I would like to write about our experiences with students in our studio and in the school classroom. My experiences are based on my work with young children from kindergarten to year 6 and Middle School aged children.
There are many different ways to motivate and to engage students in the art classroom or in their day to day environment. I feel that it is crucial that students have some stimulating motivation and also for us teachers to remember that students always have something to say. I believe that art is the perfect way for them to express ideas about themselves, their families, their friends and their environment. Art is also a great way for children to learn, through engaging in art activities involving other areas of learning like for instance; Nature, Literature, Science, History, and Art History.
My students learning is based on a studio practice model and they learn from very young to practice the discipline of Art, no different from the discipline of making music, the more they practice the better they become.
Here are some samples of our work and methodology, in a very condensed way.
How do you motivate students to say something about themselves?
When presenting ideas to students my main goal is to present projects that are meaningful to them.
Meaningful themes addressing the subject of Identity – self-esteem – loneliness – pain, anger, physical pain and psychological pain are some of the ideas that older students can explore. Students keep visual diaries to help them to develop ideas and to help them to be independent learners. A visual journal can help a student to write and to draw about his or her preliminary ideas about a project, it will also contribute to the student’s learning as he or she will document processes, ways of solving problems, reflexions and discoveries. As students collect information, by doing so they will focus in their work, work that will become meaningful and personal.
Younger students express ideas about themselves engaging in the following themes: Self-portraits – illustrating personal stories by creating drawings or paintings of their home, their rooms, their back yards, and their family and of their pets.
How do you motivate students to talk about themselves?
In practice, we always start our art class with a conversation. The students sit on a mat and we talk for about 10 minutes, sometimes more. No matter where I am teaching at school or at the studio this is a practice that never fails for me. Having the students closer to me it is a lot easier than having they sitting at their desks fidgeting and talking to their peers. Together we discuss the art lesson or they tell me what they would to do.
One way to motivate young students to talk about themselves is asking questions like: what is home for you? – have you ever felt lonely? – How does your room look like? – Who do you play with? – What do you see out of your window? What happened last time you visit the dentist? – Have you ever been ill?
Young children are always eager to answer questions like these. Normally it is one student who starts the dialogue, as every answer is welcomed, other students feel confident to tell their stories.
A close look at Nature
Nature – Encouraging students to explore the beauty of Nature. Nature as a theme is vast, there are so many aspects in Nature that inspire us. A walk in the park during autumn to find seed pods, twigs and bits of bark. A walk in the school yard looking at trees, the way they branch out, the different lines and textures of their bark. Finding out the many different shapes of leaves, and their different shades of green.
Taking a closer look, drawing the different textures and veins and patterns on leaves, or looking at a group of shells to find their shape, colour, patterns and textures. Or finding the repetition of lines and shapes on seed pods.
And for those students from the City, looking at small collections from Nature brought by the teacher and the students into the classroom.
Architecture – the built environment
Architecture is a very important source of inspiration for us. We study the way cities, and suburbs have developed. Students use old architecture magazines to find ideas and to learn about different periods and styles of architecture. Everybody gets busy drawing and writing ideas in their journals. Students are allowed to cut the magazines to record ideas about the way buildings are built. In our discussions we talk about building materials like concrete, steel glass, timber and others. Older students love building models with balsa wood in combination with Kraft paper and jute to add details like trees and tiles for example.
We also have conversations about how noisy, busy, populated and polluted some cities are.
Sometimes students like to find city signs, cities are full of them, or to represent the busy traffic and people.
The imagination brings a lot of different ideas to our minds. We can imagine a trip to the moon in a silver space ship, we can imagine a red flying horse, or a boat flying in the sky, or having a trip on a red hot balloon looking down at all the different formations of the landscape. Or a Magic Garden, where flowers grow as tall as trees and birds are tall and skinny, or short and fat. Students work with gardening magazines to look at flowers, to develop some ideas about what will grow in the magical garden. Students take notes and do preliminary sketches of flowers and foliage in their sketch books, learning to develop ideas and to imagine a walk in this enchanted garden.
Students love to invent, especially in the early years. They invent things like vehicles, machines for strange purposes, space ships and fantastic structures to name just a few.
For our invention conversations we like to look at Leonardo da Vinci’s strange series of machines he created in 1500’s. Students work in 3D with cardboard and timber to create some strange structures that they will use as models for painting or drawing. This kind of activity always produce amazing abstract and unique images.
Apart from our conversations about art, we have extra motivational materials, like videos, slide shows, films, colour reproductions of paintings, art books suitable for the classroom, picture books, lots of old magazines to name a few. Students also use their iPads to learn about a chosen artist in depth, they take notes in their journals, sketch ideas and write reflexively about the reason they choose a particular artist to research.
By practising this kind of conversation/dialogue with students I believe it helps them to understand how to develop their ideas, it also gives them confidence to actively participate in the classroom and will guide them to find meaning in their practice of art making. Ultimately, it helps me to understand my students and their interests.
Brava Art Press
This post is a part of The Art Ed Blogger’s Network: Monthly Tips and Inspiration from Art Teacher Blogs. On the first Tuesday each month, each of these art teacher blogs will post their best ideas on the same topic.
Participating Art Teacher Blogs:
- Art Class Curator
- Art Ed Guru
- Art is Basic
- Art Room Blog
- Art Teacher Tales
- Art with Mr. E
- Arte a Scuola
- Artful Artsy Amy
- Brava Art Press
- Capitol of Creativity
- Create Art with ME
- Mona Lisa Lives Here
- Mr. Calvert’s Art Room Happenings
- Mrs. Boudreaux’s Amazing Art Room
- Mrs. T’s Art Room
- Ms. Nasser’s Art Studio
- Party in the Art Room
- shine brite zamorano
- Tales from the Traveling Art Teacher
- There’s a Dragon in my Art Room