Monday, February 10, 2014

Art Is Fundamental - Book Review

 Art Is Fundamental:Teaching the Elements and Principles of Art in Elementary School by Eileen S. Prince is an instructional book on how to teach art to elementary and high school students, starting from the very basic and progressing to more complicated concepts, vocabulary, and lesson plans. The book is divided into three years of art lessons. The first year is appropriate for a first grade classroom, but the material can easily be adapted for older students and Price shows you how.

 As a future elementary school teacher, I am seeking a way to teach art to my future students in a way they can easily understand, yet also in a way that touches them deeply and inspires them. The projects in this book do both. The lessons Price prepares are ones that are tested and true as she herself has taught them repeatedly. She also makes a point to expand on any issues that might come up in the children's responses: tackling common questions, concerns, and teacher response.

 If I had to describe this book in one word I would say it is extensive. The breadth and depth of knowledge included in it is remarkable. Price takes the time to explain her art philosophies, her classroom management, the whys behind her art project, all in ways that make sense to the reader, even one with limited knowledge of art. I have to say, I've taken a few art classes and generally enjoy art, but I definitely learned a few things!

 One aspect I enjoyed most about the book were the pictures of actual student artwork (often from grade one and two) that are found throughout. I often was shocked that such young students could create such beautiful, creative, and complex works. I shouldn't have been surprised; young children are more capable of things than most people give them credit for. I especially shouldn't have been surprised considering the amount of solid instruction and information Price packs into her lessons. Nonetheless, I was impressed with the results. If anything my one complaint is that there should have been more pictures! I particularly loved her rule that the children's art must not look too much like hers or their peers. It gives her classes license to be creative and play with the concepts they are working on, while reinforcing the idea that every artist is unique and thus should produce a unique vision.

"Paper weaving, crumble montages, organic form sculptures, and value collages- there can be so much more to elementary school art than finger-paints and cut-paper snowflakes."
-From Art Matters book jacket

 Another enjoyable aspect of the work was how Price incorporates art with other subjects. Her art lessons reflect how art relates to science, math, and history. This makes it especially easy to incorporate art into the curriculum as a classroom teacher. The art projects you do in the classroom could really augment what the students are learning in other subjects. As someone going into education I believe it will be invaluable to me as I plan lessons for art as a subject and when I go to reinforce lessons in other subjects through art.

Art Is Fundamental gets a definite thumbs up from me. I believe it would be useful to anyone teaching art in any form, professional teacher or not.

Keep reading!

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