Aspects to Consider Before Pursuing Visual Arts Instruction Online

Amanda Martin
Amanda Martin
Elementary school music teacher; M.A.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction
Teacher painting a large canvas while on camera.

What is Visual Arts?

Although the name may give away its meaning, visual arts are exactly that… visual!  Visual arts include drawings, paintings, sculpture, pottery, ceramics, and crafts. It even includes components of graphic design, film making, photography, and other virtual depictions of art, too! Visual art creates a unique experience for both the viewer and those creating the art (regardless of the medium).

How Visual Arts Benefit Students

An Outlet for Unique Expression

One of the most important benefits of visual art is the element of creative expression. Students can use visual art to express themselves, cope with their emotions, and/or explore ideas that are uniquely their own. This is especially important for students who struggle sharing thoughts with others or those students with social disabilities or anxiety. Visual art creates an opportunity for students to show who they are through a medium other than verbal expression.

Creates a Sense of Accomplishment

Can you think of a time when you completed a project? How did it make you feel? Generally speaking, when we complete something that we did of our own accord, it is natural to feel proud, confident, and accomplished. Students experience these same emotions after completing a visual art project! Not only do students learn to take pride in their work, they discover that hard work is rewarding and truly does pay off.

Fine Motor Skills and Coordination

Many of the specific visual arts require the use of fine motor skills. When drawing or painting, students must be able to produce small motions with a brush or pencil. As students get more practice with this, their ability to conduct these movements and their overall coordination improves. Additionally, coordination is a crucial component of almost all of the visual arts, and students and teachers alike will find that with continued practice, these skills are improved.

Improves Listening Skills

Students who participate in visual art are required to listen to explicit instructions in order to master specific skills. This requires a great deal of discipline and responsibility. As students progress in visual art, listening skills begin to grow and become more second nature which moves beyond just the visual art classroom but into other disciplines and ways of life!

Exposure to New Cultures

One of the most amazing aspects of visual art is that it transcends language barriers. People of all cultures and backgrounds can enjoy art, but most importantly, students can experience art from different cultures to foster new perspectives and a deeper understanding of the world around us. Students can study art and/or participate in its creation to gain respect for people of other cultures.

Aspects of Online Visual Arts Instruction to Consider

Teachers or students may lack the necessary tools, materials, or equipment at home to correctly practice and implement particular visual art skills. Teachers can always provide some items to send home as needed or require students to purchase some basic art supplies, but this may not always be feasible especially when dealing with larger scale art projects. For instance, if the visual arts course includes a pottery unit, students will have a harder time completing this project in the traditional sense without having access to a potter’s wheel or kiln. Teachers may need to “pick and choose” units in the course based on the availability of supplies to students.

Teachers must continue to constantly practice using new online tools to be able to deliver instruction most effectively. Teachers should utilize various virtual teaching platforms to find the one that works best for their class and specific visual arts subject. In a normal class setting, teachers would provide multiple visuals to guide student work. For online instruction, teachers should utilize Google Slides or PowerPoint to give students a visual aid in their work. If the teacher does not have access to a document camera when modeling skills, it may be beneficial to record a video to be uploaded to YouTube so that students can reference it as needed.

In addition, teachers must think about how guided instruction would change for students in an online learning setting. As mentioned previously, teachers should utilize tools that allow them to either show modeling in real time or record themselves modeling the skill at hand. Teachers may need to spend time creating videos of their guided instruction to address particular visual arts concepts or skills. Aside from creating videos, teachers may choose to demonstrate skills and guide students via Google Meets, Zoom meetings, or other virtual learning platforms.

Teachers must determine how they will give students feedback or notes while learning virtually. To give general feedback, teachers could use classroom apps like ClassDojo. This app sends feedback directly to students and parents to their emails or to their cellular devices. For more specific feedback or notes on a student’s progress, teachers could utilize emails, Google Docs, or meeting face to face with a student via Google Meet or another video conferencing platform to discuss what he or she is doing well or needs to improve on.

The final aspect that teachers must determine is how students will self-reflect on their work. Teachers could use Google Forms to create a survey and organize student responses in both short answer and multiple-choice format. Teachers should ask students to define what was challenging, what do they need to work on or improve on, and why they decided to use a certain medium. Also, teachers may task students with the challenge of explaining the meaning or concept behind their work in written or video format (both of which could be shared with the class to further learning in a future virtual meeting).

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