By Andrea Maurer, Kindergarten Teacher
I’m Andrea Maurer and this is my 22nd year of teaching. I’m so lucky to be in a career that I can be creative and share arts integration across the content areas. I’m thrilled to be sharing some ideas with you on ereaderstheater.com.
One of my teacher friends, Marci Ruiz, had a brilliant idea to combine drama and art in the classroom after attending the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach. where they brilliantly stage reenactments of famous pieces of art, with costumed models standing in front of a painted background. The pageant is often described as “living pictures” because the staging looks almost identical to the original painting. Marci recreated the pageant “Kindergarten Style.” She researched the paintings she wanted to portray. She sought parent help to costume the students and with parent help, students painted the background of the paintings. On show day, the students would stand perfectly still in front of the painted canvas and portray the piece of art. The students brought the painting to life by performing a short skit.
I borrowed the original concept from Marci. My teaching partner, Rachel Fessler, and I decided to create a “Children in Art” theme, in which most of the sculptures and paintings have to do with children. We are happy to share this exciting project with you.
First, I did an Internet search for “children in famous paintings.” I found a great selection of artwork that represented children:
The Cider Mill by John George Brown
The Fourteen Year Old Dancer by Edgar Degas
Getting Ready for School by John Falter
Trick-or-Treating in the Burbs by John Falter
Retrato de Ignacio Sanchez and Child with Calla Lily by Diego Rivera
Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer
4 Ring Around the Roses by Edward Henry Potthast
The Thinker by Augustus Rodin
Framing the Art
We found an 8×8-foot wooden frame in the back of our school stage. It was the perfect size to hold our canvases in place. I used white, brown, and black butcher paper to make the background canvases.
When the paper is mounted to the frame, sketch the painting with a light pencil mark. You can use an opaque projector to project the art. The students can paint the background with sponges. I find it best to let them sponge paint the large portions and have the volunteers add details and outlines to the paintings.
Print a copy of each painting and make a master inventory of what costumes and props you need. Check to see what you already costumes and props you already have and ask parents for donations. A parent volunteer could be the costume mistress to coordinate this part of the play. Goodwill Stores are always a great source of costumes and props.
It is important to expose your students to the artists and paintings through the Internet, books, songs, and poems. I like to project the paintings and we discuss the paintings to begin the project. We create a word web for each painting. We discuss the characters, setting, and what they think is happening in the painting. The students write a narrative piece and a non-fiction script on a single event from the painting as a group. We had two students work together to narrate what they learned about their artist and painting. Mrs. Fessler’s first graders were the narrators.
Unlike the Pageant of the Masters where the people in the paintings stand still, the characters in our presentation actually do come to life. Each group or art piece of children has a short performance. We rang a little bell to begin the skit and then to cue the students to return to their position.
I like to integrate a poem, a song, a phrase, or a dance for each painting. These are my suggestions for each art piece that I used:
- The Cider Mill –Students sang the poem I Love All Apples.
- The Fourteen Year Old Dancer –Students danced to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.
- Getting Ready for School —Students recited the poem Going to School
- Trick-or-Treating in the Burbs –Students danced to the song, The Monster Mash
- Retrato de Ignacio Sanchez and Child with Calla Lily –Students performed the Mexican Hat Dance
- Snap the Whip — Students learned a handclap to the tune of Miss Mary Mack. The students replaced some of the words with their own.
- 4 Ring Around the Roses –Students sang Ring Around the Rosie
- The Thinker —Students expressed what they think about. I use the sentence frame: I am thinking about _____________.
Begin by thinking of songs that you can integrate with each painting to make it a total experience. I only used about 15 seconds of music for the screen to go up and down. While the audience was waiting, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Spring was playing.
Here is the music I played while the curtain was going up and down for each art piece:
The Cider Mill — Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (The Andrew Sisters)
The Fourteen Year Old Dancer —The Nutcracker, Op.71: No. 2 March (Tchaikovsky)
Getting Ready for School —This is the Way We Go To School
Trick-or-Treating in the Burbs– The Monster Mash
Retrato de Ignacio Sanchez and Child with Calla Lily — La Granja (Jose-Luis Orozco)
Snap the Whip —You’ve Got a Friend in Me
4 Ring Around the Roses — Here We Go Loopty Loo
The Thinker —If I Only Had a Brain
Gather all the images of the paintings. Put the images in a slideshow to project from your computer. You can use a projector to display the image on a screen in front of the students. At our school we have a screen that goes up and down automatically, but you can have a sheet on a pole with two older students raising and lowering it.
Tips and Ideas for Putting It All Together
Backstage: We used clamps from the 99 Store to hold the paintings onto the front of the 8×8-foot frame. As the art piece was done, we unclamped it and let it fall then pulled it to the back of the stage so the next piece was ready to go.
- Narrators read about the painting and artist as an introduction to the art.
- Music turns on, screen goes up (or down).
- Music turns off, ring bell.
- Students perform the skit.
- Ring bell again for the students to resume their positions.
- Music turns back, screen goes down (or up).
If you truly believe in celebrating the arts in your classroom, this presentation is so worth the time and effort. Starting from painting the backgrounds to learning their skit or narration to standing still on stage, my students had a learning experience they will never forget! And really isn’t that what teaching is all about?