Late Nights at the Whitney
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I start with reminding them that artists, like writers, are trying to tell you something. What is the artist trying to say? What are the clues (evidence)? I use the same vocab they learn in reading strategies because that is what they are used to and it makes sense to use the familiar. If looking at an abstract piece, we examine the materials used. Why did the artist pick plastic or metal? What is the shape? Lastly we look at the title and try to understand why it got the name it did. It's all about THINKING and there are NO wrong answers.
With older kids, I think sometimes they need the time and space to sit awhile with a work of art. Then, if you let them talk about it with each other, while providing appropriate contextual information, they can usually create meaning for themselves...
I think it's all about getting past initial reactions and helping them go deeper to make a personal connection. We each relate to a work of art in a different way because we're all different-- the richness then comes from sharing those different perceptions, experiences, and opinions. It's a way to learn about the art as well as each other.