Practice in Action
Thinking and Talking About Works of Art focuses on students' ability to critically look at a work of art, reflect, and talk about what they see, feel, or hear. It can include anything from paintings and sculptures to plays, concerts, or dance performances, as long as there is an opportunity for reflection and discussion.
Begin by providing opportunities for students to have firsthand exposure to the arts. Visit a museum, attend a concert, or watch a performance. Next, have students discuss their experience. What did they like? What didn't they like? Why? What did the art make them think of? Students can do this in small groups, or through talking, writing, or doing an activity related to the art form. For example, in African drumming, watching a video of drummers and discussing technique can help students develop their own technique. Talking about a Shakespeare play provides an opportunity for students to discuss the themes of the play and how those themes apply to their own lives. A follow-up activity could be to develop an original play or skit with a similar theme. After visiting a museum, students might sketch or research works of art and then develop their own exhibit, taking on the role of a curator in selecting work and deciding what makes an art exhibit effective. Whatever the activity, be prepared with questions to generate a lively discussion, and give students ample time to reflect on their experience and discuss what they've learned.
Research indicates that experiencing and viewing the arts can be a source of inspiration and problem solving for individuals' own art work, and increases students' appreciation for the arts. Seeing various art forms gives students a sense of context and quality, and helps students understand what an art form is all about. Reflecting, talking, or writing about their experience or trying to replicate it may contribute to developing a deeper understanding and enjoyment of the art form.
Planning Your Lesson
Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students
are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.
Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons.
The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning
Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and
refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.
Lesson Planning Template (PDF)
Lesson Planning Template (Word document)
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?
How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will
it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity.
Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students
may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?
What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather
materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?
Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?
Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the
Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better
address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.
What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that
might be useful—and which was originally developed for science
education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning
sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see
the 5E's Instructional Model.
Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this
activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?
After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place.
How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?
Whether your students visit an art museum in person or virtually, they will be able to reflect and discuss what they have seen more efficiently if they take notes and make sketches. Handheld computers provide everything students need to take notes, make sketches, and save notations for later discussion. And they're fun to use! K12 Handhelds offers information on getting started with these computers and the latest ways to use them.
Research Summary: The National Standards describe talking about art as a way to facilitate a deeper understanding of its method, meaning and context: "Be able to communicate at a basic level in the arts disciplines, including knowledge and skills in the use of basic vocabularies, materials, techniques and intellectual methods of each art discipline" (skills and understanding), as well as "Be able to develop and present basic analyses of work of art," as in a "critique" (2003, No. 3). The value of analyses and talking about works of art, whether they are visual, musical, dramatic, or theatrical, lies in the student's use of art related vocabulary and understanding of how the art form works. Talking in itself has value to cognitive skills and social behavior. A number of afterschool and arts studies describe the relationship of theatre to memory skills, presentation skills, reading, and self-confidence (Caterall et al, 1999, Burton et al, 1999, Seidel, 1999, Winner and Hetland, 2000, Dupont, 1992).
- Winner, Ellen and Lois Hetland (2000). Beyond the Evidence given: A Critical Commentary on Critical Links. In Arts Education Policy Review, 2000. Retrieved from the web: http://pzweb.harvard.edu/Research/Reap/REAPCritLinkResp.htm
- Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau and John Iwanaga (1999). Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts. In Champions of Change, E. B. Fiske, Editor. Arts Education Partnership and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
- Seidel, Steve (1999). "Stand and Unfold Yourself": A Monograph on the Shakespeare and Company Research Study. In Champions of Change: the Impact of the Arts on Learning: Lessons from School districts that value Arts Education. E,B, Fiske, Ed. GE Fund/MacArthur Foundation: The Arts and Education Partnership and the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
- DuPont, Sherry (1992). The Effectiveness of creative drama as an instructional strategy to enhance the reading comprehension skills of fifth-grade remedial readers. Reading Research and Instruction, 1992, 31(3): 41-52.
- Burton, Judith, Robert Horowitz and Hal Abeles (1999). Learning In and Through the Arts: Curriculum Implications. In Champions of Change, E. B. Fiske, Editor. Arts Education Partnership and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
- National Standards for Arts Education (2003). Retrived from the web: