Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bayeux Tapestry Project: Part One

Background: I teach art to a group of homeschoolers in 3rd-5th grade. In previous semesters, I've taught grade levels 1st through 6th. My art ideas are geared toward the middle of that range--I use my oldest son, who is 8 and in third grade (in public school), as my test subject. I have a relatively small art class and I have 1-2 grown-up helpers per week.

My art students and I just finished a wonderful project based on the Bayeux Tapestry.  The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the more famous textile pieces from Medieval times. Although it is called a tapestry, it is not really. A tapestry is woven on a loom--the design is actually woven into the fabric using different colored threads, but the Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidery. The pictures and words are sewn onto a backing fabric.

I showed the children a couple of portions of the Bayeux Tapestry in this introduction, and showed them how it tells a story with both pictures and words. I explained that we were going to be doing the same.

The books I used for this quick intro were:
"Picture That: Knights and Castles" by Alex Martin (this is a great book that makes many wonderful connections between art and history for children using colorful illustrations, engaging text and a "zoom-in" feature that highlights details that children don't want to miss. There is a brief section about the Bayeux Tapestry).

"Medieval Projects You Can Do," by Marsha Graves (this book has many wonderful projects including cooking and costumes that definitely engage and inspire children while making Medieval times more real to them).

The project is worked in fabric markers on fabric squares and has a short story with illustrations. We then attached the fabric squares to a large fabric banner and added braided cord and/or embroidered trim to "fancy it up."

Part One:

After my very brief explanation of the Bayeux Tapestry, I gave the children homework. They need to write a story for their own tapestries. These were the guidelines:

1. The child should have a personal story from his/her life (it's better if it is personal and true since it will be more special). However, the child can use a poem or story s/he has written, or even something written by someone else if the child is stressing about it. Ideas could be: a family vacation, acquiring a pet, something s/he is proud of such as winning a sports trophy or some kind of award, etc.

2. The story should be written out by the child in the exact way that it is going to appear on their tapestry. I'd like all of the thinking, rewriting & scribbling to be done at home so they can copy and illustrate in class.

3. The story should have a couple of parts to it--or be able to be broken down into about three illustrations. We don't need a novel, but we need enough to work with! Two sentences is probably not going to be enough. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE PICTURES! The students can sketch out pictures if they want, but focus on the story.

An example:
Our Awesome Vacation
Last year my family was tired of all of the snow so my mom and dad took us to Coco Key water park. We went on a long drive and watched a movie in the car. When we got to the big building, mom and dad said we were staying overnight and we were excited! For two days I played with my family at the water park. I loved going on the lazy river with my mom. We had pizza and soda too. I would love to go back there every year.

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