Students explore the topic of "coming of age" through stories about the experiences of professional female artists of color who have fought to claim their space in a world that has long excluded people who look like them.
In this unit, students will continue their yearlong interrogation of what it means to come of age by studying the transformative power of artistic expression. By focusing on the experiences of professional female artists of color, students will learn about barrier-breaking women who have fought to claim their space in a world that has long excluded people who look like them.
Students will spend the first two weeks reading Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, the memoir of ballet dancer Misty Copeland, who made history as the first female African American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater, the most prestigious ballet company in the United States. Students will read about the ways that Copeland overcame obstacles in her life, and think both about how ballet shaped Copeland’s coming-of-age experience, and the broader impact that Copeland has had on the art form of ballet. Students will finish off this first part of the unit by writing a short analysis of a dance performance.
Students will spend the next five days studying women in the visual arts, analyzing the lives and work of feminist art activists, the Guerrilla Girls, Japanese-American sculptor Ruth Asawa, Native American painter Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, the quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, and Latina printmaker and activist, Favianna Rodriguez. Through articles, interviews, and videos, students will learn about the myriad ways that an artist’s identity can shape the work that they make, and the ways that art can be used as a powerful platform for communicating ideas—and changing the world.
In this unit, students will read and talk about artists, but they will also regularly “read” and talk about works of art. For each visual artist that students study, they will spend at least fifteen minutes looking closely at the artist’s work and discussing observations, questions, and reflections with classmates.
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Book: Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland (Touchstone, 2014)
Movie: A Ballerina’s Tale by directed by Nelson George
Article: “The Guerrilla Girls: 'We upend the art world’s notion of what’s good and what’s right'” by Nadja Sayej (The Guardian)
Video: “Guerrilla Girls – 'You Have to Question What You See' | Artist Interview | TateShots” by Tate (YouTube)
Article: “The Enduring Legacy of Ruth Asawa’s Mesmerizing Sculptures” by Daria Harper (Artsy)
Website: Ruth Asawa: Objects and Apparitions (Christie's)
Website: What's in a map? Jaune Quick-To-See Smith's "State Names" by Khan Academy
Article: “'It's like we don't exist': Jaune Quick-to-See Smith on Native American artists” by Nadja Sayej (The Guardian)
Article: “Jaune Quick-To-See Smith” (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
Article: “Favianna Rodríguez: ‘Artists are Risk Takers and Truth Speakers’” by Firuzeh Shokooh Valle (Global Voices)
Video: “Printmaking with Favianna Rodriguez” (PBS)
Article: “Gee's Bend Quiltmakers” (Souls Grown Deep)
Video: “How a Group of Women in This Small Alabama Town Perfected the Art of Quilting | Op-Docs” by The New York Times (YouTube)
Article: “Interview with Mary Lee Bendolph and Lucy Mingo by Josephine Reed for the NEA” by Josephine Reed (National Endowment for the Arts)
This assessment accompanies Unit 3 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
chaotic deride distorted innovative intuition provocative prodigy stereotype surpass trailblazer turbulant visionary
afterword anecdote central idea metaphor memoir mood point of view/perspective prologue simile structure
To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 6th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
Life in Motion pp. 1 – 8
Explain how the prologue fits into the overall structure of Life in Motion and how specific sections of this chapter develop ideas about Copeland’s life.
Life in Motion pp. 19 – 33 — (begin at page break on p. 19)
Explain how Copeland introduces and illustrates ideas about her life as a child and young teenager.
Life in Motion — Chapter 2
Explain how Copeland introduces significant characters and illustrates ideas about her first experiences with ballet.
Life in Motion — Chapter 3
Explain how Copeland illustrates characters and elaborates on ideas about her difficult family life.
Life in Motion — pp. 66-75 (page break) and pp. 90 - 97 (page break)
Explain how Copeland uses figurative and descriptive language to communicate her feelings about dance.
Life in Motion pp. 155 – 171
Explain how Copeland responds to stereotypes about ballet dancers, and how those stereotypes and expectations influenced the way she saw herself.
Life in Motion — Chapter 9
Explain how Copeland explores and responds to experiences of ignorance, racism, and bias within ballet.
A Ballerina’s Tale — 00:00:00-00:23:05
Explain how watching a documentary about Misty Copeland has further developed their understanding of her story.
Life in Motion — Pages 203-211 and 228-233
Explain how Copeland illustrates ways that her circumstances and perspective have changed over time.
Life in Motion pp. 239 – 248 — and the prologue
Explain how Chapter 13 fits into the overall structure of Life in Motion and how specific sections of this chapter develop ideas about Copeland’s life.
Life in Motion pp. 234 – 237 — (page break) and Afterword
Determine central ideas in Life in Motion and identify where and how Copeland develops these ideas.
“The Guerrilla Girls”
Describe gender and racial discrimination in the art world, and how the Guerilla Girls have responded to this issue through art and activism.
“The Enduring Legacy...”
Synthesize information from multiple sources to explain the events and ideas that shaped Ruth Asawa’s life and inspired her work.
What's in a map?
“'It's like we don't exist'”
“Jaune Quick-To-See Smith”
Synthesize information from multiple sources to explain the barriers that Jaune Quick-to-See Smith overcame and how she uses art to communicate her perspective.
“Gee's Bend Quiltmakers”
“How a Group...”
“Interview with...” — (section titled “Recognition as Art”)
Synthesize information from multiple sources to explain who the Gee’s Bend Quilters are and the impact of their unique works of art.
Synthesize information from multiple sources to explain Favianna Rodriguez’s perspective on the purpose of art.
Engage in a Socratic Seminar with peers, providing strong evidence and reasoning to support ideas and posing and responding to questions.
Working in small groups, compile and evaluate research for a digital presentation about an artist.
Logically organize the information in their presentations and include all required components.
Present using appropriate volume, eye contact, emphasis, and pronunciation.