Dolph Petris | December 2017

Keep Holiday Art Projects Real!

As we enter this holiday time of year, arts integration in the classroom doesn’t have to become reduced to meaningless holiday art.  Don’t get me wrong, artsy crafts are great to serve the purpose of a holiday celebration or event… but true art integration shouldn’t need to be diluted in the process.

Depending on your grade level, art projects could very well demand ‘crafty’. This could include making turkey cutouts that are hung in the classroom, a holiday snowman, maybe even an elf.  If this is the case, then approaching the project from a creative angle could help get your students to learn. It could also further embed the basic aspects of art and design. Check out this beautiful project from Deep Space Sparkle, as well as EdCloset’s Holiday Village Art Integration project.

We all know that this time of year is often interrupted with many classroom interruptions. You’ve got early dismissals, school plays, special holiday events, (not to mention the much needed end of the year holiday break for teachers!) just to name a few…  In other words, classroom projects should be designed with shorter timeframes in mind to help students remain engaged.

Elements of Art

I find this time of year is a great time to integrate some of the basic elements of art, and principles of design.  Take for example, a simple turkey cut-out complete with a fanned tail for primary grade kiddos.  Incorporating the elements of art in a project such as this is well served as it becomes a perfect learning opportunity.  As basic as a simple turkey or snowman cutout, I have used components such as feathered tails, hats, scarves, etc to teach my younger students about Line, Shape, Color, Texture, and Space.

  • Line: Basic outline of the object students are creating.  As you model the line, ask your students “How does the line help others to identify the object we are creating?”  “Do objects have a line around them in real life?”  Why or why not?
  • Shape: Perfect time to relate the line to the object they are drawing.  Ask your students “Would we be able to recognize this object if we didn’t create a shape?”
  • Color: Primary kiddos take color for granted because it’s just ‘there’.  Ask your students “What color do we make this object, and why?”  “Could we make our object any color?”  Answers to this question will produce fun results that will vary among age level.
  • Texture: Tactile Texture vs. Visual Texture.  This is a perfect time to enlighten students on the difference of tactile/visual texture and how two and three dimensional created art is always more realistic with either, or both combined.
  • Space: Two dimensional space/Three dimensional space, Positive/Negative space.  Ask your students “How does this object use Space on the page?, in the classroom?”  This art element has potential endless discussion possibilities.
  • Principles of Design

    For younger work students, I keep the lesson aimed primarily on the Elements of Art.  For upper grade students, especially those who are well familiar in the art elements, I also incorporate the Principles of Design, which elevate discussion and formal analysis to a higher level.

    • Balance:  Discuss the distribution and visual ‘weight’ of object elements.  Bring in each aspect of the Elements of Art and ask “Is the Color on your object visually balanced?” “What about the Texture?” Asking these types of questions will help get your students to reflect on what they are creating, making their work more meaningful.
    • Emphasis:   Younger students think that art creation leaves little or no control of how the object is viewed.  Discuss how various object elements may bring more attention than others, and provide reason.
    • Movement:  Static or Kinetic?  Literal or Figurative?  Where does the viewers eye look first, and where does it stop?
    • Pattern:  Often used in conjunction with Texture.  Can also play in important role in Emphasis.
    • Repetition:  Works with Pattern to make the work of art ‘active’.  Can be utilized in art for Balance or purposes of Imbalance.
    • Proportion Such an important principle for the goal of creating realistic 2D or 3D work.
    • Rhythm:  Where is the rhythm created?  In the Patterns used on the object, or from an Element used in Repetition?
    • Variety:  What about your art is going to keep the viewers attention, or get your audience to care?
    • Unity:  How does your art fit in with the overall goal of where you started and where you planned to end?  How is your work ‘complete’?

Holiday Fun!

Use holiday art projects and celebrations at your school to help solidify, or raise, your students’ level of art knowledge to a higher level.  Not only will your students become better versed in overall art, their level of art appreciation will also really begin to percolate.

About the Author

Dolph holds a Bachelors of Science, Product Design from Art Center College of Design and a Masters degree in Education. He has spent most of his teaching career as a 6th grade teacher in the elementary school setting with a focus on Gifted and Talented Education and is currently teaching a 5/6 combo in Fullerton, California. He and his wife have several four-legged kids: Bonnie and Clyde, Golden Retriever litter-mates, a street-rescued stray that looks like ‘Benji’ named Noel, Athena the cat, and two American Quarter horses.