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Reading Four: What Makes a Really good Art Lesson?

Jacqueline Boissonneau
September 17, 2014
Summary
Chapter four describes how you plan an art curriculum and teach for key art
understandings based on the inquiry processes of art professionals. The best way to develop
students understanding of art to first focus on the larger issues, ideas, and inquiry processes
that form knowledgewhile also addressing specific art content (Davis, p 40). The chapter
suggests that a framework be created of key art understandings, inquiry concepts, and
principles of art education which include criticism, history, artmaking, and aesthetics. Key art
understandings are broad ideas that can be generated by asking What do I want my students
to retain and understand about art long after they have left my classroom (Davis, p 43). Art
criticism gives students a chance to interpret the meaning of artworks and discuss and evaluate
their qualities. It was helps to deepen the students understandings of the processes that
inform areas of art practice (Davis, p 43). Art history helps students view art from the past and
present and develop an understanding of why art changes and what creates that change. A lot
of the same inquiry-based concepts apply to both art criticism and art history. Artmaking is a
way for students to develop better technical skills, problem solve, and also to help them learn
about themselves and the world around them. Aesthetics fosters questions related to beliefs
about the purpose, value, meaning, and nature of art (Davis, p 54). It describes the important
of teachers designing curriculum that promotes student engagement and discussion of
philosophical issues relating to the art content and concepts. By using key art understandings in
curriculum it can help create a more meaningful and seamless connection between criticism,
history, artmaking, and aesthetics. Specifications in curriculum about art and artists are not as
important as creating an overarching conceptual framework for students based on what you
want students to remember and really understand.
Examples
Bizarre Realities was one example in which students learning that manipulation and
experimentation are purposeful activities to create new conceptual possibilities (Davis, p 54)
by learning about artist Sandy Skoglund, viewing her work, and creating their own artwork
based on her concepts. In this example the high school students engaged in discussions about
the purpose, value, and meaning of Skoglunds artwork, while also engaging in conversations
about her art related to life and their immediate surroundings. In this lesson students were

guided not just on the technical skills used to manipulate the digital cameras and computer
software, but also to explore ideas and concepts that perhaps are not considered the norm.
In another example, sixth grade students explored and examined a variety of
monuments ranging in time, place, and style. By examining a selection of very diverse artworks
the teacher encouraged the investigation of philosophical concepts and questions (Davis, p
57). Students were given the opportunity to talk about the purpose of these artworks, the
importance of public art/monuments, and the value of this art.
Fourth and fifth graders in New Orleans studied painter Will Henry Stevens and in doing
so were engaged in an exploration of their own history and area in which they live. Students
viewed Stevens artwork and began to develop a sense of why his art looks the way it does.
Through discussion and inquiry they were able to see a connection between where they live
and Stevens paintings. The teachers successfully taught students to how connect Stevens and
his artwork, and how his artwork was shaped by his surroundings, culture, and time.
Personal Reflection
The ideas presented in chapter four about planning a curriculum based on key art
understandings and art professionals seems worthwhile and valuable for students to have a
thorough understanding of art. I would like to incorporate more art history, criticism, and
aesthetics into my curriculum; however, I have a few issues with it. One is the issue of time in
the classroom. I have very limited time with each of my twenty classes. Also, when students
come to art they want to DO somethingthey can be hard to engage in viewing, discussing
other artists/artworks. Another issue is art history. I have also found this aspect most difficult to
incorporate into my lessons in an engaging and exciting way. Its challenging to find artist that
would pique students interests and be relevant to their lives in some way. Obviously, doing
these things would not be impossible; it would just take more time and thorough planning of
our curriculum.

References
Stewart M. G. , Walker S. R. (2005) Rethinking curriculum in art. Worcester, MA. Davis
Publications.