In a recent lesson in Humanities on the Venus of Willendorf my fellow teacher and I incorporated a fun kinesthetic lesson to drive home the content. Kinesthetic learners, in my experience, are typically harder to engage because those lessons requires extra time, materials, and flexibility with your lesson.
*Note: I have a LOT of flexibility with Humanities so I know this lesson would not work with every subject. Also, this lesson was for a 90-minute block period but can easily be shorted for a more traditional 50-minute class by cutting out a video or shortening the activity time.
When the students walked in I had 5 different articles at each group on the Venus of Willendorf that the students read silently and highlighted then shared with their group mates until I was ready to start.
Here are the articles I provided them:
- Venus of Willendorf from 30,000 Years of Art (I scanned and printed the page)
- Venus of Willendorf: Exaggerated Beauty, How Art Made the World
- Venus of Willendorf, Art History 235
- Art Treasures of the Ice Age Steppe, The World’s Great Archaeological Treasures (I scanned and printed the page)
- Portfolio: Venus of Willendorf, artCORE Arizona State University
Class Discussion & Video
Once the group conversation was dying down (or becoming sidetracked) I started the lesson asking the class to teach me something about this figure. I used questions to guide them to important information as they referred to their articles and added new information they learned from other individuals. The conversation was great because we focused in on the representations of the “ideal body” and my girls really got the ball rolling talking about the effects of magazines and social media on their self-image and body consciousness.
We also talked about the size and scale of the Venus and how that may implicate her usefulness as a *possible* fertility figure. As a class, we hypothesized what about her full-bodied figure may have meant and how she may have been used during the Paleolithic period.
After our discussion we watched two short videos: Women’s Ideal Body Type Throughout History & Venus of Willendorf, an extract from The Sculpture Diaries.
Read more: The Human Figure in Prehistoric Art
Now to the fun part! After our discussion I instructed my students to each get a container of play-doh and thin paintbrush (they used the pointy end to mark details in their play-doh). I told them that they were going to create their own Venus of Willendorf using these materials. They had to match the form and scale of the original. It was a lot of fun and got kids thinking about the creation. mobility, and use of art during the Prehistoric periods.
As they were creating, I played some “themed” music, most appropriately: “All about that Bass” by Meghan Trainor, “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot, and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain. 🙂 It lightened up the mood and got them in a creative and fun atmosphere.
After some playing time, I walked around and talked with each of the individual groups about their creations and concepts of an idealized body in the past and today. All in all a win of a lesson! Thanks to my teacher-partner for sharing this awesome idea with me!