Sunday, December 14, 2014

Art Critique and the Internet- Project Explore Flynn Elementary

The first session of Project Explore has begun at Flynn, with grade four in the morning and grade five students in the afternoon.

Grade four began with a very loose "assignment" of drawing either their home or a self portrait, with about twenty minutes to work on it.

One of each- the drawing of a house is drawn as a map
Needless to say, not all of them were done, but that was not the point. The idea is what we did with the drawings.
Wait, I am not done! No worries.
Students then had to comment on each others work.  Whoa, we can say anything? Well, I said, you tell me.
Students had a lot to offer-  
Guys, say only nice things.  
But what if I think it's ugly? 
Then you gotta tell why.  Like give a reason.
What should I say if it isn't even done?

I let them think about it, and handed each student three sticky notes- they wrote a comment for three other people, that way in the end everyone would have three comments on their drawings. Responses varied in quality of course- the class favorite-to-hate was "I like your hair because I do."

I like your hair because I DO?!  What does that even mean?  Why does someone like the hair I drew? That one is stupid.

Maybe so. Critique is a tricky beast.  Why is it a "stupid" comment? Because it is empty, and the students sensed that. It doesn't create a dialog. It doesn't improve anything for the future of the artist.
And so, students categorized the comments they received onto a chart of "good" and "bad" comments.
Some comments, on both sides, we startlingly similar
 So much is subjective in art, including the quality of critique. One student disliked being told that her work was good because of the high level of detail- Too general, she complained. Which part do they even like?
Another student with the same comment, likely from the same author, loved it- It makes me feel good about myself, and that makes me want to draw more, so I put it under the good comments. It was encouraging. 

This student felt this comment was "good" because she has been doubting if the hair color was working
From this, students created a list of what they thought made for a valuable critique comment, regardless of if it was a positive or negative observation about the work.

Their list
At this point, a lightbulb went off for a child in the group.
Mrs. Elliott, that is EXACTLY the deal with the internet. This is how you have to comment on stuff on the internet.  Like YouTube, or Facebook.

Oh, these kids. Connecting the dots. Nice work guys.

SO, this whole exercise was actually...paper blogging!  Which is really just the same as art critique, and is a beautiful segue into one of their main goals of this session- blogging. Creating their own blog (we are using on an area of passion that they will research, make art about, and connect to their own learning. Stay tuned, you will find them at

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