Does giving students wide inquiry choice necessarily mean a lack of skill development?

Every child is an artist.  Every child has important life experiences which shape who they are.  This is the premise behind our central idea:

 ‘We All Have A Story To Tell And Can Choose How To Tell It’.

This unit is two pronged, allowing the students to uncover what is their most important life experience to date (aged 7) and choosing their creative outlet.   On completion of their work, we share their work at the Grade 2 Exhibition.

The students chose from a whole variety of different art forms, including sand art, canvas, clay model animations, comic books, sculptures, dances, poetry and mimes to share their stories.  Each student worked independently (some more effectively than others).

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By the end of the unit, a colleague said to me “If we had only focused on 2 art forms then we could have ensured more skill development.”

I disagree.

I think the richness of this unit comes through the breadth of the art forms chosen and the freedom that we gave our students made them feel more empowered and engaged.

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However my colleague’s comment resonated.  At the end of the unit, I asked my students which skills did they develop?  Together we named and categorised this whole diverse set of different skills, they included:

  • IT skills: some students learnt how to app-smash by using the stop motion app, then making a song on garage band and added it to their film in iMovie.
  • Writing: Some students wrote scripts, poetry, comics, daily reflections, to do lists … the list goes on!
  • Fine motor: One student made 75 detailed drawings for her comics, another made clay models of 7 cm tall.
  • Gross motor: Through creating and practising dance routines or mimes.
  • Commitment: Some students worked with clay and their pieces often broke or didn’t look the way they wanted it to. They made a total of 5 statues each.
  • Time management: To get things done on time for the exhibition, they had to make the best use of their time.
  • Creativity in each form of art.
  • Organization: bringing in all of their materials and then by creating to-do lists and executing them.
  • Oral presentation skills: On the exhibition night students spoke to 30-40 different families and the following day to 30-50 students each.
  • Editing: Each student made several changes to their art work throughout the creative process.
  • Research: some students were learning about entirely new art forms, so they researched different youtube films for inspiration or for ‘how to’ tutorials eg: learning how to make furniture out of modelling clay.
  • Cooperation: Students worked together at times and shared inspiration, ideas, materials and spaces.
  • Reflection: This was a very important part of the process.  Whether it be through improve their painting and asking themselves ‘Is it the right colour?’ or by watching their footage and reflecting on the quality of the stop motion, by considering the size of the models, the setting, the camera angle and the speed… the list goes on!
  • Confidence: Students became more confident about themselves, their project and their speaking skills.
  • Risk-taking: Some students, chose to write a song despire both being beginner musicians, they had to learn a new skill in a set time, it was a big risk.
  • Responsibility: All students had to show responsibility by working independently, being focused and finishing their story. At times they practised their dance or music outside of the classroom and they had to be responsible and be on task.
  • Resilience: Sometimes things broke and they had to stay positive and try to find solutions. Some had to overcome their fears and worries and believe in their abilities.
  • Patience: Some projects could not be rushed.  They just took a long time…


19 skills developed on in one unit.

86 inspired, confident, increasingly talented artists in Grade 2.

172 impressed parents.

8 proud teachers.





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