Ted's teaching tips

13th October 2000 at 01:00
Is life today so drab that we have to create our own brightly painted version of it? Colourful costumes and decorated artefacts have always been enjoyed throughout human history, but is the modern world a grey uniformity, so we must emphasise ourindividualism?

Individualism in the modern world In what ways does society make people conform (laws governing behaviour; conventions on hairstyles and dress, such a s wearing uniform at school; using standard speech - BBC English - instead of local dialects; traffic rules - highway code; bureaucracy and form-filling)? How do people express their individualism (choosing distinctive clothes, to suit their personality; personalised car number plates; house decoration and furnishing; flouting convention or bucking trends - think of examples; unusual names)?


What forms of decoration can you think of, for people or objects (make-up, painting, adorning and garlanding with flowers, covers, plants, hats or lids, paper chains)? Why do people decorate themselves or their environment (to attract attention; impress others; please themselves; celebrate a special event such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas; cheer everyone up)?

Think of events where decoration is important (carnivals in Brazil, Notting Hill; processions, carrying flags, wearing special clothes; religious festivals; sporting events such as football matches, with badges, emblems, scarves and face-painting; buses with colourful adverts on them).

Art and design

Find something with a plain surfae which you can decorate for fun and which will not be spoiled (hard-boiled eggs; a white or cream cup, saucer or plate; an old piece of plain clothing; an ugly wall in the school grounds). Draw a lorry shape on paper, then decorate it with paint, chalk, crayon, felt tip. Mark out a pattern or a shape, such as a lion on paper, then on a wall and fill it in with pieces of broken crockery (don't cut yourself!). Try some unusual or particularly colourful ideas (which colours come over best?).


Describe why this driver has painted his lorry. Who is he? Where does he travel? Explain why he chose certain images such as the Taj Mahal (a symbol of love, built by a man in memory of a woman who died). How do people react when he pulls up. Is he glad he decorated his lorry?


This lorry is still a smelly old lorry. Is it worth tarting up the everyday?


Life in the 21st century could easily become drab and uniform, so why not personalise the commonplace? Bureaucracy turns us all into numbers, boxes, grey people. You can have fun with coloured mobile phone covers, make-up, face-paint. Christmas would not be the same without tree and street trimmings.


Painting a lorry with pictures is bad taste, trying to imitate real art. No one is fooled by superficial decoration, knowing that what is underneath stays the same. We should accept that certain artefacts are purely functional - not works of art.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter

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