Differentiation techniques in teaching art

Written by alicia howe
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Differentiation techniques in teaching art
Students at all intellectual levels can enjoy art through differentiation. (girl with her painting & looking at other painting image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com)

Differentiation is teaching according to students' needs. If students are at different levels of knowledge or skill, teachers must find a way to teach all the levels present. In art, differentiation teaching must push the most talented to their fullest potential while helping less talented students reach their highest level of creativity. Art is an open-ended subject that makes differentiation less obvious to the students and can be used more readily than other subjects.

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Incorporate art into teaching other subjects. Begin with a pretest. As you begin a lesson or unit, have each student draw a picture of what they expect to learn. Let's try Egyptian art as an example. Before the students begin their drawings, show them examples of what they might cover, such as pyramids, deserts, camels, and pharaohs. Or, after you complete the unit on Egyptian art, have each student draw a picture of what they learnt. This will give students a chance to be creative while showing you where each one stands intellectually.


Try different grouping strategies when teaching art. Allow students to produce artwork independently, in pairs, in groups of three or four, or as two or three teams. This forces students to learn to work creatively with different numbers of people, blending different skill levels. Some of the expertise of higher skilled students might rub off on the less skilled students. And those with higher skills will be forced not to overpower others; the collaboration of minds will demonstrate the broad range of individual creativity.


When deciding on a subject matter for artwork, choose multicultural themes that allow students to explore their individualism, history, and family culture. If the classroom is not culturally diverse, ask the students to draw subjects that include their favourite pastimes, a family portrait, a drawing of their house, a sketch of a typical meal they enjoy, or other subjects that will demonstrate each student's home life.


Students work at different paces, so always have extension projects available. The highly skilled artists will most likely finish projects before the others, so have an idea of what these students can do when they are finished. These students often will have more ideas on how they could improve their artwork, so encourage them to produce these ideas. Ask them what they could add to make it more interesting, or ask them to incorporate their design into another aspect of life. For example, if they are drawing animals, ask them to create drawings of something other than animals, using the patterns found on the animal's fur or skin.

Free Time

Always incorporate some free time into an art lesson. Free time allows those less skilled to work toward gaining more confidence and creativity in their work by allowing them to create artwork in any subject that they wish, while it allows the more skilled students to challenge themselves and improve their skills without being held back by others or time. During this free time, allow students to either create art or read art books, which might spark more interest in art. Provide numerous types of art during free time, such as drawing freestyle, sketching an object, painting, sculpting, and more.

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