Art and the Classical Model of Education

It’s great that you’re interested in learning more about the Classical Model of Education to teach art. It’s the model we use here and it shapes how we approach every new subject (not just art)!

The Classical Model of Education is often described in slightly different ways, but the three things we all seem to agree on are: 

  1. Methods before Content: This means we focus on teaching students HOW to learn. The subject matter (like the 7 Elements of Art or the chronology of WWII) is important, but less important than the skills of learning (like how to memorize, or to organize information, how to approach a new subject). We emphasize the skills of learning by using the Trivium.
  2. The Trivium: This is the three types/layers/stages of learning:
    • Grammar: Gaining a foundational knowledge of the facts for the subject
    • Dialectic / Logic: Analyzing and experimenting with the knowledge to gain understanding- The Riches are in the Wrestling!
    • Rhetoric / Poetic: Applying the knowledge and understanding for communicating truth, goodness, and beauty with others
  3. Subject integration: Avoid siloing each subject away from all the other subjects. Every area of study naturally overlaps with other areas. Embrace these overlaps!

The 5-Part Classical Education Series

Helping you be an amazing art teacher

We did a five-part series on the Classical Model and how it relates to art on the Anyone Can Teach Art podcast. You can listen to each episode on our podcast or read through the detailed show notes.

Here’s all the links to this full series on using the Classical Model of Eduction to teach art:


Keepin’ it Classy Gut Check

As I’ve mentioned on the podcast, I didn’t grow up with the Classical Model. Sometimes, my brain will revert back to it’s old rut of industrial education. So, I’ve created a short set of gut-check guidelines that I can refer to when I’m teaching art to make sure I’m keeping it classical. Now, there’s nothing wrong with just playing around with art supplies or just sketching without a lesson. (Actually, it’s really great to spend time doing those things!) However, my students don’t need a teacher to do that. So, if I’m going to the trouble to set aside time for an actual art lesson, I want to make sure it’s full of value for my students!

Here’s a set of guidelines I use to help me keep it classical in the Grammar stage:

  • Introduce a few new vocabulary terms with each lesson.
  • Introduce an art principle within each art project (like one of the 7 Elements of Art or one of the Principles of Design)
  • Either sample a variety of techniques/media with one project, or pick one medium and use it for 3 weeks in a row to help students really get a feel for it.
  • Always show students how to do something before you ask them to go be creative with that tool, principle, or technique.
  • Integrate your art project with other subjects you’re studying whenever possible. (History and Science are usually the easiest.)
  • When possible, create a memory sentence for students that contains some foundational knowledge in art or a related topic.

Other Classical Model Resources

These resources will help you understand the Classical Model better, however, they don’t speak about art much.The Classical Model of Education

  • Dorothy Sayers’s speech / essay, The Lost Tools of Learning is a well-known resource for understanding the Classical Model. Follow this link for a free PDF download of her speech or an audio version of Julie reading her speech.
  • Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations, has written a wonderful series of books about the Classical Model. In addition to her books, I highly suggest you request a Classical Conversations catalogs to see the wide range of great resources they offer. Here are the books Leigh Bortins wrote:
  • The CIRCE Institute (They themselves say CIRCE stands for either “Center for Independent Research on Classical Education” or “Consulting and Integrated Resources for Classical Educators.”) is a big leader in Classical Education. They provide some curriculum, a podcast network, books, and even an annual conference!
  • Vertias Press is an online school and curriculum creator for Classical Christian Education. While I, personally, have never used their products, I know many people like them.

Next Step:

Now that you’ve learned about the Classical Model of Education and how to use it to teach art, check out the many art lesson plans we have available for purchase that make use of the Classical Model!

Art Curriculum from Ridge Light Ranch


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This