying to base one’s argument more on fact.  I know this would have to be modified a bit for my ELLs, but I think it could be done.  Finally, we each had to write our own piece as to why we thought our painting was more successful than the other:

Van Gogh’s self-portrait is the more successful because he painted for the true joy of painting. He sold only one painting in his lifetime, and yet he painted 800 paintings and over 30 self-portraits.  This showed a dedication that was completely internally driven.  And, although he studied the works of Millet, Reuben, and various Japanese artists, he truly came up with a style of painting that was unique, a visionary artistry that had not been seen before.  Whereas Rembrandt’s painting almost seems like a photograph, Van Gogh’s style of painting reveals more about himself because he’s not bound by total realism.  His eyes pop off of the canvas.  The planes of his face are drawn with a multitude of colors that convey his age, gauntness, and suffering.  The texture of his paint strokes underscore the tactile nature of his clothing and the walls and door surrounding him.  His self-portrait is literally “in your face,” vs. Rembrandt’s more subtle psychological rendering, and yet it requires thoughtful study to pull out the secrets of the subject.

Another thing that our teacher touched upon was mask-making.   As I sat looking at the examples Nancy brought to class, I wished that I could be in her class.  I wished that I could go back to school and experience the joy of creating.  Public school art teachers and their classes are so cool because students get to experiment in such a variet of media.  If I were to take a course at nearby Anne Arundel Community College, for example, I would have to specialize in one medium. How I wish I could experience the joy of creating in a new medium each week.  But to get back to mask-making, although my students and I could not create the more complex masks she did with her students, I could help my students learn about masks from their families’ home countries and create them out of paper plates and paper sculpture.  The idea would be to creat a mask that reflected something about their own lives.  The final part of the project would be to write about themselves.  The work Nancy’s students did was impressive.  I know the kids loved the book they made out of photographs of the masks and their personal narratives.

The very first thing we did in class was to listen to Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo.  What a great composition!  We had to listen to it, jot down some of our impressions, and then make up a story that was inspired by the music.  I had to purposefully get the picture of Oklahoma out of mind, which contained similar music.  Once I let myself go, I began to write and write. I don’t know if any of my students would be able to write very much during an exercise like this. I have 30 minutes.  Maybe we could do the music at the top of the 30 minutes and spend the rest of the time writing. My young students take quite a bit of time to write one sentence.  Not because they’re ELLs, but because of their age.  They painstakingly write each word, and if they decide to erase something, they do it very carefully, sometimes taking 1/2 a minute for that alone!  If I suggest they erase one word, watch out!  So often they want to start over and erase the whole thing!  It’s the world of the elementary student!  Patience is a huge requirement of the elementary school teacher. Anyway, this is what I wrote, after listing to Aaron Copeland:

I was never much good at riding horses, but my romantic nature had always conjured up images of myself riding on a beach in Ireland, or across a field, hair blowing in the wind, feeling free as a bird.  One day, as I was nearing a big birthday milestone, I decided to make this dream come true. I signed up to go to a Dude Ranch in Wyoming.  I took all the essentials: my makeup bag, my hairdryer, my lavender/chamomile lotion. Oh, and my jeans and my brand new boots that I got at Andover Saddlery. I even had one of those western scarves to wear around my neck.

When I got to the Circle A, we were hustled off to our accommodations—a bit more rustic than I imagined.  Then we had to meet to go over what preparations we had to do before heading out at 5 in the morning.  We also went over safety issues.  The folks who were there all seemed to be in groups of two or more, and I was one of the few who had come solo. I think we all were nervous.  I just prayed they’d give me a gentle horse.

The next morning was exhilarating. I guess we were all high on adrenaline.  They assigned us horses and then we were supposed to follow directions to saddle them.  Okay, just getting the heavy blanket over the back of the horse was hard, let alone the saddle. And you had to get it at just the right place on the horses back.  Our leader said that sometimes horses blow up their stomachs when you’re tightening the girth, so we kind of had to make sure that didn’t happen.  How?  I have no clue.  One of the ranch hands came over and helped adjust my saddle, but then he made me put the bit into the horse’s mouth. No way could I do that!  I tried, I tried, and I tried again.  But, Lord, that horse’s teeth were so big!  The ranch hand said, “He ain’t gonna bite you, little lady. You just stick that dang thing in there.  Look.”  And he proceeded to put his fist in the horse’s mouth behind his huge teeth!

 Okay, we got the horse tacked up, but then I had to get on the horse.  Oh, no.  First I went on the right side of the horse, and then “Cool Hand Luke,” the ranch hand with the Paul Newman eyes,  chuckled and said, “Left side, left side.”  I tried to get on the darn horse, but honestly I needed a crane.  Having difficulty getting on the horse did not bode well for a week long’s cattle drive.

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About Kate Collins

AACPS Teacher (Certified in ESOL, Special Education, English, and Theater)
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