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For Art’s Sake!!!

Whenever I think of an art-related activity to do with my students that isn’t an actual craft project, I always ask myself, “Will they get something out of this or am I doing art work art’s sake?” In case you’re wondering what I mean by art for art’s sake, that means doing an art activity in the name of learning that really has no connection to actual learning. (For instance, and this comes from one of my favorite professors of all-time, Lucy Calkins, grabbing a shoe box and making a diorama when you finish a book isn’t meaningful. What adult makes a diorama when s/he finishes a book? None that I know… they have conversations with another person or a book club about a text they read, they don’t make dioramas!) Therefore, when asked if I came up with a way to present writing territories to my students yet, I said, “Yes, but it’s kind of boring.”

Essentially, I am thinking of handing each student a piece of paper folded into thirds or fifths. Then, I’m going to tell them that each of us has 3 – 5 things we regularly write, (i.e., big topics that are exceedingly important to us) about as writers. I’ll ask them, in as few words as possible, to write those things down in each part of their paper. Finally, I’ll invite them to brainstorm, just like I did, about each of their writing territories. So all of my talk of I-want-this-to-look-cute-so-I-can-hang-these-on-the-wall-just-like-I-did-with-my-former-students’-heart-maps has been thrown out the window. That was art for art’s sake. And for goodness sake, these territories don’t need to be hung on the wall! If they land up there, great, but I don’t think that going into an assignment with the intention of “How can I make this into a bulletin board?” makes for a sound curricular decision. Hence, my apologies for my brief diversion from what really matters earlier this month.

Edited on 7/26 @ 3:00 p.m.: To see some of the art activities I’ve done with my kids, some of which are tied to the curriculum and some of which are done for pure enjoyment, click here, here, here, and here.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

5 thoughts on “For Art’s Sake!!! Leave a comment

  1. Wow — How did I miss this conversation? Some messy thinking about this topic (when I should be ironing my clothes for tomorrow) —

    I believe any time we use art to capture a memory, make sense of the world, or understand an idea more completely — when we combine words + pictures, then that is a worthy endeavor. Through scrapbooking, I find deep meaning in my living . . . and I do this through photos, words, and products.

    I also believe that any time we use art to relax, calm our minds, or pause our busy lives, then that is a worthy endeavor.

    In the class I’m taking this month, there have been two coloring pages assigned. It is amazing the way the repetitive nature of coloring can realign and reaffirm my priorities. Sometimes I think our kids need this. They need to know the soothing power of art. However, I don’t believe that school time is necessarily the place to learn this lesson! Though, perhaps we could encourage it by sending home this kind of challenge?

    Okay, I’ve now digressed from the original point of Stacey’s post . . . still, it’s made for some good thinking!

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  2. Kathie:

    Ruth has inspired me to be more creative on my own time. It’s been quite good for me since I found that I really do love art and enjoy doing crafty things. I started taking ceramics a few months ago (after having been away from it for quite some time) and I’m glad I did it again. There’s something wonderful about working with clay!

    I posted some links at the bottom of the original post with some art activities I’ve done with my kids that have been for pure enjoyment. I don’t have everything in here, including my favorite bleeding tissue paper art frames one, but I think it’s a starting point in case anyone is the sole art teacher in the room and is looking for ideas.

    Thanks for your thinking on this issue. It’s appreciated.

    Best,
    Stacey

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  3. I don’t know, sometimes I wish that as an adult, I did do more art for art’s sake. It may not be an activity that an adult would do, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an activity that an adult should do.

    I think all scrapbooking would be considered art for art’s sake. We could just mount our pictures on pages, but we don’t because it does make the experience more meaningful when we add our creativity.

    I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, rather thinking “out loud”.

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  4. Let me clarify… the heart maps are NOT art for art’s sake. Those are a meaningful art activity. However, my desire to make that writing territory thing into an art activity was art for art’s sake.

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  5. Yes, I do agree that art just for the sake of coloring and cutting, it is NOT something our students are getting something out of. However, the purpose of heart maps is not to draw, color and display. I still believe in the purpose of this activity thought by Georgia Heard. After my students have done that project, each of them received later on a picture of their heart maps to glue it on their writer’s notebook so they can easily refer to it throughout the year. So, I believe that activity has a purpose, but if the whole thing just ended up on the wall, and nothing happens afterwards, then yes, I agree, that was art for art’s sake.

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