Teaching visual arts

Balancing creative opportunities with response to art

The curriculum places much emphasis on attentive looking, both in making art and in responding to art. Art activities are structured to help children develop sensitivity to their visual surroundings and to art works and to make connections between what they observe and their own work. Children’s developing ability to observe closely and to interpret what they see is the basis for expression and design.

They need opportunities for close observation of the natural and living environments as well as opportunities to see how artists, craftspeople and designers interpret them. They should have access to a variety of art styles from different times and cultures as stimulus for their own art activities, as a way of making comparisons between different interpretations of an idea or theme, or simply for the pleasure they give. The emphasis should always be on art as inspiration, and not as something to copy.

Children are constantly bombarded with aggressive advertising images which are designed to deliver their message in the shortest possible time. The deeper, subtler and more meaningful values that can be appreciated in art, however, take more time. The teacher’s task is to help them to look at art works for a longer period and with a more open attitude than they might otherwise have done. Openness to art enables children to evaluate art works in a critical and personally meaningful way. Their attention span and powers of concentration expand and deepen with continued exposure to a wide variety of art works.

Preparation could include deciding on:

  • How much information to give on the artist’s life and methods
  • At what point in the class to give this information
  • Compiling a list of questions based on the art work and designed to stimulate the children’s visual faculties
  • Whether to follow up with a practical activity