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Lesson Plans

Re: Art History in the classroom

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Larry Cox (L_J_Cox)
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 17:34:54 -0700

What is DBAE? I have obviously been out of the loop for a few years.
Thanks, Linda

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Beaman <>
To: 'artsednet' <>
Date: Friday, January 22, 1999 3:11 PM
Subject: Art History in the classroom

>Greetings to all! The participant inquiring about art history in the
>classroom touched a nerve for me.....
>As a classroom teacher for 25 years, I've experienced the full range of
>emotions dealing with the
>"hows" of teaching art history in my high school visual art classes. It
>wasn't until I learned about DBAE
>that it all came together for me..... I would guess that many ArtsEdNet
>participants have had the
>same training and experiences that I have had....
> 1...In elementary, junior high and high school, I had no
> 2...In college, I took the required art history classes- 3
>of them- "art in the dark." I memorized
> 800 to 1200 slides and facts about each, studied
>countless hours to earn my "C's." My
> instructor for all the classes was Maynard Stone, an
>eccentric intellectual that had an
> amazing mind for all sorts of interesting facts about
>the slides we were viewing ( I still
> remember a great deal of the information from the
>classes, but they were so damn boring)...
> 3...I started teaching in a middle school in Green Bay,
>Wisconsin, with no resources- no slides,
> no prints and no ideas how to approach art history in a
>"positive" way....just a certainty that
> I didn't want to approach art history with the "art in
>the dark" methodology. Until 1994, I simply
> did a little "talk" before each unit I taught, showing
>examples and explaining the historical
> background behind each project we were doing in my
> In 1994, I took a summer class with the Minnesota DBAE Consortium and was
>"reborn!" During the one week that
> I participated in their training, I learned more about how to positively
>approach art history than I ever thought possible!
> Within a year, I was about to reconstruct my classes from a focus on
>technique and production to an integration of
> history, criticism, aesthetics with the technique and production. ALL my
>students now ACTIVELY investigate works of
> art of their choosing- the key to this, for me, is the practice of
>CONCEPTS and PROCESSES instead of only
> facts and skills. Facts and skills are irrelevant, because, for the most
>part, a teacher is deciding what's important for us.
> I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a hard time remembering
>anything that someone tells me I should remember
> unless it's my own priority. DBAE training helped me to find ways to get
>my students "hooked." Some ideas that have worked
> for me:
> 1...In explaining why we need to work with art history,
>criticism and aesthetics instead of only technique and
> production, I talk to my students and parents
>in metaphorical terms...... If you take a common, "everyone
> uses it object", it will make sense..... I
>about "toilet paper." When we're little we learn how to use it...
> and then we go through life using it (technique and
>production). But, toilet paper hasn't always existed-
> Who invented it? When? Where? What did people use
>before toilet paper?(history) What kind of toilet paper
> is "best?" (aesthetics and criticism) When students
>and parents "buy into why" they can see where you're
> headed when you talk "art history."
> 2...My students learn a process. It started as an 18 week
>class with assessment log/portfolio and many art
> projects intended to teach kids "scanning" skills.
>I've found that it doesn't necessarily take my students
> 18 weeks to learn the process. I demonstrate
>scanning with a work of art; students choose a work to practice
> with and then demonstrate their knowledge of
>the process when they think they're ready. Some surface right
> away and some have to be coaxed, but all
>eventually do the scanning. Each student has a checklist so they
> know what they must talk about in "scanning."
> 3...When my students know how to scan, we talk about how it
>would be easier to understand what the artist was
> attempting to do if we had additional
>information the work, it's place in its culture, its history... you
> "windows of access." The easy way to do this
>is to get a newspaper or magazine review of a movie or eating
> establishment or art show. High school kids
>can easily see how "critics" use the windows of access (for those
> of you that haven't been exposed- the "windows" are:
>historical, cultural, artist's skill, artist's intent/beliefs,
> installation, audience expectation). My students then
>choose a work they strongly like or dislike, scan the
> work, investigate it, categorize their information
>(windows of access) and use the information to construct support
> for their personal critical position. They
>to look for information that contradicts their position and to include
> the differing viewpoint if possible. The culminating
>"event" is a presentation that can be multimedia, oral or written.
> Students have even created art (usually a collage) to
>present. Believe me..... students are engaged!
> 4...My favorite "project" to help this "make sense" for my
>students is to have an Art show. Students in my Drawing
> and Painting class put up displays of their
>work. We then have a "reception," attended by both artists and critics.
> Artists stand by their works and answer questions from
>critics. The critics write reviews of the art show, telling the
> public whether they should attend the show or
>avoid it. Their criteria are simple: they must view the entire show;
> choose a work they either really like or
>dislike; investigate the work by interviewing the artist; use at least four
> of six "windows of access;" and include an
>opening, body and summary in their review. I take the best 10 (of
> about 50) reviews and bring them to our local
>newspaper along with an explanation of what we're doing. We leave
> the show up for a month for the public to see.
>We have lots of members of the public come in to see the work.
> Kids love it...... it doesn't hurt to have about 15
>gallons of punch and 300 cookies for the reception. Last time I
> did this, we had about 280 students come to
>opening. It was well worth the effort for my students, both artists
> and critics, to learn this process. When
>students see how this process can be applied to "real life" they see a
> reason for learning about history and
>and aesthetics.
>I owe much to DBAE. At first I was fearful about losing students with this
>approach, but my enrollments increased by 45 % over a two
>year period. I've had far less of a problem with discipline and more kids
>that aren't "artists" are comfortable taking my art classes. I'm
>no longer a "dumping ground" for students that have been kicked out of
>classes. All my students feel more successful because
>they understand what they're doing and why they're doing it. I wish I
>would have had DBAE training 20 years earlier.... I might still have hair!
>Sorry this is such a long post..... hopefully it will help someone out
>that's struggling with how to teach art history!
>Dave Beaman