Overall aim of lessons

To see if introducing thinking into the early stages of a research unit would help students produce better research, and a greater understanding of the topic under consideration.

Thinking aim for this lesson

To introduce a thinking tool (ENV) and to see if using this will allow students to improve their research algorithmn, and if they can use sorting to identify key characteristics of constructivism.

Lesson Organization

I brought to the lesson a variety of examples of paintings and sculptures from the Constructivist period. These were all taken from the web site www.moma.org . Students worked in groups of three and were first asked to sort in any way they wanted, then to eliminate each image in turn.

After 20 minutes of sorting, I asked the class to come back together and for us to share feedback on what they had worked on. Instead of asking them to read out or describe how they had sorted the images I asked them to consider what they had discussed and looked at while sorting, and then tell me what were the common elements of work that fits into this classification.

After this was complete, I then asked then to reflect on what they wish they had known about the work before they had to sort it, or which specific pieces of knowledge would have made it easier to sort.


I feel that based on the results that I had from the sessions with the students, this was a very successful lesson. When listing the elements that have to be present for an art work to belong to the constructivist period, we moved from comments like " man-made" and "all have shapes" to "shapes are used to construct the whole image" and there is not a big contrast between the sizes of the shapes by the end of the discussion. Our algorithm for identifing a piece of constructivist work now looks something like this - Are most of the following present?

  • Often three colours repeated
  • dull shades
  • abstract
  • triangles/circles or rectangles
  • everything is connected
  • gold/red/ black/brown are dominant colours
  • shapes are used to construct the whole image
  • Shapes are of different sizes
  • there is not a big contrast between the sizes
  • concepts are similar but each uses shapes in different ways.

Similarly when asked to list what they would have liked to have known about the work, they stduents came up with what I think is a basic algorithm for researching a new art topic. They then compared this to what they had originally identified as their research algorithm and saw immediately that this one was much more practical and useful.

I feel that the success was in part due to the students having to transfer what they had observed into a new context in order to be able to answer the questions I had asked. I will definately try this approach again, and continue to get students to refine their research algorithms throughout the year.



# Renata Jonina 2011-11-08 23:11
Thank you for sharing, Gillian!
I would be interested to know how do you guide students. For instance, you say that after sorting was done, you asked students "what were the common elements of work that fits into this classification". Have you in any way tried to lead them (helped them in finding more parameters/values) or you just put everything they said on the board and worked with it as it is because students mentioned enough elements? If you guided them, then can I ask you how?
I would also be interested if you could share which lesson elements correspond to Step 1, 2, and 3 of the framework?
Thanks in advance!
# Gillian Boniface 2011-11-25 12:02
Hi Renata,

Mostly they come up with enough observations by themselves so that I do not have to guide them. Although if I see something they have missed, in the examples above it would be the very specific way that colour was selected and applied, then I would ask them to look again at the colours, what can we say about them? So I woudl guide them to an area to focus on but not give them the answer. I feel that all the sorting and then asking them to give me infomration based on their discussions are all at step one of the framework. I didn`t know what the answers were, although I did have an idea of the types of responses I was looking for, before we started. Also none of the students could come up with an answer without participating in the task.

The actual constructing of the final algorithm came later on (step two) as did the reflecting.
# Renata Jonina 2011-11-25 12:40
Thanks for replying, Gillian! It's clearer now. I would suggest we try to refer to steps every time we post something, otherwise, it is sometimes difficult to understand how you see steps.
# Alexander Sokol 2011-12-11 16:08
A short comment re sorting being at Step 1. I think it is possible but it may also stretch to other steps. For example, when doing a sorting tasks, learners may become aware of a challenge. In other words, a sorting task would be a kind of context for creating this challenge and getting the learners to accept it. In this way, sorting would stretch at least to Step 2 as there will be a need to build some kind of stairs to be able to define groups for sorting.
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