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Subjects in action: learning to teach primary art

Just before she put her Post-it notes and pens away for the well-deserved summer holiday, we grabbed second-year BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS student, Lois Kitchen, to talk about ‘Subjects in Action’. ‘Subjects in Action’ is a module in which students get to focus on their area of subject specialism and how it is taught within the Primary curriculum.

Lois with exhibition

“’Subjects in Action’ has allowed me to focus specifically on areas of the curriculum that I am passionate about – art and music. It’s not only developed my skills and knowledge in these subjects but has also given me the opportunity to translate these skills into my own teaching practice and develop children’s learning.

“We started this module with a workshop from a local artist, Darrell Wakelam, and I must say I was rather intrigued when ‘3D artwork’ appeared on our timetable! I had very limited experience when working with sculpture, along with the majority of our teaching group. Perhaps, this was why we were so amazed by Darrell’s talent; the way he would cut and bend a piece of cardboard to look like what it was meant to look like completely amazed me!

“After creating many of our own sculptures (with Darrell’s help, of course) it was time to start planning how we would use the skills Darrell had introduced us to in our own lessons…this was where the work began!

“The task was to plan, resource, teach and evaluate a series of art lessons and a standalone music lesson. It had to link with the topic that the children were learning about that term and, by the end of the process, children needed to have a developed knowledge regarding sculpture and created their own sculpture piece too. Along with this, in our teaching groups, we had to choose approximately three teaching strategies to focus on and evaluate the usefulness of these throughout the process. These strategies varied from teacher modelling and peer feedback to experimentation and self-evaluation.

“This process helped us to develop a tighter and more in-depth understanding about the national curriculum expectations, assessment and planning within a specific subject and how to apply this knowledge when teaching the subject. It also meant we had the chance to experience the impact of art in the classroom first-hand.

“One of the main highlights for me was experiencing a shared artistic moment with the children. It was great to see the children’s creativity and exploration run wild and witness how excited the children were when the other student teacher and I walked into the classroom with our massive IKEA bags full of art supplies! It was heart-warming to see children finding and developing their own strengths within the subject and how proud they were of their very own masterpiece.

Primary school pupils visiting exhibition

“After this process, not only did the children experience and gain knowledge about working in three dimensions but I have developed a much more secure understanding about how to plan and deliver art lessons.

“Another highlight within this module was putting on the exhibition at the end of the process. This was where we could present what both we and the children had learnt in the form of lesson plans, images and some of the children’s work. After much chopping, sticking and many arguments with the guillotine, I was able to look back at the journey I had been on and identify with a single glance my own progression including my increased confidence regarding planning art lessons and improved use of teaching techniques specifically in art – not to mention seeing the skills that children have also learnt throughout this process!

“A group of children from Lozells Primary School visited the exhibition here at our university campus (City South). They were representatives from each of the classes we taught. They plan to go back to school and share their experiences and present to their peers in a special assembly.

“Even though the other modules this year have been extremely interesting, this module has to be my favourite. The way it was organised by our lecturers (Liz Lawrence and Keith Farr) enabled us to gain such a deep understanding of the arts at primary level and put our knowledge into practice. It was great to finish the academic year on such a high…but I must now try and find the enthusiasm and momentum to sort out those massive IKEA bags!”

Small group of primary pupils

Want to know more?

Find out what a typical day in the life of a BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS student is really like...

Lewis's story