It is fortunate that the blog series this month has been centered around the visual art of Norman Rockwell since it has coincided with our teacher field trip to a most wonderful museum inBoston– theIsabellaStewartGardnerMuseum.Though none of his works are in this museum, the ideas of viewing, appreciating and enjoying art seems to be the main focus within the museum as well as the basis for all the Rockwell activities in this series.Another thing to point out is that all the activities found in the series can be adapted to ANY piece of work – for it is in looking closely at and studying visual pieces, be they paintings, sculptures or pictures, you can become more observant, more thoughtful and more gratified in your experience.

The trip to the museum was wonderful, but this blog is not about that, instead it is meant to be about our own interpretations of art.Quite frankly, the best part about Gardner’s museum is that the emphasis is not on art history or the artists, it is on us – the public, the viewers and appreciators of art.We are there to enjoy, experience and interpret in our own ways.This is the most unique part about art, all art.There is an artist and there is the receiver of the art.We all bring to art our own experiences and interpret what we see and hear in different ways than those around us.

And that is OKAY!

Yes, there is a story behind every piece of artwork, but that story is not the same for all those who experience the art.And the story the artist envisions is simply not exactly or consistently what we receive.It is in these personal interpretations that we can deepen our own thinking and, if experienced with others, can create a new community among people as we share a piece of art.There is a story in the piece, but it’s ok if you don’t get it.Just the experience itself, if you give yourself the chance to have it, is enough.It is much more about looking, observing and making connections.

So, how can this be applied to us in our teaching?Allow yourself to be a receiver of art and share that with your children and students.Encourage searching in a piece, encourage observations and questions.Through these observations, allow students to draw conclusions and make predictions, and question some more.These are real life strategies and they can be practiced and refined through the arts!

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.