This is the third year that I've taken classes to the University of Michigan Museum of Art for docent tours. The museum's educational tours are truly awesome. I email the museum a couple of months out to set a date, let them know the theme we're studying in class, send along some of the driving questions of the unit, and they do the rest. The put together an hour-or-so-long tour with a few different artwork stops along the way that match the theme of the class. Pam Reister has been out tour guide for the past couple of years and she always puts together something so thoughtful, focused on the theme of the class, and considerate of ways to get the students to interact.I've taken classes for Women's Studies, Shakespeare, Creative Writing, and the Macabre. Each tour that UMMA has planned has incorporated a different set of artworks, sometimes there are repeats, but what's said about the artwork varies greatly from tour to tour, so it's like experiencing the artwork in a completely new way each time. Here are a few strategies they modeled for looking at art:
1) We approached a painting with several subjects and objects in it - people, a covered wagon, a bucket, a basket, a pile of bones, etc. Each student was handed a slip of paper with a different object from the painting written on it. Students were given 5 minutes to write either about their subject or from their subject's perspectives and then share out with the group.
2) Next we looked at landscapes and students had to write about the scene and create a sensory experience by using imagery to help the reader see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the scene being described in the scene.
3) We were given free reign in the modern art section to pick a work that we liked and write a four line poem about it:
- Create a title for the work
- Write a line with an action phrase in it
- Write a metaphor/simile about the work
- Create a different title for the work to close the poem
1) We looked at a lot of portraits and to practice their acting skills, students had to study the work and draw conclusions about the personality of the subject and then act like them, both talking aloud, gesturing, and making facial expressions. It was great fun.
I'm really grateful for such a great arts resource so close to school.