May 4, 2013 – Saturday – NVAS: Standard 3


National Visual Arts Standards – Standard 3
Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Frank Korb

As I have said in previous posts, there are 6 OVERARCHING GOALS that my  students work toward and focus on EVERY DAY during the year in all of my art classes. These standards are modified, but not “dumbed down,” from the National Standards for the Visual Arts so that they make more sense to the students and parents who are working with them through their art making and other art experiences. As I use GOALS in my classroom it OPENS THE FOLDER to learning.

This is the third in the series and the topic is choosing subject matter, symbols and ideas to create artwork about. We “unpack” so the standards are known about (declarative knowledge). It is important to note that, when the goals are given to the students, they are restructured (a smidgen) so that they are meaningful and pertinent to the day’s activity. Notice, they are not agenda items but rather bigger thinking topics.

The National Standards for the Visual Arts are now GOALS that are clear, measurable, observable, and understandable to the students, parents, and community. The use of goals is to keep the mind open to the idea of learning and focused on the act of learning, By combining both declarative (mind) and procedural (application) knowledge the intentionality is focused on the combination of art theory and art making as well as the investigating the close relationship between the two.


Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

As an art student you will demonstrate the ability to:

  • 3.1 reflect on how art differs and describe how it relates to history and cultures

Throughout the course, I work to relate the ideas that the kids are being exposed to and how they can tie it into their own culture. In addition to the work they are creating, it is important that they are able to see how art was created in different cultures and times and how that art related to the times it was from. What was happening in 1905 France that caused Henri Matisse and Andre Derain to throw away the natural colors of the subject and use arbitrary colors and thus become “Wild Beasts  or “the Fauves?” How can this all relate to what the kids might be experiencing today and how can they use their own times to reflect that feeling?

  • 3.2 apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in art and use skill to solve visual challenges

How can we use these ideas to help develop the necessary skills to become stronger artists, more dedicated artists, better thinkers? When we look at art in the classroom, specific elements and principles are looked at and focused on to help them push and challenge the basic ideas the kids oftgen have in their head. It is always nice to challenge them with “how can I figure this “proportion” issue out?” “How can I use this idea / trick / technique in another field / class?”

  • 3.3 describe the creation of images and ideas and explain why they are of value

Process versus product. Who is the one concerned with the process and who is the one concerned with the product. We are the artists and we are the ones who’s job it should be to be concerned with the process… not the product. In the past many kids would ask me “Can I be done?” they were more concerned with the product. Nowadays, the act of making art is the focus and the kids are looking more to HOW we get things done, how the colors work together, how the paper is handled, how the problems are resolved. That is the learning… the artwork is the byproduct of them learning how to make art (and lots of it).

  • 3.4 evaluate and defend the validity of sources for ideas

It is always easy to copy something from the National Geographic, but how does one come up with their own idea for an artwork? What makes it a strong idea or a weak one? Where artists come up with the ideas is a long time concern for us all. Only we, the artist, really care about how we came up with the idea and how we got the work done. More often than not the audience is more concerned with the “final product.” So, what is it that makes for quality subject matter? What was the artist trying to say? Was it successful? Does it really matter? (Thanks Ted Orland and David Bayles of Art and Fear for that one… buy your copy today!)

  • 3.5 evaluate and defend how
    •      3.5.1 subject matter
    •      3.5.2 symbols are used in art

Oh the critique. The world of art is SO MUCH MORE than just the art hanging on the wall. Writing about, thinking about, conversing about, talking, having coffee over, mumbling, grumbling, complaining, and being frustrated about the art. Standing in front of their peers and discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly and how / why / why not things happened. Writing about the process the challenged the struggles… it all goes into the process. From the critiques and reflection is where the real learning happens. Check out my classroom RUBRIC to see what I am talking about and using for collaborative feedback and grading… I love this.


Keep in mind that once you open the door, you also need to close it.  During the last couple of minutes of my classes, we take time to reflect, to GENERALIZE the relationship to the goals and the day’s work. This is the CLOSING THE FOLDER that allows the neurons to settle down and pack away the learning, the experiences, until the following day.

You can find these (and more) in my Visual Arts Handbook HERE.

Thanks –


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