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Building the Perfect Art Lesson
Junior Lauren Renda, right, helps a workshop participant with a project as parents and visitors check out an exhibit.
"What does the word 'contour' mean?" Cory Kellerson asks the five students in his workshop. With a lot of shoulder shrugs in response, Kellerson slips off his hiking boot and sets it beside a drawing of the boot. In age-appropriate language, he explains what contour is and informs the group of the day's assignment. The children seem impressed-until they learn they will be drawing their own shoes. The idea is met with a collective protest: "That's too hard!" Kellerson is undeterred.
Slowly, the children begin to draw. Some of the drawings look like shoes, others don't, but everyone tries. Kellerson and Curtis connect like pros with the young artists. The fact that one of the children eventually becomes frustrated probably has little to do with the subject matter, but the incident gives the future teachers food for thought. "Maybe the lesson was a little too complicated for this age level," Kellerson concedes.
Or perhaps not. Once the children return from their outdoor excursion, they see their work in a different light. Emily Schultz, 9, laughs at her shoe drawing, then proudly tells Curtis: "When I'm a teenager, I will be the best artist in the world!"
For art education majors, planning a good lesson is the key to a stress-free Saturday workshop, and it is no easy job. "There are so many different factors to consider when you are preparing a lesson," Curtis explains. "The kids are all at different skill levels. You have to make a lesson plan general enough to be flexible, but you don't want the kids to get bored."
"Parents expect there will be drawings and paintings to see at the end of this," Kellerson adds. "I have to think of the important things and try to make sure they leave here with knowledge they didn't have before they arrived."
So how do students decide what topics to address in the workshops? Junior Kathleen Kane, who planned a well-received lesson on basic geometric shapes for the 8- and 9-year-old group, considers what the children may have already learned. Kane says her ability to judge the age-appropriateness of a lesson idea improved as the workshops progressed. "I figured at this age a lesson on basic geometric shapes would work because it relates to what they have already done, yet is a new concept. By using a still life and having them draw that, I've given them a visual example. Seeing the shapes allows them to understand what I'm trying to explain."
"Time management is another key factor in planning the lessons, and that's one area in which I have improved this semester," says Jennie Schaeffer, Kane's partner for this particular workshop. "Having two people work together is helpful because it's easier to get the kids to settle down and focus on what they're doing."
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