This would involve organising
It is advisable to make a list of the lesson requirements and to check in advance that supplies are adequate and attractive to use. These should be organised before class begins. The children will play their part in conserving supplies once they understand how and why they should be cared for. Clean-up procedures should also be planned in advance.
The working area
As far as possible, children should have space to work in comfort. Furniture should be arranged to facilitate movement and to enable children to view their work from different angles, and also to provide sufficiently large surfaces for the task in hand. There should also be easy access to water. It may be feasible at times for children to work outdoors: whole-school activities that exploit the school environment and acknowledge every child's contribution (for example painting a mural) expand experiences of art beyond the confines of the classroom.
Children should be encouraged to wear protective clothing, and they should be provided with absorbent paper for dealing with accidental spillages.
Care should be taken to ensure that non-toxic materials are used and that all cutting materials are suitable for children's use. Some activities may require close supervision. Lighting should be adequate and the room well ventilated while work is drying out.
The classroom environment can be one of the most potent teaching aids in the art class. It should be visually stimulating and lively and should help to develop children's learning in art. Teacherinitiated displays should be stimulating and imaginative. They should include visually exciting or curious objects, including perhaps old or broken objects, or objects from the natural world. They should engage children's imagination and offer valuable opportunities for concentrated looking, for comparing, for critically evaluating and for finding relationships.
Children should be encouraged to look closely and to handle display items, where appropriate, to help build up knowledge and understanding of the nature of things that cannot be achieved in any other way. Awareness of natural phenomena in their surroundings, and the ability to respond to them, should also be encouraged. Magnifying glasses could on occasion be used to enable them to see smallscale pattern and structure in the natural world and this would reinforce learning, for example in science.
Prints of art works should also be displayed and should be a source of lively discussion. Books with high-quality illustrations, as well as a section on artists and different art forms, should be included in the class or school library. Block loans of children's art books can be arranged with some of the larger public libraries.
The classroom should be a stimulating work-place and the whole school environment should be a positive influence in refining children's sensibilities. Principles of good display apply equally throughout the school building, as they do to art exhibits within the classroom. Good display in school helps to create an aesthetically pleasing environment. It provides a focal point for learning by arousing curiosity, promoting discussion and stimulating ideas. It also encourages participation: to display work is to praise and reward effort.
Displaying work helps both children and teacher to evaluate progress and to see how problems of expression are overcome in individual pieces of work. It is important to display pictures in their entirety and not just the 'finished' parts. Children should also have a choice in what is displayed, for example for an open day.
Effective organisation of time is crucial to purposeful and enjoyable art activities. It may suit at times to divide allotted time into smaller units spread over a short period in order to maintain the momentum of a particularly demanding piece of work and to show sequences of development. The teacher should allow for both individual and collaborative work where children can share ideas. Thematic work, such as a wall frieze or large-scale modelling, may sometimes be more manageable and more successful as a whole-class project.
The amount of time to be given to working on individual strands, on themes that are developed in a variety of media and on integrated projects should be planned for in advance. Staff members could consult one another in making these decisions to ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum is being taught at all levels, and within levels.
Opportunities for linkage (integration within the visual arts curriculum) and for integration (cross-curricular integration) are indicated at the end of each strand.
Linkage in the visual arts occurs both within strands and between strands and emphasises the inter-related nature of art activities. It occurs
- in the way the strand units provide for complementary activities in making and looking and responding
- in a mixed-media approach to developing a piece of work that uses a variety of materials, for example combining print, rubbings and painted surfaces in a collage or adding decorative stitches, beads or fabric paint to appliqué work
- in exploring a theme through a number of strands, as outlined in 'Planning a unit of work'.
Many areas of the primary curriculum offer excellent visual and imaginative stimulation, which the teacher can avail of for an art class. Interpreting stories, poems, songs, drama, Bible stories and historical events in drawing, painting or in a three-dimensional medium are obvious opportunities for integration. An imaginative approach should be emphasised, rather than trying to teach the content of the other subject. Integration with art should not consist of making props for teaching another subject, since the element of imaginative invention is likely to be seen as undesirable in this case, rather than highly desirable, as it should be.
