Improving reading and writing through art critique
MOCA Jacksonville's Voice of the People is an innovative, literacy-based
educational arts initiative that hones critical thinking and communication
skills as it develops a deeper understanding of contemporary art. Voice of the People serves fourth-grade students at Title I
schools. During several visits to MOCA, students are
introduced to the Permanent Collection, from which they select works of art that
speak to them. The students analyze the works, prepare descriptive narratives,
and create recordings that serve as part of the Museum’s audio guide,
accessible to all those who visit the galleries and view the chosen works of
art. In addition to gaining familiarity and comfort within the Museum setting
and a greater appreciation for art, Voice
of the People improves critical thinking skills, encourages participation,
develops creative writing and verbal presentation skills, and enhances
self-esteem. It also has quantifiable, proven results: Children who participate
in the program exponentially improve their reading and writing scores,
Look for Voice of the People on audio markers throughout the second floor. Call 904-248-4197 on your phone, then press the number in the upper left corner.
Voice of the People is a singular
opportunity that helps these underserved students to shorten the achievement
gap and build confidence and momentum as they pass various milestones within
the curriculum. Following all of
the preparation and work, audio guides are made available to students,
teachers, staff, and family in the Museum setting at an opening reception, and
the accomplishments of the students are honored and celebrated. Participants often lead family members through MOCA with a sense of
ownership and understanding that culminates from their work in the Museum
setting and familiarity with the art.
The level of
excitement around this initiative fosters youth
leadership in an educational setting, which comes through on the recordings. Consider this example from Tenisha:
“This amazing artwork is thrilling! When I visited MOCA, my eyes grew
wide. I noticed this gorgeous work
of art. The first thing I noticed
was the colors popping out like a 3D movie. The colors remind me of yellow tulips in my grandma’s
is called Aizan, Velekete, Govis. The amazing artist’s name is Edward Duval-Carrie. The masterpiece’s medium is fiberglass and
resin. Those are toxic and you need
to wear a mask when spraying.
When I look
at this artwork I see the color spicy orange. I spotted shapes like stars and circles, but there are no patterns.
My emotions are happy and I think the
artist's emotions were too. I think
this is a sculpture of an Indian and the two things on the side look like sticky
birds. I see dozens of movements. When I look at this work my eyes move up
and down and left to right.
Now you know
why I like this masterpiece. Thank
you for listening and make sure you come back to MOCA. Bye!”
program objectives for Voice of the People are:
- Improve critical
thinking skills through facilitated observation based on the Feldman approach—using description, analysis, interpretation, and judgment of select pieces of art;
- Encourage creative interpretation of contemporary art through access to art subjects that
grow individualized perspective and foster an understanding of contemporary ideas
through personal study and response;
- Develop creative
writing skills through the honing of interpretive art responses in the form
of written audio scripts;
- Improve verbal
presentation skills in a clear and well-articulated manner through the production
of digital audio recordings made available to all Museum and website visitors;
cooperative learning in small groups through the shared production process of writing
and producing audio guides for contemporary art;
- Enhance self-esteem through tangible
accomplishments in written and spoken products, and ultimately in showcasing this
work in the Museum setting;
- Improve self-awareness for participants
through group work where the voice of every participant is valued and rewarded and
the ultimate product of the program comprises individual efforts that create
a cohesive and unified presentation.
One of the most important measures of success for Voice of the
People has been the increase in scores for participants for assessments administered
by Museum staff before and after the program. This
strong evaluative component, given through student and teacher questionnaires, has
consistently shown increases in all areas of targeted objectives for this program.
ART, LANGUAGE, AND THE POVERTY CYCLE
When children live in poverty, the odds are stacked against them starting at birth. Sad statistics chart the achievement gap that begins during infancy and widens throughout childhood. The larger the gap grows, the more difficult it is to close.
A major contributing factor to this disparity starts at home. Research at the University of Kansas by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, who in 1995 published a book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” studied how parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. They documented a staggering difference in the number of words heard by children in low-income versus professional families. By age three, a poor child might hear thirty million fewer words at home than a child from a professional family.
Oral language and vocabulary are inextricably linked to reading comprehension, putting most disadvantaged children at a huge deficit when they enter school and start to tackle reading and writing. Hart and Risley also wrote that children’s language development starts to level off when it matches their parents, passing down a language deficit through generations.
About 55 percent of students in Duval County Public Schools receive free or reduced-price lunches. Duval County has more than one hundred Title I schools where at least 40 percent of the students are from low-income families.
Voice of the People serves Title I elementary school students at a time when the achievement gap still can be addressed by focusing on expository writing, critical thinking, and verbal presentation skills as it develops a deeper understanding and appreciation of contemporary art.
Art education provides indispensable creative and critical problem solving and a primary pathway to higher education and income. It is essential, not supplemental, to scholastic success. Children who participate in Voice of the People tackle art and academic subjects simultaneously with the personal attention of educators. Instead of feeling like a chore, students have an experience they will remember forever. Voice of the People gives students the tools to close the achievement gap and the self-confidence to face academic challenges in the future.