The Value of Dialogue: Teachers Who Encourage Art Dialogue in the Classroom Enhance the Educational Experience for Students by Creating an Environment for Reflection. These Schools in California Show How Students Are Talking Up the Arts

Article excerpt

Manhattan Beach, California

A tour of Grand View Elementary's recently renovated art-deco-style school, showcases curvilinear corners, tiled bathroom walls, an aesthetically pleasing student garden, an outdoor theater rivaling those of the Greeks, and perfectly placed contemplation benches. The mastermind behind this project, principal Anita Robertson, understands the benefit of providing students a comprehensive arts education program and a school constructed to reflect this philosophy.

Everywhere you look in this school, you are sure to catch a glimpse of students' and master artists' works neatly decorating the walls. But another thing that sets this school apart from most others is the powerful dialogue that follows the production of each piece of art.

Seven years ago, Grand View Elementary obtained a grant from the J. Paul Getty Museum. The concept behind this grant was to provide discipline-based art education. Discussing art became central to this philosophy. Now, teachers are trained on instructional strategies and methods for ensuring continuous dialogue about student-created artwork. Teachers here are skilled at facilitating discussion and evoking levels of critical thinking unseen in other disciplines.

Hermosa Beach, California

The Artist Scholars Project at Hermosa Valley Middle School also teaches students to reflect upon what has been created. Students not only engage in art production, but exchange dialogue about things such as composition, balance, harmony, and artists' intentions.

In one photography classroom, students are gathered around a group of photographs. "What did the artist intend to communicate here?" asks the instructor. The artist, Hermosa Valley student Bryan Breen, drops back quietly as his peers take a shot at it.

"I think Bryan was trying to be funny; it is his sense of humor he wants people to recognize" says friend and classmate Matt Alvarado. Bryan's grin widens.

Dialogue challenges students to answer the basic questions of art production often not thought about by elementary and middle school students: Why did you choose to do that? …