Art and Music and Italy

We are learning about Italy, which is just perfect as we prepare for our annual Art Show. It’s only a few days into the learning, and already we are bursting at the seams in the best of ways.  Here is what happened today:

Our first art activity was fun.  Nothing serious, just combining Italy and art.  We glued tissue paper circles onto paper, and then dropped cooked spaghetti dipped in black paint on top.

The children know that pasta doesn’t come from Italy.  It was invented in China (ice cream was, too).  Still, it was fun to drop and throw spaghetti.  We learned about pasta and much more in a favorite book from a series, Look What Came From Italy.

As we read the book today, we also discovered that Italy is the home for inventing pretzels, the radio, the fork, lock & key, and the cookie.  How cool is that?  And then I turned the page in the book to discover that the concept for a symphony orchestra was from Italy.

I showed children the picture- the big curvature on a stage with instruments grouped together.  They had no idea about a symphony orchestra.  Of course not, they’re three and four years old.  I talked about instruments and music to fifteen blank-faced children.  And then I knew I had to do something.  This was too important.  This was music, and a symphony.  Children needed to learn and hear.

Can you tell I was passionate?

I grabbed our iPad and typed in ‘symphony orchestra performance’.  What came up couldn’t have been a better introduction.  A ten minute video of the Symphony Orchestra of India had every child spellbound.  They saw and heard each instrument, including a banjo and a djembe. We watched the video twice.

The best was yet to come.  The picture book I read aloud before lunch, No One Saw, showed important pieces of art.

This is what I did:

I showed children the book cover and just waited.  I said nothing.  McKinley’s face lit up. She pointed above the loft and said, “We have that!”  Yes, we have a Starry Night poster hanging on the wall.  Then we looked carefully at the picture on the book.  It showed van Gogh’s brush strokes in greater detail.

“How do you think he did that?  Do you see the colors?  His brush strokes went this way and that way.”  I moved my hand in circles and curves.

Ah, I had planted a seed.

It was time to read the book.  I opened the book to this page:

I acted surprised.  Actually, I acted startled.  My big, booming voice said, “Eddie!  You could do this!  Look!”  I put the picture in front of him.  Eddie’s saucer eyes stared at the painting, and he shook his head ‘yes’ over and over.  I could have said that to any one of the children.  All would have had Eddie’s response.

“Eddie, what colors would you need?”  We talked about the colors.  Children had to really look at the painting.

I moved on to the next picture in the book:

“Mia!  You could do this!”  In the same manner that I did with Eddie and Monet’s haystacks, I repeated the process with Mia and Georgia O’Keeffe’s flowers.  I continued with other works of art, like Sunday, by George Seurat.  We had to look closely to see the many, teeny-tiny dots that he painted.

When I turned the page to this painting by Mary Cassatt:

Emmett nearly jumped out of his skin.  Before I had a chance to say anything, he said, “We have that in the blue bathroom!”  Yes, we have that hanging in the children’s bathroom. Emmett recognized it immediately.

Here’s the thing.  Before children begin to create art in earnest, they need to feel art, feel that they can do this.  They need to see art with all its colors and brush strokes.  They need to be empowered.

Our journey has begun.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in art, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Imagination, Inspiration, Learning About the World, music, picture books, Teaching young children, The Arts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Art and Music and Italy

  1. Darlene says:

    You have instilled something in their hearts and minds they will never forget. How precious.

  2. Oh, Jennie, what an amazing lesson! Thank you for providing the step by step description and your children’s reactions. I felt as if I was one of them sitting on the rug!

    • Jennie says:

      When my husband read the post, he felt like you did, that it was a great lesson for teachers. And yes, the children’s reactions were wonderful. I’m so glad you felt as if you were ‘there’. Thank you, Susan.

  3. Dan Antion says:

    What a great job you’re doing. I’m going to enjoy following this through the whole process.

  4. What a fun day chock-full of incidental learning!

  5. beetleypete says:

    Well done as always, Jennie. Bella Italia! It’s great to teach kids about other countries too. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. Whenever my lesson planning is centered on a country, the learning and fun seem to explode. We always start with geography, and then explore food, art, culture, language, music, and more. I always tell parents that within our unit of study, whatever that may be, their children will get math, reading, science, art, etc. But, when the unit of study is interesting and fun, the learning flows. Italy is a prime example.

  6. What a lovely art activity, Jennie. I thought pasta came from Italy so that is news to me too.

    • Jennie says:

      I thought pasta came from Italy, too, Robbie! If you saw the first metal fork they invented, you would go back to eating with your hands, like the Italians did. 🙂

  7. Ritu says:

    Great job Jennie!

  8. Heartwarming, Jennie.

  9. CarolCooks2 says:

    As always your posts depict what a wonderful teacher you are, Jennie. Your class are so lucky to have you as their teacher as you are opening their minds to so much 🙂 xx

  10. Who would have realized that children would not know automatically what an orchestra was and the best way to explain it? Only you. What an education those children are getting! So much exposure to things most of us never see or know about. You are one impressive teacher.

    • Jennie says:

      That is so nice, Marlene. Honestly, I just follow my instincts and instinctively know what to do, especially in the heat of the (wonderful) moment. Those are the best times. Thank you!

  11. Norah says:

    I love your children’s tissue paper circles and black spaghetti art. I didn’t know pasta didn’t come from Italy. How interesting. I love that you are introducing them to these artworks in ways that help them connect. The book ‘No one Saw’ looks wonderful. I’ll have to see if it’s in my local library. Have you seen ‘Once Upon a Picture’ by Sally Swain? I think you’d like it. And so would your children.

    • Jennie says:

      I try to go slowly and throw in a large dose of excitement. 🙂 Today we start to paint with real artist paints on a palette. The spaghetti art was fun! Thank you for the book recommendation, Norah! I will get it at the library this week.

  12. abbiosbiston says:

    This is so lovely! I really hope my little boy has teachers like you when he goes to school next year!

  13. Sarah says:

    Such a wonderful way to start your journey for this year’s art exhibition, Jennie! Love how the children reacted to the paintings! And yours is a very important lesson even for trained art historians (like me 😉) – you really, really need to LOOK at the painting. There’s no way around it if you want to write a decent essay or something else. 😊

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