Picturins America
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20-B Martin Puryear, Ladder for Booker T Washington, 1966
Ludmila Levina

 

Target audience: University freshmen or sophomores / high school students
Duration of the lesson two 45-minute sessions

Lesson Plan
Goals:

  • to help students understand and appreciate modern art
  • to help students develop their English language skills
  • to help students develop their critical thinking and learning skills

Objectives:

Culture

  • to expose students to a work of modern American art and help them understand its cultural value
  • to help students understand the cultural context that fostered the given artwork

through the music and poetry related to them

  • to allow students to get acquainted with the dominant African-American leaders of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Language

  • to develop students writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills through a variety of learning activities
  • to allow students to use productively the English language through exploration of cultural context and creative writing
  • to encourage students to formulate in writing the ideas and assosiations the given artwork inspires
  • to enrich students vocabulary by introducing and reinforcing arts related terms

Critical thinking and learning skills

  • to help students practice using active learning skills and strategies
  • to help students learn to cooperate with others in discussion, pair, group and project work
  • to teach students to compare, analyze, and evaluate the information through reading, writing, and listening
  • to teach students to make inferences from the text
  • to encourage students to formulate and share their ideas and opinions
  • to enhance students public speaking skills through presentations of the results of a team project
  • to encourage students to use graphic organizers to organize and present the information

Evocation

Activity # 1 Tuning in

Directions
1. Listen to an old negro spiritual We Are Climbing Jacobs Ladder*.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNpSJVIGKtE&feature=related
2. What impressed you most while listening to the spiritual?

  • The melody?
  • The voice of Paul Robeson?
  • The spirit?
  • The content?

* Jacob's Ladder is a ladder to heaven, envisioned by the biblical patriarch Jacob and described in
the Book of Genesis.

Realization of Meaning

Activity # 2 Getting information from a Culture Note

Directions
1. Read a short culture note. What information was new to you? Mark it in the text.

Martin Puryear is a famous modern sculptor. Over the years he has been exhibited in museums throughout the world, and is one of the first African American artists who received international recognition. However, he isnt well-known in Russia. Puryears sculptures are truly innovative. Puryear has lived and traveled all over the world. He links American and multicultural values, world cultures, 19th-century craft traditions, and the latest fabricating technologies. His art is a fusion of metaphor, sculpture, architecture, and craft. He works primarily in wood but also uses many unexplored materials (such as tar, wire mesh, rawhide, and rattan).

Activity # 3 Making Inferences

Directions

  • Read the paragraph carefully.

Martin Puryear s Ladder for Booker T. Washington was made from a thirty-six foot long tree. Its remarkable that the title came after the work was finished. Puryear explained in one of his interviews*: I didn't set out to make a work about Booker T. Washington, the idea of Booker T. Washington**, the resonance with his life, and his struggle, the whole notion that his idea of progress for the race was a long slow progression. And the antithesis was W.B. DuBois who was a much more radical thinker and who had a much more pro-active way of thinking about racial struggle for equality. And Booker T. Washington was someone who made enormous contacts with people in power and had enormous influence, but he was what you would call a gradualist. The joining of that idea of Booker T. Washington and his notion of progress and the form of that piecethat came after the fact. But when I thought about a title for it, it just seemed absolutely fitting.

* adapted from: http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/puryear/clip2.html#
* * The title of Washingtons autobiography is Up from Slavery which can be interpreted as a
challenging and effortful ascension of an Afro-American to a better existence, in material,
intellectual and psychological sense.

  • Analyze the ideas with your partner and sum up what inferences you can draw about Booker T. Washingtons life, views, role in history.
  • Share your inferences with the rest of the students.

Activity # 4 Exploring the Work of Art

Directions

  • Study the sculpture in detail. Make a mental note of everything that caught your eye.
  • What is unusual about the ladder? Share your observations with your partner.
  1. Where does it lead? Would it be difficult to get to the top of it? Why? Share your ideas with the class.
  2. Think, why the artist found the notion of progress and the form of the sculpture absolutely fitting?
  3. Formulate the arguments to prove your point of view. Put them down.

Martin Puryear (American, b. 1941). Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996. Wood (ash and maple). 432 x 22 3/4 in., narrowing at the top to 1 1/4 x 3 in. (1097.28 x 57.785. cm, narrowing to 3.175 x 7.6 cm). Gift of Ruth Carter Stevenson, by Exchange.Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Retrieved from: http://arthistory.about.com/od/educator_parent_resources/ig/picturing_america/pa_neh_40.htm

Reflection

Activity # 5 Reflexive Writing

Directions

  • Return to the spiritual from Activity #1.

What do the following words from it tell you now?

