Art Assignment

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The unit of work is intended for a Year 4 class and aims to develop children’s knowledge, skills and understanding of how to use line, tone and colour in their own artwork. Children’s imaginations are stimulated through a range of stimuli including music, studying artists’ work and using different mediums.

The inspiration for this unit arose from the children’s book entitled ‘Once Upon An Ordinary School Day’ by Colin McNaughton. The book is brought alive by Satoshi Kitamura’s illustrations, which provide clear, vivid and motivating examples of line, tone and colour; perfect examples for children to study and use as stimulation in their own artwork.

The illustrations begin in a monochrome palette to represent the characters ‘ordinary’ school day. The mood gradually changes as the boy moves away from his ordinary life by listening to a piece of music, which kick starts an exciting adventure where his thoughts and dreams transform him to wonderful places. Kitamura cleverly captures this change in mood by switching/rendering the illustrations from pallid grey hues into full colour as the boy takes his first dive into the wonders of his own imagination. As the dreams get more elaborate so too do the colours, lines and tones. At the end of the story everything is depicted in vivid colour.

In the planning stage careful attention was given to ensure that each lesson had a specific learning objective, relevant resources for pupils to model and use as inspiration, teacher demonstration of the practical technique and a motivating practical task for pupils to carry out (White, 1994). Consideration was also given to ensure enough time was allocated to consolidate each skill before introducing new skills.

Reading the book was an interesting and exciting way to introduce the topic. By discussing how the illustrations change on each page pupils catch a glimpse of what they will be covering over the unit of work.

The book plays an integral role in this unit and the progression of skills is closely linked to the order they appear in the book. Similar to the book the unit begins by looking at drawings made up of simple lines in monochrome. The task involved sketching a line drawing of the corner of the classroom using only pencil. This was just one example of the main activities that was simple and had a clear objective, which was achievable by all pupils. A range of different pencils was on offer, which provided a valuable opportunity to experiment to find out what pencils worked best for different effects. Likewise, later on in the unit suitable paints were needed to mix and create different tones of a colour. This highlighted the importance of providing pupils with the correct materials in order for them to achieve the desired effect.

Moving on from pencil to charcoal helped introduce the second objective, tone. Sufficient time was spent mastering creating tone with dry media such as charcoal and chalk before progressing to using paint. Colour was the final objective to be introduced into the unit; firstly by colouring in only one part of the drawing to make it stand out, then exploring different tones of one colour and finally experimenting with a range of different colours and tones. Each of the three objectives linked together well and showed a natural progression.

Although the book features fantastic examples of the three main objectives it was important to include examples of a variety of artists work, including Picasso, Klee, and Rothko, all of which were relevant and appropriate to the learning objective. This helps broaden children’s awareness of artists, past and present, and demonstrate how different techniques result in different moods and effects.

The whole the unit took place in the classroom however, there were missed opportunities that could have allowed lessons to be inspired from the outdoors. When studying different tones pupils could have gone on a colour hunt to collect evidence of different tones outside; thus developing an awareness of the variety and quality of colours in the environment. This could then be linked to Science and the different seasons, noting how the colours and tones of the leaves change throughout the year.

Another cross-curricular link within this unit is with music, which caters for audio learners. This was inspired from the book as the boy’s imagination is stirred when he listens to a piece of music. An unfamiliar song was selected so no one had any preconceived ideas of what the music reminded them of, thus enabling their imagination to run wild and create a very personal and individual piece of art. This was one of the most effective and productive lessons of the unit as all pupils were inspired by the music to reflect on paper what they were thinking or how they felt. As this was the penultimate lesson it was perfectly timed; sufficient time had been spent developing the skills of line, tone and colour providing an excellent opportunity for pupils to use their imagination and put what they had learnt into practise.

Some pupils feel daunted when presented with a blank canvas and are asked to paint a real life object, as they feel unable to recreate an exact representation. This task enables all children to be equal as the work is a personal interpretation of what they hear and feel. This could be particularly useful for special needs pupils who are not articulate in communicating their feelings through verbal or written methods.

