The Arts In Every Classroom: A Workshop for Elementary School Teachers
Historical References in the Arts Getting Ready
The following information will help you focus and organize your professional development session.
- Describe where historical references occur in a video segment from Quidam.
- Analyze costume designs for Parade, focusing on how they convey character and dictate movement. Create a costume element and explore how costumes affect character development and movement.
- Analyze and interpret works of painter René Magritte and choreographer Alwin Nikolais, comparing the artists’ works to Quidam. Create a movement sequence that incorporates an original prop or costume element and references to Magritte and Nikolais.
- Conduct research into the history of street performance and how its influence is felt in Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. Take on the role of an art historian discussing a specific type of street performance.
These are questions for your group to consider as you work through the session:
- What are historical references?
- How do historical references affect the creation of new works of art?
Materials and Resources
- Videotape or broadcast of Program 3 — Historical References in the Arts
- Quidam video by Cirque du Soleil. Quidam is widely available on video to purchase or borrow and share. See How To Use This Workshop.
- Costume design materials, such as fabric pieces, colored paper, ribbons, feathers, and pipe cleaners
- Handout: Criticism: Purposes and Process (PDF)
- Handout: Summary of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (PDF)
- Reading: Costumes Used in Program 3 (PDF)
- Reading: Alwin Nikolais (PDF)
- Reading: Cirque du Soleil (PDF)
- Reading: Quidam (PDF)
- Reading: René Magritte (PDF)
- Reading: Role-Play (PDF)
- Reading: Surrealism (PDF)
Facilitator: Distribute the handout, Criticism: Purposes and Process (PDF).
Discuss your experience with having your students write critiques.
- What knowledge base was necessary for your students to succeed?
- How did your students work together?
- With what kinds of vocabulary did your students need the most help?
Discuss these questions:
- How does art history inform and influence contemporary works of art?
- How do individual art forms affect or inform each other in a multi-arts work?
Facilitator: If you have a video of Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, use it to provide examples of historical references:
- Cue the program tape by setting the time counter in your video player to 0:00 when you see the title Quidam at the beginning of the performance, then fast-forward to 9:50. Play the segment of Quidam that runs from 9:50 to 18:50 on the time counter (running time approximately nine minutes).
- The section to be viewed begins with a team of female acrobats performing with yo-yos. It continues with a transition in which Zoe swings and the father walks through the air, an aerial performer works on a suspended red fabric streamer, and a clown runs with sparklers.
- When a clown enters with a hula-hoop, stop.
In the video, look for specific examples of:
- where art history influenced the performance and
- where individual art forms affected or informed each other in the performance.
workshop 1 What Is Art?
The Learner Teams and students explore the nature of theatre, music, dance, and visual art as they consider their own definitions for each art form. They watch an excerpt from Quidam, a surrealistic performance piece that combines the four art forms in unusual ways, and begin to explore connections between fantasy and reality.
workshop 2 Responding to the Arts
Learner Team members and students compare two multi-arts performance pieces from different eras, Quidam (1996) and Parade (1917). They discover how our perception of a work of art is influenced by what we know about the time and place it was created. They also explore how music can establish a mood, create their own vaudeville acts, and learn a process of critical evaluation.
workshop 3 Historical References in the Arts
Learner Team members and students examine costume designs for Parade, focusing on how the designs help convey character. They interpret works by painter René Magritte and choreographer Alwin Nikolais, discovering influences on the creators of Quidam. They also conduct research into the history of street performance and report their findings, in the role of art historian.
workshop 4 Creating a Multi-Arts Performance Piece
Learner Team members and students examine the elements of the classic journey as identified by Joseph Campbell. They then create a multi-arts performance piece that represents a journey story. They apply what they have learned in previous lessons in order to rehearse, critique, revise, and perform their work.
workshop 5 Designing a Multi-Arts Curriculum Unit
Learner Team members are introduced to a curriculum design process that asks teachers and students to focus on why rather than what — sometimes called backwards design. The teams begin to construct their own arts-based units of study, identifying enduring ideas and constructing essential questions that lead to carefully planned unit objectives and performance tasks.
workshop 6 The Role of Assessment in Curriculum Design
As the Learner Teams continue working on their own units, they examine strategies for determining how well students meet unit objectives. By revisiting the lessons in the first four programs, they discover how to build formative and summative assessments into the units that they are developing.
workshop 7 Three Schools, Three Approaches
Documentary segments filmed during the next school year show the Learner Teams planning and teaching arts-based lessons that grew out of work in the first six programs. Discussions at the end of the school year, facilitated by one of the workshop leaders, give the Learner Team members a chance to reflect on some of the developments in their teaching practice.
workshop 8 Building on New Ideas
More documentary segments show further work by the team members with their students, among themselves, and with colleagues. The end-of-year discussions continue, with team members reflecting on how their new initiatives in the arts have affected them and their schools, and offering advice for other teachers who want to bring the arts into their own classrooms.