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I understand their reluctance to speak about things...and remember the feeling
quite clearly....so what I do in getting kids to participate is simple, I make the
discussion and participation seem as natural an occurrence as talking about music
or clothes is to them.
It takes some doing, and yes, most kids will think you are nuts, but it works. I
tell them from day one that they are artists (and in the case of art appreciation
students, you may try saying you are an art critic), when they walk in the
room...and since they are artists we will be doing what artists do, and that is
think art, do art, and speak about art. We do not stop what we are doing to make
a big production out of the doing, making or speaking, it will be what we DO...and
then we DO...it is a combination of spontaneity, necessity, and naturalism...and
it should never appear so stiff as to be orchestrated...because kids this age HATE
being trained seals.
I know this probably sound chaotic, and I know that you have a certain amount of
material to cover, including periods of art, specific artists etc. I would back
track and ask myself, what is it I want students to come away with from this
class? Is it memorization of time periods and artists? Is it the aesthetics and
'manufacturing' of art? Is it trying to understand how the artist fits into their
society of the time? Is it how the artist reflected what was going around at the
time? Is it why do people to art? Is it what has come before and where are we
And, do your students have enough information that they feel they can make some
contribution to what they are looking at? In other words, are you asking for
opinions from them based on their knowledge that they came in the room with, OR,
have you given them some skills and ways of gaining information about the
works/painters that they can come up with a critical judgment that may not have
occurred to them BEFORE taking the class....(I call it the "aha" stuff). All of
us at one time or another are proud of what has come out of our heads, and through
our lips when we think we have just come up with an original thought.
And lastly, I would ask myself, if I were taking an art course at a local college,
would I want to play the token game? If so, why, if not why not. Personally, I am
always reluctant to play games in a situation where I feel everyone is aware of
how I am doing by some sort of 'marking' system...unless of course I am really
good at it....and well then.....
Adolescence is an embarassing time in general, and doesn't need any more scoring
systems. Speaking and evaluting art should be something one "does" as a matter of
course, not something one is "tricked" into doing for the sake of a grade, or by
token placement.. (And, by the way, isn't there pressure to place your token
where everyone else has placed theirs?) If these are the reasons a teacher needs
to "turn on" students into the discussion process, be prepared for the battery to
die or stall.
> I am teaching an art appreciation class to high schoolers. Today I led the
> kids in our first discussion. We had played the token response game and we
> were talking about which art works got the most of certain kinds of tokens.
> We had a pretty good discussion except of course only about 5 to 6 kids were
> participating out of a class of 20. I tried to elicit responses out of some
> of the other kids only to get responses like I don't know, even to the
> simpliest questions. Do any of my fellow art teacher collegues out there have
> any suggestions for getting more kids involved in discussions? How do you
> draw out the shy and reluctant students? Also have any of you played the
> Token Response game with kids before? I'd love to hear how it went with your
> students. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
> -Ruth Altman, Waukegan High School, IL