I got fascinated in teaching art and great artists/artworks to my children since they were 3 and 4 years old. This coincided with taking the course “Making Thinking Visible” from Wideworld Harvard and I instantly fell in love with the idea of using art to understand children’s thinking and to make their learning “visible” not just in school but also at home.
What started as an idea to integrate art and thinking became a family experience at looking at art around the world through studying artwork from famous artists and knowing the techniques used, perception of the artist and what was happening during that period.
After writing my post on Top 5 Reasons Why We Teach Our Kids ART at Home, I decided to share with you my Top 5 Ways in Teaching Culture Through Art. The previous day, I decided to go near to our family’s lineage and introduce a Serbian artist to my kids (and their Serbian friends). I showed them the works of Slavko Krunic, a Belgrade based illustrator/artist which got them excited because of their affinity to anything Serbian and at the same time his works are just so identifiable to children.
Here are the Top 5 Ways that I Use When Teaching Culture Through Art:
1) Use an artist or artwork that your child will connect with. It can be where the artist was born (so you can start with your own artists), it can be an artwork that talks about the current season, it can be an artist that uses specific colors or shapes that you are teaching to your child. It can be a lot of different reasons but what is important is it connects to your child to make the experience more meaningful. When I introduced Slavko’s artworks I asked the children where their father’s family came from. They got excited to know that what I will show to them is an artist from the same country that their grandparents were born and raised.
2) Begin with an end in mind. What are your reasons why you are teaching this particular art work or artist? Are there particular information about his/her country of origin, life story, or period when he/she was growing up that you would like to share with your child? Think of the concepts that you would like for your child to learn (is it related to geography? To history?). You can also think of the techniques and materials used by the artist in creating the artwork.
3) Use Visible thinking strategies when showing the artwork. Visible thinking strategies are a great way to create a culture of “thoughtfulness” at home. Some of the simple thinking routines to use are:
Color-Shapes-Lines- What colors do you see? What lines to do you see? What shapes do you see?
Compass Points– use this to talk about emotions that artworks elicit in children. Ask the question, how does this artwork make you feel? Follow it with the four compass points:
Need to Know– Do you know how your body reacts to happiness? Sadness? Anger?
Suggestions– How do you handle your anger? What do you do when you are sad?
Excited– What are the upsides of feeling happy? Feeling anger? Feeling sad?
Worrisome– What do you think of when you are angry? Sad? Bored?
4) Check in with your children how they understand the artwork or artist by using simple lines such as “what do you think of this artwork? What makes you say that?” . Expand on their learning based on their responses. You can also use a K-W-L chart by asking them “what do you know about…?”, “what would you like to know?” And after the activity ask them “what have you learned about…?”
5) Record- make their words visible by writing down what they are saying and what they think about the artist or the artwork. As much as possible write down their replies to the visible thinking questions that you posed on a separate sheet of paper.
Lana Jelenjev is a freelance educational consultant who recently got diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. She blogs about her activities with her children at Smart Tinker. Lana recently started writing about her musings on parenting at Goodness,Grace and Gratitude, as she navigates through a new territory of hospital visits, a whirlwind of feelings and in finding compassion as she battles breast cancer, a disease that her mom succumbed to at age 49. She advocates for the importance of early detection and encourages women to take part in her Breast Check Challenge.
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