By using thinking skills in the initial stages of my art units I hope to deepen the students understanding of the topic studied which in turn would allow them to create art work that is not merely skills focused, but demonstrates this understanding. By breaking things (topics/artworks/ideas) into different features and elements it will also make it easier to teach the students analytical skills which are a requirement of the course that I teach. (International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme)


The first unit that I have worked with this year has been called Medieval Mysteries. We focused on dragons, touching on other mythical creatures from medieval times, and I wanted students to consider why it is that in times of limited travel and communication did people in different parts of the world believe in the same things, and are the elements of these creatures the same.

I started by talking about what they already knew about dragons, and quickly established that although we no longer believe in their existence they are still as large a part (possibly larger) of our culture today as they have been in the past. The next task was to start breaking dragons down into their elements which would allow us to identify the elements allocated to certain characteristics and if we could see any patterns here. I had selected a large collection of images of different dragons and the students were to sort them into different grouping. They worked in groups of three, and initially they selected the easiest groupings - dragons with one head and dragons with more than one head, with or without wings. I then asked them to take each image in turn and exclude it from the group giving their reasons for why this was the odd one out. This became much more challenging although a few groups had no difficulty in doing this at all and were finished quickly. For the students who found this harder I introduced the thinking approach of keeping the feature the same but changing the variable. So for example we did a whole sort on dragon feet. Instead of looking at the whole dragon we looked at number of toes, size, width, shape of claws etc. In fact it became apparent that it would be possible to keep doing this until you reached the smallest common denominator, then once all the possible variables had been identified then you would move onto the next largest feature and so on, until we ended up with the dragon body as a whole. I think I may do this next time as it would help with analysing how the artist gives the impression of certain qualities such as fierceness or power.


# Gillian Boniface 2010-12-14 11:07
Sorry! wasn`t quite finished but as we are having network issues today I thought I had better save what I had written so far, and didn`t realise it would go straight to publish.
# Alexander Sokol 2010-12-16 09:52
Gillian, thanks a lot for the post. I am really glad we've got a new subject on the site. I also liked that your acount is rather detailed, therefore it's easy to imagine what was going on in the classroom. I've got one question, though. When you helped the students who had a difficulty with the Odd One Out, did you also focus on the actual tool that helped them cope with the challenge (the ENV model, if I got you right). This is interesting in the context of Steps 2 and 3 of the Thinking Task Framework.
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