In your child’s classroom

Learning about meaning in art

Second-graders build on their artistic knowledge to communicate meaning in the art they create. You can expect your second-grader to expand:

  • The materials he works with, for example, to include oil pastels or charcoal
  • His knowledge of processes, by learning new ones, perhaps print-making or weaving
  • His skills, by beginning to give the illusion of depth and space in his drawing, learning to use overlapping shapes, relative sizes or placement

Dr. Mike Norris, associate museum educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains: “Often second-graders impress me by how deeply they can concentrate on something that catches their interest, such as a work of art in the museum. Perhaps they are experiencing Henry Miller’s observation: ‘The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.'”

Exploring color

Your second-grader’s teacher might reinforce the students’ understanding of primary and secondary colors by having them create color wheels. Students can also experiment with tints and shades by adding white or black to a basic color. The teacher might discuss with the class the way color can create a feeling or mood.

Learning the elements of art

Second-graders also practice their powers of observation and description by identifying patterns and balance in nature and in works of art. The teacher can ask questions to help students speculate about the meaning of a work of art, justified by what they “see.” Abstract art is especially appealing at this age and students can try making some of their own. They begin to learn to analyze symbols, ideas and purposes in works of art.

Integrating art into the curriculum

Second-graders apply what they learn in the visual arts across subject areas. They discuss the way art is used in events and celebrations in different eras and cultures. They might, for example, study totem poles made by Native Americans and design one of their own. They may be asked to use tints, shades and complementary colors to create a seascape as part of a study of oceans. Nancy Roucher, arts education consultant, says: “Integrating with other subject areas should emphasize visual art as much as the other subject area for it to be a meaningful learning experience.”

Many states base their arts standards on the National Standards for Arts Education which include standards for visual arts, dance, theater and music.

What to look for when you visit

  • Samples of student work that show art woven through the rest of the curriculum, such as drawings of historical figures or illustrations of books written by students
  • A variety of materials, such as pastels, charcoal, colored markers, water color and tempera paint
  • Examples of masks, puppets, ceramics or other artwork from different cultures
  • Art reproductions