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What Did They Say? Interpretation of Criticism Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-ART0002
Submitted by: Tim Drey
Email: tadrey@students.wisc.edu
Date: February 17, 1999

Grade Level: 11, 12


  • Arts

Description: Through the group reading of pre-selected critiques, students will learn aesthetic qualities and terms of art criticism. They will then pretend to be famous critics and, as a small group, construct a review of a given artwork.

Goals: By learning vocabulary from a practical application, students will be able to better their performance in critique. Modern ways of phrasing criticism will help to strengthen the appearance of a student pursuing an art degree as well as placing art criticism into a context they can benefit from. This lesson is also a good way to integrate literacy into the arts, showing there is more than one way to view English and that in art it can be very broad.


1. Students will participate in am interpretation of a critic’s review forming a schema on speaking of art.
2. Students will be able to broaden their visual insights when
looking at art, making a verbal understanding of art influential in their own physical work.
3. Students will write (as a group) their own critiques of a supplied work of art presenting what they learned of interpreting visual items into words.

Materials: pencils, notebook paper, visuals: simple pictures from any magazine (their critique), reviews of artwork from Flash Art, Summer 98 edition, Learning to Look, Joshua Taylor: University of Chicago Press, ArtSpeak/Spoke, Robert Atkins: Abbeville Press Publishers, New, any dictionary


A. Motivational Activities
Time: 5 min.

Read two different yet, brief gripping accounts of a vibrant exciting artwork making sure one is technical and the other opinionated.

Teaching Method: Small Group, Peer Tutoring Class Organization: Students will be in groups of 3-4 after an overview of the project is given.

B. Lesson Activities:

Give a handout of reviews to each student allowing them to take notes right on the sheets. One person from the small group reads a given art critique while others write down aesthetical and cultural reflections influenced by the review. The articles should be broken down at the end of every paragraph speaking of the different elements. If available, slides of the work should be previewed before criticism is read. At the end, lists are compared and items discussed with alternative ways of explaining critic’s meaning. Also, teacher should walk around making sure they are discussing agreements/disagreements with the opinion of the critic. After an understanding has been reached, a duplication of an artwork will be handed out and students asked to critique it using the new literacy styles gained. Once completed, the groups will take turns presenting their opinion of the artwork in front of the class. Groups should be prompted to understand the difference in terminology when talking about different media. They should also be prompted to look at their own artwork and now visualize an artistic approach to describe it. An add on project would be to have each student exchange artwork to review and make a mock show catalog with all works and reviews side by side

Assessment: Immediate: papers reviewed looking for aspects of new properly used terminology and depth of interpretation. Long-term: Connection to new terminology and depth of critique at next student critique should be observed. Also, magazines containing reviews should be left around the room, if interest in them rises, this is a sign the lesson had impact.