Students watch a video about artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s chalk sculpture. Students answer questions and write an essay about the response to the sculpture.
Why is this an important concept?
While students are developing reading and writing skills, they begin to realize that the words they read in a text or choose to use in their writing have a meaning often directly connected to the author’s intention. When students understand that word choice is purposeful, they also begin to understand that choice of words and use of language can evoke a reaction or response.
- Chalk Sculpture QuickTime Video
Part I: Learning Activity
Note: Prior to this lesson you may want to collect pictures of visual art or examples of written text that have generally produced a dialogue on the artist’s intention as well as distinctive responses from viewers. An example would be Picasso’s “Guernica."
1. Begin by asking students if they have ever heard the expression "Shouting fire in a crowded theater." Let them know it paraphrases a famous quote by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in a historic Supreme Court decision that set limits on the freedom of speech guaranteed under the First Amendment. He cautioned when words were used in a way that could cause panic (assuming fire was falsely shouted when there was no fire), the Constitution would not protect an individual’s freedom of speech.
2. Ask students to offer ideas as to why Justice Holmes might have thought it was dangerous to use words in this way. What weight do words carry? Can words evoke a response? Should there be limits to what words one can say or use, and in what setting? Why or why not? Discuss.
3. Introduce the idea that artists and writers often intend to generate a response or feeling with their work. Show students examples of art or text you have assembled. Ask students if they are aware of either specific words or specific occasions that words are used to cause a reaction or feeling.
4. Next, tell students they are going to watch a video segment about two artists, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, who created a chalk sculpture as a medium to allow others to express their ideas. Play “Chalk Sculpture.” While watching, ask students to think about the artists’ intention in choosing chalk and in creating the project. Ask them also to notice the response to the words written in the public square.
5. Discuss the artists’ project shown in the video segment. What were some of the outcomes? How did people respond?
6. Distribute the Chalk Sculpture Questions Handout to each student. Encourage students to express their ideas when answering the questions.
For students who need additional guidance:
- Play the video segment multiple times for understanding.
- In small groups, discuss with students what they saw in the segment.
- Answer questions on the Chalk Sculpture handout
Part II: Assessment
1. Distribute the Chalk Sculpture Rubric so students will know how they are being accessed.
2. Next, distribute the Chalk Sculpture Essay Handout. Students write an essay describing the response the artists’ chalk sculpture project created. Encourage students to use their Chalk Sculpture Questions handout to construct a draft of the essay.
3. Students exchange drafts with fellow students to peer-edit and discuss needed revisions and/or additions.
4. Students revise their essays and turn in the final draft with their first draft of their essay.