Courtesy Cups

Article excerpt

Character education is happening in school systems across the country with the goal of making a positive difference in the moral attitudes and behavior of students. Character education and personal identification makes it easier for teachers to teach and for students to learn.

The artroom is the perfect place for character education to be taught and reinforced. There are a variety of artists and artworks that emphasize specific themes related to morals and virtues. I designed this lesson on the virtue of respect, while looking specifically at acts of kindness and courtesy to others.


This lesson begins by studying the history of cups. The Book of Cups (Garth Clark, 1990) examines cups created throughout history as well as ones that we use today. In class, I showed students a variety of cups that were arranged in a chronological format to show how cups have transformed over the years. Students saw examples of double-handled Greek cups, Medieval and Renaissance cups, porcelain cups, cups used in the Japanese tea ceremony, and ones that were designed by Pop artists such as Meret Oppenheim, Claes Oldenburg, and Roy Lichtenstein.

I specifically emphasized the surface decoration on each of the cups. For example, the Greek cups depicted marvelous studies of the human figure. Lichtenstein's cups are decorated with his signature colors, shadows, highlights, and reflections.

Visual Culture

We discussed present-day cups. I showed some cups that I use in my home, and especially emphasized my favorite cup. I asked students to think if they had a favorite cup that they use at home, and if they did, how it looked and felt. Next, I asked them if they had been to a restaurant and have ever asked, or heard anyone ask, for a courtesy cup of water. This lead to our discussion of what it means to be courteous. I informed students that courtesy means being gracious and considerate towards others. I asked each student to discuss a time in which they were courteous to someone. I explained that they would be constructing courtesy cups from clay that would tell a story about their courteous acts.

Slab Construction

Each student used an 8 x 18" (20 x 46 cm) rectangular piece of white paper to draw their sketch. They included themselves in the drawings, and added an appropriate background. Also, they briefly explained their drawing on the back of the paper.

I provided each student with a rectangular slab of clay larger than the actual paper used in sketching their designs. I gave a brief demonstration showing how they transfer their drawings to the clay slabs.

Next, I briefly discussed the idea of building up a relief form. I demonstrated how to build up some areas of the surface in relief form using small pieces of clay. …