What Can I Expect in the Classroom?

The teacher will be in the classroom, to assist in case of a problem, but YOU are in charge of the Art Discovery presentation.  Never bring in the prints without SOME type of class discussion!  Coloring pages are NOT supposed to take the place of an art project!  Some coloring pages can be found on this website.  These are designed to remind kids of the art discussion, as an extra handout, if you choose to include one.  If you feel unsure about whether or not a project is appropriate for a grade level, ask the teacher beforehand.  The following are GENERAL EXPECTATIONS, but each class is different:

Kindergarten—Characteristics of 5 to 6 year olds

Kindergartners tend to be “fidgety”, with a short attention span (10-15 minutes).  They like to be close to their “Art Friend”.  Try having kids sit on the floor while you sit in a chair and hold the art prints for viewing during the presentation.  Clear this with the teacher.  If kids stay in their seats, it’s important to move around the room with the prints, so they can see them clearly–especially with smaller prints.  Another idea is to have kids hold the pictures for you.  Tell them you are watching who is listening, to find some helpers for picture holding.

If it’s hard for the class to settle down and listen, have kindergartners put on “good listening ears” with you.  Get dramatic and make a show of attaching pretend “listening ears” to your head.  You might also stand and perform a short “wiggle routine” with them—to get the wiggles out of their arms, legs, hands and feet.  At the end of the routine, the kids follow your lead to slow and quietly sit.  Maybe begin every kindergarten (or even grades 1-2) presentation with routines such as these.  Repeat a routine if kids are especially fidgety one month.  Younger kids usually enjoy this type of interaction.

Kindergartners are learning the difference between a question and a comment—ASKING versus TELLING.  They sometimes get confused about when they should ANSWER your question, ASK their question, or TELL about the picture (or their dog).  Kindergartners enjoy asking questions and especially like to tell stories about their own personal experiences.  Guide their questions toward the art topic.  Explain that you are going to discuss the artwork first and listen to their stories (if there’s enough time) afterward.  Ask kids to pay attention to what you are going to tell them so they can go home and teach it to their parents.  Encourage kids to share Art Discovery facts with their families—IN EVERY GRADE!

At this age, concentrate on developing observation skills.  Ask questions that encourage kids to really LOOK at the picture.  See if they can find a SHAPE, COLOR, TEXTURE or a small object in a picture.  Be sure to point out FOREGROUND and BACKGROUND—things close and things farthest away.

Some art mediums are completely new to kindergartners (this is true even in higher grades).  Introduce watercolors.  Be sure kids understand what “a little” water means, they tend to flood the paint box and colors can become washed out.  Instruct them to rinse out the brush for a color change, then press the brush on a paper towel (to get rid of extra water and be sure all the paint is rinsed out), before they start another color.  (Any grade level might need this watercolor instruction before they begin.)  Try finger painting or torn paper projects.  Kindergartners are learning better control of their scissors.  Crayons are usually easy and familiar to them.

Project directions might take longer, at this age, than the entire presentation time.  Show a simple example of what they will create and give a step-by-step explanation of how they will make it.  These kids are learning to follow directions.  Choose simple projects, with few instructions.  Pass out any materials you’ve brought in and list supplies the kids will need to take out for the project.  After everyone has their supplies and is quiet, choose a child to explain the directions again.  This helps with listening and communication skills.  It also lets you know the directions that need clarification.  Kindergartners don’t always clearly understand instructions the first time.  Early in the year, the class can follow along, step by step, as you do the project with them.  Later in the year, encourage them to be more independent by remembering the instructions on their own.

ALWAYS ENCOURAGE INDIVIDUAL CREATIVITY AND DON’T UNDERESTIMATE WHAT YOUNGER KIDS CAN DO!  Be sure to discuss project ideas with the teacher ahead of time because SOME projects might be too difficult for them.  Teachers are trained to know.

If a younger child brings you a page filled with colored scribbles and says it’s “Mona Lisa”—BELIEVE THEM.   Young kids quite literally “SEE” a perfect masterpiece in their own squiggles, shapes and lines.  Kindergartner’s perception of their own artwork is often EXTREMELY different from what adults or older children “see”.  If you can’t tell WHAT they are showing you, ask what it is in a way that won’t hurt them—“Am I holding your masterpiece the right way?”… “What made you design her hair this way?”… “Is she happy or sad?”  If you identify something incorrectly in their scribbles, you can always claim that your eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  THIS IS ACTUALLY THE TRUTH!  Young children really DO see something different on the page when they create a work of art—unless an older child or adult points out the differences or laughs at them. If this happens, whatever they originally saw in those scribbles, can literally disappear.  They may mistakenly learn that what they created is “ugly” because it can’t compare to what its “supposed” to look like.  Picasso believed we were all born artists.  Some adults may just THINK they aren’t artists because someone older (and wiser?) once COMMUNICATED that they weren’t!

