Talking About Art in a Flattened Classroom

Art is meant to be looked at and enjoyed.  It is also meant to be talked about.  Art is a great tool for raising questions and, ultimately, discussions about things that have been created and seen.

When talking about art one needs to do the following things:

  • describe – talk about what you see
  • analyze – talk about how the artwork was put together
  • interpret – talk about what you think the artist is trying to say
  • judge – evaluate and make a decision on the artwork

My students do not have the opportunity to talk about other people’s art as much as I would like.  In the elementary my main goal for my Art students is to expose them to to each others work.  I want them to be able to describe what they see and then be able to give some positive feedback to their peers.  With the older students I add on the element of being able to give constructive advice based on what they have learned and done in their own work.  In both cases a lot of this is done through simple “art walks” around the classroom and informal discussions at the end of a project.

My students are very used to talking about each others work but that has become old and tired.  For them to keep keep on growing and learning, they need to have those opportunities to show and talk to other students from different schools about their work.

Final images could be posted online. Using technology and the flattened classroom model may be a good solution to this problem.  It would be interesting to set up a group of schools to talk about art that they have done.  It could consist of a local school here in Tokyo, another international school somewhere in the world, one in North America and my current school.  To organize this type of collaboration I would use the model that Kim Cofino talks about in her blog.  As I become more familiar with the process and our own goals, adjustments can be made to the project to make it stronger.    For communication, tech tools such as skype, Facetime or a wiki could be used.

To get started, it would be fun to have each grade level or school participating to do the same project.  I would not want all of us to do exactly the same lesson, but instead to have the students end up with the same product.  For example, have each class do an abstract portrait of themselves.  Final images could be posted online.  How it was taught and the media used could be different.  This would add to the suspense of seeing the final project.  More importantly, it could help generate discussions with students asking questions about how certain things were done or achieved.

I think the biggest benefit from using a flattened classroom is just the simple fact that as a teacher I am expanding my students’ world.  I think we often become a little isolated in our classrooms.  Having the students realize that there are kids from other countries and cultures producing potentially the same art, but in different ways truly expands their world.  It also gives them a better understanding that art can be made by anybody.  Giving the opportunities to talk about their ideas and share their work only makes them become stronger artists and individuals.

Photo by Carl Knudsen


3 responses to “Talking About Art in a Flattened Classroom

  1. Hi Carl,

    I like this idea of having students from around the globe creating similar themed pieces of work using different materials. It could serve as a fantastic way for students to learn from each. For example, if one class does pencil sketching and the other does oil painting, then the students could teach each other about the process and skills necessary to work with those materials through Skype or tutorials that they create.

    What tool would you recommend for this type of project? I immediately thought of VoiceThread ( as it allows users to comment in a variety of ways but I was wondering if you had any other suggestions.

  2. Hi Brendan,

    I agree VoiceThread is the probably the way to go on this. For any project that I do I want the feedback to be fairly quick as it needs to be relavant in order for my students to consider it. I am trying this out with the high school next fall and searching for a school outside of Japan to participate as well. I will posts the results of this in the fall.

  3. I love it! Having a very simple connection (like the finished product) is a great way to start collaborating. It’s not too time intensive and would allow each teacher to work at their own pace, maybe with a final “gallery” of images at the end. I like the idea of using VoiceThread because each student can discuss the techniques they used and how they feel they’ve represented themselves through their art. You could just as easily do a wiki or a Google Site and just upload the photos and a short description (depending on how you want students to share.

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