Thursday, August 29, 2013

Creating Art in the Social Studies Classroom

I am having my 8th grade students create art centered around what they learned about Columbus or the Americas before Columbus. I really want to encourage them to think of art as a viable way to show their learning and not just for self expression. Here are the instructions I recorded. I put them online so that parents would have the opportunity to see what I wanted.

I wanted to do something to show my students that could not only show them a possibility, but also to show them that I was willing to participate in what I am having them do. Here is the song:

Here are the lyrics:

Some Island That I Thought I Knew

I think of all the time I spent looking for you
I went to the kings of both Portugal and Spain
I even drew some maps
Read a bunch of Marco’s crap
But still I only thought I knew where I was going

I talked the Queen of Spain into giving me 3 ships
I hired some sailors to follow me to the end, all to the end
Even when things got really rough
I was sure we had the right stuff
We would stick it out until the voyage was over.

But you didn’t have to surprise me
You were really San Salvador and not the West Indies
and I never really did know
that the place I found was not what I was looking for
What about when I stooped so low
got on my knees and kissed your sand and made a fool of myself
I would never figure it out though
Now you’re just some island that I thought I knew

Am I crazy for putting myself out here like this? Probably, but I sure should not expect my students to try to do something I am not myself willing to do. There is an even more important reason for me though, this is another shared experience that I want my students to share. 

I am really hoping that my lack of talent coupled with my willingness to share will help my students be more willing to try something they may not be so sure about. I am hoping that a few students will be more willing to put themselves out in front of the class with no guarantee that what they do will be embraced. I am hoping for them to choose something that is not safe.


  1. iPad apps are driving me crazy! I'll try this again. Let me be the first to say you are not crazy for sharing. Aesthetic representations of learning rock. We have the usual four strands of arts education here in Saskatchewan. Let me know if someone creates an interpretive dance.

    1. I have heard a few students imply they might, and I am hoping ever so much for it to happen. I actually have a couple students that are very good dancers and will be dropping hints to them tomorrow :)

  2. I promise you that if you do this live in class, play the first verse, then put a kid on either side of your to help with the lyrics from the start...because you need "help," the vibe will be awesome.

    "Somebody that I used to know..." did it by accident once, and now does it on purpose :)

    1. I get to do that every day with the ukulele club. I am still laboring under the lie that I actually sound better singing than what it sounds like recorded. I now understand why the bad singers on American Idol aren't easy to convince.

  3. William,

    This is great on many levels, as I'm sure you know, so I won't get into those. I will write that I love that you are being vulnerable, taking risks, and modeling for the kiddos - that is the real lesson.

    On a practical level, I am inspired to use Soundcloud now in class. I have been trying to figure out a way to use Soundcloud within my class ecosystem and this is it! I basically like the idea that we don't always have to use video. But even more, I love the idea of speaking directions into Soundcloud and posting them on the site because of the commenting feature - let's say a kiddo doesn't understand something at timestamp 1:35, he/she can post a comment there and then other students, or myself, can respond, leaving it visible for all to see in case others have questions, too!

    Lastly, when is the EP coming to Rdio or iTunes?

    1. Never! I used soundcloud over video because I couldn't bring myself to record myself singing. It was really, really hard to do it at all. I just discovered how bad a singer I am and that makes it a bit painful, but I was so bad I couldn't not post it :)