Have you ever had a learning activity that was so fun that your students laughed until they cried and fell out of their chairs? This art description and drawing art appreciation activity is one of my go-to activities for great practice at analyzing art while making amusing art connections.
In this activity, students are forced to look closely at an artwork and notice all of the details while practicing their language and art description skills.
If you prefer to watch rather than read, I did a Facebook Live about this activity early in the month. (Facebook video not working below? Click here to see it on YouTube.)
Art Description and Drawing Activity
Here’s how it goes. Divide your class into partner pairs. Each pair sits so that one student can see the artwork and one cannot. You can either have the artwork projected onto the wall or give one member of each group a printed copy of the artwork. (Hint: If you’re using your computer to project the artwork image, don’t forget to hide your screen from the students who are drawing!)
Want a document of suggested artworks for this activity? Snag a freebie PowerPoint with artworks at this link!
The student who can see the artwork then must describe the artwork to the other student in detail while they draw it based only on the art description. The describing student must not point to or draw on the drawing student’s paper.
As students work, walk around the room and encourage them to use their words only. Help students come up with metaphors and art descriptions when they are struggling.
For example, some of my students struggled when faced with this artwork.
Many students said it was a face but had trouble going beyond that. I asked them to think about what the shape looked like overall, and many said it looked like a whale or a fish. That gave them a jumping off point. I also modeled other metaphor ideas—like a vacuum was pulling all the skin from your head from the back. After I said that, one student said it was like a blow dryer was blowing all the skin from the head into a point. Not the perfect descriptions, but they helped students process and describe the shapes that they were seeing.
I find this activity to be especially great for my English Language Learners. In one artwork, I chose a painting where a tea kettles transformed into a tree. The drawing student didn’t know what a tea kettle was, and the describing student had to figure out a way to describe it using other words. It was a great challenge for her and made her push beyond the word tea kettle into describing the lines, shape, form, and function of the object she was trying to describe.
After students finish, do the final reveal and have the drawers look at what they were trying to draw. Let the laughter ensue!
In one 50-minute class period, you should be able to fit about four rounds of this activity where each student gets to draw twice and describe twice.
Want to try it out with your students? Click here to download a free PowerPoint to get you started.
Curious about the artwork that caused my 9th graders to fall out of their chairs? Check out What You See Might Not Be Real by Chen Wenling. You’re welcome.
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