Art and the Classical Model of Education

Anyone Can Teach Art

Did you know Julie wrote a whole book about teaching art using the classical model of Education?

Check it out and download the first few chapters free here!

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, (with a wide variety of intensity!) 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 organize information, and 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! Here we use the 5 common topics.
    • 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

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 are all the links to this full series on using the Classical Model of Education to teach art:

Helping you be an amazing art teacher

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,  Principles of Design, Methods of Perspective…)
  • 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. (I’ve found 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.

Isn’t Classical Education legalistic, strict, and boring? Won’t my child lose their love of learning with this model?

What?! I don’t know who told you this, but in my experience, the kids have a blast. Classical education can be a lot of fun or it can be boring- just like every model of education.

Other Classical Model Resources

The Classical Model of Education

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

  • 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.

(References to these companies do not constitute or imply endorsement by the companies.)

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!