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Teaching with Images

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Michelle Fisher

on 25 October 2013

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Transcript of Teaching with Images

The Value of an Open-Ended Question

What are the themes you want your students to explore when you read the Epic of Gilgamesh?

• The emergence of culture and civilization
• Human self-awareness and the balance of the different facets of self (moving from an unknowing state to a knowing state)
• Power and control

Learning Through Drawing
Prompt for your students: Today, we're going to investigate how context affects writing.

Make sure everyone's on the same page - ask them "What might we mean by context?

Just now, we're going to look closely at two images by the same artist, and we're going to exercise our analytical description, sketching, and collaborative skills.

Further Images
Cylinder seals // Ziggurat temple // Uruk Vase & Ishtar Gate // Images from the Iraq War & Saddam Hussein’s Palace/rebuilding schemes

The Takeaway Part 1

Using open-ended questions around objects contextualizes the literature under study, and provides an additional way to get students engaged in the classroom.
Places to find resources for teaching with images
Take your students on a museum visit!
Neil MacGregor's "A History of the World in 100 Objects"
Arthistoryteachingresources.org – esp. online syllabi & museum videos
MoMA Learning
The Met Museum's Timeline of Art History and 82nd and Fifth

Questions? Discussion?
Using open-ended questions with images
1. What do you see? What are the first things you notice?

2. How do you think Ancient Sumerian people might have used an object like this one?

3. Can you see cuneiform on these objects? What do you think the symbols might mean in this context?

Why teach with images?
Helps to visualize the text/historical period/concepts under study

Connects study to concrete, contemporary experience

Visual Literacy = a transferable skill for other academic pursuits, and the eventual job market
Teaching with Images
Transferable Skill - Columbia University's Narrative Medicine Program
"Learning Through Art" at the Guggenheim Museum
Primary research Q: "Does looking at art teach students to be better critical thinkers?" YES!

Those who participated in the program performed better in all six categories of the following literacy and critical-thinking skills:

• Extended focus • Hypothesizing • Providing multiple interpretations
• Schema-building • Giving evidence • Thorough description

Object Info:
What makes a good open-ended question?
• Start with an observational question, such as "What do you see?" or "What do you notice?" This helps students observe before they interpret.

• Then ask open-ended interpretive questions, some general and some about the theme you want to explore. For this exploration, it might be "How do ancient texts relate to daily life?"
• Brainstorm several interpretive questions. You can eliminate some and sequence the rest later.

• Remember, open-ended questions don't demand a particular answer, elicit yes/no answers, or contain answers in them.

What kinds of open-ended discussion questions could you have your students respond to?

[Work on the model of “Think, pair, share”]

The describer should look closely at the image on the projector, and carefully describe it to the artist. The artist will sketch the image according to their partner's description.

Describers - sit on your hands! Your description must rely on your precision of language, not hand gestures :)
Set up
Museum Visit
Post-poem Discussion questions
1. Describers - Which elements stood out for you when you were describing this work? What did you notice first? Artists, what did you notice first when you turned around?

2. What similarities or differences do we see between the work of Picasso and Neruda? Do they tell the same story of the Spanish Civil War, or two different ones?

3. [Low-stakes writing prompt] Which work – Picasso’s or Neruda’s - is more persuasively anti-war, and why?

How to devise an open-ended "inquiry-based" set of questions around images and objects - connected to "The Epic of Gilgamesh."

How to get students to engage with images through sketching and writing activities - connected to Pablo Neruda's "I'm Explaining a Few Things."

How to structure a museum visit.
So, although the Epic of Gilgamesh wasn’t the very first thing written (it was written about 1000 years after the very earliest cuneiform tablets have been dated), writing was still a relatively new skill that showcased human ability to adapt to and control their environment.
"In the era of Saddam Hussein, protector of Iraq, who rebuilt civilization and rebuilt Babylon."
Post-drawing Reflection
What was the easiest part of the exercise?

What was the hardest part of the exercise?

Can you guess anything about the context of these works? What might these works be about?
$50 for a guided educator tour for 25 students at the Rubin; $4 per student at the Met Museum and the Cloisters; $5 at the Guggenheim.

Eg, at the Rubin Museum, ask for a tour that focuses broadly on the subject of "Contemplation."

Prep your students beforehand: discuss secular and religious contemplation in ________ poetry

Compare and contrast an object from the museum collection, and a short poem that has been read together in class.
The Takeaway, part 2

The blind drawing exercise is a participatory way to begin your class. It gets everyone talking and makes them confident they, too, have the vocab to describe images, setting them up for the same experience when they get to the text. It also teaches the skill of "compare and contrast."
• The first cuneiform inscriptions are dated to around 3,100 BCE and are found in the Ancient Near East in Southern Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) near the cities of Uruk and Sumer.
• This may not be the earliest writing – it was created on clay which baked hard and remained durable where other materials did not.
• Why is it important? Well, writing marked the beginnings of civilization and culture as we know it today.
• What did the Ancient Sumerians choose to write about first? Accountancy! Very practical things.
• The cuneiform tablet at the British Museum kept track of beer payments that were made to employees.

1) Why do you think the Epic was written when it was? Put yourself in the place of the author, several millennia before the year zero, in southern Mesopotamia. Begin a short paragraph with the sentence, “I have written the Epic of Gilgamesh because……”


2) Early cuneiform recorded business transactions, and was and evolutionary tool that allowed humans to succeed in international trade. Do you think the excerpts you read of the Epic were about adaptation and control of human environment, or something different? Why? Explain your thoughts and reasoning in a short paragraph.

Get into pairs with someone sitting close to you. Make sure you each have paper and pencil.

Arrange your seats so that one person in the pair is facing the front of the room and can see the projector very well.

The other person in the pair should be facing in exactly the opposite direction.

The person facing the front of the room is the "describer." The person facing away from the projector is the "artist." The artist MUST NOT look at the front of the room again until they are told they can.

• Picasso’s paintings were created in 1900 and 1937, respectively. Much changed in the artist’s personal life, in wider history, and in terms of his creative approach to painting during those years. One of these works is about his first trip to Paris when no one knew who he was [give context to students]. The other is an anti-war statement that was hung in Paris when the artist was at the height of his fame [give context]. Context shaped his artistic output.

• Today, we’re going to focus on a poem by the Chilean poet, diplomat and politician Pablo Neruda (1904-73).

• Like Picasso’s paintings, Neruda’s poetry was very much shaped by the context in which he lived.

Read the poem together as a class, each student taking a few lines/a stanza. Interrogate.

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