At the start of IB (International Baccalaureate) Art Year 1 we begin by confronting the (unanswerable) question "What is Art?" in a discussion and reflective art making activity. I find this is a great way to begin the class because my students are coming to the class from a variety of backgrounds and art experiences and this discussion allows students to share those experiences as well as create a foundation of understandings as a class group. Some of my students have traveled the world and have visited many museums while others have never set foot in a museum or left our city. I love this lesson because it creates a level playing field- each student regardless of their background has a valid opinion to share and the artists/artworks that I selected for us to discuss are often unknown/surprising to most if not all of the students and push all the students to question their assumptions of what art is. The guiding questions for this lesson come from IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) so it ties in beautifully with the IB Diploma Program.
The lesson begins with students filling out a reflection questionnaire individually and then discussing their responses with their peers. The questions on this questionnaire are more focused on the student's individual experiences/beliefs about art. Following that discussion we look at a series of slides and I briefly explain the backstory of the images on each slide. Then students discuss the question and I call on students using equity cards to share out ( to make sure all voices are heard). Students are often shocked to learn of Duchamp's Fountain or Paul McCarthy's inflatable turds. It is fun to see assumptions being challenged as we go through this discussion. This also serves as a mini - contemporary art lesson.
Following the discussion we come up with a list as a class of the "standards" by which we can judge art. After this students are set free to create a two page Visual Arts Journal spread that explores the ideas that we discussed. They can include collage, drawing, painting, mixed media etc... But it must include both text and image and address the questions we explored as a class.
We then move into the idea of critique. We take our standards brainstorm and narrow it down to four components that we will use to critique art for the duration of the two year course. Then I show images where I have critiqued a work of art based on these components then students discuss together how they would critique an artwork. This gives us a foundation to work with for their first critique discussion the following class where they present their Summer-work projects!
I'm a high school/middle school art teacher with 16 years of experience. I'm here to help art teachers free up more time and space in their lives through lesson ideas and ready to go content rich, engaging curriculum.