March 22 at Grover Washington

Class began at Grover Washington this week with a free-write exercise. Students were shown a photograph of an elephant chained to a truck or vehicle and asked to write anything about the photo that came to mind.

Below are examples of student responses that were shared out loud with the class. It was very interesting to hear the different ways that students interpreted the image.

As class continued, students continued to download and print their photographs. I was able to take Amir, Shakirah, and Saphia around the school to take photographs for their self portrait projects. All three had very specific things they were looking for as we walked around the school. Amir focused on finding objects that reminded him of the NBA and other sports. Shakirah looked for areas in the school that might illustrate her love of music. Saphia wanted her self portrait photographs to show her peaceful side and interest in nature.


Angel Hogan @ Esperanza

Angel Hogan, a Philadelphia-based poet is working with Zafka Christensen and her students at Nueva Esperanza Academy Charter High School as their teaching artist for the LTP Project. As a workshop leader in storytelling at First Person Arts and with experience also at Art Sanctuary, Angel worked with students yesterday on a Thesaurus Brainstorm to begin her activity.

She began by having each student stand, introduce themselves and say “ONE thing that we would not know by looking at you.” She gave an example, introducing and talking about herself and then recited Perkasie Dirt to present the idea that understanding someone may not necessarily mean that they really/truly understand who you are.

A Thesaurus Brainstorm takes eight commonly used words that students would most likely use during a writing exercise about themselves, and as a group, they brainstorm synonyms for these 8 words.  The eight words chosen included: Nice, Bad, Like, Good, Great, Fun, Love, and Happy. Below is the list is synonyms that students came up with:

The words on the list, along with a few others, were written on paper and placed in an Inspiration Bag which students pulled 2 words from to write a headline of a story. Imagining themselves as “reporters,” once a headline had been created, students wrote one-paragraph first-person stories describing something interesting or intriguing about the person. What makes them unique? Why are they important to you? In what way do they influence your life?

Next week the students will share their stories, and discuss editing, designing and connecting their stories to a photograph.

Ellie Hutchinson at Baldi

This morning, after grabbing a much needed Starbucks cappuccino, I met Carla Bednar of ArtsRising to visit CCA Baldi Middle School. Teaching Artist Ellie Hutchinson, of Al Bustan Seeds of Culture, would be in the classroom today doing a writing lesson with her students, so we though this would be the perfect time to visit and see how things were going in Pat’s classroom.

As Shannah has written from past visits, students at Baldi have been busy working on Self-Portrait Projects and learning about different poetry techniques to describe who they are. Today, Ellie decided to change things up a bit and get the kids to visualize a story, talking about how details of a story that stand out to each student are very telling about what they value and how they see, both similarly and differently. “I’m going to read you a tale,” Ellie told the class, “and I want you to listen carefully. When I am finished you will have 10 minutes to draw a picture of what you remember most about the story, or what details stuck out the most in your head.”

The story Ellie chose to share was a spin on The Three Little Pigs, where in the end the third little pig out smarts the big bad wolf and serves him up for supper instead! The students sat silent, intently listening to the tale, only erupting in laughter at the very end when they realized how clever that third little pig really was!

After their 10 minutes, Ellie collected the drawings and the class had a discussion about the different scenes that each student chose to depict. Many drew the brick house with the wolf outside and of course the pig. However, some chose  very specific moments in the story, or used scale to create focal points or express the role each character played. In some, the wolf was very tall and dominant, overshadowing the clever pig. In others the wolf’s expression and movements captured his fright and anger at being out witted time after time. A few chose to focus on how smart the pig was, drawing a moment where the pig climbed a huge apple tree and threw an apple to distract the wolf while quickly scurrying home.

In the end, the students began to understand why they chose certain moments to draw or certain feelings and expressions of the characters. “How you visualize words, situations, stories and moments can tell a lot about who you are and how you see,” Ellie told the class. “Think about this as you work on your self-portrait projects when you have to think about that fact that how you think and see makes you who you are and determines how you express yourself.”

March 22 @ CCA Baldi

This week at Baldi, Ms. Elder showed me some of the first printed photographs from her class. The photos were from a self-portrait assignment where students were allowed to take the cameras home.

Class began with a quick re-cap. Students had completed a poem using the letters in their first and last name and had a discussion about the colors and textures within their photo collections.

Ms. Collier, Moore’s art education student teacher at Baldi, passed out a sheet with the students new assignment: a portfolio poem entitled “If I were in charge of the world.” She explained that the poem will help them find words that describe themselves that they can reference when working on their next self-portrait photography assignment. She reminded them, “think about things you are passionate about and things you like to do and don’t like to do, or things you worry about.

After completing the poems students shared what they wrote and talked about why they chose the words they did and how it describes who they are and how they see themselves.

Arthur Greenwood writes about having ice cream as a vegetable and having no more curfews, boredom, or bedtimes.

Ashlee Cheacley writes that she would like facebook in school and no more bullies.

Sierra Desantis would like to cancel mushrooms and make chocolate a vegetable.

This poem is part of planning exercises that Ms. Collier has developed to really help students have a clear idea of what they would like to photograph. She will continue this type of exercise with the class for the rest of the week. The exercise will then lead into a project focusing on portraits and their facial expressions.

March 15 @ Esperanza

Class began this week with a POD or “problem of the day.”

