Here’s an easy way to expose your students to great artwork, teach (or review) important Art concepts and provide a fun, hands-on experience all at the same time! All you need is a collection of art postcards or pictures of fine art that have been cut from greeting cards, catalogs, small calendars or even old books found at yard sales. Many of my art postcards are from local artists announcing an exhibit or open studio event. If you don’t already have a collection like this, start one now.… you’ll be amazed at how quickly your collection will grow once you start looking for art postcards!
This activity works best if your students are seated in small groups of no more than four or five. If their desks aren’t already arranged that way, you can have them sit in groups on the floor. First teach (or review) the Art concept you’re focusing on that day. Some examples that I’ve used are landscape, portrait, still life, seascape, abstract, representational, realistic, figurative, 2D, 3D.… you get the idea! (I usually write each concept on the board as I teach or review it.) Then pass out a stack of postcards to each group and ask students to sort their postcards into sets, for example, abstract art in one set and representational art in another. Or have them find all the portraits or all the 3D art in their stack of cards. The two sets shown in the photo above represent still lifes and landscapes.
The beauty of this activity is that (1) you’re not consuming any materials so it’s easy on your budget, (2) you can adapt it to whatever concepts you want to teach or review, (3) it gets your students looking at and talking about art, (4) it encourages the higher level thinking skills of comparing and contrasting, (5) kids enjoy that it’s hands-on and interactive, and (6) you can do it for an entire class period or for just 10 minutes if you find that you have extra time after finishing other work. Students will also learn that within any given category of art is a wide variety of styles.
While sorting games are typically a lower grade activity, sorting art postcards can be as challenging and sophisticated as you want to make it and is enjoyed by all ages. I’ve even seen adults become totally absorbed when “playing with Art”! (Hint: Make sure you carefully edit both the front and back sides of your cards for age-appropriate content before giving them to your students!)