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Approach To Instruction

Home / Art Main Menu / Approach To Instruction / Art Appreciation / Drawing Curriculum / Chronological Art Lessons / American Art History



KC's Personal Plan for Practical Art Class

I will continue to use Drawing With Children to completion, then move on to Drawing Textbook by Bruce McIntyre.  This is a simple, inexpensive textbook to provide 36 lessons of drawing to teach principles of surface, size, lines, overlapping, shading, density, foreshortening, directions, alignment, and combining these principles.

Once I have completed the McIntyre text, I will move on to Draw Today, if I feel that my oldest (perhaps 10 by then) is ready.  If not, then I will hold off until 12 or so (and have to search for something to fill the gap!).

I hope some of this is helpful to you in your searching!  Please try the Sonlight Board in "Extracurricular" to get discussions of various art programs (Sonlight Curriculum Forum) since you mentioned seeing the Draw Today program in the Sonlight catalog.


Devin's Two-Year Plan for Elementary Art Instruction

I've always had to combine several resources to teach drawing.  It seems like most authors have one technique that they prefer, so a mix becomes necessary for well-rounded instruction.  If I were to start teaching art all over, knowing what I know now, I think I'd start with How to Teach Art to Children to teach the basic elements of art, followed by (or in conjunction with) at least a couple drawing lessons from The Drawing Textbook and finish up the year with Art Adventures At Home.

I'd introduce art history by checking out Mike Venezia's series Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists and Looking at Pictures from the library and begin building a art postcard collection for each of my children.  The National Gallery of Art and Dover publications are the two best sources I've found for art postcards and 11 X 14 posters.  The following year, I'd probably do Discover Great Artists and some of a Barry Stebbing book.

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Devin's Favorite Art Books

In the category of learning-to-analyze-art, first prize goes to Stacey's find, Looking at Pictures.  It's a wonderful tool for teaching children to look at art critically.   You can find a good review of it on the Greenleaf Press web site.   Also, What Makes a Monet a Monet (other artists also available) is a good series.

I give first prize in the category of teaching-art-history-using-projects to Discovering Great Artists by Solga and Kohl..  My kids love those books!


There are several nominees in the drawing category:

If I had to limit myself to a handful (horrific thought) of art books, currently in print, which would address a broad range of techniques and ages, here's what I would choose:

As alternatives or supplements, there are two books that I've found especially useful:

There are so many more good art books available.  I like Barry Stebbing's books, Stacey's favorite Looking at Art, Hillyer's Child's History of Art, Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Favorite Artists series, Hooked on Drawing, Kistler's Draw Squad, Masterpieces coloring book, I could go on and on but I'll have mercy on you all now.

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Art Ideas for Young Children
From: Laura in CT

I like Encouraging the Artist in Your Child (Even If You Can't Draw) by Sally Warner.  Also, the Family Fun Craft Book.  The former covers ages 2-10 with lots of suggestions for art activities.  The latter is full of nifty crafts suitable even for the craft-impaired among us - neat stuff that's worth doing, worth keeping the finished product (or giving as gifts).  Also has good tips on materials, etc.

Neither is a curriculum - I don't think for young ones a curriculum is necessary or even desirable.  I try to supply a lot of materials and let the kids go - now and then we plan a craft or activity, but usually they're on their own, and their creativity tops mine.

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Art Appreciation Goals
From: Devin

Here are some goals I've set for my family:

1. We should be able to identify at least 40 major (important and popular) works of art upon graduation.  That breaks down to only 4 per year beginning in grade 3.  By identify, I mean that I want my children to look at a picture and be able to tell me the title and the artist.

2. I want my children to be familiar with the major periods of art and be able to place them on a timeline (or at least in chronological order).

3. They should understand the role of art.  They should also understand how artistic styles evolve, influence society and are influenced by society.

4. I want my children to be able to view a painting or other work of art critically and understand the elements of a painting (or sculpture or architecture).

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Encourage Your Artist
From: Penny Sue

Your encouragement and support are the greatest gift your child has.  Make sure she has a place to work and keep her materials out and accessible.  Having the talent to do a thing is not so important as doing a thing.  Nothing will stall her faster than having to put everything away every time her space is needed for something 'more important.'

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Look Like an Artist
From: Devin

Basically, there are 2 very important elements in becoming an artist--draw something every day (practice, practice and more practice).  Giving your budding artist access to reams of paper is a very good suggestions, Paula.  Second, encourage them to really, really look at something before they draw it.  A large element of good drawing is good observation.  I tell the kids in my classes to look at what they're drawing more than they look at their paper and am always reminding them, "Look at what you're drawing!"  Sounds simple, but it really does help when they're drawing from life (versus from their imaginations).

One of the most effective drawing exercises we did this year was, believe it or not, drawing a pine cone.  We did a before-and-after lesson.  First the kids drew a pine cone from memory, then I gave them each a pine cone and helped them all to really look at the shapes, lines and shadings on theirs.  There's so much variety in pine cones!  The bits you see straight on look kind of like flat u's or v's, while the ones in profile look much different.  I think it really helped the kids realize how often we think we know what something looks like, but until we look closely we can only draw a "caricature" of the real thing.

