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They Call: The Mark-Making Legacy of the

A comprehensive student learning experience that uses innovative classroom practices and conversations to connect the artistic explosion of the Harlem Renaissance to the cultural experiences of today.  The lesson plans offer interdisciplinary practices and historical studies while continually celebrating the heroes from the era.

Harlem Renaissance

Thematic Objective:

To study the work of writers, musicians, and visual artists who embody the movement and message of the Harlem Renaissance and create new ways of highlighting their work by drawing influence and inspiration through the use of unconventional methods of mark-making, immersive performance, historical understanding, creative writing practices, and transformative dialogue.  An experiential union of materials, history and joyful learning introducing windows into social justice ideas using thoughtful language.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students to demonstrate understanding of the Harlem Renaissance

  • Students have the ability to name and provide explanations of key figures from the Movement

  • Students create personal work in response to their growing knowledge

  • Students practice reflective ways to communicate their understanding

  • Students learn creative techniques that are innovative

  • Students identify influences of the Harlem Renaissance in today’s culture

Lesson Descriptions

Harlem at Home

1st - 4th grade students

Duration: 1 hour per project

In this lesson, students will learn period dances by watching the instructional videos provided by Revolution Dance.  Students will listen to the musical selections of An Evening of Jazz (recorded performance) while practicing the dance movements.  Students will draw an image of their favorite movement and write one a response that describes their drawing.

Tap, Scat, Revolution

1st - 4th grade students

Duration: 1.5 hours

This lesson explores Found Poetry; a collection of words reconfigured to create a new message in the form of a poem.  A selection of Langston Hughes poems will be read aloud to the class.  A compilation of writings from Renaissance poets and student responses will be shared with students.  Students will search for words within the poetry and cut them out.  Using a sheet of construction paper, students will organize the words to form a new poem and glue the words once the poem is decided. This exercise provides strategies of discovering poetry and articulating and translating meaningful language from various resources.  

Found Again

7th - 12th grade students

Duration: 1.5+ hours

5th - 8th graders: In this lesson students will each be assigned a Harlem Renaissance historical figure.  They will research their figure and educate their classmates on who they studied.  Each student will provide visual materials and present their findings.  Students will record their research in an essay as well.

9th-12th graders: In this lesson, students will be split into two teams; Fire & Ice.  Team Fire will represent the great Harlem Renaissance influencers while Team Ice will represent their barriers.  In a debate-like event, each team will propose arguments in support of (Team Fire) and opposing (Team Ice) the progression of these great heroes. Conversations with icons from the Harlem Renaissance.  Assign an icon to half the students, and assign a political, social or cultural barrier to the rest of the students; pairing an iconic figure with a barrier they would have faced.  The “Fire” will explain who they are and their significance to American history.  The “Ice” will present reasons why they oppose the ideas and elevation of each individual.  This lesson provides students with the opportunity to fully investigate the social and political issues of the 1920s for Black people while learning about influential figures.  In the end, students will discover, despite the odds, Fire was still able to remain persistent and overcome the barriers of Ice. Students will record a written reflection of the event and provide written responses to support the evidence they gathered.

Fire & Ice

5th - 8th, 9th - 12th grade students

Duration: 2+ hours

Creating a musical conversation that is unplanned or rehearsed, but fluid using musical instruments is the magic of jazz.  In this lesson, students use instruments whether traditional or found objects (such as natural materials, cans, boxes or chopsticks) to practice mimicking the beat and tempo of famous jazz collections by Duke Ellington.  Students tap their feet to the beat (steady sound) and tempo (speed of the beat); then listen to various jazz music and try to mimic the beats.  Then, students will work together to develop their own language by actively listening to one another.  One student will start a beat and the next will mimic the beat and add something new.  Continue this activity until the entire class has a chance to participate and build on the sound.  Afterwards, listen to selections from An Evening of Jazz (a recorded performance), and listen to the improvisations.  Improvisations are musical conversations and are perfected through practice and listening.  Students provide a written response to the musical conversations they experienced. 

Language of Jazz

K - th grade students 

Duration: 1.5 hours

Watch the Harlem Renaissance talk which provides an overview of historical events.  Discuss the types of fears and challenges Black people faced in the early 1900s.  Students will write a personal fear on plexiglass using a crayon, then drip and spread color using alcohol inks.  Once the painting is complete, the teacher will place a candle lighter flame (use safety precautions) on the alcohol ink design on the plexiglass.  The fire creates a crisp marbling design.  Note: You may do the activity without the addition of fire and still have a finished design.  Once complete, discuss what steps students may take to erase fears and keep the marbled design as a reminder.  Read a Fire inspired poem (recorded event), then write a message to the fear transcribed on the glass.

Fire Fear

5th - 8th grade students

Duration: 1 hour

Essay Writing; read the provided poems by Langston Hughes.  After reading, provide a written response to the text.  The essay should connect current events to the historical context of the Harlem Renaissance and explain how the past has shaped political, social, and artistic developments in the United States. Essay requirements: 

 

  • Provide an original essay title

  • Reference one of the poems and respond to its message

  • Limit the essay to no more than 300 words

  • Pay attention to grammar and organization

  • Be original. provide personal examples and insights

  • Demonstrate clarity of content and ideas

  • (Optional) Submit writing to Tellus Zine for consideration at telluszine.org

Common Thread

9th-12th grade students

Duration: 2+ hours

A collection of self-guided activities students can enjoy from home.  To begin, watch the Harlem Renaissance Gallery Talk and Tour (recorded video) then watch one of the Harlem at Home instructional videos.  Each project celebrates an influential Harlem Renaissance artist who is also celebrated in the gallery video.  Such artists' projects include Romare Bearden’s neighborhood collage, Jacob Lawrence’s migration story, and Augusta Savage’s recycled cardboard layered sculpture. Click the links below to see each of the activities with demos and resources:

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