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Art - A brush with the unusual

What it's all about

I recently taught an experimental "active approaches" workshop at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, to give Year 3 pupils an interactive experience of the spectacular paintings on show, writes Jerome Monahan. The theme was "children" - ideal when images of the young are on show throughout a gallery.

In the hour-long class, I focused on five images and used various drama- based techniques to develop pupils' understanding. One stop was Carracci's 1580s painting St Francis in Meditation. Having discussed the image of St Francis praying in a cave beneath winged infants, or cherubim, we looked at his life. The most excited discussion was prompted by his love of preaching to the birds and by how easily he had discarded a life of comfort. The whole class became involved in playing St Francis and the wolf.

Another stop was Nicolas Poussin's 1637 The Nurture of Jupiter, which shows the young god suckling the teats of the goat Amalthea (the source of much appalled delight). The challenge was to work out how the Cretan nymphs protected Jupiter from his murderous father, Cronus. The solution was not in the painting, so the children had to create their own.

Such techniques are often used at the National Gallery and the Tate galleries. But I still experienced a thrill standing before those old masters - the perfect prompt for some of the liveliest teaching I have done with children anywhere.

What else?

Children create an imaginary box and turn it into a home in this drama lesson from ClaireOCallaghan. bit.lyCreateABox

Bring Matilda the Musical to life in your classroom using workshop ideas shared by TES partner Royal Shakespeare Company. bit.lyMatildaInClass.

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