Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympics - why, why, why?

I was discussing the Olympics with some colleagues today, or more specifically I was discussing how important it is to know why you are asking students to complete a particular activity. I've talked about being clear about your purpose before in my posts Play, Passion and Purpose and again in UDL and Task Design.

What I hear a lot of is "That's a cool activity, I'll try that with my kids tomorrow" or "That's going to look great on the classroom wall and the kids will really enjoy doing it" or similar types of thinking. Topics like the Olympics, ANZAC Day, Easter and Christmas seem especially prone to this.

The very first question that needs to be asked about anything you are doing with students is "Why are you doing it?". The "why" helps us make decisions around other questions lile "How important is this?" "Is this activity the best use of valuable class time?" and "Is this the best activity for the purpose?".

Let's look at the example of Olympic artwork - just because this will look lovely on your wall is not a good reason to spend class time on it. Why are you doing it.? Ok, it might be developing some new art techniques (or it might not) but often that is not why teachers are choosing to do it. Surely art should have meaning and a purpose beyond pure decoration.

What if we used that time to look at something like the 'Olympic spirit and what it means to us' or 'How the Olympics have changed over time and whether it is for the better' or 'Should we still have the Olympics?' for example. What if we looked at how we could portray our thoughts on these matters using art? What if we looked at some examples of Olympic artworks and asked what the artist was trying to convey through their artwork? Or looked at how portrayal of the Olympics in art has changed over time and discussed why that might be? What if we then looked at the techniques etc that the artist used to get across that message? Wouldn't that lead to some artwork that we could proudly display on our classroom walls while being a meaningful use of precious class time?

Thanks @lynnesilcock for the inspiration for this post.

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