Question and answer sessions at the beginning of each session were effective in helping the teacher to ascertain the current level of pupils understanding. This led on to brief discussions reflecting on previous work, which reinforced the learning objectives and helped to develop an understanding of progression and see the work in context. However, the unit would benefit from similar discussions in the plenaries allowing more time for assessment opportunities. White (1994) stresses the importance that ‘interaction with children is necessary for artwork to make real sense and have real educational value’. Therefore plenty of time should be given to discussing finished work so that discussions progress from initial reactions of likes and dislikes to establishing how it was done and why. Additionally children could be stopped at intervals throughout the lesson to recap the success criteria and ensure everyone is on task, and to assess their own work and a partners to consider ways to improve it

Differentiation in a subject like Art can be rather problematic, however, this has been successfully addressed by using different resources. In lesson 4 less able pupils begin by painting a candle, which has only a few different tones compared to a flower, which the more able have to paint.

Working through the activities in real time was a worthwhile exercise, as on paper some tasks appeared to be relatively short however, in reality they took far longer. Whilst partaking in art lessons on placement it became obvious that children would need the whole afternoon to complete each lesson. Timing is a common problem in all subjects in that children complete activities in different times. There is a danger that pupils who finish first are asked to repeat the task or can paint a picture with no real learning outcome. Therefore each lesson needs to be developed to incorporate an extension activity for the quicker workers and an extension time for those that work at a slower pace. This is a key point for personal future planning.

The whole group was really pleased with the display as it was not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also told a story of the journey taken from reading the book (Once Upon An Ordinary School Day) to the exploration of line, tone and colour. The purpose of displays is of far more importance than simply ‘brightening’ up a classroom. They serve to ‘do justice to the high standards of pupils work, provide a learning resource and an assessment tool’ so it was paramount that the work was presented in an eye catching and informative way. (Jackson, 1998, p27.)

The background was painted in graded tones of blue to depict one of the three objectives in this unit and reflect the illustrations from the book. All components of the display were laid out on the floor and arranged in different ways to discover the best way to present the information. A simple structure and lay out was chosen so that the information could be easily assimilated. Only a couple of pieces of artwork were selected from each lesson so as not to crowd the display and arranged to mirror the sequence of lessons to show the starting point of the unit and how it had developed. Musical notes and leaves were suspended from pieces of string to create a mobile type effect and make it interactive.

In order to represent the range of abilities and promote self worth of all pupils a selection of each individuals work was chosen and mounted. A display can ‘enhance or inhibit learning and can build or erode a child’s understanding of whether their work is valued or not’ (Morgan, 1998, p.131). If pupils see their work on display it clearly communicates that they are valued. It also gives pupils the opportunity to stand back and evaluate their work. In school pupils should be encouraged to take part in arranging the display. If they learn to take care and pride in presenting their artwork this should be reflect in other subjects too.

The unit was successful in fulfilling numerous objectives of the National Curriculum; it ‘increases pupils’ knowledge and understanding of visual and tactile elements of line, colour and tone, developing control of tools and techniques.’ Pupils evaluating skills are enhanced so that they study the ‘similarities and differences in artists work and compare ideas, methods and approaches in their own and others’ work to say what they think and feel about them and describe how to develop it further.’ (DfEE, 1999, p120)

Overall the unit of work was planned, organised and taught in a methodical way with each lesson having a clear and focused structure, a challenging and enjoyable pupil activity, and relevant resources such as examples of artists work. Each objective linked into the next so that the sequence of lessons flowed and sufficient time was spent developing each new skill before progressing onto the next level. Each piece of work clearly demonstrated the lesson objectives had been taught thoroughly and understood by the pupils. After all this hard work it would be interesting and worthwhile to carry out this unit in school and see how the children react and what work they produce.

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