Our Art Class is a place where every child is an artist, because well….every child is an artist. I prefer a nice fusion of teacher led activities and opportunities for authenticity. This helps our students make connections between art vocabulary, mastery of media (art supplies) and personal expression.Each activity is chosen to help students understand art concepts like The Elements of Art and Principles of Design. We also look at famous artwork AND the artworks of kids in our school to discuss why some compositions are more visually successful than others.
Some lessons may have a teacher directed element like a step by step line drawing to begin the artwork but as the artwork evolves, students have the opportunity to make their own choices. Choice in an art class is important. It keeps the kids engaged. It lights that creative fire and it builds confidence. So when we lay out an entire group of artworks from the same class, we may see the basic idea of the project like the example below. This is a reindeer created by kindergarten students. We have been working on making connections between lines, how lines create shapes and how shapes create recognizable images like a reindeer. We have also been working on using our media (crayons, pencils, paint, scissors, glue, etc.) This artwork may just look like a reindeer but it is the culmination of a semester’s worth of study and each one reflects student personality, mastery of media and comprehension of art concepts. Expecting them all to look the same or to be a “teacher copy” takes so much away from the artwork. It also, in my opinion, hinders the artistic growth and interest of young students. Allowing them to freely express within the lesson stops the frustration associated with “perfection”. If we don’t expect them all to look the same, there is no “perfect” and each artist can be free to create something that meets our learning goals but allows personal expression. This is such an important part of learning at the elementary level. It is also healthy for them to learn that we are all different and that is something to be proud of. Cookie cutters don’t belong in our classroom. ( :
As students get older and have mastered the use of media (art supplies), the art projects often become more open ended with more choice allowed. For example, fourth grade students were allowed to choose their own art supplies, composition and perspective when creating these snowmen.
It is my belief that this is how we encourage our students to be creative and enjoy and understand visual arts. It may look like a random group of snowmen on the outside, but when looking at these artworks, I can see that many of my students applied the concept of Contrast when creating their snowmen. We discussed this by looking at the artworks of Vincent Van Gogh and understanding how he used warm and cool colors together to create areas of emphasis and visually successful artworks. I can also see a mastery of media in many students who were struggling at the beginning of the year. As the year moves forward, I plan to get our iPads involved to create some art pieces with those, as well.
There is a lot of research and evidence to back up the idea of student choice in an art classroom. I value the individuality of my students and want to infuse as much of that as I can into our projects. I have an Art Studio and an Art Education degree, so I see the importance of combining artistic expression with educational concepts. A blend of the two encourages the struggling and opens expression for the gifted. Our students have great ideas! When we give them the tools and the chance to let them grow, beautiful things can blossom. Thank you for sharing your artist with me this year!