Effective Instructional Themes
The following is an exercise in theme building as I respond to the
suggested activities. Because I believe thematic lessons are excellent ways
to organize learning experiences, I use this opportunity to explore a
specific theme. My experience as an art specialist, arts coordinator, and
general classroom teacher lead me to recognize the profound opportunities
for concept connections. And themes are a natural way to make connections
sensible. To form generalized statements about those concepts suggests a
cohesive assembling of learning experiences that are meaningful to students
and will be remembered by students.
I analyzed G. Chalmer's listing of broad themes (Cultrual Pluralism)
related to "makers" and compared to the theme of "Our Place in the World."
In both, 1) we learn about who we are as "makers" 2) who use the resources,
materials we have available to us, and processes we understand to create 3)
in some place at some time.
Distinctive characteristics of the theme: Our Place in the World
1) relates to real life and human behaviors, 2) relates to other academic
domains in general education, 3) centers on generalized statements about
art rather than about isolated bits of knowledge with no connectedness, 4)
expects art learning to be about something--a greater purpose, 5)
encourages inquiry, discovery, and higher levels of thinking (synthesis and
For example, to develop a theme . . .
makers who are "enhancers and decorators (e.g., makers of printed and woven
textiles and ceramic tiles)
A possible generalized statement of a theme (nature of man and the nature
"People like to aesthetically decorate and enhance things they make and
other people like to view those things."
For the teacher: Students would explore various cultures' objects and
functional forms and discover patterns and non patterns that relate to
people's lives where and when. Experiencing art criticism to find meaning
of decorative markings, creating personal decorative markings, gaining
insight through art historical exemplars from various cultures, and
questioning issues of aesthetics would be organized experiences in a unit
of study with 5th graders.
For students: Makers in most cultures through time created objects and
functional forms we enjoy viewing. They often used ideas from their
environment to enhance and to decorate those objects. Makers decorated
based on personal preferences and resources available.
I think this would be a fun unit to develop with students about THEIR place
in their world . . . enhancement of their clothing, shelter, packaging,
etc.--all manner of design and as a maker.