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[teacherartexchange] ArtsEducators love BIG IDEAS - two responses


From: Judy Decker (judy.decker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Feb 14 2007 - 07:49:35 PST

Greetings Art Educators,

Two off list replies to me were just too good for my eyes only. You
folks out there need to read these, too.

From Annamae (from Ohio)

I LOVE big ideas.
Here is an excellent link by Grant Wiggins & Assoc.
I know I've plugged the book before but the Davis publication of Dr.
Sydney Walker, "Teaching Meaning in Art Making" is fabulous.

I know they are long and require a lot of reading, but the Ohio
Department of Ed. lessons are also focused on Big Ideas and yes, the
Standards. My seventh grade model lessons focusing on face jars,
bogolanfini [mud cloth] and even the marble maze are considered parts
of a greater "Identity" unit. The other model lessons at different
grade levels are also built on Big Ideas.

The teacher, however, must prepare and plan. They cannot simply give
directions and let the students go. They cannot merely take the
production idea from any model lesson, ODE or one from your site, and
replicate it without applying the concept of the Big Idea to the needs
or interests of THEIR students. Doing so would reduce the lessons to
only media skills and not challenge students to apply the skill to a
creative piece.
I can see any of the Big Idea lessons, after initial presentation,
incorporated in a variety of classrooms including the TAB choice
rooms. Imagine an entire TAB room with centers dealing with Identity
or Power.

It is a lot of reading and a lot of work BUT the finished products are
worthwhile because the students connect and communicate THEIR ideas.

Note: I have read Annamae's lessons on the Ohio Department of
Education web site and they are excellent lessons - very thorough.
Those kind of lessons take a long time to write.
I wish I had the time to write all that went into my lessons. I hear
from folks who have tried my lessons and they wonder why they didn't
get as good a result as I did.... Perhaps it is because they missed
the big ideas? Students did not have the "passion"?

Annamae can not submit the lessons that are on the ODE site, but I
have asked her for a different lesson - so new art educators have a
model lesson to see.

I received Mark Anderson's reply earlier today. He also recommends
Walker's book.

From Mark Alan Anderson (Missouri)

I thought I'd share with you that most of my lessons
focus on encouraging "big ideas" in student artmakers.
Big ideas are, as Sydney Walker defines them in
Teaching Meaning in Artmaking, "broad, important
issues...characterized by complexity, ambiguity,
contradiction, and multiplicity...they provide
artmaking with significance...Big ideas can engage
students in deeper levels of thinking." I think that
many young art educators are looking for ways to
instill this ethic into their classrooms - certainly
you see higher education professionals like Dr. Kathy
Unrath at the University of Missouri placing a great
deal of importance on this concept in Art Education
programs. Sometimes I think educators tend to look for
a "silver bullet" in the form of a big idea "lesson,"
which, I think, misses the point. Rather, I think we
ought to be striving to incorporate this ethic of "big
ideas" into ALL of our lessons, to encourage greater
meaning for students. Meaning in artmaking encourages
students to involve themselves in a personal dialogue
with concepts, history, contemporary thought,
technique, artists, and artmaking. Again from Walker:
This might mean looking "beyond stylistic
characteristics of an artwork," which, unfortunately
is exactly what happens when we approach art from a
purely formalistic stance. When we look at the
Elements of Art as the purpose of an art lesson,
rather than the tools that provide artmakers with a
means to an end, we find ourselves spending weeks
constructing such artifacts as color wheels and value
scales instead of encouraging artmaking behaviors.
While color wheels might teach learners something
about careful brushstrokes, I'd bet most of could
teach the key concepts of color mixing in about five
minutes (blue + yellow = green, et. al.) To focus on
artmaking with meaning and big ideas is what
professional artists do as a matter of course.

Mark is now teaching high school art and has many excellent lesson
ideas on his site.

Mark has many middle school lessons on Incredible Art Department.

Each art teacher needs to find a method of teaching that works for
you. If your students are not motivated.... I encourage you to take a
look at "big ideas". Lessons focusing on big ideas take a longer to
teach, but the benefits are great.


Judy Decker
Incredible Art Department
Incredible Art Resources

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