Taking it Literally

One of my goals as an art teacher is to stretch my students creatively. I find that a few have a difficult time thinking in the abstract and tend to take all assignment prompts in a very literal way.

Last year I gave an assignment that was based on a British art exam. Students were asked to explore a theme – Delicate. Unfortunately, one or two students refused to be pushed beyond a very basic depiction of a hair bow. I’ve learned that when I want students to dig deeper and beyond the literal, I must structure assignments in a way that demands a more in-depth response. It might be the theme – something that can’t be Googled easily. It might be the criteria – for example, something that is found within the person. It might be the way the project is constructed – juxtaposing two images to create a new entity or statement.

I find that students who are pushed in this way are usually aware that they are growing creatively. Although they find the process challenging and sometimes frustrating, they tend to be more proud of their accomplishments when pushed in this way.

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