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10 Ways to Get Your Students to Think ARTFULLY

Teaching kids to think Critically and Creatively is a process.  It takes work!  Students need a variety of quality authentic experiences from which to draw from as they acquire their own problem-solving skills.

Here are 10 ways you can get your kids to think Critically, Creatively, and yes, Artfully!

  1. Let students draw from observation.  Create a still life in your classroom or collect books with lots of pictures of animals, cars, insects and more.
  2. Allow students the chance to connect with their work by giving freedom of choice.  Yes, you can still select an overall theme, but let them choose the “meat” of the work.
  3. Engage your students in rich dialogue about art history and past artists.  Students need to know why artists make art!  In our busy schedules we often don’t devote time to really talk about art.  Let them analyze and make their own judgements.
  4. Give students time to explore the materials.  In most schools kids get to work with clay once a year – that means that the average 5th grader has only worked with clay a total of 6 times!  Let them know the materials and the process.
  5. Teach lessons that call for student collaboration.  Give students the chance to talk out their ideas and build upon the creative thought processes of others.
  6. Engage students in group critique.  Teach them how to give positive feedback and ask questions about art.
  7. Give students the chance to reflect on their work.  Create a reflection form, have students fill it out and attach it to the back of their work or let them discuss their thoughts while standing in line.
  8. Let them plan!  A lot of artists create thumbnail sketches or create a rough idea before they begin their final work.  Planning is the visual brainstorm!
  9. Allow times for complete self expression.
  10. Lastly, model creative and critical thinking.  Think out loud.  Allow students to hear how an artist thinks!

Are You a Creativity Killer?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever begun your lessons by introducing a new artist for your students to study, showed them tons of images of the artist’s work and left it up as an example.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever used “tracers” for students to use as a starting point for their work.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever demonstrated, step-by-step, how to make something.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever drawn on student work or given student’s suggestions like “what if you put a tree there?”.

Chances are, at some point in your teaching, you’ve been a Creativity Killer.  I’ve been one too, but I am determined to become a creativity cultivator, not a killer.

We cannot expect students to be truly creative if we continue to give them all of the answers.

As art teachers, we pride ourselves in getting students to think “outside of the box” and solve problems in unique and original ways.  If a walk down the hallways of your school reveals 25 almost identical Starry Night paintings, creativity has obviously been squashed.

We cannot claim we teach critical thinking if we don’t allow students to think for themselves.

Why do art teachers do this?  Does it make it easier to grade?  To meet district standards and benchmarks?  Are they afraid of losing control?  Making a mess?

Are you a creativity killer?

If you haven’t been to Marvin Bartel’s art education website, it’s a must.

Check out 10 Ways Not to Kill Classroom Creativity!