A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"It looks like a gunshot through Montana!"

The first week of school is a odd time in the life of a school. The kids are still stretching from a three month nap.They are excited to see old friends and embracing the 'school' part of school is a necessary evil in order to see said friends. The teachers are in the midst of a ten yard dash to get ready for students. They are chomping at the bit to talk, discuss, instruct, show, play, and ... (let's be honest teachers, laminate!) Its a dynamic I wish I could explain to those who don't spend  a lot of time in a classroom.

This year I thought I would try one of the Smithsonian strategies out and see if it would work. We called it "Artwork of the Week" and here is what we did:

State Names. 2000. Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. Born: St. Ignatius, Montana 1940. oil, collage and mixed media on canvas. 48 x 72 in. (121.9 x 182.9 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Elizabeth Ann Dugan and museum purchase. 2004.28.

On the first or second day of school they saw this painting projected on the SMARTboard. No discussion.
For the next couple of days after they made observations using a process called VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies). VTS is pretty easy to explain but challenging to actually do (more on that later). The facilitator can ask one of three questions:
  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What else can you find.
The facilitator should:
  • remain neutral, 
  • repeat the response to the observer in order to make sure they understood the comment, and 
  • point when necessary to where the observer is talking to get everyone focus on the same part of the piece.
The killer part is remaining neutral. Part of giving feedback, for me, is praise. Praise encourages, it creates a positive attitude in the class and it can help guide a class into the direction you want them to head. For VTS, the danger of getting them to go 'my way' outweighs the encouragement and positive environment praise fosters. The point is to get them to think for themselves, not for the facilitator. "What are 'they' thinking?" not "What do they think I want them to think?"

When I let them tell me what they thought about the painting, they floored me. I did this process in DC with about five teachers and an art history major as a facilitator. I think my kids blew us out of the water. They saw things and made connections I don't think we would have. Some of them would turn out to be wrong but they always returned back to the painting. Here are the responses. (Note that I haven't copied the title or artist information. It isn't shown to the observers until after they've responded lest it influence their comments.)

A sampling of comments:


Since the states are fighting for independence, I think it has to do with the Declaration of Independence.

I think it means that the drippings represent the pain that the US has gone through but we're all still here and its built America to what we are today.


I think the Indians are represented by their wars, words, names and homes. Their emotions could be represented by the dripping paint.

It is a depiction of our modern economy and which states play a more positive role in how the US is connected.


 The white symbolizes indifference, while blue is more bias and red is extremely biased.

The painter is sad and therefore the painting is sloppy.

It looks like a gunshot through Montana.

The United States is falling apart.

Most of the names by the water are no there so maybe that has something to do with it (the ocean) being black.

The Indians were angry at the people for taking their land ... maybe.

Smudged on purpose.

I think the bleeding of the colors represent something of pain. Bleedings are the key word for me.

Do you see what I mean? The link below is for the Smithsonian American Art Museum's page for this piece.  Below the image of the painting is a place to hear more about the painting. Click on it to hear what the artist herself has said about the piece and why she creates the art she does.Quite honestly, I like some of my kid's interpretations as well as the artist's comments.

The bottom line in the classroom is that in about the equivalent of 30-40 minutes, my students were schooled in Indian displacement in a way that causes them to continue to talk about the issue. We just finished talking about Jamestown and Plimoth and they asked about the indigenous tribes right off the bat. It was awesome. When we get to Manifest Destiny, State Names will play a large part as we wrestle with the shadow side of the Northwest Ordinance, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and the Homestead Act.

Finish up at the Smithosonian ...

Sorry for the long delay in posts. The start of school at work and home, ...'nough said.

The last couple of days at the Smithsonian we spent working on our presentations. They showed us how to record on Audacity and then on VoiceThread. Our assignment was to record a podcast based on the artwork we had selected. Here is the painting I selected oh so many months ago ...

Achelous and Hercules.1947. Thomas Hart Benton. Born: Neosho, Missouri 1889. Died: Kansas City, Missouri 1975. tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood. 62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in. (159.6 x 671.0 cm.). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program. 1985.2.

I have decided not place my podcast here for two reasons. One, the idea of someone hearing my recorded voice is distressing to me. The second (and real reason), is that I don't know how to get the audio to link onto the blog. But I have a better idea. Here are three podcasts by different students from across the country. I pulled them off the Smithsonian website, thank you Addie and Victoria for showing us these; they are awesome. The first one is by a sixth grader. It is tremendous and points to how creative a kid can get if you give them a chance.

Butte de Mort, Sioux Burial Ground, Upper Missouri. 1837-1839. George Catlin. Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1796. Died: Jersey City, New Jersey. 1872. oil on canvas. 20 x 27 3/8 in. (50.9 x 69.4 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr. 1985.66.475.

 The other two below are different takes of the same painting. One is by a second grade student, another by a senior. It shows that the idea of podcasting works for all age of student. Yes, my current students ... you will be podcasting this year!

Dust Bowl. 1933. Alexandre Hogue. Born: Memphis, Missouri. 1898 Died: Tulsa, Oklahoma 1994. oil on canvas. 24 x 32 5/8 in. (61 x 82.8 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of International Business Machines Corporation. 1969.123.

Cool, don't ya think?

On Friday of the conference, we gave our five minute presentation. Some incorporated their podcasts, some presented in PowerPoint, others in a program called a Prezi. Everyone's was really cool. In a week of in class lectures, in the exhibits gallery talks and hands on technology master classes, we all created something quite cool. Here is mine...

Dave McIntire's Manifest Destiny Prezi

Its weird to be finishing this a little more than a month after getting back home. Both the Presidential Academy and the Clarice Smith National Teacher Institute were game changing for me.

The Academy forced me think like a scholar again. Being the most educated guy in the classroom can cause you to get a little complacent. I always tell my students I don't ask them to do anything I'm not doing so the Academy allowed me to put my money where my mouth is. It also let me explore beyond my curriculum. I'm really excited to bring my newly minted Civil Rights module into the classroom in January.

The Smithsonian gave a whole new language and a whole new skill set to use on my kids. Using art as more than glorified clip art. Using art to introduce ideas and concepts as well as linking ideas together in a way that is engaging.

This should be the end of this blog but a few students, parents and friends have asked if I'm going to keep the blog going when I finish this entry. One of the program coordinators has asked if I would continue it and talk about how the integration of what I learned over the summer into the classroom is going. I'm game if you are so here is what I think I'm going to do from here on out.

I'm gonna post but I'm also going to ask my current student, parents and friends to weigh in by commenting. You'll have to join the blog to comment, including those of you read and comment on it via Facebook. I'll just want place to follow if that okay? I've used some of the Smithsonian activities in the classroom so far and I will post on how I think it went. Students, what are your thoughts? (I can only imaging my friends and colleagues are tired of my voice so I want yours). Parents and my friends (teacher type or not), you too! I know of a couple program administrator types who are lurking in the ether out there, you weigh in too!!!  If this becomes OUR blog, then I will keep it going. If not, then, ok.