Top Tips for Primary Art by @MissSMerrill

Giving pupils regular access to art.

Image by Gina Lee Kim on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Art is a funny subject. It seems you either love it or hate it. Those who love it use to underpin and drive forward the subject in their schools, encouraging the children to love the subject regardless of their ‘ability’. Others avoid it like the plague. I have had a few conversations recently with people about this and I get it. Totally! We all have subjects that are out of our comfort zone. For me its PE.

Image by Gina Lee Kim on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Image by Gina Lee Kim on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I have recently been thinking about next academic year. I am about to take on new challenges. I will be working with children in key stage one more, this is out of my comfort zone also. This has lead me to think about the children I work with at the moment. I am lucky. Very lucky! I teach art in a primary school, you don’t have to tell me how unusual this is.

However, because I teach art, because the children in my school have access to regular opportunities to express themselves using art the children I teach produce beautiful work. My current year 5 group are a perfect example of this. Their work is amazing. Why? Because since they were in year 2 they have had regular access to art.

It’s like any other subject; the children are not going to get any better at it unless they do it! They don’t care what your skill level is, they just need opportunities to experience art in as many ways as possible. I know that this isn’t easy with the constraints in the new curriculum, but it is possible.

Therefore here are my top tips for primary art education:

1. Invest time in using sketchbooks.

These don’t have to be bought, although these do offer more opportunities for children to see how their learning builds as they move through the school. Our children keep their sketchbooks from year 1 to year 6. It’s nice for the children to see their progress. They are also encouraged to regularly refer back to previous work.

2. Set presentation expectations

This sounds a little rigid I know. However, all it means is encourage the children to think about their handwriting, the way they organise their ideas on their page (working in rows etc), dating their work, working carefully and neatly. Also showing them that if they concentrate their outcomes will be better; the same as with a piece of writing. Success criteria can really help (this does NOT go in sketchbooks) as can using good examples. I model keeping a sketchbook. I also use good examples from the class to highlight expectations.

3. Think process not outcome

I know this will mean that there might be less ‘display’ material but it will improve the children’s skill level. By looking at a painting or the work of an artist and getting them to look at the way that artist uses paint is far more valuable than the children copying their own version of the painting. It teaches them to think about how to apply paint to create desired effects which they can then apply to their own work. Often sketchbooks can be a thing of beauty themselves so why not photocopy or photograph good examples to display.

4. Make it link

For art to have the most impact it needs to be meaningful. It, where possible, needs to link with the rest of the learning that is going on in the classroom. If there is a topic on migration, look at birds or maps. Topics on the Romans lend themselves to mosaics or jewellery. World War One, look at the work of Paul Nash and CRW Nevinson. Pinterest is a great help here. It has a great source of images that can be used/adapted to suit your children.

5. Think of it as a different approach.

We don’t always have to present things in the same way. For our own sanity as much as the children’s. Why not teach aspects of history using art? We read accounts of events, even poetry. Why not use a painting? They can tell us a great deal; they are a different way a person has responded to an event. I have been working on developing inference skills. I haven’t used any text for this, I have used paintings! Picasso’s blue paintings in particular. The same skills are being taught, just in a different way.

6. Let them have a go!

This is a re-blog post originally posted by @MissSMerrill and published with kind permission.

You can read more via Miss Merrill by clicking here

The original post can be found here.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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