This post originally appeared on the blog Whimsy Workshop Teaching.
As a primary teacher with a degree in art, it’s so sad for me to hear that art programs across the country are being eliminated, art budgets are being cut, and that teachers just don’t have time for art lessons because of increased pressure to get through other curriculum.
I’ve experienced the same things in my own district, and so I am trying to think of art in a different way to come up with some solutions.
Problems and Solutions for Teachers
Problem 1: Materials are too expensive and hard to find. This is true for some art programs, but actually as classroom teachers we can create amazing art with kids without needing a lot of expensive supplies. Pastels, paint, scissors, glue, chalk, paper and a few other easy-to-find supplies is all we need. And you won’t need expensive art equipment either; you can improvise!
For example: What do you do with a class full of wet paintings at the end of the day, and no drying rack? We use our stacked chairs as a drying rack!
Problem 2: Not enough time in the school day. There is increasing pressure to spend more time on core academics, and art is sometimes seen as an afterthought. However, an art lesson doesn’t have to be long to be effective and engaging, especially if you can establish a system of distributing and collecting supplies and work.
Problem 3: Pressure to focus on academics. No problem – we can easily integrate our art with writing projects. For example, when studying art history, we’re also studying maps of the world, cultural information and world history all at once! Every art lesson can be a vehicle for creative or descriptive writing.
Problem 4: No background in art, and no time to learn about art history.
Over the years, I’ve put together collections of art history lessons that were used by other teachers in my school, and also by my student teachers. Since these new teachers didn’t have time to collect information for these lessons, I wrote “scripts” for them to read aloud to students.
The scripts are age-appropriate for elementary, and all the questions are embedded to facilitate an authentic conversation. This is so important because a main purpose of art is conversation and sharing of ideas!
I am a primary classroom teacher, and so I’m responsible for all other subjects as well. However, each year we teach the comprehensive art program to a mixture of primary and intermediate students. We often invite older classes to join us, which I highly recommend!
For example, the first lesson of Art History #1 is cave art. We found great pictures and virtual tours of cave art online, and read the script which describes how a young boy discovered the first cave drawings while searching for his lost dog.
Afterwards, we all helped to crumple up a large sheet of bulletin board paper to create a huge “cave wall”, and used charcoal and chalk to make our own versions of the drawings.
We also made small versions to put in our Art History Scrapbooks, and wrote a “Reflect & Review” writing template about what we had learned. Many students chose to write about the experience during writer’s workshop the next day.
We also explore Egyptian hieroglyphics, Roman mosaics, DaVinci’s paintings and inventions, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh and many others. I’ve used this program for 12 years now, and each year I add more photos and lessons, such as coloring sheets and word searches for early finishers.
You can read more about how this collection has been used by 500+ teachers HERE.
Once we have completed those 12 lessons, we move on to Art History 2.
This time we focus on more modern artists, and women artists, from North America and Europe. Since this was used by student teachers, I added step-by-step photos to make it truly “grab and go” with no prep.
I also added more literacy integrations, such as mini-books about each artist, word searches, reflection writing, creative writing prompts, directed drawing pages, and coloring sheets for early finishers. They are so motivated to write about their own creations!
As with Set 1, each lesson began with discussion. The teacher script guides the conversation – there are questions embedded. I use my projector to show images I’ve found in simple google searches as reference. I have suggested specific paintings to search for within each lesson plan so you know what to search for when studying each artist.
Next, I project the step-by-step photos so students can see how the project is made. This will saves me a LOT of time because I don’t have to create the example while students watch, and it leaves more of the processing of information up to them, as opposed to just copying the teacher. The beauty of art is how each students find his or her own expressive way to create!
Once the art projects are complete, they can be kept in scrapbooks or put up on display in the hallway. There are several literacy projects for early finishers or to extend your learning later in the week.
Learning About Other Cultures
There are currently three collections to choose from, with 60+ different art projects altogether. Next, we plan to make seasonal art lessons using the same format!
Thanks for stopping by today!
Would you like to try a lesson with your class?
Click the image to download a free lesson from Art History for Elementary 1 about Ted Harrison focusing on warm and cool colors.
Or you may wish to try this Vincent Van Gogh Lesson from the sets mentioned above. It focuses on noticing how light reflects.
I hope you enjoy them, and spend time inspiring little artists in your classroom!
If you’re having trouble finding what you need for math, literacy or clip art, you can grab this handy Clickable Catalogue for everything available in my TPT store – a big time saver! Tuck it away for when you need it!
Susanna has taught primary grades for the past 22 years, specializing in visual arts and literacy intervention. She creates resources that integrate math, art, and literacy to promote student engagement, higher level thinking, and deeper understanding. She is also a graphic artist who creates teacher-friendly clip art. You can visit Susanna at her TpT store, via her newsletters, on Facebook, or over at her blog, Whimsy Workshop Teaching.