Recovering the Classics in the Classroom

March 25, 2016

Recovering the Classics in the Classroom

We've been working to bring Recovering the Classics to classrooms and libraries nationwide and wanted to share the experience that Jennifer Flynn, a visual arts teacher in Kentucky, had with her students:

As a passionate elementary art educator, the concept behind Recovering the Classics instantly captured my attention. The potential for building an empowering learning experience for my students emerged and I envisioned these young artists creating and sharing their mind’s unique interpretation of a book with others.

This winter I began a unit with my 3rd grade students focused on communication. We considered the images and symbols that surround us every day and the messages they send. Then came the books. Kids love books. It is something they know. Each has a personal connection with the books they read, no matter what their reading level.

We looked at early editions of classic book covers paired with the more modern aesthetic of the Recovering the Classics artworks. The age of the design didn’t matter; we weren’t aimed at saying one was better than the other. We were recognizing different perspectives, and we began discussing these differences as a class. Some covers included the same characters, but used a different style. Some used similar color schemes, but chose a different scene. One illustrator chose a particular character as the focus, while another, representing the same book, chose a completely different character as the focus. Students noticed. This is where I could see light bulbs begin glowing in these young minds. They began to recognize how we each own a unique, imaginative experience with a book, and artwork allows us to release it. The published illustrator’s vision is just one viewpoint. Our ideas might be different, and those differences can be AMAZING!

At this point 3rd grade students selected a book of their choice. Many of these students chose a book connected with their Author Study project in their regular classroom (a perfect arts integration opportunity), and began sketching a plan. Students were asking questions such as, “So, I’m allowed to make the character look different?” One little girl said, “Mrs. Flynn, when I was reading this book, I didn’t know that the main character was a person until the very end. All the other characters were animals that were talking, so I imagined in my head that the main character was a dog. Can I make him a dog in my art?” At which point, a smile spread across my face, my eyes brightened, and I replied, “That’s fascinating! You should most certainly draw that character as a dog.”

Finalizing their ideas, students chose various materials to create their artworks, sharing them in the hallways and through digital portfolios. It was delightful to see students recognizing the value of ideas. Not only were they receptive to new ideas, but they were excited at the chance to look through a different lens and discover new ways of seeing.

To conclude this experience, we shared our first Recovering the Classics event with our community. Twenty student interpretations hung alongside pieces from the Recovering the Classics collection of works. All were professionally printed and displayed at our public library paired with interactive elements for families to enjoy. The results were incredible, and the impact on students, parents, and the community continues to grow! Completing a good book is not the end. It is only the beginning.

Jennifer Flynn is in her seventh year as an Intermediate Art Teacher for Fort Thomas Independent Schools in Fort Thomas, KY. She received her BFA and MAE from DAAP at the University of Cincinnati. Jennifer and her husband Joshua have three children, ages 5, 3, and 2. You can visit her website to see more images from her Recovering the Classics Event: http://fortthomasarts.weebly.com/345-art-blog/recovering-the-classics-event-2016

- Mrs. Jennifer Flynn
Visual Arts Teacher
Fort Thomas Independent Schools
Kentucky





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