How to Teach 8 to 12 Year Old Art

Study art with your upper elementary students.

When students first enter school, their exploration of art is simplistic and predominantly free-formed. At this stage in their development, art lessons primarily focus on developing eye-hand coordination and improving self-expression. As students hone their simple skills and continue to advance through elementary school, the focus of art lessons turns towards the study of basic artistic tools and the exploration of aesthetic works of master artists. When teaching eight to 12-year-olds, your lessons should add to the young artists’ tool box of skills and introduce them to prominent artists who were instrumental in defining beauty.

Study color. Teach students the primary and secondary colors. Engage them in the creation of a color wheel. Use the student created color wheel as a means by which to study complimentary colors.

Explore shape. Study works of art that are heavy in geometry, and ask students to ape these seemingly simple designs by creating their own geometric creations. Encourage students to add color to their designs using the information that they have already learned about the aesthetics of color.

Create collages. Students can easily create a thematic work of art using collage style. Give students print media, and ask them to clip out images that fit together thematically and glue them close to each other to create a collage.

Make trash to treasure art projects. Gather packaging material and commonly disposed of items. Allow students to turn this trash into a work of art by crafting whatever object they desire. One student may elect to build a robot, while another may make a doll. Allow students artistic freedom to make whatever their imagination tells them to using the resources provided.

Study the masters. While students will not delve too heavily into art theory until later grades, it is good to introduce them to common artists early on. Study some works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and other influential artists so students begin to familiarize themselves with the look of classic art.

Allow for experimentation. While students benefit from aping artistic masters, it is also necessary to give them time to create works that are uniquely theirs. Even if the initial intention of your lesson involved copying a masterwork, allow your budding artists to deviate from this plan if their creativity takes them in another direction.

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.