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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Visual Arts Lesson Plan

Grades:

9-12

Lesson Plan:

Writing About Ellis Wilson

Students examine the subject matter of Ellis Wilson’s paintings and write articles about what his work communicates about life and culture.
  • Length: 1-2 class sessions

Concepts/Objectives:

  • Students will closely examine the subject matter of Ellis Wilson’s paintings of Haiti.
  • Students will analyze how Wilson’s choices (realistic vs. abstract images, use of elements of art) affect what he communicates about his subject matter.
  • Students will consider the purpose(s) of Wilson’s art.
  • Students will observe Ellis Wilson’s use of the two-dimensional medium of oil paint in his work.
  • Students will analyze what Wilson’s work communicates about life and culture.

Resource Used:

Poor Manís Africa
Found On: Visual Arts and Culture
Video Length:

Vocabulary

elements of art, realism
Materials

TV/VCR or DVD player, computer with Internet access

Handouts:

Instructional Strategies and Activities

Introduce Ellis Wilson

Give some background on Kentucky-born painter Ellis Wilson. Extensive information is available at the KET web site for the documentary Ellis Wilson—So Much To Paint (www.ket.org/elliswilson).

Show the video excerpt “Poor Man’s Africa.” Ask students to make notes as they watch, listing the details they see in the paintings that provide information about the Haitian people and culture. Discuss these details with the class or in small groups. If an Internet connection is available, visit the KET web site to allow students to view more of Wilson’s Haiti paintings.

Remind students that because we learn much about time periods, cultures, people, their occupations, and the things they value and cherish from works of art, paintings often become major sources of information. Ask them to consider these questions:

  • Are artists reliable sources for cultural and historical information?
  • Might artists have their own agendas (social, political, etc.) when they choose and paint their subject matter?

Give out the “Analysis Questions” handout and ask students to evaluate Ellis Wilson’s Haiti paintings using those questions:

  • What are the subjects of Ellis Wilson’s Haiti paintings?
  • How do the colors complement the subject matter?
  • What effect does realism (or lack of it) have on the subjects of the paintings?
  • Are there similarities among Wilson’s Haiti paintings? If so, what are they?
  • What do we learn about life in Haiti from viewing Ellis Wilson’s Haiti paintings?

These questions can be the basis of a class discussion, or students can consider them individually for homework. Then have each student write a brief article about “Haiti Through the Eyes of Ellis Wilson,” based on what his paintings tell us.

Possible extension: Compare Ellis Wilson’s Haiti paintings to paintings done by other artists such as Cézanne and Matisse. What are the similarities and differences in subject matter, color, and style? Find other artists who have painted subject matter based on similar cultures or people for comparison.

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Support • Connections • Resources

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Writing To Communicate

  • Write an article about “Ellis Wilson’s Haiti” based on what his paintings tell us (see Performance Assessment).

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Applications Across the Curriculum

Language Arts

  • Ellis Wilson was part of the Harlem Renaissance. Explore the Ellis Wilson—So Much To Paint web site (www.ket.org/elliswilson) for information about the Harlem Renaissance and as part of a unit on the artists and writers of that era.

Social Studies

  • Research the times in which Ellis Wilson lived. What did he have to overcome in order to make a life for himself as an artist?

Open Response Assessment

Prompt: Ellis Wilson’s Haitian paintings reflect the life and spirit of Haitian people.

Directions: Select one of Ellis Wilson’s Haitian paintings and describe how Wilson used the elements of art and principles of design to depict Haitian life and culture.†Explain what you think Wilson’s purpose was in creating the painting and why you think so. Support your answer with details and examples from the work and what you know about Wilson’s life.

Open Response Scoring Guide
4 3 2 1 0
Student completes assignment, exhibiting extensive understanding of how Wilson used the art elements and design principles in his work. Student offers insightful interpretations and provides effective supporting examples and details. Student completes assignment, exhibiting broad understanding of how Wilson used the art elements and design principles in his work. Student offers a plausible interpretation and provides supporting examples and details. Student completes assignment, exhibiting basic understanding of how Wilson used the art elements and design principles in his work. Student attempts an interpretation of Wilson’s purpose and provides a few examples and details. Student completes assignment, exhibiting minimal understanding of how Wilson used the art elements and design principles in his work. Student provides few or no supporting examples and details. Blank, no answer, or irrelevant response.

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Performance Assessment

Performance Event: Works of art often tell us a great deal about time periods, peoples, and cultures.

Directions:

  1. After viewing the “Poor Man’s Africa” segment, list as much information as you can that the paintings tell us about Haitian people and culture.
  2. Participate in the class discussion.
  3. Write an article about “Ellis Wilson’s Haiti” based on what his paintings tell us.

Performance Scoring Guide
4 3 2 1 0
Student participates in all of the activities. Student composes a brief article that points out, in a clear and in-depth manner, his or her findings about Haiti, Haitian culture, and the Haitian people from viewing Ellis Wilson’s paintings of Haiti. Student communicates effectively, making insightful use of relevant details and supporting information. Student participates in all of the activities. Student composes a brief article that effectively describes his or her findings about Haiti, Haitian culture, and the Haitian people from viewing Ellis Wilson’s paintings of Haiti. Student communicates effectively, making use of relevant details and supporting information. Student participates in all of the activities. Student composes a brief article that lists and describes a few findings about Haiti, Haitian culture, and the Haitian people from viewing Ellis Wilson’s paintings of Haiti. Student communicates on a basic level, with some limited use of relevant details and supporting information. Student participates in some activities. Student composes a brief article that ineffectively describes his or her findings about Haiti, Haitian culture, and the Haitian people from viewing Ellis Wilson’s paintings of Haiti. Student communicates ineffectively, with little or no use of relevant details and supporting information. Student does not participate in the activities.

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Academic Content


Academic Expectations:

  • 1.13: Students make sense of ideas and communicate ideas with the visual arts.
  • 2.22: Students create works of art and make presentations to convey a point of view.
  • 2.23: Students analyze their own and others’ artistic products and performances using accepted standards.
  • 2.24: Students have knowledge of major works of art, music, and literature and appreciate creativity and the contributions of the arts and humanities.
  • 2.25: In the products they make and the performances they present, students show that they understand how time, place, and society influence the arts and humanities such as languages, literature, and history.
  • 2.26: Through the arts and humanities, students recognize that although people are different, they share some common experiences and attitudes.

Program of Studies:

  • Describe how visual artists use elements of art, principles of design, processes, media, and techniques to create art works.
  • Analyze, interpret, and evaluate a variety of art works.
  • Explain how visual artworks reflect cultures, time, periods, and styles.

Core Content for Assessment:

  • AH-HS-1.4.1: Students will analyze or evaluate the use of the elements of art and principles of design.
  • AH-HS-2.4.1: Students will analyze or evaluate how factors such as time, place, and ideas are reflected in visual art.
  • AH-HS-3.4.1: Students will explain how drama/theater fulfills a variety of purposes.

Author:

Kay Twaryonas

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