Last Thursday, my partner Kate and I taught our first lesson at Community-Word Project’s 3rd Grade Poetry and Visual Arts class at PS 84 in Williamsburg. It was a very memorable experience. Kate and I had spent many days preparing the lesson plan and materials, and were excited to have the opportunity to implement them. We integrated all that we had learned throughout Community-Word Project's Teaching Artist Training & Internship Program (TATIP) into the syllabus, and after feedback from our mentors, Felipe Galindo and Phyllis Capello, we further embellished the introduction of the lesson to the students. By Wednesday night, we were ready with all our visuals, examples, and materials.
Our class, on Thursday, began with a series of joint “Animal Breaths,” where we all emulated the breaths of a snake and rabbit would take. We then had a group discussion about symbolism, what it is, where we see it, and what the Symbolism art movement was about. We viewed many examples together and the students were eager to share their ideas on other forms of symbolism we see in everyday life. The discussion provided a nice transition into an activity where we had the students draw a visual symbol of themselves (representative or abstract) and then write a 6-word personal narrative, incorporating that symbol. In this way, we were building off of Felipe and Phyllis’s previous lessons on metaphors, similes and abstraction. Kate and I were very pleased by the enthusiasm the students showed for the assignment, and their creativity throughout the class. Though they only had about 20 minutes to work on this assignment, most students knew their visuals right away and started drawing. The narratives were a bit more difficult, due to the 6 word limit, but the results we saw were inspiring. Before ending class, we took a short “Art Walk” around the classroom to view each other’s work, and then some students shared their drawings and written narratives to the class. There was so much enthusiasm to share their work, we actually had to cut the students off because we were running out of time. We ended by returning to our animal breaths, this time emulating a bear’s breath.
Though we had some classroom management difficulties, due to the excitement and noise in the room, we felt very good about the lesson. The project was successful and the reflection/sharing portion went very smoothly. Kate and I collected the students' works and later put them in their individual folders, to join their past works from Felipe and Phyllis’s classes. As we reviewed each work, there was a great sense of accomplishment and joy that crept inside of us. The students had individualized their projects and had accepted us as their teachers for the day; a girl had even given me a hug before we left the classroom. All in all, we are now definitely motivated to continue teaching our other classes!