Art is such an integral part of elementary education. Whether it is a well-planned out lesson that incorporates art activities or an experiment that requires students to draw what they have observed; art components are evident. I have learned through my course work and observing in my 4th grade classroom is that students truly enjoy making and creating things. This was evident last week when students were given the opportunity to create a penguin themed Valentine’s box. Though this activity had no academic basis, my mentor teacher stated that the students had not worked this quietly or intently the entire school year. This was the case because students were given the opportunity to create something and add their own artistic touch upon it.
When creating a unit that has an art component, we must remember to plan activities that will motivate students but also meet the requirements of the state standards. We can motivate students through four aspects: love of color, love of landscape, love of making, and interest in others (Scheuerman, 2014). One of the state standards is to use visual arts to express feelings and present ideas. In most subjects students can present ideas artistically through visual representations. Likewise, incorporating a lesson on the love of color where students are painting from imagination, meaning, or events. We can tie this in with expressions of feelings. For example, students could create an image depiction on a meaningful event in their life that relates to the unit. This will meet state standards but also inspire students to think creatively and express themselves in unique ways. Many times art is one of the first programs to be cut at a school, but it is important especially as elementary teachers that we continue to incorporate motivational art activities within our curriculum.
Scheuerman, R. (2014, February 26). EDU 6363 Course Lecture – Session 8: Standards-based assessment and art methods (I).
Research has indicated that many lessons require outcomes at the lower levels of cognition and those students cannot think independently of the teacher or go beyond the content being taught (Borich, 2010). One approach to help students facilitate a higher level of learning is project-based learning. Project-based learning has three ideas of the importance of learning the process not just the product, helping students set goals, and uses instructional groupings to draw out cooperation from all group members to complete the project (p. 351). Why is project-based learning so important to the development of students? Borich (2010) states that project-based learning plays a critical role in the development of intrinsic motivation to the learning task (p. 351). This is important because as increasing of age is occurring in schools today students are experiencing a decline in academic motivation (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007, p. 261). It is crucial to develop student’s intrinsic motivation in that the work being done is not because it is what the teacher wants, but because the students have a desire to learn and grow academically.
What makes up a good project then? Borich (2010) states several key components which good projects possess. These characteristics are: extended duration, requiring weeks to complete; link several disciplines; focus on the process as well as the product; and involves the teacher as a coach and utilizes small-group work (p. 351). Projects can also be more meaningful towards students when they present a real-world or authentic challenge; allow for student choice and control; be an achievable task in the time allotment; requires collaboration; and can produce a tangible product (p. 351).
One common project that many schools partake in is the egg drop challenge. On the surface this project may seem only like a fun activity, but this activity can not only be engaging as well as incorporate many aspects of a “good” project. Students can be encouraged to experiment with a number of different designs for the challenge. These designs are to be drawn and rationales explained in the group journals. Additionally, the challenge can be used as an analogy to make it an authentic task – the egg being precious cargo re-entering the atmosphere from space and must safely land on the earth’s surface. Also, this project can use several disciplines of science, math, and require writing aspects through the journaling. Most importantly, students will have to work together to design and build their ideas in the given time frame. This is just a brief explanation of how the popular and fun projects can be adapted into a meaningful lesson that will intrinsically motivate students.
Borich, G.D. (2010). Effective teaching methods: research-based practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Pressley, N., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guildford Press.