One benefit of drawing from nature is that it teaches you to really appreciate the beauty that God has created even in the small things we take for granted.  A drawback to sketching from nature is that it can be very difficult.  For the beginning artist, it's much easier to copy someone else's drawing---that's not cheating!  You might try several approaches to see what appeals to your child.

Having your child take just a few drawing lessons is also a good idea.  A short (6 or 8 week) mini session would be good and so would occasional informal lessons, maybe with an art student.  Two things that are kind of tricky and most kids need help with are drawing people (getting the proportions right) and perspective.

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Art Readiness
From: Devin

The author of Hooked on Drawing has something interesting to say in her introduction:  "The exercises are designed for grades 4 and up.  I have done some of these exercises with third graders who often, depending on their maturity level, have done quite well with them.  Before the rules and the structure of art are taught, students should be encouraged to develop their imaginations by making the drawings and painting stored in their imaginations.  I have often heard from younger students at the end of a lesson, the request, "Can we draw what we want now?" They have ideas and they don't care how you properly shade a form or draw a house in perspective; they just like to draw.  By the fourth grade, however, they have decided they want help and they want to know how to approach drawing.  Their levels of perception and their skill level are greater than in the third grade.  With these tools it is easier for them to take instruction. Each teacher should decide if students are ready to try a lesson, and even alter it to fit the students."

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Teach Many Techniques
From: Devin

Does it matter that [Drawing With Children] focuses on the "contours" of subject matter being drawn when most other programs focus on shapes within the subject matter?  I think that this is a very legitimate method of instruction.  Just as I think that using a grid is legitimate.  I also think it's only one element of drawing and as such, is limited in its application.  I would no more use only this method than I would have students do only gesture drawings, or blind contour drawings, or drawing from nature, or looking for the shapes in an object.  ALL are important skills for building drawing skills, but none important enough to stand alone.  That's why I prefer Hooked on Drawing and other drawing manuals of that type that present a variety of exercises rather than emphasizing just a few techniques.

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Art Postcards

Note: Child-Sized Masterpieces (CSM), formerly called Mommy, It's a Renoir, is an early introduction to art appreciation.  Using postcard-sized reproductions, the child sorts and matches the art by artist, style, etc.  See the review on the Art Appreciation page.  You can also purchase your own sets of postcards from the National Gallery of Art, among other places. Masterpiece Cards offers a nice boxed collection of 250 cards for a good price. -ed.


Can I use postcards to teach art appreciation?

From: Devin

You might begin with the Mike Venezia series on Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists to read together.  If you could get your hands on a few art postcards by the artists you're covering, it would be nice to start a postcard collection for each child.  There are so many games and activities you can do with them.....placing them in chronological order; sorting them by artist, subject, school of art; playing "Memory" with pairs, etc.  And I believe that knowing a bit about an artist's life and having some of the artist's pictures for their very own really gives a child almost a sense of ownership (for lack of a better term) about an artist.  While you're ordering postcards, go ahead and buy a few art posters to hang in rotation in your own personal art gallery (along with your children's masterpieces, of course).  The National Gallery of Art's prices are so reasonable and the quality so nice, that you'll have a hard time stopping!  Are you familiar with their on-line catalog?  They sell postcards and posters very reasonably (I think 45 cents and $1.20).




From: StaceyL

I bought the CSM set a few years ago to use with my then 6 yob.  They do look so attractive, especially neatly arranged in color-coded folders..(sigh...) but now what do I do with them?  Even my 4 yo can all too easily "pair up" the cards (at all levels)!  All I've done so far this past year is display one "famous" work of art per month, reading the description on the back to the boys, and then review them monthly.  One could use them in conjunction with a book such as Looking at Pictures or Discovering Great Artists to discuss such elements as composition, lighting, color, etc; I suppose with the sets of 4 works by a given artist you could play a "go fish" type of game; or one person could describe the painting (e.g., "It's a landscape with bold brush strokes in bright colors") and the other person has to try to name the painting/artist; or try to arrange them in place on a timeline....KC, we need some of your great ideas here!!




From: Devin

Well, Stacey, you came up with 4 really good ideas!  Let me see if I can think of any more... you could make up cards with the artists' names on them to correlate with some of the pictures and play the Memory Game (we used to call it Concentration when I was a kid).  Of course, that will only work if the backs are blank!

When my daughter was much younger, I used to have her sort the cards according to different characteristics.  For example, put all the pictures with people in them in one pile, put all the pictures with cool colors in a group, put all the pictures that tell a story in a group, etc.  These can get fairly complicated if you've introduced schools of art or different styles or techniques.  This is where Looking at Pictures comes in handy, too. 

Or, more open-ended, Charlotte Mason-ish, how about Story Time: Make up stories about some of the paintings.  Pretend you're in the painting, either as yourself or as one of the characters. Take turns choosing paintings to narrate or take turns continuing the story on the same painting.

Take 'em to the art gallery to see if they can find any paintings by the same artist, or a similar style or subject, etc.


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