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Tipsheets

Teaching Students to Critique

Helping your students learn how to creatively critique each other's work

Overview

What is a critique?

A critique is an oral or written discussion strategy used to analyze, describe, and interpret works of art. Critiques help students hone their persuasive oral and writing, information-gathering, and justification skills.

Provide direction and guidance with the critique to ensure that students stay on task and address the purpose and objectives of the lesson.

Below is a sample set of focus questions for an art critique related to four major areas of art criticism: description, analysis, interpretation, judgment. (The number of questions and aspects of specificity will vary according to the art form and number of works in the critique).

Description

Describe the work without using value words such as "beautiful" or "ugly":

  • What is the written description on the label or in the program about the work?
  • What is the title and who is (are) the artist(s)?
  • When and where was the work created?
  • Describe the elements of the work (i.e., line movement, light, space).
  • Describe the technical qualities of the work (i.e., tools, materials, instruments).
  • Describe the subject matter. What is it all about? Are there recognizable images?

Analysis

Describe how the work is organized as a complete composition:

  • How is the work constructed or planned (i.e., acts, movements, lines)?
  • Identify some of the similarities throughout the work (i.e., repetition of lines, two songs in each act).
  • Identify some of the points of emphasis in the work (i.e., specific scene, figure, movement).
  • If the work has subjects or characters, what are the relationships between or among them?

Interpretation

Describe how the work makes you think or feel:

  • Describe the expressive qualities you find in the work. What expressive language would you use to describe the qualities (i.e., tragic, ugly, funny)?
  • Does the work remind you of other things you have experienced (i.e., analogy or metaphor)?
  • How does the work relate to other ideas or events in the world and/or in your other studies?

Judgment or Evaluation

Present your opinion of the work's success or failure:

  • What qualities of the work make you feel it is a success or failure?
  • Compare it with similar works that you think are good or bad.
  • What criteria can you list to help others judge this work?
  • How original is the work? Why do you feel this work is original or not original?
Additional Resources

Towson University has an arts site that contains various lessons related to all the arts, including critiques for many grade levels.

Most of the major art museums have some or all of their collections online as well as lesson plans and critique formats for teachers to use with the collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's education site contains lessons and a gallery of some of their collections for students to use.

 

Credits

Writers

Joyce Payne
Original Writer

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