Developing Skill for Greater Understanding

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It is time for students to develop foundational skills. Rulers and drafting tools are introduced with the expectation that once students have the proper skills, they will be able to make their own polygons. One student is trying to draw a soccer ball from memory.

At closer examination, he discovers that the ball actually has two different polygons in it, a "pentagon" and a "hexagon." This leads students to start looking differently at their environment and attempting to draw things around the room.

The next day, students are given an entry task slip that helps us assess what they remember from the prior class. The pre-test reveals that they have a good knowledge of polygons, but need some reinforcement of specific vocabulary.


We challenge students to break down natural forms into polygons. We look to Alexander Calder's work and see how he simplified his work with polygons.

We do a close read of Calder's sculpture Flamingo, Chicago Federal Plaza, 1973, guiding students as they practice making observations about the work. Next, students infer meaning about the artwork, "It looks horizontal." Finally, we contextualize the artist's life and the period of history in which he lived. A visit to the sculpture later in the unit reinforces the close-read strategy and gives students an appreciation for its size.


After looking at Calder's Flamingo, students are challenged to break down an image of an animal silhouette by using only polygons, eliminating any curved lines.

They choose an animal and look for polygons. One student has a hard time giving up the curves of her duck, so she combines rows of triangles to create a curve for the back. We note her sophisticated approach to thinking and work with her to problem solve. She is beginning to understand how curves can be made up of smaller line segments well beyond a decagon.

We reflect on the day's work. Students see each other's polygons and understand that there are many ways to approach the same challenge. The students are hooked. They like problem-solving through art-making and are making connections to geometry in everyday life as they create animals.


Next, students are introduced to simple concepts of turning flat (two-dimensional) cardstock into form (three-dimensional). They learn to fold, score, pleat, slot and tab.

The next challenge is to develop their animals into three-dimensional sculptures using newly acquired skills to attach cardstock together. Edgardo uses folding and slotting to create his animal. One student slots each leg into the body.

The open-ended aspect of the challenge allows students to use their creativity. Initially, some students are puzzled. Jose visits the demonstration chart to help him move forward with his sculpture.

We see an opportunity to advance to more complex challenges using 3-D materials. From this expoloration, we gather more evidence of student learning: which students are clearly understanding art-making terms and which students are not?


We discover that some students are finishing sooner than others, which prompts us to begin a critique process while the other students continue working on the 3-D challenge. We explain the importance of feeling safe as artists and being in control of the critique process.


A couple of days before the ISAT, students are presented with a challenge to identify six different geometric solids in a variety of ways. They identify a two-dimensional drawing of the solid, the written name of the solid, a "net" of the solid and a model of the solid.


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