Connecting with Art

An Art Start Literacy Activity

Teachers Notes

These are simple, accessible activities designed to encourage students to make connections with artworks immediately through looking, thinking, discussing and responding.

Senses and Emotion Connections
Preparation for Activity 3: Create cards with different feelings and emotions written on them.

Word Connections
Preparation for Activity 1: Create a set of badges or cards that display a particular word. Suggested words include: strange, powerful, pleased, haunting, frightened, curious, dignified, important, puzzling, mysterious, tense, elegant, expressive, lonely, self-confident, funny, angry, sad, melancholy, swift.

Preparation for Activity 2: Create list of 20, interesting descriptive words on one sheet.

Preparation for Activity 3 (Quotation connections): Gather a collection of quotations from famous people such as writers, artists, pop stars, or sports people and write them on cards. Examples of quotes:

‘I rarely draw what I see - I draw what I feel in my body.’
Barbara Hepworth, sculptor, 1903-75

‘Big Brother is watching you’
George Orwell, novelist and author of Nineteen Eighty Four, 1903 - 1950

‘I just can't help but see things differently.’
 Kylie Minogue, Australian pop star

Senses and Emotion Connections

Activity 1 - Mystery Bag Objects

  • Fill an interesting looking bag with 10 items. Include natural and man-made objects in a range of sizes, colours, shapes and textures such as an unusual rock, fir cone, foam sponge, metallic ball, cowbell, snow dome, mask, lavender bag, and plastic lemon squeezer.
  • Working in pairs or small groups, pull an object from the bag and describe its particular characteristics. Look for an artwork in the gallery that also exhibits these characteristics.

Activity 2 - Mystery Bag Fabrics

  • Replace the contents of the bag with a collection of fabrics with different textures such as hessian, silk, crepe, knits and embroidered cloth from different eras and in a range of colours, patterns and textures. 
  • Repeat the activity.

Activity 3

  • Pick a card and act it out to a partner. Search for an artwork in the gallery that evokes that emotion and discuss the connection with the class.

Activity 4 - Mime

  • Mime the facial expressions and body language of characters in artworks. Choose characters that are displaying strong emotions.
  • Choose representational and abstract sculptures that interest you and mime the whole sculpture or its individual parts to capture the sense of movement and feeling in the work.

Word Connections Activities

Activity 1

  • Take a card/badge and work in pairs. Look for an artwork and explain to your partner why your word connects to the artwork in the gallery.

Activity 2

  • Take a sheet listing 20 descriptive words.
  • In pairs, discuss and report back to the group which five words relate best to the artwork we are standing in front of, and why.
  • Individually decide which one word on the sheet best evokes the mood and or message of the artwork.
  • Create a ‘word cloud’ of these single words and display them next to prints or posters of the artworks discussed.

Activity 3
Opposites Activity

  •  In many works of art there are stark opposites in features such as the colour, size, texture and emotions depicted. In pairs, discuss and list the opposite concepts they can find in a range of representational and abstract works.

Quotation Connections Activity

  • In pairs, take a card with a quotation from someone famous on it.
  • Discuss the meaning of the quotation and find an artwork in the gallery that relates to it in some way. Explain the connection in detail to the class.

Image Connections Activity

  • Gather a collection of images such as personal photographs, pictures and advertisements from magazines and postcards.
  • Working in pairs or small groups, students pull an image from the bag and find an artwork in the gallery that relates to it in some way. They explain the connection in detail to their class.

Book and Film Title Connections Activity

  • Discuss your favourite book and film titles. Work in pairs. Look for an artwork and explain to your partner why your title connects to an artwork in the gallery.

More information
Wordle – generating word clouds