The bilingual Art, Books, and Creativity (ABC) curriculum consists of 14 lessons, which combine visual arts and writing activities. ABC introduces students to artworks by women, as well as basic art vocabulary and concepts. It leads students through the process of creating artists’ books in a range of book formats and culminates with a classroom exhibition and critique of students’ works. Designed for use in 4th- and 5th-grade classrooms, the curriculum can be differentiated for other grade levels.
Introduces educators to the curriculum’s enduring understandings, essential questions, and key concepts, including artists’ books, curriculum organization, art materials, 6+1 Traits of Writing, and assessment.
Introduction to Art, Books, and Creativity
Students are introduced to the art form known as artists’ books and to the idea that visual artists and writers use parallel tools and processes to create their works. Students make folder portfolios and rubber-band journals.
Exploring Mediums & Materials
Students experiment with watercolors, markers, oil pastels, and other materials to create lines, patterns, shapes, and textures; practice rendering value and form; and explore how different mediums and tools can help them express ideas and feelings.
Students view and discuss Love’s Young Dream by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, considering how artists express stories visually through setting, symbols, and character. They learn that they can “read” narrative art to find meaning, much as they do narrative writing. Students create their own narrative art in an accordion book form.
Students view and discuss Portrait of a Noblewoman by Lavinia Fontana and explore how artists help us understand the people portrayed in their art. By observing the subject’s clothing, facial expression, and physical context, students can infer much about his or her identity, personality, and role in society. Students create self-portrait books illustrated with visual and written self-portraits.
Landscape & Still Life
Students view and discuss Staffelsee in Autumn by Gabriele Münter and Still Life with Watermelon, Pears, and Grapes by Lilly Martin Spencer. They learn how artists use overlapping, size, color, foreground, and background to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. They create a tunnel book in which to explore landscape and depth.
Students view and discuss Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses by Alma Thomas, exploring how artists communicate ideas and emotions through abstract means. Students discover that the subject of some abstract art is the arrangement of the elements of art, rather than the description of people, ideas, things, or places. Students create a flag book.
Students view and discuss Untitled by Frida Baranek. They learn that three-dimensional objects like sculpture often can be viewed from multiple sides and that a work’s forms may change depending on the position of the viewer. Students explore the materials and formal vocabulary that artists use to create sculptures and use paper-folding techniques and pop-ups to create sculpture hats.
Students view and discuss Tunnel Map by Carol Barton and Circulus Sapientiae (Circle of Wisdom) by Claire Van Vliet. They discover similarities and differences between traditional books, sculpture, and artists’ books. Students explore how images, text, and the form of the book work together to express meaning. They add text and images to the flag book they made in Lesson 6.
Colorful Words & Telling Images
Students look at illustrated children’s books to explore how illustrations and texts can relate to, and strengthen, one another. Students choose descriptive words or phrases from their journals and quick writes to create images that help communicate their meaning.
Imagine Your Artist’s Book
Students review all of their artwork and writings and choose a concept for their final artists’ books. They select text and illustration techniques to use in their final books and choose a book form to house their words and images. Students explore the idea that an artist’s book is a container for housing an idea.
Creating a Prototype
Students learn that artists and writers use tools to help them explore and test new ideas and designs. Students make prototypes of their artists’ books and plan where the text and images will go on each of the pages. Based on their prototypes, students decide whether revisions to the text, images, and book forms are needed.
Revising & Editing
Students revise text they selected from previous writings to make sure it clearly says what they want it to say. Students edit their writing to correct standard rules of language.
Pulling It All Together
Students make their artists’ books by working on book forms and their various components including images, texts, covers, and the layout and assembly of these parts. This lesson is meant to give students time to work on the various parts of their books at their own paces.
Students celebrate their creativity and achievements with an exhibition. They observe each other’s artists’ books and reflect on what the class has accomplished and learned.
NMWA developed and evaluated the ABC Curriculum and the ABC Teacher Institute from 2004 to 2011 with the support of two consecutive grants from the U.S. Department of Education. Findings from the three-year curriculum study and four-year professional development study show positive impact on student learning in the visual arts and writing and on teachers’ ability to integrate arts in the classroom.