Several years ago I went to an IB workshop where someone suggested a version of this activity. I’m kicking myself that I can’t give credit to this person, and I also don’t know if they made it or borrowed it from another teacher. In the spirit of giving, I’m sharing the lesson and idea as I’ve developed it for different contexts.
I’ve seen it in classrooms usually done via a slideshow with some conversation and dialogue amongst secondary students, but I’m beginning to think this could be better and have deeper conversations with index cards and small groups. (If you don’t want to lose the digital touch, consider creating a page of images via something like Pinterest where students then comment and vote and can group works into their own Pinterest Boards shared with the class). The basic slideshow I have, that you are welcome to develop further, is linked here.
I’m currently building a collection of note cards with only the images of artwork on the front. On the back I place their origin and title information. The artworks are from all over the place, from all time periods, and even some from a website called the Museum of Bad Art. Students are given a mix of these images as well as different definitions of art on assorted notecards. Students do NOT know some of the artwork is not actually museum exhibited work, but images of designated and curated “bad” art.
Task One: Pile the artwork into two piles. I do like it. I don’t like it. Talk about it. Decide as a group. You must have two piles.
Task Two: Explain to students some of the images are actually labeled and curated by a museum called The Museum of Bad Art. Review your piles and decide which works are Bad Art and which works are Good Art. Have a secretary in each group note the changes. (Any changes after revealing this information could offer ripe discussion material.)
Task Three: Sift through the definition cards and choose ONE that best defines art to you as a group. Now review your art piles again. Is there a pile that better fits the definition? Does some artwork change its pile location?
Task Four: Shared Definition: Have two groups now team up and share their results. Rile them up, ask challenging questions, encourage the dialogue and discourse. Once you get down to two larger groups and they can come to consensus do a classwide share. Decide on a definition of art for this class and discuss how definitions impact understanding and appreciation of art.
Task Five: Wrap Up: Then, show the students which works were from the Museum of Bad Art. Have them raise their hands to vote as you go through each note-card describing the artwork, is it or isn’t it? Some will be uncomfortable making a commitment, but the point is to encourage them to take a stand and argue their point, not to mention highlight the ambiguity that comes with appreciating and making art!
Other applications of this activity: this could be a family activity – take the definition cards to a museum with you and use definitions to help your family look through and appreciate the artwork, OR, teaching TOK? This could be a great way to open the subject of Art.
What standards does this meet? If you look at NESA standards, this fulfills:
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Consider encouraging parental engagement by asking students to work on this task as part of a homework assignment where their family works together on some of the above discussion and tasks.