Art for Art’s Sake

Do you teach art for art’s sake?

This is a difficult question for me to answer.  I have worked with art colleagues previously that felt I was “sacrificing” art for integration.  I took their opinion very personally until I started to examine what I teach and why I teach it. I do integrate many of my lessons. Years ago, in the time of dinosaurs, I was trained to teach this way.  My art education classes we taught to include all of the disciplines.  Of course, this was before outcomes and mainstreaming as well as No Child Left Behind.

Not all of my lessons are integrated, many are “art for art’s sake” but I feel there is an intrinsic value to those that combine disciplines and are cross-curricular.  When I integrate lessons the objectives and essential question are always based upon my art curriculum. If I choose to incorporate language arts or science, does that make the lesson bad and sacrifice the art?  I find that hard to accept.  I choose to make my lessons engaging and hopefully something that my students will enjoy.  Through that process I can guarantee that they will remember either something from art….. language arts…..or science….maybe all three.

In a recent article in the ASCD, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Willona Sloan states, “….arts education advocates argue that while teaching art for art’s sake is certainly beneficial for all students, studies also show that participating in the arts can actually boost student achievement in other academic areas.”  It doesn’t matter whether the lesson is art for art’s sake or a cross-curricular lesson, if it is not interesting I will lose student’s interest and the lesson will not be successful. 

Inducing art into STEAM and/or Common Core may be a way to save the arts.  It also may be a way to validate the arts as an essential part of learning and creativity.  Either way, I feel it’s a win-win situation.   

 

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Art and the Common Core

One of my favorite lessons is teaching my 6th grade students how to create a landscape silhouette.  The students love this lesson because for many it is their first opportunity to use X-acto knives. I love it because of the book we read at the beginning of the lesson.

                                         The Day the Babies Crawled Away

by Peggy Bathmann and Kara Walker is a delightful children’s book done completely in silhouettes.  Students love looking at the pictures and trying to find the most mischievous baby.  It is an excellent resource for teaching positive/negative space as well as silhouette drawing and cutting. 

Children’s literature can lead to many fascinating art projects.  Don’t be afraid to read aloud to your students.  No one is too old to enjoy a good picture book.