Today I had the privilege of visiting Discovery Child Development Center in Morrisviille NC and talking to the staff about how to structure open-ended art lessons. The three tips I gave them will work with any age level and are perfect to try if you're TAB-curious but not ready to set up your centers yet. What an awesome place! The staff was great and I loved the STEAM approach they use with the kids.
Three ways to open your art lessons:
1. Start with the medium or process - not the product.
Instead of making a predetermined product, like paper flowers with scissors and glue or a Van Gogh inspired sunset, plan a lesson around how collage works or ways to create texture with paint. Introduce it, demonstrate it, provide a variety of materials and let the kids explore.
2. Start with a question and approach it like a scientist.
Set up the lesson with a demonstration followed by guided practice and then let students learn through trial and error. Some example questions:
How many ways can you mix brown?
What can you make out of a cereal box?
What are some ways to incorporate balance in your artwork?
How can you communicate the idea of identity in your work?
Or have kids pose their own questions!
3. Facilitate problem solving with good questions.
Students will run into problems. When they do, take advantage of these excellent learning opportunities by having the right questions ready. Examples:
Why isn't it working?
What would happen if you changed (specific part or aspect)?
What is one thing that could make you like it better?
Where could you find that information?
What do you like best about what you have done so far?
Did you learn anything new?
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.