The advantage of an integrated approach to teaching and learning is that the objectives of more than one curricular area may be achieved in one activity or topic. It can be very appropriate at infant level, where learning is very much a multi-sensory activity. However, a balance of integrated and singlesubject teaching should be planned for, particularly at the higher levels of the primary school. Care should be taken too to ensure that the objectives for art are kept in clear focus in cross-curricular integration. If appropriate objectives for an art lesson are not in operation then there really is no art class and consequently no meaningful integration.
Areas of arts education share a rationale that forges natural links between them. Thematic material may be shared with music, for example. The visual concepts of shape and space are made 'real' through dance, and themes explored through dance may be developed further through a variety of visual arts media.
Working with drama can be especially fruitful. Children can design their own sets, costumes and masks, for example. Expression through colour, form and construction can be furthered in this way and the tasks set can be tailored to the children's age and ability: for example, making costumes can be as simple as transforming an old T-shirt and trousers into a wonderfully imaginative outfit just by pinning on carefully chosen offcuts, oddments and various fabric and other scraps. The teacher's own contribution should consist in finding feasible ways to stimulate the children's inventiveness, rather than in designing the lot himself/herself.
Art images and objects can be excellent stimuli for dance, and dance and games can be stimulating subjects for children's art.
Visual arts activities provide many opportunities for incidental language development. Children are encouraged to talk about work in hand, about the challenges they meet, the decisions they make about their choice of subject and how they use materials and tools. As they progress they are helped to talk with increasing confidence about what they are trying to do and about the qualities they see in their own work and in the work of others.
Shape is an element that is often 'integrated' with mathematics, and this is wholly to be recommended. However, the teacher should not feel constricted to using squares, circles or rectangles, for example, in the art class. Shape in art should conjure up things like the shadow of anything; complex shapes such as the shadow of a person; outline shapes of any object or group of objects; the shape of the space between two objects; or the shape of flat objects such as leaves, petals or footprints. The children's experience of shape in the visual world feeds into their understanding of concepts of shape, mathematical or otherwise, at a much deeper level than if the teacher had involved them in questionable 'art' activities using circles, squares or rectangles, for example.
Social, environmental and scientific education (SESE)
The exploration of colour as light in the science curriculum and colour as a visual element in the visual arts curriculum would be an appropriate area for integrated learning. The development of environmental awareness, observation skills (see also geography) and skills in designing and making that are developed through scientific enquiry complement the concepts and skills (including planning and sketching) developed in the visual arts curriculum.
Close observation of objects from nature is a constant theme in art education, and this can obviously be integrated with the 'Plant and animal life' and the 'Environmental awareness and care' strand units of the science curriculum (see also geography). Making drawings and doing colour studies based on natural objects brought into the classroom become more importantwhen children reach the senior classes of the primary school. The structure of natural objects could provide inspiration in construction activities.
The study of Properties and characteristics of materials in the science curriculum would be another area for integration with the visual arts: fabrics and fibres; malleable materials such as clay; the rigidity of construction materials; the textures, weights and absorbency of papers (a specific exercise in using paper as a construction materialis suggested). The study of wind and water power in the Energy and forces strand could be used to provide motion in models designed by the children. Making an electric circuit could have added magic if used, for example, to light a model building complex designed and made by the children.
Many aspects of technology could usefully be integrated with art. Printing could be used as an example of a manufacturing process, for example designing and printing cards for a specific occasion. Weaving or creating cloth is another manufacturing process.
Aspects of the history curriculum that explore the family and the world of story may stimulate visual arts activities that draw on children's life experiences and imagination. Exploring the cultures of different peoples and different times through history may help to develop children's ways of looking at and responding to art and artefacts.
Social, personal and health education (SPHE)
Themes and topics explored through SPHE can be further explored through visual arts media. They would include children's developing awareness of themselves; their evolving relationships with others; their growing sense of responsibility and how they feel about these issues.