Art by the book

24th March 2006 at 00:00
What is the best way to present art in the classroom? Books can be the best resource for activities which are inspiring, instructive and, in practical terms, produce minimal mess and maximum enjoyment.

Aboriginal Art and Culture (Raintree, pound;12.99) is a thought-provoking, visually arresting presentation of the artistic heritage of a long-neglected culture. The book's clear graphics perfectly match the bold artwork of indigenous Australians, a possible starting point for varied art and craft projects, while the clear telling of their social history should provoke discussion among older juniors.

A First Look at Art (Chrysalis, pound;5.99), presents well-chosen artworks alongside examples of key stage 2 school projects inspired by them.

Thrilling and varied work shows how easily source material can be used to stimulate explorations in photography (portraits) through ceramics (creatures) to collage (places). Using historically diverse material, from the anonymous painting of Sir Walter Raleigh to the quirky sculpture, Marisol's "The Family" (1963), offers a broad perspective. Easily followed instructions make a valuable resource. One technical niggle: the book is too tightly bound to be easily used in presentations to the whole class.

I Spy Shapes in Art (HarperCollins, pound;6.99) focuses attention on the representation of two and three-dimensional shapes in a selection of paintings which range from the familiar to the less so. Beautiful reproductions of paintings sit pleasingly with clear graphics, making a stimulating source book for work on shapes for KS1.

For very young pupils, Colours, A First Art Book (Frances Lincoln, Pounds 9.99), presents colour in a wide range of paintings. There could be more information on the painters featured, but the pictures themselves are lovely to share with reception children and pave the way for later school visits to art galleries.

Craft projects are a potential minefield. For ideas achievable for classes of 30, which can be linked to other subject areas and are clearly set out, Art and Craft Skills (Franklin Watts, pound;6.99 each) fits the bill. At the more sophisticated end, Indian mirror embroidery and Mexican wrap-weaving produce attractive artefacts to support work on other cultures and celebrations. The simple techniques shown in Printing demonstrate ideas for decorative presentation: roller-printing, combing and stencilling could be used to enhance project work on poetry and creative writing as an alternative to merely selecting a border design on the computer. Like all the best art and craft books, these stimulate a wider interest in the world.

Moira Stansfield is an artist and learning support assistant

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