Mural-venture: Teacher's Guide

Overview | Goals | Activities |
Exploration | Selection | Background | Reinvestigation | Presentation | Brochure | Mural Making |
Feedback | Conclusion | Resources | Glossary

Note:   Below is the Teacher's Guide to the Mural Venture, designed for easy printing. Specific instructions for students are suggested throughout.
You may also want to consider using the set of instructions written for students.
Overview
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The Mural-venture activity is a project-based learning experience designed to engage students in the politics, history, and culture of Nicaragua through learning about its murals.

The activity is designed for high schools students of
  • Art
  • Social Studies
  • Latin American History
  • U.S. History
  • Foreign Relations
  • World History
  • Spanish Language Arts
Learning Goals
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By completing this activity your students should achieve the following goals:

  • learn about Nicaraguan culture and politics through the stories told by Nicaraguan murals
  • gain an increased sensitivity towards the politics of art production in Nicaragua
  • develop an interest in the study of murals.
  • increase their understanding of the distinguishing characteristics of murals
  • understand the context in which murals are produced (social, political, historical)
  • build tools for a systemic process for understanding any form of visual art through its formal elements including (line, color, movement, texture, light, subject matter)
Activities
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Below is a summary of the activities for Mural-Venture in the suggested sequence.
  Suggested Steps Description of Activity
1. Exploration Here students are invited to explore individually, at their own pace, the murals available in the mural tour. Through looking on their own they will draw upon their own experiences and increase their interest in murals.
2. Selection Students pair up and select one mural from the tour to look at in depth. In this activity students communicate to each other their understanding of the mural.
3. Background
To begin a deeper discussion into murals, students walk through a background activity with discussion questions and interactive activities to learn about context and the visual elements of Nicaraguan murals. Students are guided through questions and on-line activities to increase their mural expertise.
4.
Reinvestigation
Students now return to the mural(s) they chose originally and reinvestigate it (them) using the skills they gained from the background activity. The questions they will use to reinvestigate their work is called the "toolbox." Either jump to the toolbox below or see the toolbox summary sheet for students.
5. Presentation Students can present their mural to the class in pairs, or individually and can describe how they saw the mural before using the tools in the toolbox, and then after. What did they learn about context and visual elements that helped them to look at the work more closely?
6.
Brochure
As a class, they can put together a brochure of all the murals they selected for an audience of their choice (ex. tourists going to Nicaragua). It will be up to them how they connect each of their murals to each, what links they make, what the comparisons bring out, and why they think these murals together forma valuable subject for a tour.
7. Make a Mural Finally, students can look at making a mural themselves. By inviting students to make their own mural and talk about what they would want to express, we hope students will better understand the expressions of others and as a result reach the learning goal "students gain an increased sensitivity towards the politics of art production in Nicaragua."

Exploration
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  Description
Here students are invited to explore individually, at their own pace, the murals available in the mural tour. Through looking on their own they will draw upon their own experiences and increase their interest in murals.


Rationale
Students learn best from starting with their own understanding, rather than being told Learning Theorist Eleanor Duckworth suggests introduce the concepts after students have had a chance to notice things on their own and they begin to form questions.

Resources
Mural Tour
Selection
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Description
Students pair up and select one mural from the tour to look at in depth. In this activity students communicate to each other their understanding of the mural. Students can find a partner to complete this activity with in your class. Just as murals are not completed in isolation, so too this activity is designed to be done with groups of at least two.


Rationale
Through communicating to another student students will be encouraged to assess their own understanding. Collaboratively the students can build on each other's observations and questions more deeply than the students could reach in isolation.

Resources
Mural Tour
Background
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Description
To begin a deeper discussion into murals, students walk through a background activity with discussion questions and interactive activities to learn about context and the visual elements of Nicaraguan murals. Students are guided through questions and on-line activities to increase their mural expertise.

The background activity has two parts:

Discussion Questions

In this area students answer questions and compare their answers about the context of a mural by comparing murals with billboards.
Suggested ways you could approach the discussion questions:
  • Full class discussion with a projector
  • Students continue working in pairs at their own machines
  • Four teams. This way each group can tackle one of the four contexts. They could then come together as a class and compare and contrast the different kinds of contexts. This is a recommended because it can help students understand the overlap that exists, as well as the differences between the different kinds of contexts.

