Tried & True Tips for Art Teachers is a monthly roundup of advice and wisdom
from fellow art teachers, put together by the intrepid Glenda Lubiner.
Outside the Box
“Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.”
— Robert Motherwell
Happy New Year! Wow, 2017! I guess time really does fly when you are having a good time, and I know that if you are like me you love your job. We are so lucky! We get to do what we love AND we get paid to do it!
As I reflect on the past few months of school I realize that the months are flying by and I still have so many things that I want to do. With the New Year upon us, my resolution for my art program is to have my students be inquirers, more reflective, and open-minded. It is so important for them to think outside of the box, ask questions, and know why they are doing an assignment. I’ve started to have them write reflective paragraphs in their sketchbooks.
What’s your resolution for your art class? Although we always include on art history, art appreciation, and cultural art in our art units, this month we will have some great tips for you on these topics.
Graphic Organizers in the Art Room? Why Not? Mary Jane Long from Fairview Elementary School in Dover, Delaware, and Hartly Elementary School in Hartly, Delaware, uses graphic organizers to increase retention of historical information. For example, last year she made an organizer with 12 rectangles, each one divided in half, and numbered from one to 12.
She then distributed printouts, readings, and imagery from the website, georgewashington.si.edu/portrait/non-flash.html. Each group of students found their number, wrote the name of their symbol on one side of a rectangle and in the other side they wrote two to three key meanings of the symbol they gleaned from the reading.
When everyone was finished they shared as a class and everyone completed their rectangles on their graphic organizer. After two 45-minute classes, every student knew the meaning and location of symbolism in the famous Lansdowne portrait.
Look, Think, and Discuss Our second tip comes to you from Michelle Zimmerman, from Notre Dame Preparatory Lower School in Pontiac, Michigan. She uses Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) when she discusses art in her classroom. She displays two art reproductions and poses open-ended questions to her students, such as “what do you see, what do you think, and what do you wonder?” These questions prompt conversations at an elementary level.
Greater inquiry focuses on evidence with questions like “What do you see that makes you say that?” and “What more can we find?” She asks her students to carefully look at the works of art and discuss what they see. Part of VTS is also having the students back up their thoughts with things that they see in the artwork—visual evidence.
The students also talk about other possible interpretations of the artwork they are looking at. Michelle understands it is important to use visual and cognitive skills. Doing this helps to build confidence in the students. While using VTS, Michelle uses the techniques of paraphrasing, pointing at the area being discussed and linking student comments.
What in the World is Going On? One thing I have been doing lately with my middle-school students is to talk about the history, geography, language and culture of the country of the artist the students are learning about. It’s great to know the history of the artist, but what was happening in the world around them? Did it affect the work that they made? Where in the world did they live? I always point out the country on a map as well, as many students are not familiar with several countries. This has led the students to be more inquisitive, ask more questions, and reflect more on social issues.
Bring Multiculturalism into your Classroom Most of our classrooms and schools have a very diverse ethnic population. We must remember when talking about different cultures in your classroom, it is very important to be sensitive to all groups. One project I am currently working on is having my middle-school students do a self-portrait using cultural and personal symbols. They are using mixed media for this project.
Happy birthday to Alfred Stieglitz (Jan. 1, 1864), Marsden Hartley (Jan. 4, 1877), Barbara Hepworth (Jan.10, 1903), Cindy Sherman (Jan. 19, 1954), Robert Motherwell (Jan. 24, 1915) and Jackson Pollock (Jan. 28, 1912).
Thank you Mary Jane and Michelle for these wonderful tips.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor Glenda Lubiner (NBCT) teaches art at Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, Fla. She is also an adjunct professor at Broward College.
If you would like to share some of your teaching tips, email them to: