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Showing Keith Rosko

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First Place

9-12 | The Arts | Other

Station WSKG in New York

My Classroom Innovation

My lesson was based on Andy Carroll’s book War Letters, and the companion PBS documentary American Experience; War Letters based on the book. Students used more traditional materials like letters and worksheets in conjunction with PBS and other 21st century resources such as podcasts and online video to create an illustrative piece of digital artwork. Students were given a selection of war letters, both printed and zeroxed copies of actual letters, both from Carroll’s book and other sources, both printed and online. Students analyzed letters for mood and feeling, and descriptive/symbolic language, and then highlighted and made notations on the letters looking for inspirational ideas. We watched American Experience together as a group and discussed its content, and how soldiers might feel under fire, the idea of last letters home, and how that mood or feeling could be communicated visually (as well as the actual content of the letter). In addition, students were directed, through a self guided PowerPoint and information/links on the CF Visual Arts Department website, to Robert Kenner’s website, the PBS website “They Drew Fire” and the podcast of the Michele Norris interview for the HBO film Last Letters (on the PBS website). Students then completed a design diagnostic worksheet based on the content of their highlighted letter to further focus their thinking. Both traditional materials (printed and handwritten letters, sketches and worksheets) and non-traditional materials (film, podcasts and internet) were joined to create the inspirational and sketch for the finished image which was created in Photoshop suing a variety of computer graphics techniques.

How Students were Engaged

Students were engaged in both a visual, auditory and tactile way, they watched video and still imagery, examined war photographs and the work of war artists, they held and read actual and copies of war letters, they listened to a podcast, interviews and we even read some letters aloud. Students were surprisingly motivated, becoming very interested in all aspects of the project, from the reference and research aspect, through the sketching and visualizing stages, to the completion of the finished products. Several teachers in the district also passed along personal family mementos including an aviators scarf, a WW2 journal and a grandfathers letters from a German POW camp (and my families photos from WW1/WW2) all of which really motivated students beyond expectations and gave the project a “close to home” feeling. In fact one student produced letters written by their own family members and another was motivated enough to contact the Marine Corp to try and get in touch with current soldiers . Students showed substantial gains in learning as they were able to communicate exactly what symbols and symbolic language were, the difference between a sign, symbol and icon, determine and explain the difference between symbolic and descriptive language, were able to make aesthetic and conceptual choices as to what images to use, what they wanted to communicate and how their imagery could communicate the desired ideas. Students became much more selective and discriminating in their selection of visual imagery for this unit, using both online imagery and scanned in hand drawn imagery. The students have carried these skills over to other art units, not only in this class, but others as well, and the project has grown into a discussion in ELA classes (where they are doing a war letters assignment interpreting artwork as part of that unit).

PBS Program/Content Used

American Experience (War Letters)