Drawing on experience

14th July 1995 at 01:00
Malcolm Lockey reviews two practical and inspiring guides to art teaching. SKETCH-BOOKS: EXPLORE AND STORE. By Gillian Robinson. - 0 340 61117 0. THREE DIMENSIONAL EXPERIENCE. By Norman Manners. - 0 340 61113 8. Hodder Stoughton Pounds 12.99 each

These two books are essential for any teacher wanting to know more about introducing sketch books into their teaching or managing three dimensional work with children.

Sketch-books: Explore and Store provides a clear rationale for the use of sketch-books which will convince all teachers that their children are missing out if they don't have one. Packed with practical information, including how to make various kinds of sketch-books, it explains how teachers might introduce their children to the idea of keeping such a book as a vital resource for learning.

The author draws upon her own considerable experience and also uses the practical insights of busy classroom teachers to show how even very young children can use a sketch-book for exploring personal ideas, recording information gathered during visits out of school and as a place for experimenting with techniques and materials. She argues cogently that if children are encouraged and taught how to use a sketch-book, they will grow into confident researchers who are willing to explore all kinds of avenues and questions not just in art but across the whole curriculum.

Keeping a sketch-book, she believes, is a key learning process and as such a skill for life. The book is richly illustrated and full of ideas that are firmly grounded in a clear educational philosophy which in turn is based on sound practice.

Although intended for the primary teacher, this is a book which has much to offer a wider readership including parents and secondary art specialists. It will also be a very useful INSET resource.

In Three-Dimensional Experience, Norman Manners gently leads the less confident teacher into the exciting world of working in three dimensions using a variety of media. It's another practical book which provides detailed advice and guidance on such things as equipment and materials and how to go about organising and managing three dimensional work in busy primary classrooms. From early beginnings the reader is shown how to develop and extend work across the curriculum, exploiting the properties of materials and developing skills along the way. Projects are fully illustrated with a good range of black and white and colour photographs of children's work. Lots of good technical information on such things as mixing plaster, joining clay and building kilns is provided in a non-threatening and encouraging way. The author who, like Gillian Robinson, draws upon a lifetime's experience of working with children and teachers, firmly believes that children take naturally to working in three dimensions as a way of discovering something about the world in which they live.

The appealing and important feature of both of these books is that they go way beyond the simply practical. Underpinning the wealth of practical information which is contained within them is a passionate belief that through working in art, children discover much about the world in which they live. They also begin to understand something about the process of learning which is as applicable in science and geography as it is in art. Although useful reference is made throughout these books to the national curriculum orders for art, teachers are constantly encouraged to bring their own individuality, inventiveness and energy to their interpretation of the orders and not to feel "imprisoned" by them. Both of these books provide information and inspiration for teachers who want to engage in learning adventures in art and the authors will soon be seen as friends who will always be there along the way. Every school resource centre should have copies.

Malcolm Lockey is art adviser for Cleveland local education authoriity.

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