Interactive Activities
In this area students learn about the both physical context and the visual elements (light, color, shape, and scale) and how these influence one's interpretation of a mural. Students can use the mouse on their computer to experiment and change things on the screen.
Suggested ways you could use the interactive activities:
  • Teacher leads the class displaying the computer screen with a projector
  • Students continue working in pairs at their own machines
  • Students work individually at their own machines. Because this activity is the most hands on, it is recommended that students each work at their own machines.

Rationale
The questions and interactive activities are designed to scaffold the learning, building student cognitive skills one at a time through student comparison making and experimentation.
Students make comparisons in the discussion questions to isolate the concepts of context. Through comparing a billboard with a mural, students can start their understanding of Nicaraguan murals with their prior knowledge of billboards, a medium that is likely to be more familiar to them. The interactive activities were designed to promote learning by doing and to maximize student engagement and feedback.

Resources
Start Background Activity
Discussion Questions
Interactive Activities
Glossary of Terms
Reinvestigation and Presentation
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Description
Students now return to the mural(s) they chose originally and reinvestigate it (them) using the skills they gained from the background activity. The questions they will use to reinvestigate their work is called the "toolbox." Either jump to the toolbox below or see the toolbox summary sheet for students.

Students can present their mural to the class in pairs, or individually and can describe how they saw the mural before using the tools in the toolbox, and then after. What did they learn about context and visual elements that helped them to look at the work more closely?


Rationale
Students will be given an opportunity to exercise their new looking skills by reinvestigating their murals. When they present them to the class they are given opportunity to assess their own understanding while contributing to other students' understanding.

Resources
Toolbox Summary Sheet (student worksheet designed for this activity)
Making Effective Oral Presentations
Presentation Checklist

Brochure
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  Description
As a class, they can put together a brochure of all the murals they selected for an audience of their choice (ex. tourists going to Nicaragua). It will be up to them how they connect each of their murals to each, what links they make, what the comparisons bring out, and why they think these murals together forma valuable subject for a tour.

Rationale
Through creating a brochure for an audience, students can participate in an authentic task. Through working on an authentic task, the learning becomes more meaningful and as a result more motivating for students. The motivation for creating a quality brochure will increase when with your students you can find an appropriate authentic audience. In addition, through collaborating students benefit by communicating their learning with each other, comparing their observations, and drawing deeper conclusions about the murals and their relationships to each other.

Resources
Making Brochures with ClarisWorks
Political History of Nicaragua (from Expressions of Central America)
Making a Mural
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    Description
Finally, students can look at making a mural themselves.

Rationale
By inviting students to make their own mural and talk about what they would want to express, we hope students will better understand the expressions of others and as a result reach the learning goal "students gain an increased sensitivity towards the politics of art production in Nicaragua."

Resources
Film about Mural Making (from PBS)
Make a Mural (from the Science Museum of Minnesota)
Evaluation/ Feedback
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  The methods below suggested how the goals mentioned earlier can be assessed. The forms of assessment can be used to assess learning of the content as well as the affective learning goal of increasing cultural understanding.

Students' Increased Understanding of Content
Suggested Forms of Assessment


    Student Self-Assessment
  • Students can compare their answers to the discussion questions to those on the site.
  • Students receive feedback and make comparisons with the interactive activities.

    Student Peer-Assessment
  • Students assess each other's understanding as they explain to each other their understandings of their murals during the presentations
  • Students assess their work and that of the rest of the class when they communicate to put together the brochure.

    Teacher Assessment
  • Teachers may use the suggested rubric to assess the student brochures.
    Student Brochure Rubric
  • Teachers may use this suggested rubric to assess the presentations
    Student Presentation Rubric
  • Teachers may use this suggested rubric to assess student collaboration
    Student Collaboration Rubric
  • You may also ask your students to participate in creating a rubric.
    How to create a rubric WITH your students. Read here about empowering students through negotiable contracting to draft rubrics for authentic assessment

    Why rubrics?
    Read here about why rubrics are used.


    Students' Increased Cultural Sensitivity
  • To evaluate how students are increasing their cultural understanding or awareness through this activity, pay close attention to the language students use in communicating with each other, in their presentations, and in their brochures. The best way to measure their increased sensitivity is through knowing your students and finding out what their feelings are before the activity begins. You may start by asking students what their perceptions are of Nicaragua at first and then follow through by asking students to write a letter to a Nicaraguan (muralist, teacher, etc.). Once our e-pals area is complete, there will be contacts in Central America for students to send their letters to.

Conclusion
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More Murals
Now is a great time for students to think about what they learned. With your students you can find some ways they can use these tools in other contexts. For example, you can make plans with your class to visit a mural in their neighborhood. Have students find out about who produced those murals, who funded them, and what they mean to their community.

Students can read about what it is it like to be a Nicaraguan muralist by listening in on an interview with muralist artist Julie Aguirre.

More Nicaragua
Now that students have looked at Nicaragua through understanding its murals, they can learn more about it by visiting Expressions of Nicaragua.

Resources
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Web Resources
Mural Tour
The History of Nicaraguan Murals This history gives an overview of the history of Nicaraguan murals from 1939 to the present.
Types of Nicaraguan Murals This page describes the murals produced by children in Nicaragua.
Social and Public Art Resource Center shows works of muralists based in Venice, California
Murals of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, shows twelve murals, fashioned by eleven talented Pueblo artists from 8 separate pueblos
Mural Art : The African-American Murals of L.A.

Also, to learn more about murals look at the following books
Print Resources:
Michael Capek Murals : Cave, Cathedral, to Street (Art Beyond Borders)
Capek writes for grades 5-8. Capek begins this informative history of mural painting with chapters on cave paintings and goes on to describe murals by the ancient Romans and Egyptians, the early Christians, the Renaissance Italians, and Mexican artists from Aztec, Toltec, and Mayan painters to Diego Rivera, and the twentieth-century US

David Kunzle, The Murals of Revolutionary Nicaragua, 1979-1992
David Kunzle's book is the comprehensive authority for understanding Nicaraguan murals.

Glossary
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composition the arrangement of parts that together form a unified whole
context the parts of the environment (physical, environment, historical, etc.) that surround something such as a word, passage, or work of art and can throw light on its meaning
depict to represent in a picture
facade the face of a building
juxtapose
to place side by side
historical context Historical context reflects the time in which something takes place or was created and how that influences how you interpret it. In other words, it is the events that took place around something through which you understand that thing.

Historical context can be found by answering the following questions...
  • When do you think the billboard was made?
  • What was going on at the time?

    ex. Think of something in your life that you once treasured (such as a toy, clothes, a game, etc.) but now you've gotten rid of. Think about how when you were younger it was SO important to you. Now think about that thing in your life today. It doesn't seem so important now, because you are in a new time, a new historical context with different values and priorities than when you first got that treasure. Similarly, art that was once interpreted in one way later in time can be interpreted differently.
Impression an effect, feeling, or image retained after an experience
media forms of expression determined by materials or creative methods
physical context The physical context reflects the space around something and how that influences how you see it.

ex. Think about how a photograph of a woman's face looks different when it appears framed in an art gallery and when it appears in your friend's photo album.

Physical context can be found by answering the following questions...
  • Where is it?
  • What does it have to do with the place in which it can be found?
  • What is the piece and the community in which it is found
political context Political context reflects the environment in which something is produced indicating it's purpose or agenda

Political context can be found by answering the following questions...
  • What is the agenda of the creator?
  • Why was it made?
  • Does it help people?
  • Does it promote ideas?

    ex. Often political messages are intended to persuade one way or another. Knowing who created the message and what their relationship is to others reflects how you interpret that message.
Sandinista a Nicaraguan guerrilla group that overthrew Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979; named for CÈsar Augusto Sandino, a hero of Nicaraguan resistance to US military occupation (1927-33)
social context The environment of people that surrounds something's creation or intended audience
Social context reflects how the people around something use and interpret it. The social context influences how something is viewed.

Ex. Think about how you see different things in different social contexts. For example, when you see a movie at the theater with your friends, how does it seem different than when you watch a movie your teacher created for you in class with students? One may seem more like entertainment and the other may to ask you to do more thinking. Depending on where you see each one, you will experience them differently.

To find the social context answer the questions
  • Who created it?
  • Who was the audience?
subject
the main theme of a work of art


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