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Helping Students Navigate Connections Between Art and Real World Application in the Elementary Years


With elementary age students, it's important for them to make connections between art and story. Developing visual language as a way for students to tell their own story can be empowering, especially for those who struggle with the verbal or written. Encouraging story, themes, characters and imagination through their own work helps give agency and understanding of the world around them.



Lesson Examples

For younger ages, focus will be on imagination, characters, and themes. Introducing them to childrens' illustrators and stories provides inspiration. Planning a preliminary sketch helps them narrow down ideas and think about changes they may want after creating on paper. Various materials will be explored, resulting in mixed media, collage and the confidence to try new things.

For older students, encouraging agency and identity will be taught and investigated to develop their own visual story. We will brainstorm ideas through mind maps with icons, then move to putting all images together to create identity letters. 



  • When students are introduced to new artists, the result is a desire to create themselves. Ideas beget other ideas. Artists learn from other artists, and collaboration occurs.

  • When students are able to share and critique, a natural reflection of learning is solidified.

  • By the addition of other disciplines, such as written storytelling with illustration, students recognize art as a visual language. This forms a new habit of seeing art in all disciplines and everyday life.


Assessing Learning and Understanding

Pre-Assessing Students

  • Gauging students prior knowledge of subjects, concepts, materials and vocabulary gives understanding as to what needs to be covered or reviewed in a lesson or a whole unit.

  • Introductory stories, artists and illustrators, leading to encouraged questions and discussions, allow students to talk about not only what they see, but what makes them curious about the new material.

Post-Assessment and Reflection

Elementary students value the opportunity to share work.

  • Learning basic critique skills also builds purposeful thinking towards valuing others.

  • Compliment sandwiches are perfect ways to practice telling classmates two things they did well in their artwork and one area they could improve.

  • Drawing out their art vocabulary words uses visual support for more academic language. 

  • In-person critiques can be coupled with self-reflection if online learning is necessary.

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