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.


Wow! Grover Washington had a great class this week!

I am really excited to tell you about the class at Grover Washington on March 8, 2011.

This week students chose one of the photographs they took for their – project on our field trip last week. After printing out their photographs we began with a short exercise, looking at examples of photos with strong angles and interesting or different points of view. We discussed how a different angles can affect the information the viewer is given about a particular subject, and about the reasons why photographers chose particular points of view.

Next, students were asked to write from their chosen image, given the option of writing in the form of a diary entry, an invented story, or talk about why they took this photograph and how it relates to them. Once they finished students shared their photograph and writing with the class.

Hansley used very  descriptive  words and phrases such as: “destruction,” “emotionally and mentally devastating” and ended his story with an interesting question, all of which other students in the class responded to and immediately identified in his writing.

Justice wrote that she does not want anyone negative around her and that she is trying something different. She said that the two girls jumping in her photograph represent the idea of reaching goals. A few of the words and phrases other students in the class identified in writing were: joy, sky is the limit, and reaching your goal.

Above are two more examples of images that students choose for this assignment. It is wonderful to see students using different angles and points of view in their photographs.  As continue through this program they are really exploring the idea of how a photograph can tell a story and learning to connect writing with photography.

My First Visit to Esperanza

I was greeted at Esperanza by Zafka Banks-Christensen and her student teacher, Tina Matczak,  a student at Moore College of Art & Design. Ms. Christensen’s room has two walls of computers on either side and a corner in the front of the room set up with lights and a white backdrop. The project the students are working on is self-portrait that includes a background of collage objects  representing their personalities. Over the collage, students will then place a transparency of a photograph of themselves that they have each manipulated in Photoshop.

The class began with students taking out their folders and heading over to their computers. Ms. Christensen asked if anyone remembered to bring in a photograph of someone they are familiar with or close to. As the photographs were collected students began to work on a journal assignment.

An image pops up on each of their computer screens and they are instructed to “list 10 things you observe in this image. Write a sentence describing one of the subjects’ personality or interests in life, etc. Also, make inferences based on what you observe.”

Manny Arocho shared with me that he sees a middle-aged man smiling at a woman. He observes a book and pen in the man’s shirt pocket. Ms Christensen asked the class to go around the room and everyone tell 1 thing they observed in the picture. The students mention: a woman with a necklace, grass, wood, a mustache, window, rocks, a picket fence, wrinkles, and a barn or factory. Ms. Christensen then asked a few students to share what inferences they made from looking at the picture. Students shared that they think the two people are married and very happy  because the of the way the man is looking at the woman. The class is then told that this is a picture of Ms. Christensen’s grandparents. She talks a little bit about their background and where the picture was taken. She points out the small details within the photograph that help give the viewer a better understanding of the couple.

The next part of class was spent with students working on character sketches. Each student was randomly given a photograph, including the ones that were brought in from home, and asked to write about one of the people in the picture in the first-person. They are asked to use their imagination and were given the two following phrases as possibly starting points: “Today I feel” or “Today I am.”

Students then exchanged pictures with a neighbor and shared what they had written from the images. Katherine Pena told me she was writing from the point of view of the little boy in her picture. “Today I feel happy because I am spending time with my grandmother,” she shares.

Next, students watched a demo video that illustrated how they will be manipulating images in Photoshop. The class will be working with self portraits taken in a previous class using one of the following types of lighting techniques:

After viewing the demo, a few students who had not yet taken their photographs worked with Miss Matczak on setting up their backdrop. The classroom has an area set aside with a white backdrop and proper lighting that they can move and manipulate as they determine what type of  lighting they want to use.

While these few students work on taking photographs, the rest of the class began uploading one image to manipulate in Photoshop.

Amanda Miranda, who chose to use “side lighting” when taking her photograph, is shown above using written instructions to enlarge her photograph in Photoshop.

Above, Alissandra is working on re-sizing her image and unlocking the background layer.

The students continued to work on their images until the end of class. Their next step will be printing the images on transparent paper and  incorporating them into the collage.

Responses to reading photographs @ William Cramp

Melanie Pawlowski, an art education student at Moore is completing her student teaching hours in Kim Gavin’s classroom at William Cramp Elementary. She brought me a few samples of student writing from LTP that are included in her collection of student artwork currently on view in the Art of Student Teaching Exhibition at Moore.

Back in January, students went through an exercise that myself along with participating teachers completed during our LTP training with Katie Hyde: investigate a black and white photograph and write and discuss as a group about what you see, i.e. people, signs, objects, buildings, etc. Then, think about what you DON’T see or about what is IMPLIED in the photograph. Ask yourself questions such as: What do you think is happening outside the edge of the frame? Based on what you see, what is the possible time period or setting? What do you think happened just before, or could happen just after the photograph was taken? Write down your answers in the form of a first-person or third-person short story or narrative and then share that story with the group/class.

Ms. Gavin’s class looked at this famous photograph by Dorothea Lange and completed the critical thinking exercise described above:

Below are two examples of student responses to Dorothea’s iconic image: