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If your art class is a studio one, I would recommend you turn the research
project into an art piece rather than writing--especially if you are trying
to avoid the kids READING their presentations. Pick an artist who has a
distinctly recognizable style and have each student render some simple
object in this style. Example: take a teapot and render a la Jackson
Pollack, Seurat, Leonardo. When they present their work to the class, they
can explain the painting technique and why it was revolutionary or
different for its time. If you pick artists judiciously, you should be
able to tap most painting techniques and even kids with little art
experience should be able to render a general idea of that style/technique.
One thing I used to use with 9th graders in Art Appreciation was an
architectural design using major components studied from history. They had
to draw a fantasy building which had post and lintel, columns, arches
(Romanesque and Gothic), buttresses, domes etc. This came after a general
survey of Western Art History. The results were amazing and since they
actually had to use these components, they remembered them. If they have
no real drawing experience, they can copy the various elements from books
but they still have to combine them into their own unique building.
Or, how about an art game that everyone makes cards for. There's so many
ways for kids to present facts they have gathered. If they have to make
something, they will remember the material long after they've forgotten
some copied data.