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Units July 11, 2023

Composition, Context, Representation, and Reality


Lesson Summary: Students explore how composition conveys meaning imbued with the point of view of the composer. They apply this learning to explorations of local history, primary sources, poetry, and art projects. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the Radical ReVision team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately two weeks, or seven lessons.


Students will be able to...

  • Explore the relationship between composition, point of view, and reality.
  • Revisit local historical records to honor enslaved folx who built our town.
  • Consider how public art can make reparations.
  • Engage in personal truth-telling via creative, intentional making (either art or words).

Enduring Understandings

  • Students will understand that a single composition, including historic artifacts (documents, photographs, etc.), does not tell the whole story. Composition is intentionally designed to impact perspective, which impacts the narratives told.
  • Students will understand that composers are driven by their perspectives to create in ways that put their truth into the world. An act of composition empowers people to add their voices to the world and expand the narrative.

Unit Overview

Students begin by exploring how composition conveys meaning and is imbued with the point of view of the composer. All composition, in some way, interprets reality, and all composition has some reality it fails to capture. Students explore both their own photos as well as 1619 Project photography and text through the lens of point of view and reality.

This opening exploration leads into learning about untold stories in our local community, where a Commemorate committee has worked to uncover records on, remember, and honor enslaved folx who lived, labored, and built the town.

Students will then revisit the idea of reality and point of view in art to study and analyze the forthcoming sculpture “Yesterday” by Vinnie Bagwell, which is due to be installed on the grounds of our elementary school, discussing how art in public spaces has the power to share untold narratives. 

Finally, students will engage in challenging truth-telling (either personal, local, historical, and/or global), creating intentionally either through visual or literary media.

Performance Task

Students will engage in personally meaningful truth-telling by composing one or both of the following creative pieces:

  • For ELA: Students create a found/blackout poem, using Reginald Dwayne Betts’ erasure of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 as a model.
  • For Visual Art: Students create a collage or otherwise alter an original image to communicate a new perspective on the realities captured/not captured by the image.

In both projects, students will be encouraged to challenge themselves to reach and communicate a truth that feels brave to share.


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