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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Teaching Literacy Through Art

    A few weeks ago I had a revelation after my brother visited for a career presentation about his job as a digital artist... That revelation was that the kids at my school don't understand the basics of art! His lesson consisted of a very engaging lesson where students created a brand, determined a target market, and then created a t-shirt design. The thing that disturbed me most was that they wanted to have a red shirt, with teal and purple lettering on it... it was immediately obvious that most of them had no concept of the compatibility of colors, or any basic understanding of the color wheel.


     Now, I teach at a Title I school, and like many of you, we are highly focused on academics and preparing for the SBAC test that is rapidly approaching. However, this can't be what school is about all the time. The design lesson didn't sit well with me for a few days, so I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to integrate art into my lessons. In order to do this though, I felt I needed to have an academic basis for my lesson to ensure we were still working toward the Common Core. And then it hit me... I would teach the color wheel and integrate the idea of reliable sources while working on our research projects. Then as if by magic, my mind started putting it all together into the lesson that follows. I appreciate all the positive feedback I received through Instagram and Facebook about this project, so here is the rundown.

      The objective of the project is pretty basic: Students will be able to compare the mixing of colors on the color wheel to the reliability of sources used for research. They will learn about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors and sources.

       - Materials Needed: paper, primary colored paint, paintbrushes, palettes, scissors, and markers.

      - Time: About and hour for the painting of the color wheel, and an additional hour for the creation         of the color wheel and lesson about reliable sources.
       The first step of this lesson is to set the stage by having students think of all the sources that we can gain information from. Examples include, the internet, books, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, pictures, diaries, etc. After that, have students begin to sort these sources into groups based on reliability.
  To begin, students take an 11 x 14 piece of white construction paper and fold it into twelfths. (I of course used this as a chance to reinforce fractions and determining portions visually before actually folding the paper.)

   After their paper is folded, introduce the idea of primary colors, blue, red, and yellow, as pure colors that all other colors can be created from. Have students paint one square each of the primary colors. Then, introduce the idea of primary sources as the purest sources, original pieces of work, or the purest sources of information. Diaries, pictures, autobiographies, letters, or first hand accounts fall into this category. I had my students take notes on the side while they were painting.          

   Continue on with the color wheel lesson by introducing secondary colors, or colors made from mixing two primary colors. Have them mix the primary colors and paint each one in a square as well. (It is important they mix a good amount of these colors so they can make the tertiary colors from them.) I then had my students related the idea of primary colors to secondary sources. They came to the conclusion that they are mixed sources, where someone else is creating a new source based off of primary sources. We then came up with examples such as biographies, books, textbooks, and websites.

    Following that, we discussed tertiary colors and created the tertiary colors for the color wheel. This concept was a little more challenging for students, but once they got the hang of it they caught on quickly. It was very obvious to them at this point that tertiary sources were sources that were mixed from many different primary and secondary sources, and thus they were much less reliable than all the other types of sources. We then brainstormed ideas of tertiary sources such as indexes, guidebooks, dictionaries, manuals, and fact books.

   After the color wheels had dried, we then cut each color out and arranged our color wheels in order. After gluing the circles down, students then connected the primary colors in a triangle, and then did the same for the secondary colors, and then they connected all the tertiary colors into a hexagon (another chance for math vocabulary to be added!) I had my students color code the different shapes to make it easier to distinguish the different types of sources. We then labeled each section and added the different types of sources to each.

   The kids had a great time with this project, and I feel that connecting it to something such as art was a more meaningful and visual way to learn about this topic. The paintings brighten up our hallways and classroom and are a constant reminder to me that high level academic learning can be achieved through art. We often need to take a step back from our day to day and remember to make learning fun and meaningful for our students. I'm also hopeful that after this my students won't ever try to mix a red shirt with teal and purple. :)

     I'd love to hear how you incorporate art into your students' learning as well! Leave a comment with your ideas to help bring art into our classrooms.



  1. We are getting ready to start research projects, too! This would be a great way to integrate art into my classroom!

  2. Teaching the arts needs to be incorporated in every teachers daily lesson plans because, based on these studies,http://thewritersdailyword.com/ students who are taught through the arts raise their test and learning levels.