Art Criticism in a Pinch
An Elementary Art Teachers Guide
Compiled by: Michele Comp
Why this list was compiled:
We all want to be good at what we do and for me that is teaching art. As an elementary art educator, I pride myself in the artwork of my students; they are, after all, some of the most fabulous artists I know. I share my student’s creative successes with anyone who is interested, though social media, local businesses, art contests, and school displays. I encourage my students to work in a vast variety of mediums while I work hard to keep on top of new trends in technology and art education. I consider myself a well rounded educator with my student’s best interest as my top priority. However my world was completely rocked, in one graduate course, when I became haunted by one major question. “What do they know?” Sure, my students know a lot of different artists, styles, mediums, techniques, and skills but what do they really know? In taking criticism on the go, I couldn’t help but think about how my students will use this information in the “real” world. OK, I hate that saying, because for these kids, school is the real world and it will be until they are about 17 years old, and while life will change after graduation, it won’t be as if they were living in some la la land for the past 13 years. When I say the “real” world, I am talking about daily life, the world that surrounds you no matter what age or stage of life you are in. Every day we are bombarded with images. These images come at is though many means and may appear differently depending on our age, sex, race, religion, political views, and personal beliefs, ect.. While not every image will claim to be art, knowing how to interpret art will help us to interpret new images we encounter and to have a deeper appreciation for the world we live in. While my students may not find value in everything they see, they will be able to consider it, investigate it’s meaning or purpose, and possibly appreciate it.
In asking myself this difficult question of “what do they really know”, I was forced to take a step back and evaluate the classroom experience I was giving my students. I like to think of my classroom as inquiry based, exploratory, and open to multiple points of view, and while I believe this is true when it comes to art making, I think it could be truer when it comes to looking at the art of others. I often teach about other artists and allow students to draw conclusions on common themes, make connections to things they know or care about, and look before they begin to tell me what it means or why. These are all great and I feel happy that I have these activities in place but want to make more of them, lots more, in every lesson I teach. I think my students would grow from the opportunity to interpret more freely.
In teaching about Matisse’s “The Snail”, 1953, I told a group of 1st graders that my favorite thing about art is that everyone can look at a work and see something different. I think this statement has become more true after exploring art criticism more in-depth, and learning of the endless possibilities for art interpretation. No single interpretation of an artist’s work exhausts the meaning of that work (T. Barrett, 19) I want my students to have opinions, beliefs, and preferences, I want them to know how to use their own experiences to connect and interpret works of art and images in popular culture, and I want them to feel safe to share their own ideas while developing a respect and appreciation for the opinions and ideas of others. The world is ever growing and ever changing, as is art, and the interpretations. I want to to interject opportunities for deeper exploration and interpretation in every lesson. If it is true that nothing is new under the sun, then I should be able to find artwork that connects to everything my students create and if not they can always interpret their own work or the work of a friend. There are amazing lessons in interpreting art, those of tolerance, consequence, delivery, and acceptance. Art matters (T. Barrett, p.84), it’s everywhere we look. I believe that the more my students practice interpreting art and working through the critical process the more natural it will become, soon, they won’t even realize they are doing it and it will become a natural part of their daily life. This is why I compiled this list of resources, ideas, and activities for art criticism.
What you will find:
In the following posts you will find a variety of games, activities, writing and acting prompts, questions, and more to encourage art criticism in your elementary classroom. Some will require preparation in advance while others will easy to use right away. The activities shared are compiled from course resources, the internet, and my own classroom experiences.
How to use:
Every time you plan a new lesson and see that is lacking the opportunity for interpretation, glance here, and see what ideas you could adapt to fit your lesson. Some ideas would also be great for emergency substitute plans, one day lessons, exit activities, and to inspire collaboration with regular educators.
To find an activity that works for you click the labels on the left. The Criticism activities have been divided into categories based on how you would like to students to explore the work.
Originally Posted 12/12/2014
Originally Posted 12/12/2014