Students in my 7th grade art class are diving into something they may have never experienced before – Ukiyo-E, or rather, Printmaking! The printmaking unit for students is a little more extensive than some of my seventh graders were ready for – including an introduction to Japanese Printmaking, a research portion and even a writing assignment before they even got their hands on the goods. All of which are influenced by the Common Core State Standards my school is implementing in their classrooms.
I challenged myself to include as much writing and reading into this unit as I could without taking away from the hands-on portion of the project all the while trying my best to include CCSS strongly. Students enter the classroom with little to no experience in printmaking so I set the stage with a classroom discussion and presentation surrounding the culture of Japan and China, followed by the history surrounding the earliest Wood Block Prints.
We learn the origin of the term ‘Ukiyo-E’ as well as the Edo and Meiji Period in which Japanese Printmaking had a strong impact amongst, of course, other facts. They also learn that when popularity of printmaking died down do to trade routes and photography, it played a similar roll to that of newspaper – it became packing material. All of this history, including the influence that Printmaking had on Europe, brought students to the 20th century and current art studies of the practice. Students also participated in a reading of the process involved in printmaking – create an image, carve and print using specific tools. After the discussion and reading, students took their notes and began creating an outline for a paper that would cover all of the material they had learned as well as some of what their project would involve.
The reading and writing are new to the unit but the writing was definitely the biggest challenge, I have to say. Students had to outline their topics and pay attention to the basic constructs of writing an essay including an introduction, body and conclusion. After the paper was completed, students finally got to start on their projects. I’ll be honest, I’ve been extremely impressed with the comprehension the essays have shown-students have made inferences and noted great observations surrounding the topic of Printmaking. I can’t say I knew what to expect of an extensive writing assignment in my classroom but I am pleased with the results, beyond a doubt. Students were also able to experience some of the technology we will have throughout our district next year by writing their paper using “Pages” on the iPad. I use WritingCCSSRubric for the writing assignment, weighing the content at 30 points, the rest totaling 20 (grand total of 50).
Like last year, students are taking a stamped image of their school photo and putting it into action. They have carved out the fine details and start the printing process this week. They will create dozens of copies of the image and pass out their work to classmates, simulating the original purpose of printmaking.
The project becomes personal when students use their school picture so they take care in their work and the results are always spectacular – can’t wait to show off some of the work coming out this last trimester.