SAME Lesson....Different Approach!

Sunday, May 24, 2015
So have you ever brainstormed an idea with a colleague, talked about it in passing or during the 5 minutes you see each other after school, taught the lesson, and then upon their completion-the 2 projects turned out completely different?  I LOVE the opportunity to collaborate with my coworkers, but we all have our own individual styles and it is fun to see how lessons turn out differently!  This year my class was nose deep in the American Revolution.  I texted my amazing coworker (Steph from Teaching in Room 6) in PANIC.....Let's collaborate on a project that has to do with the revolution...a possible desk project for Open House??? My wonderful coworker hand delivered me (which she often does!) some research on 3 different paintings centered on the American Revolution and we decided to dig into them with the kids.  We thought that after giving the kids the information behind each painting, we would let them decide which painting they would want to RECREATE!  This is how we went about it in my room!

First we looked at each piece of art and discussed them in detail.

Painting #1) Declaration of Independence
This picture lent to a great discussion on the Declaration of Independence and the quote we had been studying, "If we don't hang together, we'll all hang separately."-Benjamin Franklin 
This painting was a great visual for the students to picture how these men were working together and became our founding fathers HOWEVER, I pointed out that there were many historical inaccuracies present in the painting.  For example, it is said that the men were never actually present at the signing of the Declaration and that the document was taken to different locations to be signed.  This painting known as the Declaration of Independence was actually just the drafting committee presenting the draft of the document to congress.  
Painting #2) Crossing the Delaware
My students LOVED this picture because it really captures the heroic stance of George Washington as he is crossing the Delaware to a surprise battle.  This was by far the students favorite, BUT there are also things in this picture that are not completely accurate.  For example, the crossing of the Delaware happened during the DEAD of night!  
Painting #3) Spirit of 76'
This painting was pretty simple for my students to talk about.  It was plain and simple to them that this painting represented patriotism and a 3 man band parading through a battle scene.  The students thought that their facial expressions revealed a lot about the feelings of the men and how they could have been frightened about what they were marching through!  We discussed how this painting was harshly criticized by art critics and passed off as more of a cartoon than a piece of artwork, however it was extremely popular with American culture at the time!  It even went on tour to sell out crowds!

We used the following chart to record different facts and ideas about each painting.  It was actually GREAT for myself as well as the other kids to keep all the facts straight between each painting! The kids loved the chart because they were able to learn about each painting and then write their own interpretations.  If you would like a copy of this free chart, click on the link below! 
During our discussion using the above chart, the common theme of historical inaccuracies was becoming a pattern between the 3 paintings! For example, as I mentioned before, the crossing of the Delaware actually took place at NIGHT in the rain. Also, the flag that is seen carried in George Washington's boat was not even created at the crossing of the Delaware but the following year in 1777!    

Next, I showed the students how we would be taking their photo and they would actually take place of the center character.  I used the following photo to introduce the idea (of my lovely daughter) and we discussed how their pose and facial expression should represent the MOOD of the photo. Take a look! Here is my daughter posing in the Spirit of 76'...
Next, students selected 1 painting they wanted to actually jump into and BECOME the main character of! After our discussions of the paintings,  the MOST popular painting in my class was the Crossing of the Delaware.  Here is a student's beginning draft to the Crossing of the Delaware...
The students posed in the same stance as seen in the photograph.  This project was completely engaging for the kids and they LOVED it!  

***SIDE NOTE***I printed the pictures out WAY TOO LARGE!! The pictures printed out as a full 8.5 x 11 pages, so the scale was WAY too large for them.  Once they cut our their photograph and glued it on the page, some needed 2-3 more pages to be able to include all of the characters in the scene.  As you can see in the picture below, it turned out FABULOUS, BUT this student used 3 8.5 x 11 pages to fit everything in. It was GIGANTIC and would never fit on her desk. 
Lesson learned? Next time I would definitely make sure to print the pictures smaller.  
Looking at the student's work, I LOVE how the the student captured George Washington's stance.  My students are amazing artists and I felt they captured the "message" portrayed in this painting.  Their depiction of George Washington captured his representation of being a fearless leader and hero during the American Revolution!
This project took a LOT longer than expected! Why?  Remember how I mentioned that I printed the student's pictures out WAY TOO BIG? They had WAY too much drawing to complete in order to make their pictures scaled.  I have to admit MANY students did NOT finish! I do love how the students drew their outfits on a separate sheet of paper and then glued that on top of their photo as if they were a paper doll...That worked out VERY well since they could add alot of detail to their uniform.
I loved some of the discussion points my bright students came up with, such as how all of the people in the boat with George Washington were a bit different.  For example, there were 2 farmers, soldiers, native americans, all representative members from the colonies that symbolized unity and one common goal-Freedom!

Here are a few of the completed pictures of the Declaration of Independence.

To grab a copy of the chart seen above (which was a great way for the kids to 
organizing their information as we were discussing) click on the pic below.
I will say that only about 60% of my students finished SINCE I gave them such a large print out of themselves!  Totally my fault.  The pictures took FOREVER and a day since they needed to draw so large to make their drawings at scale with themselves....Some kids were adding 3 pages to make a large mural.  With Open House looming, we did not have time to finish them OR the writing that I had hoped to complete in time for the big night, UGH!  PLUS the ones that did finish were too large to be displayed on their desks!!!! Instead, we put these liberty bell projects on our desks last minute! The good news is we finished them AFTER Open House and the kids still got to take them home.  
Have you found that lessons that you plan with a co-worker come out a tad bit different?
We would LOVE to hear how!
Would you like to see another approach???
Hop on over to Stephanie's Blog to see how she approached this lesson!


  1. I love your ideas. Perfect way to integrate history and art. I'll try to get our Art teacher to cooperate with me.

    1. Thanks Beti! I hope your Art teacher loves the idea too!! :)

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  3. I love this idea! I might try this the next time I teach about an important historical event. Thanks! Carol's Teaching Garden

    1. Thanks Carol! It was very fun for them! And Me :)

  4. I absolutely love this! I also love that you are using art. I saw not too long ago at a reading conference about how we could utilize art to pique students' interests and to build background! Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to use this!

    1. Thanks Tammy! Totally agree that art piques their interests and makes things a bit more exciting!!! :)


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