Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Coloring Book

Two remedies for a grumpy mood:

Step 1: Go to bed at self-appointed bedtime and get 8 hours of sleep

Step 2: This:

Sistine Classroom

Can you guess what my Humanities class is doing there? Take a look at the blurry picture of what I'm projecting on the board.

Naked man! Brain-like fabric! Limp wrists! Yup, we're doing the Sistine Chapel. Here's the plan:

1. Find several close-up images from the Chapel.
2. Copy into Word, convert to grayscale, then washout, then size to 1 per page.
3. Print those suckers.
4. In computer lab, send students to the virtual tour at
5. While everyone waits for it to load (because schools have the slowest internet connections in the world), have students select pictures from your stack.
6. Students then a) find their pictures in the chapel

(Them: Where's my picture from?
Me: The Sistine Chapel.
Them: No, I mean where is it in the chapel?
Me: You'll have to look around to ind it.
Them: I have to look around?
Me: (barely containing the Hah!-I-Made-You-Learn! glee in my voice) Yup.)

and b) take notes on colors, figures, etc. that will help them finish the project.

7. Pull out the tape, pastels, crayons, colored pencils, etc.
8. Student stack chairs, tape their pictures to the bottom of their desks, and then start coloring!

It took all of 30 seconds before they were complaining about how hard it was to color upside down and how their arms hurt.

"Yup!" I said, with that not-subtle glee again. "And how long did it take Michelangelo?"

"Four years!" they reply, with a new tone of respect in their answers.

But that's not what fixed my mood. What did it was this:

An office aid came in and handed me a pass for a student to go home.
"Jade," I called, "It's for you."
As Jade picked up her stuff, Trey said, "Lucky!"
Ellie said, "I don't know, Trey, this is pretty fun."
Trey: Yeah, you're right. Saying "Lucky" was pretty much just a habit. This class is fun - I look forward to it.

And my teacher-heart grew three sizes that day.

Now, being the experienced teacher I am, I knew darn well some of them would finish their pictures way before others. I needed another activity. I went through all of my art history texts and flagged copies of Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding painting. You know, this one:

Their instructions were to "List as many details as you can find (at least 20)."

As the first student came to turn in his list, I asked, "How many did you find?"

"Twenty," he said with derision for my stupidity.

"Okay," I replied. "That'll get you a C."

"A C?" he repeated, outraged.

"Yup. 20 for a C, 30 for a B, 40 for an A."


"Yup. Would you like to keep looking?"


And he did. And the word spread, as it does, and the students one by one turned in their Sistine drawings and scrutinized the art books, searching for more details.

And it was excellent. One kid waved his hand at me, calling me from across the room.

"What is it, Nick?"

"Right there. The chandelier!"

I looked at where he was pointing, expecting him to say something about there being only one candle in it.

"Look!" he said, "The decoration on the chandelier. It's, you know, that symbol you talked about. That French one. You know, the one like the football team, the Saints."

"A fleur-de-lis?"

"Yeah, that's it."

I looked closer and, by golly, he was right. "Nick! That's awesome! I've never noticed that before. Nice job!" And he positively beamed.

Oh, and for the kids who finished the Van Eyck project early? I was ready for them. I asked if they wanted some extra credit.

"Nah, that's okay," they started to say, as I flipped through the art book to another painting. "We don't need... Whoa. What's that?"

They bent over the picture I had just pushed towards them. "Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymus Bosch," I replied. "Crazy, huh?"

"Yeah," they said in unison, mesmerized.

"Here, this might help." I handed them a magnifying glass. "See how many details you can list in this one."

And then, like a good teacher, I just walked away.


1 comment: