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Mother & Daughter Griots

Combine symbols and words to tell a story much like Betye and Alison Saar do in their art. Continue an ancient Asian and African tradition!

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Betye Saar is an African American artist who uses found materials in her artwork. Invite students to investigate Saar's life and professional career. Organize various text and Internet resources for students to use during this research.
    2. Saar uses found objects to create constructions that have personal meanings. Like the traditional storytellers of Africa, Betye Saar believes that her art has a message for its viewers. Encourage students to create a drawing that has symbolic personal meaning, one which can be described to classmates. Use Crayola® Washable Markers to draw a variety of images on lightly colored construction paper. Each image should mean something specific to the individual student artist. Students arrange images so the composition is interesting.
    3. Students write a short description of the meaning of their drawings. Describe what each image means, and how they work together to tell the intended story. Display each student's drawing and writing together.
  • Standards

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SCI: Analyze data to describe how humans, like all other organisms, obtain living and non-living resources from their environment.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with content to communicate meaning in artwork.

    VA: Analyze, describe, and demonstrate how factors of time and place influence visual characteristics that give meaning and value to a work of art.

    VA: Describe and compare a variety of individual responses to one's artwork and to artworks from various eras and cultures.

  • Adaptations

    Possible teacher resources include: Family Legacies: The Art of Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar by Jessica Dallow & Barbara C. Matilsky; Betye Saar by Jane H. Carpenter, Beyte Saar, & David C. Driskell

    Prior to this lesson, ask students to collect items from home and the out-of-doors that have been discarded. In small groups, students can discuss how some of these items can be incorporated into an art piece.

    Students collaborate with a family member to tell a story in symbols that have meaning to the family members. Write the story in words. Share this story with classmates.

    Students create a 3-D assemblage of found materials. Use Crayola School Glue to attach objects to cardboard or wood. What the glue has dried, paint the assemblage with Crayola Tempera.

    In small groups or teams of two, students analyze one or two of Saar's work. Describe what message the image provides to the viewer. How similar or different is it to that of the original artist? Students compose a summary paragraph describing the message. Post this message along with a photograph of Saar's artwork that was analyzed.


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