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A really quick way to turn a group of happy and ready to learn students into grumpy, uncooperative and (best case scenario) sullen teenagers is to invite them into the art room, hand them a piece of lined paper and tell them “Today we are going to do art theory”.

So there are a three things you could do to improve the situation and get Great Results.

  1. Avoid art theory altogether
  2. Leave the art theory task for the substitute teacher (you were planning on being sick next week anyway and this will give them all something to do)
  3. Hide the theory inside the practical project and that way no one will ever even know what an awesome educator you are*.

When I first started teaching I used to declare that it was art theory day and then be puzzled when the class became bored and naughty. I couldn’t understand how they could hate what I loved. So pretty quickly my teaching tactic became to avoid art theory altogether (Point 1) but, this is lazy and bad and ultimately does not yield Great Results. It can also make you really bored because you are not enjoying your SmArty brain.

HonestIy, I still use point 2, especially if I know that the substitute teacher is not an art specialist. The substitute teacher does not want to get paint on their clothes and you don’t want your classroom destroyed. (sample and ideas to follow).

The most effective and rewarding* is of course to subtly tie the art theory into the practical project. Embrace the stereotype, you are the wacky art teacher; talk all the time about the art elements and principles and how well the students have used them. Give them unsolicited advice on colour theory. Demonstrate perspective drawing. Use your smart board to have a slide show of artwork which relates to your topic. You could plan a drawing project around a single element of art. I did this for Line. Or a principle. I did this for Pattern.

If you really must have a dedicated art theory or history class try taking the students out of the art room and into a standard classroom or computer lab can . The classroom environment sets up expectations in the students and I have found they will settle to written work faster in a English/ Maths room.

*If you don’t need a medal and are intrinsically satisfied.

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