Have you tried using art postcards to teach or review important art concepts? It’s a fun way to expose your students to great artwork, teach or review important concepts, and provide a hands-on learning experience all at the same time.
Where to find art postcards
All you need is a collection of art postcards or other small reproductions of fine art. Many of my art postcards are from local artists announcing an exhibit or open studio event. I love to collect art postcards when I visit museum gift shops, too.
Greeting cards and calendars are great sources for small reproductions, too, along with museum catalogs and brochures. I’ve also found old books at yard sales that I’ve cut photos from. But keep in mind that anything printed on thin paper should be glued onto cardstock for durability.
If you don’t already have a collection like this, now is a great time to start! You’ll be amazed at how quickly your collection will grow once you’re on the look-out for art postcards.
How to teach or review with 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 small groups on the floor.
First, teach or review the art concept you want to focus on that day. Some examples I’ve used are landscapes, portraits, still lifes, seascapes, abstract art, realism, 2D, 3D… you get the idea! I usually write each concept on the board as I teach or review it.
Next, pass out a stack of randomly selected art postcards to each group and ask students to sort them into sets. For example, you could ask them to place abstract art in one group and representational art in another. Or ask them to “Find all the portraits”, or “Find all the 3D art” in their stack of cards.
Then, have students choose someone in their group to share their results with the rest of the class. Or, you can assign the student who is tallest, oldest, has the closest birthday, etc., changing the “requirements” each rotation.
Another option is for each student to have their own card. Then call out one of the Elements of Art or Principles of Design. Have students find that element or principle in the art on their card. As you can see, the possibilities are endless!
You’ll enjoy these benefits when you use art postcards to teach or review…
- You’re not consuming any materials, so it’s easy on your budget.
- You can adapt this activity to whatever concepts you want to teach or review.
- Art postcards get your students looking closely at art and using art vocabulary to talk about it.
- Students will be using the higher level thinking skills of comparing and contrasting.
- Kids really enjoy being hands-on and interactive.
- You can easily do this for an entire class period. Or, you can use this as “filler” for just 10 minutes if you have extra time after finishing other work.
- Students will learn that within any given category of art is a wide variety of styles.
- This activity can be enjoyed with a variety of ages. Sorting art postcards can be as challenging and sophisticated as you want to make it. I’ve seen adults become totally absorbed doing this!
Important note: Be sure to carefully check both the front and back of your art postcards for age appropriate content before giving them to your students!