– Have high expectations of your students! If you expect them to work hard and you push them to keep trying, they will rise to the occasion. If you have low expectations of them, they will typically meet you there. You set the bar. Believe in each and every student. Challenge your students to push beyond their comfort levels. I feel that many students are apt to stay at a level that they are comfortable with and are likely to take the stance that they “don’t know how” to draw certain subject matter or master new skills. Many people think drawing is supposed to just come naturally – but it requires practice like anything else! I tell students not to be so hard on themselves and I encourage them to create “practice” sketches and to play around with new materials. I don’t allow negative attitudes in my classroom. I won’t accept the words “I can’t!” We can always find a way.
– Keep the classroom environment and the lessons that the students are working on fresh and inspiring. Students are more apt to apply themselves and are more likely to truly learn when they are involved with the subject matter. I strive to broaden each student’s knowledge in a variety of areas and subjects such as science, literature, math, and social studies while learning about art elements, techniques, and art history at the same time. I try to incorporate projects inspired by topics such as birds, oceanic creatures, city life, contemporary artists, trees, worldwide cultures and religions, ecosystems, ancient Greece, medieval knights, ancient Egypt, tree houses, and beloved children’s’ book illustrators to name a few. Create lessons that will spark their interest. I feel that when children are inspired they are more likely to put forth their best effort in class. Students should also be encouraged to put their “own spin” on every project. They should never be asked to copy anything. Students learn more when they can connect the content to their own lives, reinterpreting it in their own way.
– You can draw ANYthing using basic shapes! I teach my students to draw by teaching them to notice the shapes that various subject matter are composed of. You start with a simple shape, keep adding more shapes to that shape – and suddenly you have drawn the human form – or an animal – a car, etc… When they learn that they can draw anything with basic shapes they feel more at ease and confident – because they KNOW that they can already draw a circle or a rectangle – that is easy! If drawing a tiger or a cardinal- or the human body – is just a matter of putting simple shapes together — this makes the task seem less daunting. It makes it seem achievable.
– Teach students how to talk about art. Hold critiques in your classroom. Teach them how to view and discuss art in a thoughtful way. I ask students not to simply state that they like a particular work of art – but to explain WHY they like it! Offer details and reflection. I am often amazed at how eager many students are to share their opinions on peer artwork – and how encouraging they can be to their classmates. I always remind students to show each other respect during critiques because it is hard to share your work with others. But I often find that even students who were afraid to to share with the group are surprised at how rewarding it can be to participate in a class art critique.