Dyan Branstetter | September 2015

Thumbnail Sketches Using Edmodo

If I had to choose just one aspect of technology that has changed the way I teach, it would have to be Edmodo (www.edmodo.com). This digital classroom is easy to set up and navigate, and it’s free! It is a fantastic way for me to connect with my students online and help their learning continue even after the school day ends. It is also a private, Facebook-like place for just my students, so I can monitor everything and I don’t have to worry about privacy issues.

Edmodo is the perfect place to post such things as relevant news articles, songs that I want students to use or learn, or video clips and links for my math students to access while doing their homework. There are also many other useful tools included  that help gauge students’ mastery of the standards. If you haven’t checked it out yet, make sure to add it to your to-do list.

Insert: Thumbnail Sketches

One of my favorite uses of Edmodo for an arts integration project is a mini-research project, which I call a Thumbnail Sketches. As an extension of the book Me & Uncle Romie, my class explored the artists who influenced Uncle Romie (Romare Bearden). Without any background information, students each chose a name from a list of his influences. (Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Langston Hughes, Aaron Douglas, Goya, Manet, Picasso, Juan Gris, Palmer Hayden, Augusta Savage, to name more than a few.) Next, students did research to find out if their person was a poet, an artist, or a musician, and in what era he or she lived. Then, students had to find a poem, piece or artwork, or a video or music clip to post on Edmodo, including the name of the influential person in the post.

The result is a quick, interactive visual (and audio) newsfeed of Romare Bearden’s influences. After viewing the posts, students quickly discovered similarities and connections in the art and music and were able to easily and deeply summarize what impacted Bearden’s art. They were amazed to find that the people on our list, while seemingly unconnected, could actually be tied together by various degrees of separation.

Here’s a snippet from our class newsfeed:


It would be easy to adapt this for any person your class may be studying. Before giving the assignment, research to find the people who influenced the person you are planning to study. If they fall into specific categories (in my case, poets, artists, and musicians), modify the recording tool below to match. Then, assign each student one of the influential people, explain the mini-research project and watch your newsfeed unfold!

Here the simple recording tool for students to use when gathering information:

Thumbnail Sketches Research:

Name of famous person: __________________________

My person is a… (circle one)

My person lived during this time period: _________________

My person lived in this country: ___________________

In complete sentences, summarize why this person is well-known.

Post this information on Edmodo. Include a work of art, music, or poem that your famous person created.

About the Author

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.