(Jump to the bottom of the page to see the second installment)
I will use this space to share my approach to our Frida unit during remote learning. I will update this blog with activities every week until the unit has concluded. To get these updates, you can follow this blog, or follow me on social media!
Facebook: A.C. Quintero/ Teaching Spanish Made Easy
Since teaching remotely, I have had to really hone my creative skills much like the rest of you. Finding ways to engage students, making learning meaningful, not necessarily fun, but interesting has been my quest for these last few weeks; and I might have figured some valuable lessons with this unit. My colleagues and I pulled teamed up to make this unit happen, and it has been nothing short of amazing. We curated, created and collaborated fiercely in order to make learning about Frida fortuitous and enduring. I will be sharing some of the activities related to this project.
In terms of my colleagues work on this project, I will only share the public websites and domains used, not the actually activities that they have developed. However, I am free to share my contributions to the unit and my take on some of the work we mastered, so please enjoy!
One of my favorite activities to do is to prime students for new concepts. This involves accessing and collectively building prior and/or active knowledge together; this in turns eases the cognitive burden and frees up space to accommodate those new nuggets of knowledge. To prime students for our remote learning Frida unit, first, I gauged their opinions on the world of art. Students were tasked to think about the nature of art including but not excluding the following prompts: What is art? Can all forms of expression be categorized as art? Is graffiti art? You can download this free starter activity here.
Las citas fridianas
The second wave of engagement was actually reading quotes from Frida’s life (which is also included in this free resource). Included in the resource above are famous quotes spoken by Frida during her lifetime. We analyzed, discussed, and reflected about her about her philosophy of life. They also commented on which quote resonated with them. Extension activity?
Virtual Tour of La Casa Azul
My stellar colleague unearthed this free virtual tour of La Casa Azul. It was the perfect prelude to our unit. The 3D tour allows us to peer in every corner of the Frida museum. Now, students have an opportunity to see how this vivacious, colorful, and pioneering artist lived. We gave students 20 minutes to explore the house on their own and write & record their impressions in Spanish. Click here to for the tour!
El arte sin límites
Arte sin límites, is a short text that I wrote about Frida years ago, and never had the will to finish it. However, when we could not use the Frida books for remote learning, I quickly dug it up, added some research from from the plethora of my Frida collection, sent it my friend and collaborator in Spain, and viola! We used it in my classroom. The goal of this text is to give students a fuller view of Frida, her life and artwork. The text is about 4 pages, and highlights the basics of her life and artwork. This paid resource is the extension of the free resource above and includes with comprehension questions and an art analysis activity. I supplemented the reading with two clips of Frida’s life from Youtube. I wanted to give students an aerial view of her accident and how crippling it was to her person, but at the same time how this awful event transformed her into one of the most pioneering artists of her time incapable of being pigeon-hold and steadying blazing new trails paved with authenticity and cultural homage.
These resources, clips, and quotes prepared us for the next step in the journey, sponsored by Vogue, the Las apariencias engañan Exhibit. Another great find from my colleague! I will discuss how I used this in my class and a mini-project that I am conjuring up to rematarlo!
Las apariencias engañan: Los vestidos de Frida is our next stop on the Fridalicous tour.
This striking exhibit whose themes are Disability and ethnicity invites viewers into to contemplate the intricate wardrobe of Frida Kahlo. She was an artistic enigma in and of herself. Some of the enduring lessons for my students were the semiotic meanings imbued in their clothing and how her wardrobe was carefully suited to mask her disability. Below the recap, you can find some of the activities that I did in class.
Start Class With A Bang!
The week prior (see the information above this post), we started talking about Frida, using her quotes, reading about her life, and this week it was all about delving more deeply into her paintings, and using authentic resources, like the Las apariencias engañan Exhibit, to showcase her in her fullest glory. But, before we landed in the virtual wardrobe museum we did a little recon on our fav artist.
I used this painting of “The Wounded Table”as a bell-ringer. I had students observe the painting and list all the elements they observed. I gave them a few minutes to think about it and maybe even look up word they had forgotten how to say. Initiated this task with this question: ¿Cuáles son los elementos que te llaman la atención en esta pintura? Students used the starter phrase, “Yo veo” and continued to list off those bold features that stood out. Asking then them to only list what they observed, relieved the pressure of having to conjure up answers for this dynamic and multi-thematic piece. I gave them an access pass, invite them in, and to require little in the beginning and then build up. Below is a compilation of some of the elements they noticed right away:
- Frida está en el centro
- Hay niños
- Sus manos no son sus manos
- Hay un esqueleto
- Vemos que hay partes de la naturaleza
- La pintura está un poco oscura/ no brillante
- Hay sangre
- El telón corrido
- Hay un venado
Naturally, since we read this article about Frida and previously analyzed her paintings, many students started to see a pattern emerge. I then asked then to make sense of those elements, what could they possible mean. I started first with Frida being in the middle and part of the artistic universe she so vividly paints. I told them that they could use what they knew about her to attempt to make connections.
After hearing them, I asked them probing questions. For example, when on student said “hay niños” I asked, what could this mean? Another student chimed in saying that Frida couldn’t have niños, so maybe those are the kids she wanted to have. Another student also shared that she used to read to the kids in the neighborhood, so maybe it could be those kids. I then offered that the children could also be a dream that was never fulfilled as they are not central to the painting as other elements such as the skeleton. This gave them a boost, and they started feeling more comfortable (I took about 20 minutes before class to look at the painting myself and make notes).
Then, I went through their responses one by one adding to the symbolic meaning they’d mention. We had a discussion in which they linked the previous events they had learned about with her life. The interpretation is below (excuse any errors as my Spanish is not perfect).
- Frida está en el centro del cuadro. Ella es el enfoque central. Es un autoretrato con los elementos oníricos (they learned this word!) que siempre son presentes en su vida. Ella les da visibilidad.
- Los niños pueden significar la inocencia o falta de ella. También, por la mirada que tienen, pueden representar la curiosidad. Están al lado de la mesa, lo cual sugiere una distancia de Frida y lejos de las cosas que amenazan su vida. De pronto, están a salvo de la muerte que la rodea.
- El venado representa la vulnerabilidad. Ya hemos visto el venado como motivo en otra pintura.
- El esqueleto representa la muerte y cómo siempre se le acecha. Ella vive con la muerte y no la teme. La acepta como parte de su mundo. Baila con ella. Partes de su cuerpo se funden con otras entidades. Esta parte se le atribuye a que su propio cuerpo tiene fusiones metales.
- La naturaleza el verdor del campo, pero está consumido por el panorama gris. Prefiere las nubes y no hay sol.
- La sangre representa la vida.
- El telón corrido de modo que se puede ver todo, es sinónimo cómo nuestras vidas pueden ser producto del consumo público (on display).
There are so many more rich elements that can be extrapolated, but this activity’s purpose was to empower students in thinking about how they could, based on their present knowledge, understand a little bit about Frida.
Video of Frida
This video served as a good introduction to the exhibit referred to at the bottom. I had students watch and share one thing that they learned. They could share in Spanish or in English.
The exhibit, as one could imagine, is very extensive. We had students look at the first six pictures, read and then respond to questions.
We had students read about 5-6 of the slides from the exhibit and respond to the questions below.
- How did Frida’s choice of clothing suit her physical condition?
- How did Frida use her clothing to make a statement? What was the declaration that those clothes articulated?
- Discuss the diversity of her wardrobe.
- How is her wardrobe different from yours?
Have students take a picture of their wardrobe, or 3- 4 outfits and accessories and discuss their preferences, and why they choose to dress a certain way.