9 Strategies To Enhance Students’ Experience Of Art In Primary Schools

In the current educational climate, timetables are tighter than ever, so how can we ensure our pupils are given more of this beautiful subject, not less? Adele Darlington discusses easy-to-implement strategies to raise the profile of the subject and to enhance the art experiences of the pupils in your school.

 

Art is a golden subject, one that adds richness, diversity and excitement to the primary school curriculum. A subject that sprinkles joy, happiness, colour and curiosity into schools and classrooms everywhere.

The pleasure isn’t just found in the liberating creative process, but also in the opportunity to admire the work of others, be that peers or other artists. Art also gives children a welcome chance to be free, to explore and to experiment, providing alternative ways for pupils to communicate thoughts and feelings and a platform to express individuality.

Here are some strategies you can use to raise the profile of Art, both in your primary classroom and across your school.

1. Display It!

What better way is there to celebrate the artistic talents of your pupils than displaying them in prominent shared spaces around your school? Exhibiting artwork has a positive impact on everyone who passes it – they’ll stop, admire it, talk about it and enjoy it!

Have a think about that bit of wall by the canteen, the space in the corridor, the back of the hall, that corner in the office, the entrance foyer and the wonderful artwork that could fill it. It doesn’t have to be a specially commissioned piece, more a celebration of the day-to-day artwork created in class. Striking displays of pupil artwork give a warm welcome to all who enter your building, create positive first impressions of your school and demonstrate a real passion for the subject.

Fundamentally, art is created to be viewed and admired, so following on from those shared spaces in school, think about where the magic happens – the classrooms. Develop your pupil’s self-esteem, pride in their work and confidence in their creations by making galleries in individual class spaces. Putting empty frames on the wall at the beginning of the year means there is space to fill as soon as the artwork is ready to be celebrated. When it’s time to refresh the gallery, the frames are there ready to be emptied and refilled! Children LOVE to see their work framed and enjoy discussing both their own work and that of their peers.

Framing is, of course, not the only way to display work – plinths made from cardboard boxes, hangers dangling from the ceiling and different shelving options all offer interesting ways to exhibit creations. Once established, other classes, parents and carers can be invited in to experience the beauty of the class galleries at various points during the year!

2. Talk about it!

In education, the positive impact ‘reading teachers’ have on encouraging a culture of ‘reading pupils’ in their school is often spoken about. The same story can be told for every subject. Indeed, pupils seeing adults enjoying, embracing and championing subjects has a profound effect on their own attitudes towards them. With this in mind, share a love and passion for art with your pupils.

Talk about your favourite artists and ask them about theirs. Discuss likes and dislikes and admire work together. While children are carrying out art sessions, join in and discuss the process! Model exploration and experimentation in a sketchbook alongside them, make mistakes and try again, discussing techniques as you go. The children will thrive off your enthusiasm and that of other teachers, it really is contagious!

3. Give pupils a voice!

In many schools, student councils, eco-teams and sports ambassadors are commonplace. Adding an art council to the list of groups children can belong to is a great way to offer them the chance to share their creativity with the whole school. Children love to belong to a ‘club’ and joining an art council is sure to excite those with a real interest in the subject.

Encourage them to ‘apply’ for a position and really think about the strengths and skills they can bring to the team. Decide on some whole school art projects together, plan a schedule and work towards your goals! Projects could be linked to whole school themes, sourcing visitors, trips and workshops, choosing new equipment, running competitions and more.

4. Work Together!

As a school, work together to create something fabulous – either led by staff or using pupil voice from the art council to drive a project forward. Link your project to special events on your school calendar or theme your project to national or international-themed days or weeks such as World Oceans Week or World Book Day.

Classes can create work on the theme to display together in a whole school gallery or create some big art with every pupil contributing in some way. There are also national projects to get involved in such as The National Gallery’s Take One Picture initiative Take One Picture | Learning | National Gallery, London or The Crafts Council’s Yinka’s Challenge Craft School: Yinka’s Challenge (craftscouncil.org.uk).

5. Run Art Assemblies!

Assemblies can be fun, but they can also become a bit mundane. Have you ever thought about sprucing up your whole school assembly schedule and introducing your pupils to artists, genres, and skills from across the art spectrum? Why not tell them the life story of interesting and inspirational artists that aren’t on your curriculum, blow their minds with amazing aspects of colour theory or demonstrate skills for them to rehearse together during the assembly? Whatever you choose to focus your assembly on, it is sure to inspire your pupils and leave them wanting to find out more.

6. Host Workshops!

Put the feelers out amongst your parents and local community and you are bound to find individuals with hidden artistic talents and job roles. Invite them into school to run workshops alongside teachers to enhance the art experiences of your pupils. You’ll be surprised how many graphic designers, ceramicists, interior designers, architects, fashion illustrators, cake decorators and more are willing to come in and share their passion for their craft with your school.

7. Include Art in your Newsletters!

Whether your school newsletters are weekly, monthly or termly add a special section to celebrate art in your school. You may wish to focus on the learning of a particular class, the achievements of a particular pupil or the current art council project. Sharing your arty news with parents/carers will undoubtedly encourage discussion on the subjects with their children at home.

8. Learn About an Artist of the week!

In addition to your art and design curriculum studies, share an artist of the week, month or term with your pupils. Each class can look at different pieces of artwork by the same artist which they can then share with other children in school. This is a great way for pupils to learn the skills of comparing and contrasting and provides a platform for them to express their likes and dislikes in relation to art.

If children learn about and admire artwork from one artist every half term that equates to six a year or forty-two throughout their primary school education! I’m including EYFS in this calculation because children are never too young to develop a love of art!

9. Make Cross-Curricular Links!

Raise awareness of the value of art and design across the curriculum by drawing attention to the role of art for different purposes. Highlight anatomical drawings and their importance in science, map-drawing in geography, the importance of the illustrator in storytelling, drawings as historical sources – the links are endless!

A love for art leads not only to enjoyment for its own sake, but also to a multitude of career opportunities, so it’s important we share this knowledge with our pupils.

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