Grades: Elementary (K–5) Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science Time Required



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Performing Arts in Art Lesson Plan
The Art and Ancient Tradition of Storytelling (Beginning Level)


Grades: Elementary (K–5)

Subjects: Visual Arts, English–Language Arts, History–Social Science

Time Required: 3–5-Part Lesson

Five 30-minute class periods



Author: J. Paul Getty Museum Education Staff
Lesson Overview

Students will discuss what is communicated in an ancient statuette by analyzing the size and poses of two figures. They will learn that stories were passed through oral tradition in ancient times. They will create sculptures of themselves, a companion, and a favorite musical instrument using spheres and cylinders, and then recite a story inspired by their sculptures.


Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • understand that stories in antiquity were shared through oral tradition, including song.

  • make inferences about two figures depicted in an ancient statuette by analyzing the size and poses of the figures.

  • identify forms in a work of art and then create their own sculptures by assembling balls (spheres) and coils (cylinders).

  • create and recite a story inspired by their own sculptures.


Featured Getty Artwork
Statuette of a Lyre Player and His Companion by an unknown Greek artist
http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=15113
Materials

  • Reproduction of Statuette of a Lyre Player and His Companion by an unknown Greek artist

  • Background Information and Questions for Teaching about the statuette

  • Internet access

  • Projector

  • Audio: Song inspired by James Ensor’s painting Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 by the storyteller and musician Makinto in the “Materials” list on the Getty Web site at http://getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/curricula/performing_arts/multimedia.html

  • CD player

  • CD of a song that tells a story

  • Information and activities in the “Understanding Formal Analysis” section on the Getty website (optional) at http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/formal_analysis.html

  • Air-drying clay

  • Images of various musical instruments (optional)


Lesson Steps
Day 1 Warm-up: Introduction to Storytelling


  1. Tell students that a storyteller is a person who recites stories out loud. Many storytellers play instruments while telling their stories. Play a song by the storyteller and musician Makinto that was inspired by James Ensor’s painting Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889. Have students listen to the way Makinto tells a story with music. Inform students that in the ancient past, most people couldn’t read or write. Men would set their stories to music to help them remember the words of their stories. These storytellers were called bards. They would travel to different regions singing their stories.




  1. Tell students that many songs tell stories. Play a song that tells a story, such as a contemporary pop or rap song, a Mexican corrido, or a traditional folk song or nursery rhyme (i.e., “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Oh My Darling, Clementine,” “Follow the Drinking Gourd”). Ask students to describe what happens in the song. Who are the characters and what happens to them?




  1. Tell students that they will discuss a small statue (a statuette) made thousands of years ago that shows a person telling a story while playing a musical instrument.



Days 1–2: Storytelling in the Past


  1. Display a reproduction of the seventh-century-B.C. Statuette of a Lyre Player and His Companion by an unknown Greek artist. Have students take the time to look closely at the work of art. Ask them to share what they notice about the statuette. Prompt students with the following questions:

  • What do you notice about the difference in size of each individual depicted in the statuette? (The figure on the right is larger than the figure on the left.)

  • What do you notice about the pose of each individual? (The smaller figure is holding onto the larger figure; the larger figure is holding something.)

  • What makes you say this? Where do you see evidence for that? Why do you think the artist included this?

Chart students’ responses on the board.




  1. Tell students that the figure on the right is holding a musical instrument called a kithara. Explain that a kithara is a type of lyre, a stringed instrument similar to a harp, which was often played by ancient Greeks while telling stories. Show students a picture of a lyre, such as one that is depicted on Wine Cup with a Boy Holding a Lyre by Python, potter, and Douris, painter (http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=14163). Return to the reproduction of the statuette and have students work with partners to discuss the following questions:

  • What do you think is the relationship between the two figures? (The figures could be a teacher and student or a musician and fan.)

  • What do you think they are doing? (The larger figure could be playing an instrument while the smaller figure is listening.)




  1. Inform students that some experts think that the lyre player is a poet. Depending on your students’ grade, you may wish to share relevant background information about the work of art, including the fact that bards or rhapsodes (song-stitchers) would recite stories in the form of long poems while playing a musical instrument. Tell students that many singers, slam poets, and rappers today can be considered storytellers. Where do students see pictures of their favorite singers and rappers today (i.e., T-shirts, posters, hats)?




  1. Inform students that storytellers in ancient times were sometimes depicted in statuettes like this one. The statuette can be interpreted as depicting an older, blind poet being assisted by a young companion. A very popular blind poet named Homer was thought to have composed and recited many poems in antiquity.




  1. Explain to students that stories composed in antiquity were not originally written down. Bards would memorize their stories, and then sing them while playing music. Sometimes the telling of a long story would take several days. In order for a story to be passed on to future generations, people would have to remember as much as they could about the story in order to share it with others.




  1. Have students play a version of “Telephone.” Choose one student to share what he or she thinks the two figures in the statuette are doing. Have this student whisper his or her idea in one to two sentences into the ear of a student seated nearby. Tell the student who heard the story to share it with another student, and so on. After ten students have had a chance to listen to and share the story, ask the tenth student to state aloud what he or she heard. Compare the story shared by the tenth student to the version originally told by the first student. Ask students how they think storytellers who lived during a time when most people couldn’t read or write would remember their stories. Chart students’ responses on the board. Inform students that people would be able to remember a story because they would repeat phrases or use music to help them remember.




  1. Tell students that they will use rhythm to help them remember each other’s ideas. Introduce rhythm by establishing a steady beat by alternately clapping and tapping your thighs. In a call-and-response activity, model how to recite a phrase in time to the beat, and have students echo you. Model how to recite a few more phrases to the beat, and then model how to recite a sentence to the beat.




  1. Repeat step 6, but now have students alternately clap their hands and tap their thighs on a steady beat. When students whisper the story into another student’s ear, they must recite the story in time with the beat. After the tenth student has heard the story, compare what he or she heard to the original version.




  1. Refer to the list of students’ responses in step 6. Ask students to discuss with a partner if they think it was easier to pass on a story when using rhythm. Have them share their responses and make connections to the list as appropriate.


Days 3–4: Sculptures Inspired by Ancient Statuettes


  1. Return to the reproduction of Statuette of a Lyre Player and His Companion. Point out how the figures in the statuette can be broken down into simple forms—a ball (sphere) for the head, and coils (cylinders) for the legs, arms, and torso. Refer to the “Understanding Formal Analysis” section on the Getty website at http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/building_lessons/formal_analysis.html for more information about forms and other elements of art. Also demonstrate how the lyre can be broken down into a pyramid form. Trace the forms on the reproduction by using a dry-erase marker on an overhead transparency or on the image projected on a whiteboard.




  1. Pass out air-drying clay to students. Model how to roll clay between your palms to make balls for spheres and coils for cylinders. Have students practice making spheres and cylinders on their own.




  1. Tell students that they will create a sculpture of themselves, a companion, and a musical instrument they would like to play or already play. Have students assemble the spheres and cylinders they created as well as additional forms of their choosing to create their figures. Encourage students to think about how they will pose both figures to communicate what the relationship is between them. Remind them that the figures in the ancient statuette are posed as if one is a student and the other is a teacher.




  1. Sketch various musical instruments using geometric shapes or show images of instruments from magazines or the Internet. Instruct students to pick which musical instrument they will be holding in their sculptures. Have students trace the geometric shapes they see in a picture of their chosen instrument, and then create three-dimensional forms based on the shapes they see. For example, a circle can become a sphere; a rectangle can become a cylinder.




  1. After completing their sculptures, invite students to point out where they included spheres, cylinders, and other forms in their works.



Day 5: Student Bards


  1. Have students make up a story inspired by their sculptures. Encourage them to include many details to bring the story to life. Have them brainstorm responses to the following questions by writing down their ideas.

  • Where are you performing?

  • What does the music sound like?

  • Who is your companion? Is the companion a friend, family member, or teacher?

  • Is the companion listening to the music, learning how to play an instrument, or teaching you how to play an instrument?

  • How does the companion react to the way you are playing your instrument?




  1. After students respond to the questions, have them work in pairs to practice reciting their stories in time to a steady beat.




  1. Help students enhance their storytelling skills. Have students listen again to the song about James Ensor by Makinto. Have students listen to the ways he shifts his pitch, tempo, and tone to express different feelings, characters, and expressions. Select moments of Makinto’s song and have students practice shifting their pitch, tempo, and tone by repeating the selections.




  1. Instruct students to retell their own stories, and this time they should shift their pitch, tempo, and tone as appropriate.



Assessment

Assess students based on the degree to which they accomplished the following:



  • active participation in class discussion, including the ability to discuss the size and poses of figures depicted in a statuette and the correct identification of forms in a work of art

  • artworks of figures were made of forms that students can point out

  • artworks included depictions of themselves, a companion, and a musical instrument

  • stories included descriptive details

  • stories were told with shifts in pitch, tempo, and tone


Extensions

  1. Allow students to tell their stories while playing a homemade lyre. View the art activity “A Classy Cardboard Lyre” on the Getty website at http://getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/tips_tools/downloads/aa_cardboard_lyre.pdf, and have students play a simple melody at appropriate moments in their stories.




