Jennifer notes an additional benefit of using art to widen her student's experience. "Many of my students have a hard time understanding that African and African American history involves more than slavery. Using art allows me to show them a much richer history. They can see what the world offers us from different ages. And especially for my lowest level readers, those images from Google or from ARTstor become familiar and help create the connection between image and the written word. It has made them more comfortable and willing to express themselves." Jennifer's students have equally positive reactions to the connections forged by art in their curriculum. Jacqueline says, "It makes people understand. You can take a picture and it makes you open up and think in new ways. You can understand. When we studied the Crusades, the art showed how money and power looks. With the paintings, I know how powerful people can be." She smiles and adds, "Art opens up everything. I love it. Even abstract art. If you can't explain it, you don't need words. You just understand it." Safiyyah, one of Jennifer's students, offers a similar reaction: "With the World War I posters, they described which nations where fighting and why, and how they persuaded other people to join. It's more fun than just reading about it. You don't necessarily get more information from the art, but you understand it more." Another student, Brittany echoes the thoughts of her classmates when she says, "The art gives us an ideal image of back then—just the colors of what they were wearing gives us a picture of what it was like. When Mrs. Conner makes us look closely and write about the art she makes us dive in and really get to know the picture. She gives life to it. You see the symbols and the colors and every detail. It becomes so realistic." Jennifer has learned how to use these intuitive connections. "My upper level kids have been able to take over some of the lesson planning. When they were asked what we should learn and how we should learn it, everyone said we should use art. In fact, they are all looking forward to visiting the art museum to see what we have been discussing in person. They want to go to see the art, so we are planning a lesson on museum etiquette and the kinds of questions you ask when you are at a museum. "Over the summer we will do a lot of planning for the use of art with writing, so I hope to attend VAST in July. Art has worked so well in allowing me to get the kids into reading; I want to see it work with writing as well." If the excitement of her kids is any indication, this next step will be as energizing as the first.
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