Use this art discussion lesson for children, featuring work by Henri Matisse, to get children thinking and talking about art. If you haven’t tried art discussion activities before it’s easy to get started, and you’ll soon discover how they open up conversations and ideas, boosting children’s language, reasoning and confidence.
Art discussion lesson for children with Henri Matisse
When we talk about art, both our own work and that of others, we can make use of visual critiques. Our aim in these conversations is to find meaning in the visual imagery we see.
These conversations are valuable to children. Our conversations about art can help them develop skills which transfer into reading comprehension; the progress of their writing skills; scientific and mathematical thinking; and social skills.
Philip Yenawine has written about the use of visual thinking strategies, and a programme of learning using these techniques has been developed by Visual Thinking Strategies.
With our children, it’s very easy to get started with developing art discussion. In essence, we are asking:
What is going on in this picture?
What do you see, and what makes you think that?
How do conversations about art benefit children?
When we look at art and talk about it using visual critique skills we are:
:: identifying and describing what we see in a work of art
:: questioning and speculating about what we see, and how and why it was created
:: assigning meaning to our thoughts and observations
:: looking at things from many angles
These have strong links to language, literacy, and science skills, demonstrating the value of an art curriculum to the wider curriculum of education.
By exploring art in this way, children can gain:
:: comprehension skills
:: the ability to give reasons for their ideas
:: empathy, as they interpret what the people in paintings, or the artist, might have been feeling
:: knowledge of the wider world, as they consider a work of art in the context of history, geography, and culture
:: respect for others’ view points
:: an open mind, realising there are many different interpretations
An art discussion lesson using Henri Matisse’s work
Let’s try an art discussion activity using an artwork that fits our Sunflower School topic. Don’t tell your children what the artwork is called though – let them do some thinking of their own first.
To facilitate a visual critique of a work of art, you can begin with the open question: What do you see?
Reflect back what your children answer, asking them: What makes you think that?
Remember, and remind the children, that there is no wrong answer, but many right answers.
Let the conversations be oral discussions, allowing all children to participate regardless of their written skills. Spoken visual critiques can build confidence and allow all children to contribute and share their ideas.
Every child can have an answer, whether it is simple, complex, personal, imaginative, realistic, based on what they know or what they have experienced.
Keep a neutral response to the ideas the children put forward.
Re-phrase what the children have said, and compare, contrast, and link to ideas the other children have shared. “Jane thinks the girl with the balloon has been to a birthday party. Anna thinks the little girl won the balloon at a fair. Both of you noticed the girl is smiling, but Anna thinks the girl was upset and the balloon has cheered her up.”
Leave the conversation open-ended, with the opportunity to continue the next time there is a work of art to discuss.
Let’s get started…
Don’t tell your children the title of the artwork (I’ll include it at the bottom for information), just click on the link below to open up an image of it and ask:
What do you see?
Then use the tips above to keep the conversation flowing, including all the children and asking:
What do you see?
Why do you think that?
Once you have discussed the picture for a while you might like to tell the children the title of the artwork. It’s by Henri Matisse and is called The Bees. The perfect piece for our unit on bees! Did your children see bees in the picture too?
More art resources
Art discussion techniques have been developed by Visual Thinking Strategies.
You can also read more about these strategies in Philip Yenawine’s book Visual Thinking Strategies.
And if you loved Matisse’s artwork, try my Meet Matisse workshop here.
Sunflower School curriculum and printables
The Sunflower School curriculum matches a full programme of learning to the natural growing cycle of sunflowers.
It gives you six units of learning:
:: In the spring we’ll focus on planting and watching our plants grow.
:: In the summer we’ll learn about bees and pollination, and celebrate the gorgeous blooms through art.
:: In the late summer and early autumn we’ll turn our attention to harvesting, sustainability, and closing of the growing year.
Bonus sunflower printables
Our Sunflower School curriculum comes with 30 pages of bonus printables that you can use with your children to enrich their learning, including:
- My Sunflower Journal printable
- Lined, plain, and half-and-half journal pages
- Sunflower poems printable
- Sunflower sticker sheet
- Printable plant labels
- Sunflower counting mat
- Sunflower addition mat
- Sunflower subtraction mat
- Sunflower word mats
- Bee number cards
- Bee writing and scissor skills pages
- Garden Creatures page
- Honeycomb alphabet
- Printable seed packets