Sunday, August 14, 2005

Good Charlotte....

My school is influenced by Charlotte Mason, a British educator from the Victorian era. Since school starts next week, I've been going over some of her ideas on Picture Study. When I came to teach here, I was immediately excited about this method of looking at art with children. While it's not an earthshattering process, it's so effective--one of those things that's so simple you wonder why you've never thought of it before! Here are some quotes from the book When Children Love to Learn, a book of essays exploring and explaining Charlotte Mason's methods (edited by Elaine Cooper):

Regarding Picture Study:

"...Appreciation of art involves acquiring not technical knowledge, but what Mason calls 'reverent knowledge of what has been produced. Children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but the pictures themselves.'....a spiritual harmony takes place where teacher and pupils enjoy the details together, learning from one another how to see the artist's work."

"...Robert Browning said that we really learn to see things when we see them painted, 'things we have passed perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see.' Students can develop a relationship, indeed a spiritual one, with artists and their works that grows out of reading their pictures."

Here is a description of a Picture Study session (taken from my own experience and the above-mentioned book:)

1. Students are given a brief summary of the artist's life and work, shown where he falls on the timeline, etc.

2. This part was the key NEW element for me as an art teacher.....each student is given his OWN PRINT OF THE PAINTING (about 8"x10", not to keep, unfortunately.) This is obviously an investment, having all these prints, but so worth it! All prints are FACE DOWN at this point--the students have not seen the image yet.

3. Students turn over the prints and study them silently for several minutes. I ask, "What do you see?" and they give me their first impressions of the work--subject matter, brushstrokes, color, etc.

4. "Study the painting for 1 more minute. Close your eyes. Can you see the painting in your mind? If not, keep looking!"

5. Everybody turns their print FACEDOWN again. From memory, we try reconstruct the painting verbally. Students raise their hands and contribute details, hopefully listening to each other and not repeating one another.

6. We turn over the painting again and notice what we've missed.

This process is somewhat gamelike, and the kids generally really enjoy it. The whole process takes around 20 minutes. By providing each child with his "own" painting, a sense of personal ownership is given, if only for a short time. The work of art feels like a friend....I have found this aspect of the process(personal prints) to be really important. The idea is for the students to take the painting into the soul, to really "own it."

SOOOOO, this year the Lower School is studying Giotto, Rembrandt, and Cezanne. As the school year progresses, several paintings by each artist will be studied using the above method. By year's end, this small body of work will be extremely familiar to the students--like old friends. Different artists are studied each year, rotating on a four-year cycle. Hopefully, by the time a student completes his time at the Lower School, they're on personal terms with many of the greatest works of Western culture....

Hurray for Ms. Mason!!!!!

I like that idea a lot! It would be great if the students could keep their prints, but I can see the value even without that. I think it would be interesting to see which kids came up with which details. Who notices color? Medium? Technique?
coin holder details here. This is a great site, thanks for sharing.
oh how i miss C!! wish I was there to do a picture study! hope teacher work week has been going well.....
i have been thinking of you all...
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