Book Links features a focus on literature and the arts. I was fortunate enough to interview Jan Greenberg, author and collaborator on many nonfiction and biographical books about contemporary artists, as well as two fantastic ekphrastic (art-based) poetry collections, Heart to Heart and Side to Side. She shared the roots of her interest in art, back-stories on the creation of several books, including Ballet for Martha, the benefits of collaboration, her research process, and her views on the importance of art education. Look for "Talking with Jan Greenberg" (pp. 19-23) along with Common Core Connections and activities based on some of her works.
Here are a few extra nuggets that were not included in the print article!
More about her collaboration with Sandra Jordan--
Jan Greenberg: Once a guard at MOMA asked us why we were standing in front of a Jackson Pollock for such a long time. Most people, he said, last around 20 seconds in front of a painting. I might add that these field trips are accompanied by some delicious meals, much laughter, and visits to both our families. I feel as if Sandra’s Aunt Gay and her sister Nancy are my relatives too.
There are studies from the Getty and other research institutions that perception in the arts improves critical thinking skills. Although I believe in the arts for their own sake, I know what a wonderful teaching tool the visual arts are for stimulating discussion in the classroom. That there has been renewed interest in nonfiction in the Common Core curriculum is gratifying to me. I write for a nonfiction children’s literature blog. I.N.K, which has introduced me to authors who share many fascinating insights about their books, classroom activities, and technical information.
I also asked her about the ideal role of technology in creating and/or promoting art and poetry for young people in this digital age.
Jan Greenberg: The electronic media is very important. Google any artist, artwork, or poet or poem of note and up they pop on the computer screen. One of the most valuable parts of my education was memorizing poetry and reciting it in class. I still remember the lines to Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and the first stanza of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The rhythms, figurative language, and emotional qualities of poetry are enhanced by speaking the words out loud, by taking them in, and making them one’s own.
And here is a sampling of suggested activities based on her works.
In the classroom:
After reading selections and sharing art images from Greenberg’s Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art and Side by Side: New Poems Inspired by Art from Around the World, invite students to talk about their favorite poem selections.
Which key aspects of the art does the poem showcase in the poem?
The image itself?
The story behind the art?
The emotional impact of the art?
How does the poet arrange the words, lines, and stanzas to create the poem?
Poets arrange words on the page much like artists use various media to create their art. Discuss the choices in spacing, line breaks and stanzas the students notice in the poems. Then invite students to try creating their own ekphrastic poems in response to artworks.
Begin by looking for compelling images from print resources like magazines, newspapers, or family photos or online resources like Flickr, Google images, or the GoogleArtProject. Students can work with a partner to choose a favorite piece, talk about the art, and create a poem inspired by the art. Then come together as a group to share art selections and new poems and post the pairs together in a class display.
Common Core Connections
RL.5.5. Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
RL.5.7. Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).