Norman Rockwell is one of my personal favorites. I love the way he can capture facial expressions, tell a story in one scene and make me stop and think about the human spirit in all of us. And he seems to do this with every painting: young subjects and old, busy paintings with a lot of detail and simpler ones lain across a blank background. His works also seem to captivate all generations. They are timeless because of the way they tell stories about the joys and dilemmas of every age group, which is one reason why they are great studies for in the classroom.
So who is Norman Rockwell? Just as we may take a moment to read the short biography of an author whose book we enjoy, it is worth our time to do the same with the man who reaches us with his paintings. Here are a few interesting tid bits to share with your students about how he began his career as an artist.
- He was born in New York City in 1894.
- He always wanted to be an artist.
- He started art classes at age 14
- At age 16, he was commissioned to paint four Christmas cards.
- Not long after, Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America, hired Rockwell as art director.
- At age 21, his family moved to New Rochelle, NY.
- There he set up a studio and submitted work for a variety of magazines, including Life, Literary Digest, and Country Gentleman.
- A year later, he painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post
- He continued working for the Post for 47 years and created 321 covers!
Visit this source for more biographical information: http://www.nrm.org/about-2/about-norman-rockwell/
Now, let’s look at some steps you can take to introduce Rockwell into your classroom:
- Place a few paintings around the room, in a spot on your wall, in a center or as a screen saver or slide show on a computer. Your students will naturally be drawn in to a few select paintings of kids (Marble Champion), dogs (A Boy and His Dog) and interesting situations (Swatter’s Rights). Just search Google images using the key words “Norman Rockwell” and anything to see what you can find. For example: Norman Rockwell, kids
- Once you have some students’ attention, gather them together for 5-10 minutes to look at a painting as a class. You can even do this during morning meeting or snack time.
- Show the painting to your class (hard copy or on a computer screen) and ask them to talk about it by either sharing one person at a time or with an elbow buddy sitting next to them.
- Here are some questions you might ask:
- What do you see?
- What is going on?
- What is the setting?
- Who are the characters?
- What do they feel?
- What do you think of when you look at this?
- What are some details you notice?
- What are some surprises you see?
- After a short time, let the students know that they will be looking at other paintings by the painter who did this one, Norman Rockwell.
- Take a moment to tell them a little bit about Rockwell and preview other paintings you have.
Even if you only use his paintings once or twice throughout the year in your classroom, think about how this 5-10 minutes will make a lasting impression, especially if you keep Rockwell paintings available for your students to look at.
Exposing your students to this piece of Americana is a great way to promote the arts in your classroom.
Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.
There is so much you can do with a Norman Rockwell painting (or other well-selected painting or photo) that directly relates to many reading skills. My ebook, Integrating the Works of Norman Rockwell into Reading Instruction explains more and gives activities to teach many of them including drawing conclusions, deciphering fact and opinion and making predictions.