Teaching Visual Art to Children is a Magical Experience where you can make them Light up with Excitement and give Kids and Teens the Power to be Creative Thinkers, Artists, and Makers. These skills, no matter their journey in life, will always be relevant. Here is my Advice for How-To Effectively Teach Visual Art to Children, Pre-Teens, and Teens and it will allow you to be Organized, Successful, and will have your Students excited About learning Visual Art.
How-To Effectively Teach Visual Art to Children, Pre-Teens, and Teens
If you’re ready to make the leap, hone in, or refine your skills, then grab a note pad. What I am about to tell you will get you focused and will strengthen your Art Education resolve.
Decide on a Your Plan for the Year.
You might be thinking, okay but you said How-To Effectively Teach Visual Art to Children, Pre-Teens, and Teens. Yes, well, it begins with plan because you can’t teach without one. I love having a map of where I am going to go and what stops along the way I will see and HOW I will get to that destination. That is your Year-Long Plan. It will ensure you cover the expected curriculum standards or content pieces that you have to teach and it will help you pace through each month and keep you on track. Can you combine multiple standards/curricular content into one art lesson? Can you target a lot with a unit? ABSOLUTELY and always do this.
So decide on your plan of what you want to target each month.
Next, you need to figure out how you’re going to get there. How are you going to teach those standards? This next step is when you file in your art history and art making lessons.
You can do this in 3 ways:
1) Create every single lesson and unit from scratch. If you want to know how to make an AMAZING Art Lesson plan yourself, click here.
2) Create some art lessons and buy others from the Ms Artastic TeachersPayTeachers store. (they’re fully planned with lesson plans, steps, and assessment so you don’t have to do anything except, Teach!)
3) Get an Art Curriculum to follow. If you are not sure of how to navigate this world or just want to have a work/life balance, I would suggest getting an Art Curriculum that you can subscribe to that will give you fully planned art lessons, ready-to-use. This means you’ll get access to amazing art resources, and you can curate them in the order you want and do all the other 1,000 things you have to do as a teacher. It means you can focus on teaching and inspiring kids while having your evenings and weekends. Find an Art Education Art Curriculum and other Programs at the Artastic Collective (my art curriculum designed for educators).
Once you have your art lessons, add their names beside the Curricular Standards needed to be learned. And definitely tie multiple standards to one lesson. A DEEP lesson will do this and solid units of study will explore a lot, starting off breadth to introduce the topic and plant the seed for learning, but then will go deep into the topic so the children truly understand the concepts but also how to use them and apply them to their own lives and future, no matter their journey.
Know Why You Teach
When you’re teaching I think we need to stop and reflect more often than not, on our purpose and our WHY. We should in fact, do this for everything we do. Why are we doing what we are doing? Are we just going through routine and habits or rituals or is there a purpose? When we are teaching, we are affecting kids lives and so it helps to approach your day with your WHY for why your teach and your purpose in being there. Not only is this important for you to clarify for yourself, but it will be better for your students too because you will be actively working toward your why and your purpose, which will make a better experience for your students.
So in my opinion, knowing why you teach is part of teaching art to kids. Like why are you showing up and doing this every day? Specifically why this? I guarantee that, when you go for a Art Teacher Job Interview, that you will be asked this in one way or another. So thinking about this and answering this is important on many levels.
Now I made you a poster that you can print off (just click and print, super easy), and then in the circle, after you know it, write in your why. And then put this in your teacher binder so you can see it and reference it every day as an affirmation to keep you motivated and on track on YOUR purpose. Each of us has a different why, purpose, and journey.
I was recently asked this in an interview with NBC LX. I was asked to think about some questions prior to the interview and honestly, this one shook me up the most. It is not that I haven’t been asked this before, it’s just that I was startled and realized I was struggling to pinpoint it. I had lots of reasons, but they also changed recently. After more than a decade of being in a classroom, I am no longer a classroom teacher.
For more than 10 years of being a full time teacher and running Ms Artastic and all the other parts of it full-time, I realized that I literally missed out on a decade of my life just working. I worked before work, at work, after work, all weekends, all holidays. And suddenly, I ran myself dry and could be there for no one. So now, I am an artist (which I have also been doing professionally on top of all that, showing in art galleries regularly), and Ms Artastic where I design art lessons for kids and art education resources.