We are climbing Jacob's ladder
Brothers, sisters, all
Every rung goes higher and higher

2. Return to your inferences from Activity #3.
It is known that he artist left the final explanation of his sculpture open.
Think about what else a ladder can symbolize.
2. Sum up the ideas in a cluster on the board.
3. Choose one of the ideas and write a three-paragraph essay (not more that 250 words). ( can be done on paper or using wiki for writing)

To organize the process of writing follow the five steps below:

  • Rehearsing - collect your thoughts, plan a way into writing

Helpful hint: Use freewriting ( put all the thoughts that come to your mind,
without thinking about the structure; then mark connections
between the ideas; cross out the ones that are extra).

  • Drafting - set your ideas out on paper

Helpful hint: write on every other line;
dont worry about spelling and handwriting at this stage.

  • Revising - polish the draft

Helpful hint: answer the following questions:

  • What is the paper mostly about?
  • Is there any place I need to put more information?
  • Can I leave out some words and make the main points stand out more clearly?
  • Do my words show (with vivid detail) and not tell (with vague generalities)?
  • Do I lead the reader from point to point in a way that makes sense?
  • Is my introduction clear?
  • Is my conclusion strong and to the point?
  • Does each paragraph develop the Topic Sentence?
  • Editing - Proofread and put the final touch

Helpful hint: revise what youve written. Focus on correctness, word choice,
sentence structure, use of connectives, indenting, etc.

  • Publishing - Share your piece of writing with your group mates.

The teacher can use a number of activities to help students share,
appreciate and discuss the product of writing: The Authors Chair;
classroom newspaper, web log, etc.

Activity # 6 Cultural Enrichment (Homework : Project Work)

Directions

  • Choose one of the research teams to make a project to be presented in the next class:
    • Team 1 Historians

Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 November 14, 1915), was the dominant figure in the African American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915. The scope and influence of Booker T. Washingtons public life in the twentieth century rival that of Frederick Douglass in the nineteenth century.

Compare the activities of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and present the results of your analysis in class using a comparison chart or any other graphic organizer.
Go to: http://www.history.rochester.edu/class/douglass/home.html
http://www.peoples.ru/state/statesmen/booker_t._washington/photo.html
http://washington.thefreelibrary.com/ or make use of other sources.

  • Team 2 Art Gallery Guides

Organize a visit to an interactive exhibition of Martin Puryears works
Go to: http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag98/puryer/sm-puryr.shtml
http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/martinpuryear/flashCheck.html or make use of other sources.

HANDOUTS

Handout #1

Activity # 1 Tuning in

Directions
1. Listen to an old negro spiritual We Are Climbing Jacobs Ladder*.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNpSJVIGKtE&feature=related
2. What impressed you most while listening to the spiritual?

  • The melody?
  • The voice of Paul Robeson?
  • The spirit?
  • The content?

* Jacob's Ladder is a ladder to heaven, envisioned by the biblical patriarch Jacob and described in
the Book of Genesis.

Handout #2

Activity # 2 Getting information from a Culture Note

Directions
1. Read a short culture note. What information was new to you? Mark it in the text.

Martin Puryear is a famous modern sculptor. Over the years he has been exhibited in museums throughout the world, and is one of the first African American artists who received international recognition. However, he isnt well-known in Russia. Puryears sculptures are truly innovative. Puryear has lived and traveled all over the world. He links American and multicultural values, world cultures, 19th-century craft traditions, and the latest fabricating technologies. His art is a fusion of metaphor, sculpture, architecture, and craft. He works primarily in wood but also uses many unexplored materials (such as tar, wire mesh, rawhide, and rattan).

Handout #3

Activity # 3 Making Inferences

Directions

  • Read the paragraph carefully.

Martin Puryear s Ladder for Booker T. Washington was made from a thirty-six foot long tree. Its remarkable that the title came after the work was finished. Puryear explained in one of his interviews*: I didn't set out to make a work about Booker T. Washington, the idea of Booker T. Washington**, the resonance with his life, and his struggle, the whole notion that his idea of progress for the race was a long slow progression. And the antithesis was W.B. DuBois who was a much more radical thinker and who had a much more pro-active way of thinking about racial struggle for equality. And Booker T. Washington was someone who made enormous contacts with people in power and had enormous influence, but he was what you would call a gradualist. The joining of that idea of Booker T. Washington and his notion of progress and the form of that piecethat came after the fact. But when I thought about a title for it, it just seemed absolutely fitting.

* adapted from: http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/puryear/clip2.html#
* * The title of Washingtons autobiography is Up from Slavery which can be interpreted as a
challenging and effortful ascension of an Afro-American to a better existence, in material,
intellectual and psychological sense.

  • Analyze the ideas with your partner and sum up what inferences you can draw about Booker T. Washingtons life, views, role in history.
  • Share your inferences with the rest of the students.

