How to adapt Great Artist Curriculum to meet the needs of your students

merrie-monarch-hula-posterI am in my fourth year of teaching the Great Artist Program in Hawaii. The first year went really great. The students loved the projects and they looked forward to me coming in to teach them art. The second year was met with a little less enthusiasm. During this second year, I brought in some of my own art projects, and they really seemed to like those, but the projects from the Great Artist Curriculum, seemed to leave them disappointed.

Now in my fourth year, the students lack excitement when I come in the door with a new Great Artist Poster. So, I asked the kids what were their likes and dislikes. It seems that there is a lack of creativity in projects, that are copied exactly as presented. This works well, when students are young, and need a lot of guidance, or with students that are not that “into” art. The main dislike was that the Great Artists are all from Paris, and their works from the 1800’s have little relevance to students today. I see the same sort of thing happen when Shakespeare is introduced.

So, I decided to teach the program a little different. I would read to the students about the Great Artist of the month, in this case Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and then show their art. Then using the concepts of the lesson, in this case silhouette, line, bold colors, and poster print elements, we adapted it to something relevant. The Moulin Rouge was a cabaret club in Paris, not really something the kids could relate to. The greatest hula show of them all is the Merrie Monarch in Hilo, which goes on for several days and features all the different forms of hula from ancient to modern, even the boys can relate. So we decided to use it as our subject.

It was amazing what happened next. Students that never said one word to me all semester, were asking questions and chatting with me. Students that had struggled with paint and pastel were drawing perfect lines. Students that never completed a single project were coming up with creative reggae color combos. Every single student in the class produced a beautiful poster, and they were all different. It was like magic.

Here are some of the hula posters that the kids created.

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