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Lesson Plans

Re: Questions About Art Revisited

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Deborah Gilbert (
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 13:30:15 -0700 (MST)

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Bob Fromme wrote:

> The changes in our culture have deprived many young kids of manual skill
>development and an appreciation for the intrinsic nature of various
>materials in our natural environment. Many of these kids now lack
>confidence in problem solving and they lack experience in those aspects of
>imagination which were once the natural product of traditional creative
>play. For many children, the art room in their school is the only place
>where they will have a chance to experience the various kinds of learning
>which should come with traditional creative play. Today the question, " Was
>it worth doing?" takes on a larger meaning as we look at the efforts of our
>students in the art room.

I couldn't agree more! To help you understand my experience, let me tell
you that I am an elementary art teacher. I have been lucky to have been in
the same school for going on 7 years now, so I have been able to watch the
growth of my students from Kindergarten through 5th grade, before I send
them off to middle school. During my 12 years of teaching, I have
continuously tweeked my curriculum as I tried to arrive at what *I* felt
were the most important things the kids should learn in my classroom.
There's the DBAE question that sort of encompasses it all and then there is
the approach that says to just teach them about how an artist can use the
elements and principles to come up with a visually pleasing product.

I have found that my students are not intellectually advanced enough - they
are still pretty much concrete, even in 5th grade - to create their own art
in reaction to a thought I might throw out. But they are *very* grateful
when I teach them a technique because then they have one more tool in their
arsenal which will enable them to create when the muse hits them. Children
are crippled by the desire to be *perfect* - instantly!!- if they can't do
something right the first time, then it isn't worth the frustration!! So I
try to give them the tools and the practice to develop a diverse collection
of artistic skills.

At the same time, I add aesthetic judgement skills -- that's the "Art- Not
Art - Maybe Art" game!! And I use that more to exercise their brain than
anything else - the game allows them to accept and consider other people's
opinions as valid. And I always try to put the art project in historical
perspective, so that they get a bit of history, sociology, and geography
along with their lesson.

So where was I going with all of this? I feel that as an elementary art
teacher, I am helping these students the most if I give them techniques
(and time to practice them), historical reference (and stories to help them
understand different cultures) and analytical experience (to help them
develop their *own* thoughts about what they consider art to be). The
question "Was it worth doing?" is answered favorably because I feel I am
equipping students for the time when they become abstract thinkers and want
to make artistic statements of their own.

Deborah Gilbert
Altura Elementary
Aurora, CO

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