  1. Have students retell a scene from their story in video form. Have them position the sculptures to re-create a scene and then use a digital camera to shoot pictures of the sculptures, moving the sculptures slightly for each picture to coincide with the action in the scene. This is similar to the concept of a flip book. Students can view their series of images quickly on their digital cameras or create a short animation using software such as iMovie. Students can add music to their animations using a homemade lyre (see “A Classy Cardboard Lyre” activity” on the Getty website at http://getty.edu/education/teachers/classroom_resources/tips_tools/downloads/aa_cardboard_lyre.pdf).



Standards Addressed
Common Cores Standards for English Language Arts
Grades K–5
SPEAKING AND LISTENING

K.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and text with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

K.4 Describe familiar people places, things, and events, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.

1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.1.4 Describe familiar people places, things, and events, with relative details expressing ideas and feelings more clearly.

2.4 Tell a story or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking audible in coherent sentences.

3.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

5.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

5.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, using formal English when appropriate to task and situation. (See grade 5 Language standards 1 and 3 for specific expectations.)


Visual Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade K

2.0 Creative Expression

2.6 Use geometric shapes/forms (circle, triangle, square) in a work of art.

2.7 Create a three-dimensional form, such as a real or imaginary animal.


3.0 Historical and Cultural Context

3.2 Identify and describe works of art that show people doing things together.


4.0 Aesthetic Valuing

4.2 Describe what is seen (including both literal and expressive content) in selected works of art.


Grade 1

1.0 Artistic Perception

1.3 Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, in the environment, and in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, and texture.
2.0 Creative Expression

2.3 Demonstrate beginning skill in the manipulation and use of sculptural materials (clay, paper, and paper maché) to create form and texture in works of art.

2.5 Create a representational sculpture based on people, animals, or buildings.
Grade 2

1.0 Artistic Perception

1.3 Identify the elements of art in objects in nature, the environment, and works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, texture, and space.

Grade 3

1.0 Artistic Perception

1.5 Identify and describe elements of art in works of art, emphasizing line, color, shape/form, texture, space, and value.
5.0 Connections, Relationships, Applications

5.2 Write a poem or story inspired by their own works of art.


Grade 4

1.0 Artistic Perception

1.5 Describe and analyze the elements of art (e.g., color, shape/form, line, texture, space, value), emphasizing form, as they are used in works of art and found in the environment.
2.0 Creative Expression

2.3 Use additive and subtractive processes in making simple sculptural forms.
Grade 5

2.0 Creative Expression

2.7 Communicate values, opinions, or personal insights through an original work of art.
English–Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade K

Listening and Speaking

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.1 Describe people, places, things (e.g., size, color, shape), locations, and actions.

2.3 Relate an experience or creative story in a logical sequence.
Grade 1

Listening and Speaking

1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies

1.5 Use descriptive words when speaking about people, places, things, and events.


2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.1 Recite poems, rhymes, songs, and stories.

2.4 Provide descriptions with careful attention to sensory detail.
Grade 2

Listening and Speaking

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.1 Recount experiences or present stories:

a. Move through a logical sequence of events.
Grade 3

Listening and Speaking

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.1 Make brief narrative presentations:

c. Include well-chosen details to develop character, setting, and plot.

2.2 Plan and present dramatic interpretations of experiences, stories, poems, or plays with clear diction, pitch, tempo, and tone.


Grade 4

Listening and Speaking

2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.1 Make narrative presentations:

a. Relate ideas, observations, or recollections about an event or experience.
Grade 5

Listening and Speaking

1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies

1.6 Engage the audience with appropriate verbal cues, facial expressions, and gestures.


2.0 Speaking Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)

2.1 Deliver narrative presentations:

a. Establish a situation, plot, point of view, and setting with descriptive words and phrases.

b. Show, rather than tell, the listener what happens.


History–Social Science Content Standards for California Public Schools
Grade 1

1.4 Students compare and contrast everyday life in different times and places around the world and recognize that some aspects of people, places, and things change over time while others stay the same.



3. Recognize similarities and differences of earlier generations in such areas as work (inside and outside the home), dress, manners, stories, games, and festivals, drawing from biographies, oral histories, and folklore.

© 2011 J. Paul Getty Trust


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