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.
The Dialogue of Art
“As an artist, I’ve always wanted to participate in the dialogue of art with other artists” — Jeff Koons
Happy New Year! Now that we have gotten through the first part of the year and, if you’re like me, reviewed all the elements and principles of art, it’s time to get into some art history. I try to make art history a fun part of the class … I try not to be the “sage on the stage,” but have interactive lessons and lots of hands-on art activities to help the kids learn. The more they do, the more they remember. This month we will focus on art history, cultural art, and art appreciation.
MASTER PLAN. Keeli Singer from Trojan Intermediate School in Potosi, Missouri, likes to hang masterworks throughout her building and have a photo scavenger hunt. For example, she asks her kids to “Find Grant Wood’s most famous piece and pose with a broom in the same fashion,” or “Point to the biggest star in van Gogh’s night sky classic.”
FROM CAVEMAN TO ROBOTS. I like to start teaching art history by showing students pictures of the cave paintings from Altamira, Spain, and Lascaux, France. To my surprise, the students love learning about what happened 15,000 years ago. The discussion progresses to the invention of the written word, architecture, technology, and life as we know it today. Talk about incorporating Common Core into the art classroom! When I taught elementary school, I would dress up as a cave lady. For other periods of art, I would also dress up … these costumes included Vincent and his bandaged ear, Frida and her unibrow, Mona Lisa, and Klimt’s lady from The Kiss.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON? As an art teacher in an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, 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 some countries. This has led the students to be more inquisitive, ask more questions, and reflect more on social issues.
BRING MULTICULTURALISM INTO YOR CLASSROOM. Most of our classrooms and schools have a very diverse ethnic population. We must remember when talking about different cultures in our classrooms, it is very important to be sensitive to all groups. One mixed-media project I am currently working on is having my middle school students do a self-portrait using cultural and personal symbols.
MUSEUMS ON US. For those of you who don’t know, Bank of America offers anyone with a Bank of America account or credit card free admission to many museums around the country monthly. Many museums also offer grants, free transportation, and or free admission for schools. Contact your local art museum to find out what they offer. Many also include tours with their docents and hand-on workshops for the students. Every year I take my students to one of our local museums. I also have a museum educator be one of our keynote speakers at our National Junior Art Honor Society Induction. It makes for a great community connection as well.
EVERYONE CAN DO IT! That’s right, all students can learn how to do an art critique. When I taught kindergartners, the kids would look at art and tell me what they saw. We would look at lines, shapes and colors. As the kids got older, I added more elements and principles for them to look at.
Now that I teach middle school, my students do eight artist research projects a semester. The students use a generic template that I made and list the artist’s name, place and date of birth and death, and what style of art they did. They must write a sentence or two about each element and principle of art they observe. Students can print out the picture they critiqued or draw it. Most of my students are enjoying the drawing process.
Happy birthday to Marsden Hartley (Jan. 4, 1877), Kiki Smith (Jan. 18, 1954), Jeff Koons (Jan. 21, 1955), and Peter Voulkos (Jan. 29, 1924).
Thank you Keeli for your great tip.
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.
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