I’m gutted that the arts are being slowly but surely squeezed from the primary curriculum in England. For the first time in my teaching career, there is no place for a weekly art lesson. There literally isn’t. The mornings are completely given over to literacy and maths, and once you’ve allocated time in the afternoons to RE, Science, PE, IT and either Geography or History, there are two lessons left and DT, PSHCE, French, Music and Art are all fighting for those slots. Art and Music, the two subjects I’ve been responsible for all my working life, lose out every time. No, I take that back. The children we teach lose out every time.
In order to try and claw some time back for creativity, I’ve given each of my 7-9 yr olds an A5 sketchbook as an art journal and we try to spend the first few minutes in the morning around register etc. working in them. They have altered old book pages and stuck them in, layered shapes from the maths equipment, drawn on scribbled backgrounds with rubbers, extended fragments of pictures and torn pieces of paper to make fantastic beasts and landscapes, couched down anything they could get their hands on and zentangled with handwriting pens.
I would dearly love to encourage them to use messier media, but these are snatched moments and the journals need to be instantly packed away so as not to lose any time to the twin gods of literacy and numeracy. Towards the end of last week I was struggling for a new quick, clean and unusual activity. Then I happened to open up a post of Karen’s and see a little wrapped card of threads in one of her gorgeous little books. Brilliant – thank you Karen!!
I wrote some words on the board which I hoped would make the children think about colour choices. Words like: ocean, forest, desert, garden, fire, winter, summer etc. Then I got out all the coloured felt tips I could find and they covered the page with their chosen word in their chosen colours. Encouraging them to write boldly and clearly and as it’s pen, get it right first time.
Then they chose threads in their colour choices, and wrapped one or more strips of card to add to their graffiti-like backgrounds.
I don’t ‘correct’ or interfere, just observe what they do and their choices, and work in mine alongside them, so they can see that this is something we do together.
I love it when some of them sidle up and ask if they’re ‘allowed’ to do something slightly different, excitedly explaining their thought processes.
Before I can reply…
“Of course you are,” says another child, in a lordly fashion. “Mrs Hall always says it’s our art journal, our rules.”
I praise one child’s memory, the other’s willingness to ask ‘What if?’ and break the ‘rules’ and they both return to their work glowing.
I enjoyed a few moments to play as well.
No planning; few rules; no shared success criteria.
Heaven help us: what would OFSTED say?