I start off the lesson by asking if anyone knows anything about surrealism - have they heard of it, or can anyone give any examples. I rarely get many students who can tell me anything, though most of them can recognize Dali's "Persistence of Memory". So, next I introduce them to a short slideshow of handpicked surrealistic works - some 'classical' and other more modern. I let the slideshow run through first and ask for students to report what they saw - what they noticed.
This is an interesting process, because students sometimes struggle to explain what they see. They see one thing, but their brain has a hard time understanding it, so it is hard to describe. Many descriptions will include that, things don't make sense in the picture, objects are put together or near each other that don't make sense.
So, next we go on to define some surrealism vocabulary to help them with these difficult descriptions. We talk about:
- Levitation: things/objects floating in space that shouldn't.
- Juxtaposition: Placing things near each other that don't make sense.
- Scale: Objects that are unusually small or large in comparison to the picture.
- Transformation: Objects that start as one thing but transform, or change, into another.
- Transparency: The idea of seeing through something that should be solid.
While we talk about these we go back through the slideshow and try and find these words - most times this helps students to connect what they saw and now how to explain it.
Next, we start their collage, by gathering pictures from magazines. I pull all the kids around for a demonstration/think aloud. I have the students use National Geographic because of the colors and diversity of pictures and there are never pieces about who looked best in what dress or who is dating who. I do give a speech to the kids about how National Geographic travels ALL around the world and goes to places where people dress VERY differently, and by differently I mean no clothes. Most students are okay with this, a few giggle. I remind them that our culture has clothes and our climate demands clothing - but in the jungle or out in the desert, clothing would be more harmful then helpful. I explain that these other places are not wrong or gross - but just different. They are to simply turn the page - no giggling, no elbowing a neighbor - nothing more than turning the page. I explain that if they can't handle the magazines they don't get to use them. I think in my hundreds of kids I have had to enforce this consequence ONCE.
I then proceed to thumb through the magazine thinking out loud as I pause at pictures, move on, decide on pictures I think are unique or funny. I proceed to rip out the whole page and set aside. I tell them that I also need a background - but that my background needs to have a lot of options, not just be pretty. So a busy square, street, or landscape will work - but a pretty picture of leaves won't give me enough options.
As I do my think aloud I do my best to use our surrealism vocabulary words as I try and get my new objects to interact and appear apart of new picture.
The first day students mostly collect pictures that interest them. The next class we cut out and do some brainstorming and start gluing pictures together.
The students really enjoy getting these to work and it's fun to watch them problem solve and think through their unique pictures.
Staff and students have enjoyed looking at them in the hallway as well. I have heard 1st graders find funny things about the pictures and talk about what they see!
Pictures I used for my slideshow -- there are literally hundreds of great examples to use. I picked these mostly because I like them and they represented the vocabulary well.