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Do you want to try something new on the first day but feel stuck? An engaging way to get students to make art on the first day is to guide them through creating a heart map. If you have heard of heart maps before, you may have seen them as a brainstorming tool for written work. In the art room, they can be used for introspection in students’ artmaking. On the first day, heart maps will allow you to get to know each student by showing you what makes them who they are. Plus, you will have art to cover the walls and hallways the first week of school! This activity can be implemented at any grade level with adaptations.
Heart maps require a Surrealist approach to brainstorming, with the tenant of automatism or creating without conscious intent. This will push students past the “I don’t know what to draw!” block all we are familiar with. This may seem complex at first, so ask students if they ever doodle without thinking. If they do, then they have already done automatic drawing
To guide the creation of each student’s heart map, start with automatic writing. Demonstrate this skill with your students by asking for a random topic. Choose one they share, then speak a train of thought out loud for them to hear.
Read aloud one question at a time, and give students a set amount of time to respond. Thirty seconds to a minute per question is a good place to start. Have each question visible for students to reference while they work.
Ask self-reflective questions like:
Do you work with English Language Learners and need a quick way to adapt this for them? Simplify the questions and provide a copy so each student can see the written words. Students can also answer questions in their primary language or with drawings and doodles.
Ask students to read through their written responses. Have them find things they think are important. They can also add anything that may have been left out. Students decide on five to ten final things to include in their heart map.
Students draw a shape in their sketchbooks. They will then use size, shape, color, and pattern to communicate the things from the automatic writing step that make up their heart.
Here is where you decide how in-depth you want this project to be. This can be a quick sketchbook exercise, or it can also be expanded into a larger project.
Three options are outlined below:
The beauty of a heart map is that it encourages artists at all levels to share who they are in a visual way. Introducing Surrealism to the students provides them with intriguing imagery and a broader perspective of what art is. The inclusion of automatism equips students with a strategy for sketching or brainstorming when they feel stuck. This gives students the confidence to develop their own prompts as well as their own visual voices as they continue to make art this year.
Want to learn more about heart mapping? Check out Georgia Heard’s TEDx Talk on the subject.
What is your go-to first day of school activity?
How do you teach self-reflection in artwork?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.