This is how each class begins at Esperanza. The POD helps students settle into the classroom and get focused on their work. Today’s POD was “What is the focal point in this image? What compositional choices has the photographer made that help lead our eye towards the focal point?” Ms. Christensen displayed an image on each of the students’ computers. Ms. Matczak reminded students that the focal point is the main thing that the artist wants the viewer to see. She suggested that students close their eyes for a few seconds, look at the photograph and ask themselves “What is the first thing that I see?”

Students answered that the first thing that they saw was a man sitting on a couch. Ms. Christensen asked, “What has the artist done to help bring our eye to the man?” Students answer that there is not a lot of clutter around the man.

She continues to ask questions about the photograph including: what is the entry point of the photograph, and is there anything in that entry point that brings the viewers eye back to the focal point? She also asked if the artist has followed the rule of thirds and then draws over the photograph to show that YES, they did and how they did it.

Next, Ms. Christensen gave a demo on changing the “color cast” in a photograph. A color cast is defined: as the tint of a particular color which effects the whole photograph.

She demonstrated how to go open the image, make adjustments and then color balance and change the color within their photograph. She also showed them how to rotate the canvas and use the transformer box to fine tune the composition.  After this, students were instructed on how to set up folders to save their work and tells them they will need 5 final images from photographs they have taken at home, and 5 from images they have taken at school. In the end, they will choose their best 2 images to be put into a final folder.

Students began to work on taking, downloading, and adjusting their photographs.

Manny is working on a self-portrait taken in school where he is opening a door to a classroom. He is adjusting the color balance and paying attention to the skin tones within his photograph.

Manny showed Ms. Matczak the photographs he took at home, telling her that one is of him helping his sister with her homework. He also showed her a photograph of himself making popcorn and helping his mom out in the kitchen. After looking at the images,  Ms. Matczak helped Manny download his photographs onto his computer.

Jose is also working on a photograph he took in school. He told me that in his photograph, one person is trying to reach another person but is unable to. He said it is a “love type of thing.” His photo depicts a couple holding hands and walking away from the camera down a long hallway. He told me he had the photographer lay on the ground to take the photo so that they would include the entire bodies of the couple and also the reflection on the floor. He was working on adjusting the color so the highlights look brighter.

As students continued to modify and adjust their images Ms. Christensen reminded them that it is important to take time to examine the composition of their photographs. Really think about whether the photo works, or if it needs to be adjusted a bit more to expresses everything they intended.

LTP Workshop @ Moore with Katie Hyde

This past Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19 Katie Hyde, Director of Literacy Through Photography at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, was at Moore for a 2-day workshop for Moore Art Education faculty and students who will be participating in our program this fall and beyond.

Katie shared recent work from Tanzania where LTP is currently being introduced to schools in Arusha and took us through sample lessons based on LTP that have been used in classrooms in Durham schools.  Not only are these intensive workshops a wonderful opportunity to learn hands-on how to apply LTP teaching tools in your classroom, but they allow for teachers and students to work collaboratively, learn from one another and share best practices, and just as importantly, learn more about one another.

Katie’s work with Moore teachers and students has been crucial to shaping LTP: The Philadelphia Project, and after this weekend I am thrilled to continue work on establishing our LTP program at Moore. Below are photos from our workshop and feature in-classroom work as well as documentation of our time spent photographing in the city…enjoy!

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March 15, 2011 @ Grover Washington

Despite having to cut our time short this week , we had a great class at Grover.

We began by looking at examples of storyboards, a concept that students were familiar with from a previous project, looking specifically at examples of car design, fashion design, and a self portraits. We discussed different elements that can make up a storyboard and why artists would chose to works with these different elements. I shared with the class that I was planning a wedding and  showed them an Alice in Wonderland themed storyboard I used as inspiration. I told them that by using this storyboard not only was I able to narrow down my ideas, but I was also able to remember all the ideas I had while in the moment of working on my project.

Next the students, were given the following assignment: “Self-Portrait: My Dreams”

“Picture yourself 10 years from now and create a self-portrait of you,” Celeste told her class. How do you dream yourself in 10 years?”

Step 1: Write on a piece of paper the answer to this question.

Step 2:  Using your camera, create a self-portrait based on your answer.

You can create this self-portrait in several ways:

  1. A fantasy portrait of yourself where you can use props or customs to create a character or scene.
  2. A portrait without yourself in the picture, instead,  select objects and compose a picture to represent you.

Step 3: CREATE A SKETCH: Write your ideas on how you want to appear in the photos and how you want to compose objects in the photos.  Then, gather the props and materials you want to use in your photos. You can ask a friend or family member to participate in this assignment and help you to take photos of yourself.

Step 4: NUMBER OF PICTURES: For each one (a & b) you can take approximately 5 – 7 pictures for a total of about15 pictures for both series “a” & “b”.


At this point, students asked questions about the assignment and some shared a few ideas. Ms. Rodriguez asked the class to start working on a storyboard for the assignment. She explained how they would use the storyboard while taking their photographs at home. Students began drawing and making lists of things they want to include in their dream photograph. This was a great time for  students to really think about where they want to be in ten year and it was very interesting to talk with them about the paths they would need to take to achieve their dreams.

Below are a few more photographs taken during our field trip a few weeks back to share with you. Make sure to check back to see how the “Dream Self-Portraits” are taking shape…I know I can’t wait to see how they visualize their storyboards!