So when I was asked my Why, (and the journalist already researched me across my art website and Ms Artastic and knew my shifts) I was startled. I felt terrified because, after leaving teaching, I replaced those hours with more Ms Artastic hours and forgot to slow down and reflect on my purpose and why.
So after nights of being terrified and awake, I have re-written my WHY for me now. This why has evolved, obviously, as I have evolved. I had a different why as classroom teacher, different why when I was getting my Bachelor of Visual Art then Bachelor of Education. And now, with this shift, this is my why at the time of writing this. This will not be your why, so definitely pick something for you!
Why I Teach: Ms Artastic, Kathleen
For a few reasons, I teach art.
First, I LOVE art. Ever since I can remember, I have always loved art. So it is a passion that I want to share with others, to inspire them, and help them along their own artistic journey. I think that Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, exploring our own Identity and Individualism is all essential for the paths we will each take and is a necessary skill for all career choices, and to continue to progress as humans.
Second, I believe that we are all artists or are all creative thinkers and just express it in different ways. I am a Creative type and I know how it feels to grow up, as a kid, who LOVED to make art. I know what it FEELS like to always have this natural instinct to want to create and constantly have ideas percolating in my imagination. As well, I know how impactful it is when you’re a creative growing up and you have a mentor or teacher that sees that in you as well and they you to express your own ideas and individuality. I had teachers let me explore the depths of my imagination and that helped me along this journey to where I am today.
Finally, I want to encourage kids to create and make art and I know I can help them take those initial steps and teach them how to create artworks focused around their interests. I can help them understand how-to use Art Mediums, I can help them learn to use those mediums with a variety of techniques to help them build their art making confidence… So often, when I was in the classroom as a teacher I would see them looking at what we were about to create and you would see their thoughts in their expressions like “NO WAY can I make that.”
Then, upon completion, when they would stand back and look at their artwork… I would see that magical moment, that pure joy on their faces that read “Wow… I can’t believe I made that”… and it’s that sense of amazement, that wonder, that pure joy and excitement… is why I teach. It’s rewarding.
Therefore, I continue to want to encourage that. One way I can do that is through teaching, not only by creating Art Education Resources and Lessons for Teachers to use in their own classrooms as Ms Artastic, but by actually offering Art Lessons Online for kids that they can stream directly in their homes… that speak to their interests. To be honest, I’m not sure that I ever grew-up and I think that’s a personal strength.
I know how it feels to be a kid and an artist, and sometimes it is hard to access art lessons or resources. However, with technology, that has changed so I am making art accessible any time, anywhere, using art mediums that kids can easily use to make art, add their own artist flavor, and eventually apply the techniques to their own artworks from their imaginations.
Create Art Lesson Plans
Once you have your year long plan created and your purpose for why you teach figured out, you need to get some art lessons planned and created so that you have something to teach the standards you curated.
If you want an in depth, step-by-step guide for How-To Create an Effective, Organized Art Lesson plan, then be sure to click here to read this Article I wrote. It will be a game changer for you!
Otherwise you can feel free to make and design art lessons the way YOU want! That is the power of individualism, you can go about your journey any way you want and you never have to worry about anyone’s input.
However, if you want somewhere to start, you can find some Free Art Lesson Ideas by clicking here.
Demonstrate Art Lessons
Next, once you’re all planned and you have your art lesson plans done, you are ready to teach and demonstrate the Art Lesson or do the teaching. Be exciting and be confident! Use engagement strategies to reach all your learners. I love creating immersive experiences for my students by projecting images onto the room like a Van Gogh immersive experience. Sure, it looks silly but its new and different and they LOVE IT. You can also take kids outside to do observational or plein air artworks, either through realism or impressionism or to build observational skills. Show video clips, PowerPoints, and do collaborative artworks. This not only is going to help you target the curriculum, but will also create deep learning experiences and will engage your students.
As well, include your participation strategies. Use 4 corner questions, Think-Pair-Shares, Quick-Writes and Quick-Draws. I have taught art from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and these have worked for all ages. They’re low-key and encourage everyone to access learning and feel confident to participate in the lesson. The book (this is not an affiliation, I just loved the book and is the ONE THING I used always and passed onto new teachers or my student teachers and I found it to be the thing that kids always engaged with no matter what) is called “Total Participation Techniques”. It is short, sweet and lays out tangible things to use. I used all of it and, no matter how education changed throughout the years, it was always relevant.
