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The Art Critic Activity

Page history last edited by Frank Curkovic 10 years, 1 month ago

This lesson can be used as a general introduction to the arts. No prior knowledge is needed.


  • To investigate the criteria on which we judge a work of art.
  • To consider the extent to which such criteria might be common to us all.
  • To investigate the influence of gender and culture on our judgments.

Class Management
A large room is needed to provide students with the space to work on their own creation. The activity works best with 25 to 30 students. The lesson requires considerable preparation. The following items will be required by each student.
At the start of the lesson:

  • a glue stick
  • a piece of white A3 thin card or paper
  • 12 coloured shapes of different sizes, such as equilateral, isosceles and irregular triangles; rectangles; squares; and circles. The shapes should be of different sizes but about 5–10cm across. Each student should receive an identical set of shapes.

The following PDF may be used for the shapes. Photocopy and enlarge onto coloured A3 paper:

The Art Critic Activity-shapes.pdf


Midway through the lesson:

  • a pencil
  • a small piece of paper. In addition, the teacher will require a thick marker pen, and an OHP, with a transparency and markers. It is useful to prepare an outline grid on the transparency in advance.


Focus Activity
Without introduction, each member of the class is given a glue stick, the paper/card and the shapes and asked to spend 10–15 minutes making a picture or design pleasing to themselves. Have everyone put their names on the reverse side of their work.
Lay out the work as in an exhibition.
Give each student a pencil and a small piece of paper. Then explain that everyone is required to be an art critic. Each student is to spend 5–10 minutes looking at the works of art before deciding which is best, next best and third best. Once this is completed, the students record the numbers on the piece of paper and hand it in to the teacher.
As the selections are handed in, the grid is completed so that the number of students voting for each piece can be totalled. Once this has been done, discussion can begin.

Discussion Questions
Discussion is guided by the outcome of the selection. However, overwhelmingly, past experience indicates that the selection will not be random. Instead there will be clear favourites—a significant majority will vote for the same three or four works of art. If this has occurred, discussion could begin as soon as the most popular works of art have been identified and displayed separately.
Begin by asking each person who voted for the most popular work of art to give their reasons. It will be useful to have someone appointed to note down the essential points as they are made. Are there common reasons? If so, what are they? Issues often raised include:

  • realistic representation, as distinct from abstraction
  • content (possible emotions or ideas conveyed)
  • choice of colour
  • use of space, including issues such as symmetry and pattern
  • possible differences in preferences between male and female
  • possible differences in preferences between students taking visual arts and those who are not


Turn now to students who did not vote for the most popular work of art. Ask each of them to give their reasons. Do any common themes emerge?
If this is used as an introduction to the section on the arts, it is not necessary to try to close the lesson by making a set of neat conclusions. It is enough to raise questions of content, form and bases for judgment.


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