Elementary art education and classroom instruction go very well together. Most teachers understand intuitively that children and art are a great combination. They also know that students' artistic education should not be confined to an art class which occurs once a week or less.
However, not all teachers promote art as effectively as they could. Here are some pointers on creating an appreciation for and a love of art in elementary children.
Reinforce that creation is art
Make sure your children know that art comes in many forms. They tend to think of drawing as art, or perhaps painting or using markers. Because drawing is how all kids start out in art, they think of art as something two-dimensional.
That is a very limiting vision that teachers can help expand.
Every time students are involved in creating anything, they should be reminded of its artistic characteristics.
For example, cutting out snowflakes for a holiday party as they study the science of snow is not just creating a craft; it is really creating beautiful three-dimensional art that reflects nature.
Classroom crafts of any sort are really small artistic creations and children should be reminded of this. Your students are not simply being “crafty” but being artists as they add their own personal touches and embellishments to an established pattern.
Expanding the definition of art to all creative endeavors infuses an artistic approach into your curriculum and elevates your students' thinking. The “art of living” starts with an appreciation of art that we create through our actions every day.
Prominently and properly display artwork
Elementary art education is often on display in our school hallways. However, with a few pointers we can emphasize the impact of these artistic works on the learning process.
We want to be certain to let any observers know what standard the art is reinforcing. This helps people (other teachers, other children and administrators) understand that art is not just to be observed but be used to understand the world around us.
For example, when my class created these hall giants as part of a math measurement unit, I made sure that they were labeled with the standard that we used during the instruction.
Taping or pinning things to a wall is, of course, the easiest way to display most art since it tends to be two-dimensional. But look for innovative ways to display your students' creations, especially, if they are items that do not easily lend themselves to being attached to a flat surface.
During my school's “Reading Week,” my students created these small hummingbirds, which featured prominently in one of the books we studied (Rudi's Pond by Even Bunting – Kleenex warning!). These were hung with threads so they mimicked flying.
Placing these small artistic works in their natural context enhanced their presentation – and thus their appreciation by the people who observed them.
Reinforce your school art teacher
When it comes to reinforcing and appreciating elementary art education, I believe that one of the most neglected activities of classroom teachers is reinforcing the formal art instruction the students receive.
As I've explained in my classroom management pages, I fully believe in giving up a few minutes of my prep in order to establish expectations as my students transition to a specialist such as art, music or physical education.
I also support picking up my kids a minute or two early in order to ease their transition back to my classroom.
This simple act of setting expectations will do more to foster your children's formal art education than nearly anything else you can do. When you deliver well-behaved children to a specialist who only sees them once every week or two, you are allowing a fellow teacher to give the majority of her attention to instruction rather than classroom management.
Who's the winner in this situation? The kids!
I think the support of art teachers is critical for elementary art education. I get the benefits in my own classroom because my children return from the specialist speaking the language of art and applying the techniques they've learned to their own classroom projects.
Video tips: working with your school art teacher
Of course, showing up a few minutes early to admire the work they've done in art class is a huge reinforcement to the importance I place upon art in education. It also provides a tremendous boost to the curriculum the specialist is teaching.
You can take this a step further by having your children bring some of their classroom projects to art class so they can show them to the art teacher and discuss them.
When a specialist sees a classroom teacher and her students engaged in their area of expertise they are more than willing to put in extra effort with your class to move them ahead.