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After Picasso: Mystery, Inquiry, Collaboration and Ownership


How to get 39 ninth-graders excited about contemplating pieces of art?

Mystery, inquiry, collaboration and ownership!

Our class was scheduled to visit the Wexner Center’s After Picasso exhibit and view over 80 pieces somehow connected to the influential artist. Т Most of my students had never stepped foot in a gallery before and were feeling unsure about how to analyze and appreciate the experience. I was feeling unsure myself, but our PAGES planning meeting helped me.

Step One: White Elephant (Ownership)

I printed color photos of some of the pieces in the exhibit minus any identifying information (author, title, year). Т Each student blindly selected a print or stole from another student. Т We all viewed the pieces using the document camera and classroom projector. Т Afterwards, they had one minute to convince a peer to trade a coveted piece. Here’s a snippet of what the classroom talk was that day:

“What the heck is THIS?”

“Oooh. Look at THAT one.”

“Is mine upside down or something?”

“Pleeeeeease trade!”

“No. Т This is mine.”


Step Two: Getting Acquainted (Mystery)

Students used magnifying glasses, PAGES journals and the Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tool to write about their piece. Т Several times. Т Several days. Т They didn’t know anything more than what they saw. There were no RIGHT answers, just their OWN questions, reflections and observations.


Step Three: Research (Inquiry)

I provided students with artists and titles of pieces and then they tried to find anything they could about their piece. Т Some were very interested in their artist’s style and medium. Т Some were led back to a specific piece of Picasso’s from which their artist found inspiration; some never found that connection but speculated on their own based on what they had found through research. Т Some students grabbed meter sticks and mapped out the size of their piece. More snippets:

“Everything I find is in German!”

“Look at what else this guy made!”

“Mine is taller than me.”

“Oh yea? Т Mine is bigger than the ENTIRE wall!”


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Step Four: Sharing (Collaboration)

Students shared their findings with the class, which turned into an open dialogue about Picasso connections and other students’ observations, reflections and questions.

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While we didn’t get the gallery experience (yet), we had fun thinking, sharing and learning.



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