Start Them Young

Over 20 years ago, co-founders of Visual Thinking Strategies developed a program for teaching art to K-12 students, in which kids as young as 4 to 5 years old (pre-kindergarten) will be taken to art museums to view classic works of art. The program, called“ visual thinking method”, prompts students to carefully observe an art piece and express what they see in it, with pieces of evidence.

By looking at a specific image, for example, they should be able to answer or interpret what they think is being depicted, why, and what else could be found in the artwork. The goal of the program is to make students understand a certain image, rather than just show a reaction to it.

Studies about this method have revealed that the students developed a better understanding of visual images, and even improved in math and reading. In addition, they also showed better social and emotional development compared to the students who didn’t experience the program.

Art As a Form of Self-Expression

Mark Rothko, painter and art teacher at the Brooklyn Jewish Center, shares that teaching kids that art is a form of self-expression, just like songs and spoken words, will make them understand that they can use it to transform their thoughts into a picture or a visual experience. He says that children normally have fine ideas, so parents should allow them to express them creatively so that they can also feel their kids’ emotions. Furthermore, Rothko added that children don’t have to be born with artistic talent to learn the art.

Connect Art to Academic Learning

Teachers can effectively teach art appreciation to pupils if they manage to connect it to academic subjects like math and science. For example, shapes and illustrations can be used to teach them the life cycle of a certain animal. History can also be taught through art by discussing influential artists during a significant period in history.

Rothko also suggests that teachers shouldn’t assign art homework or projects with strict parameters. Restrictions can hinder a child’s creativity, as they’ll be forced to conform, which can be limiting to their talents. Instead, let them explore what kind of artwork is best for them. As a result, they will discover their own abilities and styles that effectively express their ideas.

When teaching art, make it a goal to turn the kids into creative thinkers rather than professionals. Be open to the possibility that not all of them will pursue the arts as a career. Regardless if they become professional artists in the future or not, all of them will surely grow up to be creative thinkers. Their love for art will always stay, as well as their bold expressiveness, and that will make every year of teaching them entirely worth it.


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