Handout #4

Activity # 4 Exploring the Work of Art

Directions

  • Study the sculpture in detail. Make a mental note of everything that caught your eye.
  • What is unusual about the ladder? Share your observations with your partner.
  1. Where does it lead? Would it be difficult to get to the top of it? Why? Share your ideas with the class.
  2. Think, why the artist found the notion of progress and the form of the sculpture absolutely fitting?
  3. Formulate the arguments to prove your point of view. Put them down.

Handout #5

Activity # 5 Reflexive Writing

Directions
1.Return to the spiritual from Activity #1.
What do the following words from it tell you now?

We are climbing Jacob's ladder
Brothers, sisters, all
Every rung goes higher and higher

2. Return to your inferences from Activity #3.
It is known that he artist left the final explanation of his sculpture open.
Think about what else a ladder can symbolize.
2. Sum up the ideas in a cluster on the board.
3. Choose one of the ideas and write a three-paragraph essay (not more that 250 words).
To organize the process of writing follow the five steps below:

  • Rehearsing - collect your thoughts, plan a way into writing

Helpful hint: Use freewriting ( put all the thoughts that come to your mind,
without thinking about the structure; then mark connections
between the ideas; cross out the ones that are extra).

  • Drafting - set your ideas out on paper

Helpful hint: write on every other line;
dont worry about spelling and handwriting at this stage.

  • Revising - polish the draft

Helpful hint: answer the following questions:

  • What is the paper mostly about?
  • Is there any place I need to put more information?
  • Can I leave out some words and make the main points stand out more clearly?
  • Do my words show (with vivid detail) and not tell (with vague generalities)?
  • Do I lead the reader from point to point in a way that makes sense?
  • Is my introduction clear?
  • Is my conclusion strong and to the point?
  • Does each paragraph develop the Topic Sentence?
  • Editing - Proofread and put the final touch

Helpful hint: revise what youve written. Focus on correctness, word choice,
sentence structure, use of connectives, indenting, etc.

  • Publishing - Share your piece of writing with your group mates.

Handout #6

Activity # 6 Cultural Enrichment (Homework : Project Work)

Directions

  • Choose one of the research teams to make a project to be presented in the next class:
    • Team 1 Historians

Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 November 14, 1915), was the dominant figure in the African American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915. The scope and influence of Booker T. Washingtons public life in the twentieth century rival that of Frederick Douglass in the nineteenth century.

Compare the activities of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and present the results of your analysis in class using a comparison chart or any other graphic organizer.
Go to: http://www.history.rochester.edu/class/douglass/home.html
http://www.peoples.ru/state/statesmen/booker_t._washington/photo.html
http://washington.thefreelibrary.com/
http://arthistory.about.com/od/educator_parent_resources/ig/picturing_america/pa_neh_40.htm
or make use of other sources.

  • Team 2 Art Gallery Guides

Organize a visit to an interactive exhibition of Martin Puryears works
Go to: http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag98/puryer/sm-puryr.shtml
http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/martinpuryear/flashCheck.html
http://arthistory.about.com/od/educator_parent_resources/ig/picturing_america/pa_neh_40.htm
or make use of other sources.

REFERENCES

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNpSJVIGKtE&feature=related
2. http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/puryear/clip2.html#
3. http://arthistory.about.com/od/educator_parent_resources/ig/picturing_america/pa_neh_40.htm
4. http://www.history.rochester.edu/class/douglass/home.html
5. http://www.peoples.ru/state/statesmen/booker_t._washington/photo.html
6. http://washington.thefreelibrary.com/
7.http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag98/puryer/sm-puryr.shtml
8.http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/martinpuryear/flashCheck.html

ADDITIONAL MATERIALS

GLOSSARY
rung (noun) - one of the bars or rods that form the steps of a ladder -
,
recognition (noun) - the act of recognizing or fact of being recognized -

innovative (adjective) - using or showing new methods, ideas, etc. -

multicultural (adjective) - consisting of, relating to, or designed for the cultures of
several different races -
,
craft (noun) - skill or ability, esp. in handiwork -

to fabricate (verb) - to make, build, or construct -

fusion (noun) - something produced by fusing -
,
tar (noun) - any of various dark viscid substances obtained by the
destructive distillation of organic matter such as coal,
wood, or peat -
; ;
wire (noun) - a slender flexible strand or rod of metal-

mesh (noun) - net -

rawhide (noun) - untanned hide -
,
rattan (noun) - the stems of any of the climbing palms -
( )
progression (noun) - the act of progressing; advancement -
,
pro-active (adjective) - tending to initiate change rather than reacting to events -
, ,
equality (noun) - the state of being equal -

enormous (adjective) - unusually large in size, extent, or degree -
; ,
influence (noun) - an effect of one person or thing on another -
,
fitting (adjective) - appropriate or proper; suitable -
, ,

 
         
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