Language of Art Unit
Language of Art Unit
Learning the Language of Art
- Grade level: Middle School, High School
- Subject Area: Art, Foreign Languages
Students learn to explore artworks using the language of aesthetic and critical inquiry.
- Learn to ask aesthetic and critical questions of artworks.
- Develop a vocabulary for aesthetic and critical inquiry.
- Learn to "see" artworks as artists do.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and
software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We
assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer with the necessary
hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as a World Wide Web browser. In the
section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in
addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
Special hardware requirements: none.
Special software requirements: none.
Internet access: Medium-speed (28,800 BPS via phone) or higher.
Classroom Resources: Art objects or images of artworks.
Discipline Based Art Education is a comprehensive approach to art education
with content derived from the disciplines of aesthetics, art criticism, art
history, and art production or art making (see Internet Resources below). The lessons in this unit primarily focus on
aesthetics and art criticism. It is also important to note that these lessons can be easily adapted for use with less experienced students by simplifying the vocabulary and discussion questions.
- Introduce the lesson by outlining for students the plans for the next few class sessions. Let
students know that they will be learning how to discuss artworks using the frameworks of aesthetics
and art criticism, that they will translate their language of art into a foreign language that they are
studying, that they will establish a connection with art students in a classroom or school who are
studying the same foreign language or have the reverse complement of first and second languages from your students.
Explain that students in both locations will agree to select the same images from an Internet site, that they will
write about those images using aesthetic and critical observations in the second language, and that they will
exchange responses with the collaborating students.
- Using actual art objects in the classroom or images of artworks, discuss the differences between recognizing objects at the level of naming or labeling, and "seeing" objects
from the disciplines of *aesthetics and *art criticism (*see Visual Arts Terms and Definitions below.)
- Ask students to describe a *realistic artwork.
- Next, ask students to describe an artwork that is *expressionistic or *abstract in style.
- Use the similarities
and differences between the ways they described both works as an opportunity to explain that artists have developed ways of seeing
and talking about artworks that can be used to discuss many styles of artworks (aesthetics and art criticism).
- Distribute a list of visual arts vocabulary words and questions that students can use to frame their discussion
using aesthetics and art criticism. You can use the words and questions in this lesson or others you have developed.
Leave space on the list for students to write during the discussion. The following is a list of possible
discussion questions have been adapted from the The Nebraska K-12 Curriculum frameworks for the Visual and Performing Arts (see Internet Resources and Print Materials below).
- Does this art look real?
- How does this make you feel?
- What kind of shapes do you see?
- What is the meaning of this artwork?
- How does this particular work construct meaning through form, symbols, *techniques and *medium?
- What do you suppose the artist intended to communicate through this work of art? (ideas or concepts, emotions,
- Does this artwork serve a purpose in society? Is it a worthwhile purpose?
- Can artworks that are functional (useful in everyday life) have meaning as well?
- How has the artist used the *art elements in this artwork?
- What are the characteristics of this work that make it part of a particular style?
- What do you think this work is trying to express?
- Is this work expressing a significant idea or emotion?
- What characteristics make this work successful? Why?
- What are the criteria that you use to judge a work of art?
- How have your experiences helped you to formulate criteria for evaluating art?
- Explain that students will keep the lists of words and questions and their discussion notes for the next lessons in this unit.
Visual Arts Terms and Definitions
The lessons in this unit use terms that are specific to aesthetic and critical inquiry of the visual arts.
Definitions of these words and concepts from the National Standards for Arts Education and other sources are included in the
- Abstraction. Any painting or sculpture in which the focus of the work is on aspects subsidiary to the realistic look of things, even though the work may "represent" images and arrangements realistically or not.
- Aesthetics. A branch of philosophy that focuses on the nature of beauty, the nature and value
of art, and the inquiry processes and human responses associated with those topics.
- Art criticism. Describing and evaluating the media, processes, and meanings of works of visual art, and making
- Art elements. Visual art components, such as line, texture, color, form, value, and space.
- Art history. A record of the visual arts, incorporating information, interpretations, and
judgments about art objects, artists, and conceptual influences on developments in the visual arts.
- Art media. Broad categories for grouping works of visual art according to the art materials (e.g. paint,
clay, cardboard, canvas, film, wood, plastic, watercolors) used.
- Expressionism. Art in which the emphasis is on inner emotions, sensations, or ideas rather than actual appearance.
- Expressive features. Elements evoking affects such as joy, sadness, or anger.
- Organizational principles. Underlying characteristics in the visual arts, such as repetition, balance, emphasis,
contrast, and unity.
- Realism. Any painting or sculpture in which a fairly close approximation of the look of things is retained. Though modifications to natural appearances may be made, the artist stops short of distortion.
- Techniques. Specific methods or approaches used in a larger process; for example, graduation of value
or hue in painting or conveying linear perspective through overlapping, shading, or varying size or color.
- ArtsEdNet: The Getty Education Institute for the Arts
introduction to Discipline Based Art Education theory from Getty Education Institute for the Arts.
- ARTnet Nebraska
The Nebraska K-12 Curriculum frameworks for the Visual and Performing Arts is under development by the Nebraska Department of Education.
- The National
Standards for Arts Education
The standards include definitions for terms used in the visual arts.
The Nebraska K-12 Curriculum frameworks for the Visual and Performing Arts is under development by the Nebraska Department of Education, 301 Centennial Mall South, Lincoln, NE 68509-4987.
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