So if you’re looking for teaching strategies, I recommend that book no matter the age or grade you teach. I have “been there, done that” and found it to be relevant and it especially worked with my more challenging learners (which is what I most often specialized in working with).
Demonstrating Art Lessons:
I most often demonstrated the lesson in a few ways. I would try and change it up depending on the time of the year, their attention span that particular day, my level of teacher tired, or if I needed to change just as an engagement strategy or at the student’s request.
As the years went, kids figured out I was Ms Artastic and already knew that I designed my art lessons and could perform them live, show slides, or play my videos. Often they would ask for me to do it a certain way and I would comply (they’re too cute).
But I would use a bit of both. Often, when demonstrating and due to kids working at different paces, I would break and artwork into chunks. I would have everyone stop and watch me do a portion, then I would let them work. Then I would ask everyone to stop (and also remind them to not worry about where they are and that they can go at their own pace, but they need to see the steps) and watch the next part. Then I would continue this till the art lesson was done.
Sometimes I would also include parts where I show my videos from my Art Curriculum or my TpT Store and use both so I essentially could have a helping hand. Often, I would notice that kids LOVED to watch the videos (even though, to me, it seemed the same as me creating under a document camera but to them it was not) so sometimes I would demonstrate parts live and then use the video as well.
The nice thing with video art lessons is that the demonstration is done. You can fast forward, hit pause, or hit rewind indefinitely. And a kid was away? No big deal, they can see it any time on the video demonstration.
At the end, what it is going to boil down to is:
-Your Teaching Style
-The Kids (is it almost a break or holiday? go for video)
-The Time of Year
-What you Feel Like
-Engagement strategy through changing instructional style
-What you want to do
And you’re the captain of the ship so you can teach how you want! My job is to provide you with a range of options to make that happen so that you’re doing it confident and stress-free.
Teaching a Variety of Learners:
One thing I do have to say is that having a range of different tools to use allows you to reach a range of learners. By doing a demonstration and using Slides or a video also, you can easily re-teach the content but also, maybe a kid engages more with one thing over another. To teach all our students and learners we must use a range of different teaching strategies to reach them (another reason I love Total Participation Techniques).
Adding Artist Flavor to Art
One thing that is important for me ands an educator is allowing kids to express their individualism in their artworks, or what I call “Artist Flavor”. It is that thing they do to represent themselves, their style, and make it about THEM. Sure, you can do this in many ways. One is through Choice-based art or student-led art projects (this especially for older grades or explorations or centers in lower grades), but also you can let this happen in all art projects.
If you’re all making winter Red Fox artworks, does it matter that a student draws the eyes different from how YOU drew them? No. As long as they’re hitting the specific targets you set out for the project and are showing that they learned how to do the task (maybe or this, the focus was emphasis on the Red Fox and Value in the Background), then does it matter specifically that every single fox is exactly the same? No. If a kid wanted to put a top hat on the fox, I would let them.
For big changes, I ask them to describe or propose their idea to me or make a thumbnail sketch before they make the change so they can work out those details on their independent exploration. Also, if you have access to technology, having a few tablets in a classroom are great tools to quickly get drawing tutorials or reference images. Basically, I wouldn’t have time to help them on their individual exploration BUT I would provide them the tools to make it happen and walk with them though the creative process and planning before they began. Then, if I have time and I am done my demonstration, I would sit with them and see if they need support, same as I would support my classroom or open up my rainbow table for small group instruction or help.
In the end, I believe in encouraging creativity and experimentation. I am not making photocopiers and I firmly believe in communicating that to your class and making it your classroom culture that you DO NOT want them to all be the same. Again, we’re not creating photocopiers, that is not allowing for creative thinking or individuality or creative expression (which is what art is).
Teaching Art to Children IS Rewarding.
So, that is How-To Effectively Teach Visual Art to Children, Pre-Teens, and Teens. Teaching art is not only rewarding, but comes with its challenges. Not all years, classes, weeks, or students are a like and it will always require experimenting and trying to adjust your teaching style to meet their needs. To effectively teach art to children, pre-teens, and teens, remember to: decide on your year-long plan and find a resource to use for art lessons or an art education curriculum, know WHY you teach to help yo hone in your focus and be present for your students, create solid art lesson plans, demonstrate the art lesson, and allow for Artist Flavor to flourish in your classroom.
Want AMAZING Art Lessons?
Try these suggestions in your classroom.