One of the focuses of the Irish primary school arts curriculum is getting children in the classroom to respond to different pieces of art. Whether it’s listening to a piece of music or watching their classmates perform a piece of drama, encouraging the children to analyse the art they're experiencing is a very important part of their education.
Enjoying the art as an audience member is of course what we want them to do first and foremost. Part of our aim as educators is to help children build a positive relationship with experiencing art forms. This hopefully will lead them to want to engage with art when they're older; whether that’s going to an art gallery or going to see a play.
The secondary aspect of engaging with art that we want them to develop is to analyse why they like what they like, what they don’t like about it and how they think it could be improved. This helps them to deepen their understanding of the subject matter and can also lead to greater enjoyment of future experiences they have.
I think of this as comparable to going for a walk in nature. You could walk through a forest, for instance, and have a lovely time looking at the tall trees and enjoy all of the nice colours and smells.
This is great! However, if as well as this, when you walk through the forest you can recognise different types of plants and species and understand why things grow the way they do, it can lead to a deeper enjoyment from that experience. The same can be true when experiencing art.
In order to achieve this greater understanding, we recommend a system for the classroom called TAG. TAG stands for:
- Tell us what you see
- Ask a question
- Give a suggestion.
Here’s a video put together for our drama resources of Jo explaining how TAG works.
There are a number of ways you could structure this activity but here’s a sample framework you can follow:
Split the class into 4 different groups. Each group has to come up with a short 2-3 min play that describes a scary scenario (example ideas could include getting robbed, dealing with a bully or visiting a haunted house). Everyone works in their groups to come up with the idea for the story, decide on the details of the plot, and then assign what role each group member will have.
After they’ve rehearsed, each group will then perform their scary scenario to the rest of the class.
After the performances, you can use the TAG framework to lead a class discussion.
1. Tell us what you see
We want to start by asking the class what they saw in each groups’ performance. Here’s a few areas you could ask them about:
- What was their scary scenario?
- How did they use movement to tell the story?
- What were the different roles in the performance?
This first section might be particularly good in calling on any of the quieter children in the class to share their opinion.
2. Ask a Question:
This is where we ask the class to come up with a couple of questions they could ask each group about their performance. These could be:
- How did you come up with the idea for the scary scenario?
- How did you decide on the different roles for the play?
- What would you do differently in your performance?
3. Give a Suggestion
The final step is to ask the class to suggest something that might improve each of the other groups’ performances. These could be:
- Instead of this character doing X, perhaps they could do Y
- X wasn’t very clear, if you did Y and Z that could help explain it better.
- If you used X or Y as props, that could bring the story to life even more.
The idea of this section is for the feedback to be encouraging and supportive as opposed to being too prescriptive or something that might make the children in the group feel bad.
As mentioned, this is just a suggested framework for helping to lead a class discussion but you can structure it whatever way you like. Ideally, it would be good to leave 5 to 10 minutes in the end for the lesson to have enough time to discuss it all.
Good luck and give it a try next time you're doing an arts lesson in the classroom!
If you're interested in drama resources for the classroom, check out the details of our drama trial: