Critical Thinking Meets Art: A Lesson that Sheds Light on the Theme of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. This year, in which our world is so different from last year, it feels more appropriate than ever to key into the big idea of the holiday: that Hanukkah is a time for increasing light in the world, both literally and figuratively.

Consider focusing on the big ideas of the holidays to make best use of your limited time and attention spans to create rich learning.

The following Hanukkah lesson is based on the work of Project Zero, a Harvard Graduate School of Education program focused on enhancing learning through the arts. This method prompts students to think critically about content, “making thinking visible,” according to an article about the method in Forbes.

This lesson - from Make, Create, Celebrate: Jewish Holidays Through Art - uses art as a lens to examine the theme of light. It’s built around Project Zero’s See/Think/Wonder routine. Elizabeth Diament, the Senior Educator at the National Gallery of Art and consultant for Make, Create, Celebrate, explains that has written that, “using questions drives learning and uncovers complexity.” It’s designed for grades 4-6.

Hanukkah Lesson: Creating Light

PART 1: See/Think/Wonder

  1. Look at the painting by Yoram Raanan (. Ask students: What do you see? What colors does the artist use to create light? What do you think? What do you wonder?

Here are some more questions you can explore using this piece of art:

  • Do you see a menorah? How many menorahs? Is it one or many? Why would the artist want to show one? Why many?
  • Do you see shadows? Light? From which direction is the light coming? Or is it coming from within? What does light have to do with Hanukah, both literally and symbolically?
  • What colors do you see in the menorah painting? How would you describe them? Do the colors make you think of any feelings? Do those feelings connect to Hanukkah in some way?

PART 2: Creating Art

Give students the opportunity to create their own art, such as scratch art, to show them how they can spread light or goodness in the world.

Here's how: Using oil pastels or markers or whatever art supplies are available at home, have students fill in a blank paper with different colors or in a pattern. Then, using a black oil pastel (NOT a marker), cover the entire square with black. Finally, using a fine-point tool or toothpick or plastic knife, have students scratch the drawing into the black pastel. When they scratch out the black, the colors beneath should shine through.

Ask them their reaction to seeing the vibrant colors emerge from under the blackness.

As a final step, have students reflect on the experience by asking them to make a statement about their intent in creating art and what it means to them. They could do this with a partner and peer review each other’s creation.

Make, Create, Celebrate is available with turn-page access to use in remote learning settings. Click here for more information. 



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