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That first day of IB art class... how will you begin the course?

When I was a new IB art teacher back in '94 I dutifully photocopied all the assessment criteria and presented my already overwhelmed students with stacks of dry, complicated, wordy IB Art assessment criteria descriptors and told them this is what would be expected of them! Poor kids. That's definitely not the approach I would recommend now. I prefer to start off with something playful and engaging that will set the stage for the exploratory and creative nature of the course, and let them feel that this is a class they are going to love...

Prime them to look and to feel empowered to create, the assessment criteria can wait a few weeks in.

Distance Learning: Just a note to teachers taking on the challenging task of teaching remotely or balancing between face to face and remote, first of all, its not easy, and I wish you strength and patience, second, please avail yourself of the student access feature, its free to all your students and you can assign pages or activities from this site to any groups you create. Give students the autonomy to select their own assignments from the Art Seed Bank and more in the Distance and Blended Learning section, and hang in there, this too shall pass!

Begin by looking...

Set the stage with a slide show, Intuitive Response that gets them moving about, looking at and talking about art, what they like, what they think and feel when they look at images, this requires NO prior knowledge and is fun and teenagers love it ( as do adults). It takes between 15-30  minutes depending on how much time you discuss each slide. its also a great way to get to know your new students, hear their voices. (Could be adapted to remote learning, sharing your screen during the slides and the page with your students in student access.)

Intuitive Response

When looking at art works for the first time we naturally have an intuitive response, we like or we don’t like or maybe we feel indifferent. We may have a strong aesthetic response or we may feel an...

then by making...

My text book Visual Arts for the IB Diploma, chapter 1 Start Exploring, (possibly my favorite chapter in the book) has some enticing entry activities... choose one of the starting strategies on pages 13-22, or here below.

Playing games

Surrealist Games

Try some of these playful approaches as ice breakers, to loosen up, disrupt habitual patterns and introduce a sense of play into the serious business of making art. They are great for a new class, for...

Material possibilities...

Interacting with materials is a great way to overcome timidity in this non goal oriented exploration ( Richard Serra's list of verbs) ... a little prep is required in providing a set of materials, or alternately just limit it to a sheet of paper, no other tools!

Richard Serra's Verbs

For the more experimental minded, try this exercise in lateral thinking: In the mid-1960s Serra began experimenting with nontraditional materials including fiberglass, neon, vulcanized rubber, and, later,...

Think like an artist....

  • Collect multiples of one thing: many different shaped leaves, bus tickets, teabags. Create a method of display with labels. Photograph or draw in journal.
  • Collect things in varying hues of the same colour. Arrange your collection into a composition. Document it. Give it a title.
  • Look for found patterns, record them with rubbings and drawings in your journal. Note where each pattern was found.
  • Take something apart and put it back together in a completely different way that alters the form and the function.
  • Make a 3D piece of work that fits in a matchbox.
  • Create a viewfinder (cut a rectangle from a piece of card) and use it to frame different compositions within the same view, record in journal.
  • Choose a building or a landscape in your area, draw it in chalk or charcoal at different times of day, observing the changing light, like Monets’ paintings of Rouen Cathedral.
  • Select a small square section of the earth and meticulously record, like Albrecht Durers’ Piece of turf.
  • Design something to place on an altar. Explain why.

this list of activities is also found on page 13 of my textbook

NEW an expanded version of starting points or " Art Seeds "  with added links to artists for critical investigation can be found in the Art Seed Bank 

Art Seeds

For teachers

What is the Art Seed Bank? a new section that proposes mini explorations or art challenges for your students. These activities are intended to get them looking, thinking, and creating, at any point in the...

Art Seed Bank

Index page

The Art Seed Bank is a collection of short invitations to create, to think about art, to try something different.Choose from the ever expanding seed catalogue, and watch your seed grow.Take a series of...

 Drawing never gets old....

Drawing warm-ups

These warm-up drawing exercises require you to focus completely on looking at your subject, they also help you to loosen up and let go of expectations… You might even be pleasantly surprised by the results!

  • Draw with the wrong hand.
  • Draw blindfolded or without looking at the paper.
  • Draw an object you can feel but cant see, held under the table.
  • Draw with chalk taped to a very long stick.
  • Draw symmetrically, with a pencil in both hands.
  • Draw, with a continuous line, a figure who is moving around the room.
  • Try a collaborative drawing ( cadavre exquis in Surrealist Games)

I suggest introducing a drawing unit early on, many students have not had practical experience with drawing skills and media and terminology. Elements of Drawing is a good skill and vocabulary builder for year one.

Elements of Drawing

I like to begin a course by introducing awareness of visual elements, qualities and attributes through drawing. I find this lays a good foundation for further exploration in any media and helps those...

    Building and expanding ideas...

    Then in the following lessons, introduce something more substantial that can build over days, or even several weeks, like the Sense of Place assignment or the Object Study. 

    Follow the links below to see each assignment and share with your students using Student Access 

    Object Study

    The object study is a teaching idea to generate thinking beyond the obvious. It can be used with students at the start of year 1 as a way of introducing investigation skills and learning to make connections.

    A Sense of Place

    The title of Gauguin's painting above Where have we come from, where are we now, where are we going? asks a marvelously complex question, one that a lifetime of art making can only begin to try to address....

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