First Grade—Characteristics of 6 to 7 year olds

First grade kids are more likely to stay focused for a longer period of time (than Kindergartners) but can still be easily distracted.  A 15-minute presentation is recommended.  Interaction is important, so let kids talk to you a little.  They still like to tell stories about their own personal experiences and still need to be reminded of the difference between ASKING and TELLING.

First graders are better able to understand and follow directions and generally have more skill with scissors.  Kindergarten suggestions still work for first grade—like working on observation skills.

Young children like to role-play.  Have them pantomime and become a painter at his easel with you or a character from one of the paintings.  Ask them what the subject of the painting is feeling or thinking.

Second Grade—Characteristics of 7 to 8 year olds

Second graders are becoming more focused and can concentrate better on the discussion.  They can still be a bundle of energy—very noisy and interactive.  Presentation time can usually be successfully extended to 20 minutes.  Second graders still like to tell “stories” but they seem to understand the concept of a question better than in First grade or Kindergarten.  Keep working on observation skills.

Third Grade—Characteristics of 8 to 9 year olds

This age starts to be a little more fun for the volunteer who enjoys learning and teaching about the art itself.  You can spend more time talking about the artist and the art.  Third graders can stay focused longer, usually for a good 20-25 minutes.  They are becoming more attentive and involved in the presentation and enjoy participating in discussions.

Compliment a Third grade class when they do a good job of listening and participating.  Something like, “You did such a good job today, I forgot you weren’t 5th graders!” is effective because third graders sometimes tend to act silly when answering questions or expressing opinions and often compete for attention this way.  If a Third grade class seems a little more silly than usual, you might look terribly worried and comment about perhaps running out of time for the art project.  You should always begin with a predetermined goal towards the minimum number of facts you will share in your presentation before they will begin the art project.  These kids especially enjoy the projects, so this is effective in getting them back on task.  But it won’t work if resorted to very often!

Third and Fourth graders should be able to do some of the more challenging project suggestions.  Encourage them by saying that normally you might only do this harder project with 5th graders, except you believe their class can handle it successfully!  Tell them that you KNOW they can do as good a job as the older kids!  As you positively show faith in their ability, they positively respond and can even succeed you best expectations!  BUT don’t forget to communicate a harder project idea to the teacher ahead of time.

Fourth Grade—Characteristics of 9 to 10 year olds

Fourth grade is an age of change.  Kids always seem to get very involved in the presentation and participate well in discussions.  Some kids begin to get more serious and reserved while others tend to be boisterous and rowdy.  Often kids this age become more interested in drawing—especially boys.

Fourth graders want to fit in with their friends and don’t want to be perceived as different.  They will sometimes suddenly feel insecure about their ability to produce “good” artwork.  You might find a fourth grader (and some younger kids too) who doesn’t want to participate in the project for fear of not “measuring up” to everyone else.  Be sure to emphasize that every artist has their own particular style and the more unique and different a work of art looks, the better it is.  REINFORCE THIS POINT OFTEN!  Be positive and encouraging.

Never compare one student’s artwork over another.  If kids ask your opinion of their art, be enthusiastic and try to find something different to say about each.  If you happen to notice that a student appears insecure about their abilities, encourage them BEFORE they ask your opinion!

Consider introducing kids to charcoal or oil pastels at this age.  Some schools have Art Discovery budgets, from their PTA/PTO’s, to make it possible to introduce these new mediums.  If your school doesn’t have a budget for this—consider asking for one.

Fifth Grade—Characteristics of 10 to 11 year olds

This age is able to stay focused pretty well and maintain a good level of interest.  They can still get “antsy” after awhile, so don’t spend more than 25 minutes on your presentation.  They can surprise you with their level of understanding, as they come up with some great comments and questions.

Consider having 5th graders copy “notes”, off the board, about the artist or the art.  Choose 3 or 4 major facts you would like them to remember about the presentation.  Have kids create an “Art Discovery Notes” booklet, using about 5 pieces of notebook paper, stapled between two pieces of decorated construction paper.  When you return the next month, ask them a couple of questions from their notes.  Without referring to their notes, have kids write their answers on a piece of paper and hand it back to you.  Everyone who answers the questions correctly might get a reward the next time—a sticker, piece of licorice, award certificate, etc.  Kids will begin to make sure you remember to ask them their questions each month!

At the end of the year, you might give these kids a written quiz with questions from all of their “notes” for the entire year.  Make it fun and easy!  This gives you a chance to evaluate your own presentation/teaching style and you are the only one who needs to know the final result.

Try giving 5th graders something to research (before your next visit) that has to do with the next Art Discovery Packet—birthday/birthplace of artists you will be discussing, other facts about artists, invention of photography, discovery of Lascaux Cave, definition of “Repoussé”, definition of “Folk Art”, “Folk Artist”, etc..  Kids write out the information researched and hand it back to you on your next visit.  Reward for the research topics after they have finished a certain number of them (3?) and try to write comments on their papers before you return them on your next visit.  After collecting the research paper when you first come in, begin the next presentation with a discussion about the assigned research answers so that even the kids choosing NOT to do the assignment will learn something, see how simple the assignment was, and be encouraged to try it themselves the next time.  Never tell kids the answers in your discussion, ask them to tell YOU the answer.  Encourage discussion by asking questions.

Consider creating one project with fifth graders that requires two work sessions (such as paper mâché).  You should set this up ahead of time with the teacher.  Fifth graders have some really creative ideas.  Remember to be patient, enthusiastic and encouraging!  Fifth graders can be lots of fun!

Understanding Children’s Levels of Thinking

From Sharon Springer (Former Evergreen Public Schools Art Discovery Coordinator)

     Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s research on learning, and his list of Categories in the Cognitive Domain, has helped in understanding the way humans formulate and exercise higher level thinking skills.  I often refer to the thinking that Art observation and dialogue encourages as “brain push-ups”.  Advanced planning of Art Discovery Classroom Presentation dialogue promotes and supports my favorite phrase “Art Makes You Smart!”  The following analogy explanation of Dr. Bloom’s levels of learning may assist Art Discovery Volunteers to more efficiently exercise higher level thinking with students during classroom visits.

 1.      Knowledge, or remembering information, is listed by Dr. Bloom as the first level of thinking.  “Who is the bad guy in the story of the Three Little Pigs?”  This is an example of the type of question that exercises knowledge.  The only answer to the question is the Big Bad Wolf.  The question has an exact answer and does not invite a student to think beyond the question.

Knowledge questions have only one correct answer.  There are ten basic “knowledge” priority categories Art Discovery Volunteers should introduce, discuss, and review in their Presentations.  These are the Basic Elements and Principles of Visual Art listed on the Art Discovery *EALRS information sheets.  There is a large amount of additional “knowledge” to choose from, which is included in all Packet information for sharing with the class.  Sharing the EALRS knowledge is an important part of Art Discovery Classroom Presentations.

 2.      Comprehension goes one step beyond simply remembering information and represents the lowest level of understanding.  “What caused the Three Little Pigs to react as they did when the wolf entered the neighborhood?”  is an example of the type of question requiring an understanding of the meaning of the information.  The appearance of the wolf, the well-known bad guy of the story, causes the pigs to run inside for cover.  It is easy to grasp an understanding of the pig’s response.

When defining Art Basics with the class, ask enough questions to be sure that they clearly comprehend the information.  Review information that should have been presented to the class last year, just in case it was not covered or never clearly understood; also because review is always an important aid to comprehension.  Questions beyond the comprehension level of thinking and understanding should not be asked of K-1 students yet.

 3.      Application requires a higher level of understanding than comprehension.  Applying or using newly learned information, rules, methods, or principles in new situations requires more thought.  Application is a chance to experiment by “doing”.  The Three Little Pigs exercised this level of understanding with the action of creating shelters against the Big Bad Wolf threat.  Experimenting with various housing materials proved unfortunate for the first two Little Pigs.  Their efforts were designed to be quick and easy, without requiring much thought or effort.  The third Little Pig took on a house project that required more thought and work.  This pig was also the smartest of the three.  Building the brick house was a higher level thinking exercise and proved extremely fortunate for all the pigs.

Elementary kids need to touch and do.  “Hands-on” Art Discovery projects can be a means of application, and can clarify newly gained knowledge, if volunteers choose projects that teach or encourage experimentation rather than those that are simply “easy” or “flashy”.  Hands-on learning is most effective for elementary kids.  They need to handle and mold clay, mix and swirl paint, and a variety of additional Art experiences and experiments.  Art Discovery Presentations should be variable combinations of stimulating Art discussion, probing questions, stories of World and Art History, occasional poetry, and an age appropriate hands-on Art project.  Kids have the opportunity to learn and retain more this way and are more open to learning. When Art Discovery classroom discussion is balanced with learning by doing, kids usually see this as play.

 4.      Analysis in learning is defined as breaking down information into its component parts to understand its organizational structure, including identification of the elements and principles involved and the relationships between these elements and principles.  “Why couldn’t the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs be friends?”  This question requires an understanding of the subject matter of the story as well as the relationship and nature of its characters.

In Art Discovery discussion, the analysis process might include finding and identifying the artistic elements in a work of Art (line, shape/form, color, texture, or space).  Analysis of the relationships between these elements and recognition of the organizational principles involved (balance, emphasis, movement, rhythm, repetition, pattern, depth, or artistic style) can also serve to effectively exercise higher level thinking.  This category reaches a higher level than comprehension and application because it requires a deeper understanding of both the subject matter and the production of an Art project.  Artistic elements and principles, and an understanding of their relationships, are the “component parts” in this level of the thinking process.

Applying Foreground, Middle Ground and Background in a two-dimensional work of art, and manipulating perception using one-point perspective, relative size, location, color value, and overlap, demonstrates a high level of understanding in the organizational structure of Art.  This somewhat complicated sounding Art project description may represent an Art Discovery Landscape project that fourth or fifth grade students have probably already created more than once in school.  Art Discovery Volunteers should use correct Art Vocabulary as they introduce and discuss Art information.  Reviewing and building on what is taught in Art Discovery each year can enable fourth or fifth graders to comprehend a project assignment when worded with precise and correct Art Vocabulary.

As students advance through the Basic Elements and Principles of Art, a deeper knowledge is acquired.  The side effect of this learning process in Art Discovery has produced a higher quality of elementary art production overall, in the last seven years.  This is the number of years since targeted instruction of the *Basic Elements and Principles of Art was introduced into the Art Discovery program.  In the last four years especially, the sampling of artwork submitted to the District Art Show has presented convincing evidence that enlarging this learning opportunity has made a significant impact in elementary art projects.  Although thinking exercises (“brain push-ups”) are the primary focus of Art Discovery, great artwork is an exciting bonus for everyone!

 5.      Synthesis refers to the ability to put parts together to form a new whole. Learning in this area encourages creativity with major emphasis on the formulation of new patterns, plans, or structures.  Designing and rebuilding a beautiful and strong new house, to replace one that the Big Bad Wolf blew down, challenges in this category.  “Suppose you are a sculptor and are losing your sight.  What thoughts would go through your mind?”  Both this synthesis challenge and the synthesis question motivate, inspire and require students to go a step further than analysis.

Synthesis involves creating unique and original compositions using the Basic Elements and Principles of Art.  This could be the development of an exceptionally unique process of creation.  It might also involve some type of distinctive artistic mood or style in an Art project, developing a new aesthetic understanding.  Stencils, pre-drawn shapes, or die-cut shapes discourage synthesis.  Encourage individuality and personal style with students.  Always resist the urge to prefabricate projects, even with younger kids.  Thinking is exercised most effectively as kids work through each step of the creation process themselves. Think of yourself as a facilitator rather than a teacher.  You are bringing together elementary kids, art materials, time, and space.  The ideal beauty of the work is not as important as the thinking that went into it!

 6.      Evaluation is concerned with the ability to judge the value of material (Artwork) for a given purpose.  Learning in this area is highest in the cognitive hierarchy because it requires elements of all the other categories, plus conscious value judgments based on a clearly defined standard (*EALRS).  “What do you think the insurance adjuster said after coming to the homes of the pigs to investigate the damage created by the Big Bad Wolf?” “What may have led the Big Bad Wolf to so dramatically overcompensate with such an unusual method of threatening pigs?”  Every student could give a different answer to these questions and each could be correct.  There are no correct answers to the questions because many answers are possible.  This type of questioning creates a greater potential for learning because students need to listen and then evaluate the many possibilities.

Grades 4 and 5 (and some 3) can tackle the Evaluation level.  Identifying, describing and comparing specific attributes of artworks of various artists, or cultures exercises evaluation skills.  A valuable activity at this level is to have students write a review of their own work, based on an evaluation of their use of the Elements and Principles of Art (using correct art vocabulary).  You might also choose a few students to orally evaluate their own work in front of the class each month.

Ask questions of grades 4 -5, that use questions requiring evaluation and opinion.  Remember that questions with many possible correct answers give the brain the best chance to be exercised!  Above all, have fun targeting questions that will use with kids

[Levels of Thinking are based on “Descriptions of the Major Categories in the Cognitive Domain of the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives” By Dr. Benjamin Bloom, 1956]

[*(EALRS) Ten categories of Basic Elements and Principles of Art based on The Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements for the Visual Arts, which include line, shape/form, color, texture, space, balance, emphasis/dominance, movement/rhythm, and repetition/pattern, also Artistic Style.]

Right Brain/Left Brain

Whenever information is presented to the brain, it enters through the left hemisphere.  If the information is not used again for the next three days, it could be forgotten.  The human brain is limited in its capacity to store and recall facts.

     When we use right brain activites such as humor, storytelling, visual art, music, and poetry, learning is enhanced and passed from the temporary memory of the left brain to the more permanent memory of the right hemisphere.  This happens almost automatically whenever students are exposed to right brain activities such as Art Discovery Discussion and Art project creation.

Comments are closed.