Tips of experience on achieving great results from your art lessons.

As a teacher of visual arts education to future teachers, I’m often asked by them “How do you teach art to your class?” There is no easy answer to that question but rather a set of guiding principles which direct my teaching. So if I were to break it down into a list of must dos for those who would like to improve their teaching of the visual arts, here it is:

Your Mind Set:

Set high expectations for yourself and for your students of what they can achieve. They may be kids, but they can surprise you everyday with what is possible.

Learn to value that Visual Arts is not just about making a pretty picture for your classroom wall, it is a learning opportunity.


Plan and program sequential activities that build on knowledge and skills.

Plan units of work that enable students to experience the various art forms and different subject matter and also that focus on developing an understanding of the ‘ingredients’ of a successful artwork.

Plan realistically based on the availability of materials and resources in the school.

Plan interesting and fun units of work that combine both making and appreciating.

Do the research! Learn about the materials and the artworks being discussed beforehand. Give yourself the background knowledge.


Be organised, set up and prepared for your lesson and organised for the pack up routine.

Anticipate what problems may arise in your lesson and put things in place to minimise the chance of it happening.

Have a try yourself beforehand. Don’t be afraid of what the students may think of your work.


Develop and practise your classroom management skills to ensure safety, to prevent mess or accidents and to maximise the success of your lesson.

Provide both direct teacher instruction and opportunities for students to freely create.

Break down activities step by step where needed and put directions into terms that the students can relate to or understand. (Use similes!)


Make or create on a weekly basis in varying art forms using a variety of materials. Don’t let your art lessons be swept away by a busy curriculum. Make time for it!

Appreciating and Discussing:

Develop students skills in appreciating their own artworks to learn from their successes and failures. Talk about their artwork with them.

Ensure that students appreciate the artwork of others and their classmates in a positive way. To learn from the successes and not so successes of their classmates.

Appreciate the artworks of artists; the features, the purpose, the history, the cultural significance , etc. Students find it rewarding and interesting and it provides both a starting point and a reference to the ‘Ingredients’ of artworks.


Provide positive, yet honest and constructive feedback to your students so that they can begin to critically reflect on their own work.

Celebrate student achievement through encouragement and the display of artworks.

By boosting self-esteem and confidence as an artist — “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Picasso


Recognise through ongoing assessment and student work samples, areas of need then modifying your teaching and planning accordingly.