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Meaningful Art Stations: More than Busy Work
By Pamela Geiger Stephens
One thing that experienced art teachers know that neophytes may not: young children in art classes complete work on individual schedules, often when other members of the class are not ready to advance to the next problem.
Challenging my pre-service art specialist students to be prepared for such an inevitability, the assignment given them was to develop meaningful art stations that could be used in an elementary art class.
Requirements for this assignment were threefold. The stations must: (1) keep art as the central focus, (2) not trivialize works of art or contributions of artists, and (3) maintain between one and six students on task with minimal teacher intervention.
Many of the stations evolved into game-like formats. In field tests these formats later proved to be effective and challenging as well as downright fun for all who participated.
As motivation for development of these art stations, the pre-service teachers were given an opportunity to experience activities that had been developed by art specialists and implemented in actual elementary art classrooms. After demonstrating Art Card Dominoes, an activity that I have successfully used with children and adults, the pre-service students developed a wide variety of innovative and rich art stations. Teacher preparation and instructions for Art Card Dominoes and three activities designed by the pre-service art specialists are presented here.
Art Card Dominoes
Select a wide range of postcard images that are all of similar size (4" x 6" cards are easier to hold). The broader the variety of styles, artists, and cultures represented in the postcard images the more complex playing strategies will become. Laminate all cards and the instruction sheet prior to playing.
After students have participated in this art station more than a few times their observation skills increase, art vocabulary grows, and subtle connections are made between works of art from diverse times and places. Typically, experienced players will disregard obvious connections between two images such as similar color schemes or subject matter in favor of making higher order associations between images such as implied line or similarity in styles of diverse artists.
Match-A-Word with a Work of Art
This activity requires that the teacher select 14 postcard size art images and make 14 word cards. To prepare the word cards, use 4" x 6" (10 x 15.2 cm) heavy stock paper and print a word or phrase on each card. These words or phrases on the word cards should be art related and could include topics such as the elements of art or principles of design. Other words or phrases could be aesthetic in nature such as "Valuable to many cultures" or "Beautiful to all who see it."
To easily maintain the word cards and art cards as a set, glue gift wrapping paper to the back side of each card, laminate, and cut out. Glue the same wrapping paper to one side of a large manila envelope, attach the instructions, and laminate.
This activity can be extended to different sets of word cards and art images. Other topics could include:
Different images by the same artist (word cards with names of artists and titles of works of art),
Different images of the same style (word cards with types of styles or descriptions of styles), or
Same media or materials (word cards with types of materials or media).
Name that Artist
To prepare this art station, select a postcard-size art image and a larger duplicate of the image. On the backside of the larger image write clues about the artist (such as date and place of birth, anecdotes about the art or artist, or other historical information). Also write clues about the work of art (such as title, size, date, and media). Laminate and cut into puzzle shapes. Take care that each puzzle piece has a clue written on its reverse side. Place the puzzle pieces into a large manila envelope.
On a separate page, prepare an answer key with data about the artist and work of art. This key should correspond to the clues on the back of the puzzle. Place the smaller image and answer key in an envelope marked "Answers."
An extension to this activity is to ask older children to research artists and works of art and develop their own Name that Artist puzzles or to make puzzles for younger students.
Although this art station used a teacher-made world map drawn on tagboard, G-Art-Graphy can be adapted readily to a commercially produced world map that has been laminated. After laminating the map, carefully cut 1" x 2" (2.5 x 5 cm) u-shaped windows into a variety of regions. The windows should be such that they can fold shut or open.
Select postcard or smaller size art images from as many cultures and regions as possible. Have a duplicate of each image. Tape one image into place behind each map window so that only a portion of the work of art is visible when the window is opened. Use the duplicate image for student observation and placement on the map.
Prepare a response sheet that lists the countries or regions from which the works of art were created. Store maps, images, and corresponding response sheets together.
Art Station Activities Provide Extended Art Learning
Preparation of meaningful art stations requires an investment of time from the teacher. Once developed, however, the stations provide a virtually endless source for extended art learning. Additionally, students who complete assignments ahead of schedule are accommodated with art tasks that are engaging but require minimal teacher assistance.
The rewards of quality art stations go to both the teacher and the student: the teacher is freed to assist slower students with assignments while early finishers are given an opportunity for more art learning.
These art games were designed by Chrystal Chambers, Rosemary Owen, Jennifer Russell, Kimberly Page, and Mary Copeland when they were undergraduate pre-service art specialists at the University of North Texas, Denton.
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