A variety of approaches
The strands incorporate ways of working from experience, imagination and observation, building on children's natural curiosity. In a child-centred curriculum, the subject matter for art must stem from the children's life experiences and from their imagination. Working from observation helps to develop visual awareness and the ability to make art and to respond to art works in a personally meaningful way. Experience in handling a wide range of visual arts materials is essential to achieving these objectives. Theseprinciples underpin the approaches to teaching the strands suggested below and should always inform the teacher's preparation.
Guided discovery is the most appropriate teaching method for the visual arts. Certain practical skills, such as the use of scissors and adhesives, may occasionally require a more direct method. Discovery methods encourage children to discover the expressive possibilities of a variety of materials and tools suitable for a particular task and to experiment with them; to notice colour, design and structure in the environment and to enjoy interpreting what they see in a personal way; to express significant aspects of their lives in visual form and to appraise art works critically. In guided discovery, the teacher provides a stimulating work environment, motivates the children and monitors their progress, discusses their work with them as necessary, as they work and when they have finished, and makes suggestions as appropriate.
Quality art teaching at primary level depends more on the teacher understanding and valuing each child's contribution than on his/her own innate ability in the visual arts. It requires an understanding of the nature and value of the creative process and a sensitive and informed response to children's attempts to make and respond to art so as to ensure that the aspirations expressed in the curriculum are fulfilled. He/she is more of a catalyst than a teacher of technique.
It is important also to be able to gauge children's natural abilities, to be aware that the so-called 'stages of development' are more general than specific to age groups and class levels, and to challenge them to achieve their potential. The teacher's awareness and acceptance of a broad range of visual imagery, both in children's work and in the work of artists, is also important.
Children's experience of art should extend beyond the western classical tradition to include art forms from many cultures and eras. The inter-related objectives of making art and responding to art can be achieved through careful planning and a willingness to reflect on, and if necessary rethink, current approaches.
Children's development in art will depend on the opportunities they have to enjoy exploring and experimenting with materials and tools, to become sensitive to the visual environment and to art works, and to express their personal view of the world. These are profound experiences and must be planned for thoughtfully. A pre-defined end product, developed through a preordained process ('cut here', 'glue there'), is likely to exclude creativity and be of little educational value. Art activities that foster creativity are likely to produce responses that are full of life, vigour and personality and are perhaps awkward andstruggling, all in the same piece of work. The children's personal contribution is paramount, because it is their sensitivities and powers of observation, their experiences and imaginings and their visual memories that should inform their work, and they must be helped to bring them vividly to mind.
Visual arts activities should be structured to show sequence and growth in complexity and should build on earlier experiences and skills acquired. Lessons should be sufficiently directed to help children develop a real understanding of the visual vocabulary they need to respond to and interpret the visual world around them, and clear objectives would help to ensure that they quickly find a focus for their work. But because of the range of experience and ability in any class, it may be necessary at times to devise a class programme that incorporates activities from different class levels.