Choice-Based Art Education

Thinking of Theme

This year in my 8th-grade classes I am experimenting with providing a theme for students to create artwork from. I choose to conduct this research to examine the depth of ideas that motivate student artwork. After two years of creating their own themes based on personal interests, some 8th-graders seem to still be unmotivated, or stuck in a rut when it comes to the creation of their artwork. So let’s try something new!

Now students are to choose from among a group of interesting words like power, chaos, secrecy, perfection, etc. that I provide. After students choose a word, they will brainstorm and research their ideas and gather their ideas on a conceptboard using conceptboard.com (its free!). The purpose of the conceptboard is to collect reference images and decide on a direction for their artwork. My hope is that students will notice patterns in the materials they’ve accumulated. I encourage students to draw arrows, group images, and use the “sticky note” feature to make notes.

Here’s an example:

I hope this experiment forces my students to think more critically and profoundly regarding their artwork. The comfort zones of 8th-graders need to be shaken up. With the provision of a mere word, students can fill in the gaps and venture into a more abstract and metaphorical way of thinking. I’ll be sharing and documenting my research as the year progresses.  

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