Teach the Students Well

You say, “How can we teach students to engage with others about any type of visual art?” I reply, “Great question!”

Oh, You want an answer? Ok then, I got one for You on this one. Teach them artistic jargon. Teach them the elements and principles of art. They can then converse with any yahoo or fellow curious soul about any work of art. Bruh, it’s that simple. It really is.

The hard part comes the teaching of the jargon. Remember what I said last post? That we need to be LISTENERS as educators? Listen to the Students. Know. Your. Audience. How can You connect this jargon to their interests. Let them tell You and show You what they are interested in and then use the jargon as You talk. Boom! Any questions?

The Walker Art Center is a leader, IMHO, of transitioning us into a new understanding of the elements of art and principles of design- incorporating “the contemporary elements”. The WAC also understands and expresses the power of this knowledge to better understand art- and I would argue any visual element we consume nowadays.

“The elements and principles are a kind of language for art. Much like writers use words, artists select, arrange, and combine lines, shapes, colors, and textures in a multitude of ways to express themselves and create meaning in art. Just like we need to learn how to read the words in order to understand a story, we often need to learn the language of art in order to understand a painting or sculpture. Viewers of art need to understand the language of these elements and principles to fully appreciate what artist(s) create.”


Having a knack to spot things that do not belong like a disruption, a blemish or something out of sorts is something that comes with practice. Did You watch Sesame Street? “One of these things is not like the others.” Or those images on the comics page of the newspaper or maybe a magazine? Sometimes teachers would thing they were so cool to include one in class work. Oh ya, now I’m hooked! Haha. That was teaching our brains how look.

Have You spent much time with an avid Hunter our outdoors person? The patterns the see in nature is outstanding. I was with a cousin of mine flying down a gravel country road when all of a sudden we began skidding into a stop with the e-brake engaged. Then my cousin hops out of the truck and points to a rattle snake in the middle of the road- the middle of the road I had been watching and never saw the snake! I do not have the trained eye that my cousin has. My cousin had the time and the practice put in for the eye to spot that rattlesnake while traveling at good speeds down gravel country roads.

I share this story to illustrate that we have an important role as art educators to be teaching students the jargon and investing the time to look at things in our classes. The world is more visual than it has ever been- in the way that we are bombarded with images through paper and print, phones and tablets and of course the TVs. (*Side thought: had You ever noticed how many TVs are on in the dark hours of morning or evenings. Have You ever noticed how many times in places we call homes they seem to be the only light?) I do not have the numbers for how many advertisements and such we see in a day, in half a day and in our first couple of waking hours. You have heard the statistics too. They’re absurd. So much imagery. I think we should be giving Students the tools to navigate and question and discern what is hitting their eyeballs. This is the future, the Students are the future. Teach the Students well my friend. Teach the Students well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *