The Silk of Our Lives

Version 2


    Unit Summary

    In this unit, students write research paper proposals for a fabric art installation to hang in the Hall of Nations at the upcoming World's Fair. Each proposal shows students' understanding of one culture's history and traditional arts. As students study, they record important cultural art and interpret the artworks' significance to culture. They learn to make silk paintings, and paint scarves that represent one art theme or style of a culture they studied. During a culminating class celebration, students present their proposals and art samples in a multimedia presentation to a World's Fair "jury" made up of local artists.


    At a Glance

    • Grade Level: 9-12
    • Subjects: Textile Art, Writing
    • Topics: Art and Culture, Universal Themes in Art, Fabric Art, Artistic Interpretation
    • Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Investigation, Interpretation
    • Key Learnings: Relationship between Culture and Art, Traditional Art, Historical Influences on Art, Silk Painting
    • Time Needed: 3 weeks, 6 to 8 periods


    Things You Need




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    Common Core Alignment

    This unit is aligned to Common Core State Standards for Social Studies.

    • Literacy in History/Social Studies RH.9-10, RH.11-12


    Curriculum-Framing Questions

    • Essential Question
      What role does art play in our lives?
    • Unit Questions
      How does art from different cultures reflect universal themes?
      How does art reflect the history and traditions of a culture?
    • Content Questions
      What kind of art can be created with fabric?
      Who are some artists from different cultures, and what are some of their works?


    Assessment Processes

    View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in The Silk of Our Lives Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.


    Instructional Procedures

    Prior to Instruction
    In advance of instruction, purchase art materials, prepare simple sketchpads from art paper, and collect art books and other texts, especially materials with examples of fabric and textile art. Practice the silk painting technique and create a sample to show the class.

    Setting the Stage
    Pose the Essential Question, What role does art play in our lives? Ask students to write briefly on this topic to prepare for a whole-class discussion.


    Give a brief lecture about fabric and textile art, using examples from the resources to answer the Content Question, What kind of art can be created with fabric?


    Explain to students that they will write a research paper proposal for a fabric art installation to hang in the Hall of Nations at the upcoming World's Fair. Conduct a discussion about the importance of understanding cultures different from one's own, and discuss the impact better awareness of other cultures can have on society.


    Show students a variety of fabric arts from different cultures and discuss their impressions. Assign pairs of students to study different regions (such as Latin America, Asia, and Africa). Have students take a brief "tour" of the cultures of their region before choosing one to focus on for the rest of the project.


    Finally, hand out the project rubric and discuss the rubric in detail. Review the purpose of the rubric and expectations for students. Answer any questions and continue to refer to the rubric as each part of the project is introduced. Students should continue to use the rubric as a guide for monitoring progress as they work on each part of the project.

    Discuss the research report proposal assignment with the class, and teach necessary research skills, such as note-taking and citing references. Explain that each proposal will show students' understanding of a culture's history and traditional arts, and answers the following questions:


    • What are your impressions of this art and culture?
    • How does art reflect the history and traditions of a culture? Identify contemporary styles and discuss diverse social, economic, and political developments reflected in the works of art examined.
    • How does art of different cultures reflect universal themes?


    While students prepare research papers, have them study from selected resources, including the Internet, multimedia atlases, art history books, and encyclopedias. Meet with students periodically throughout the process to answer questions and monitor progress. Conduct mini-lessons as needed to refresh or review concepts.


    Help students find art images that are representative of the culture they are studying. Encourage students to take notes and sketch examples of what they find. Sketches are useful later when students develop presentations and design their silk scarves.

    Research Paper and Presentation
    Have students engage in the writing process of drafting, revising, peer reviewing, and publishing. Review each report and allow students a second revision phase, if necessary.


    When reports are finished, have students begin developing their slideshow presentations. Review the slideshow presentation sample as an example of exemplary work. Remind students that the purpose of the presentation is to inform and persuade a specific and knowledgeable audience to approve a fabric art installation. Approve an outline of the presentation before students develop slideshow elements. Have students scan, copy, or take digital photos of their design sketches to include in their presentations. Students may also want to include music. A local library may have recordings of music from other cultures that students can sample, but be aware of copyright restrictions. After initial art instruction, you may want half the class to start painting their scarves while the other half works on their presentations.

    Scarf Art
    Use the scarf painting procedures handout and scarf art presentation to introduce the techniques students will use. Reference art books and sketches rendered during the research process to show students how to sketch their own interpretations. The best designs for silk painting are bold and simple. Some designs, particularly patterned ones, may be too intricate for scarf painting, and these should be simplified. Approve each sketch before distributing scarves and art supplies to students. As students begin working with the scarves, take digital photographs of the process for next time you teach the unit, and so students can include images in their presentations.


    Proposals to the World's Fair Art Panel
    As presentations and scarves are completed, plan an event where student artists present their proposals and artwork to a World's Fair "jury." You may want to ask local artists to act as panel members. Give students sufficient time to practice their presentations in small groups before they present to the larger class and "jury." Ensure that students have an opportunity to receive peer feedback on their presentations before sharing them formally. Have each pair give feedback to at least one other pair and then revise their presentation based on the feedback. Assess student reports, presentations, and artwork using the project rubric.

    Concluding Activity
    After students have seen all of the presentations, conduct a discussion revisiting the Essential Question, What role does art play in our lives? Ask students to look back over their initial responses to this question and discuss how their current answers vary.


    Ask students to write an in-class essay to the following prompt, making specific references to a variety of cultures, artists, and works of art:

    • What can we learn about cultures by looking at their art?


    Hand out the essay rubric, review the expectations, and answer any questions. Ask students to use the rubric as a guide while writing their essays. Use the same rubric to assess students' completed essays.


    Prerequisite Skills

    • Reading for information
    • Research writing
    • Presentation skills
    • Basic concepts of color and design


    Differentiated Instruction

    Resource Student

    • Narrow the student's research focus by assigning specific topics to investigate
    • Pair the student with a peer mentor

    Gifted Student

    • Have the student delve deeper into discussing art and culture in the proposal
    • Have the student create a Web site showcasing the fabric art of the class

    English Language Learner (ELL)

    • Provide texts in the student's first language
    • Encourage students to research their homeland to share their culture with others



    Nancy Dome participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. Dome's classroom was featured in An Innovation Odyssey, a collection of stories of technology in the classroom, Story 249: Watching Them Blossom. A team of teachers expanded this example you see here.

    Background: Odyssey Story from California, United States

    Students create painted silk scarves that reflect the culture and traditional art of a country or area., and write research papers and prepare presentation proposals for a fabric art exhibit