The little people | An art inquiry creative thinking activity

Slinkachu

This activity is inspired by an idea shared by Edmund Dudley in a webinar on creative thinking. There’s an English artist named Slinkachu who creates surreal imagery of little figurines in outdoor scenes, a project that he aptly calls The little people. I felt some of his art could be used as interesting prompts for encouraging creative thinking and speaking practice. I won’t get to try it out till April so if you give it a go before then, I’d love to hear from you.

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Materials

You’ll need colour printouts of Slinkachu’s little people either from the ones that I’ve selected or from a larger collection of his work. You’ll also need slightly vague descriptions of each of the artworks like the following with language graded to your Ss’ level:

There are two people in this picture, a woman and a boy. They could be mother and son. The mother is wearing a red blouse and a yellow skirt. The son is wearing a white t-shirt and beige shorts. They are walking along a road, which is in pretty bad shape. The road seems to be passing through a poor neighbourhood, perhaps a shanty town. The mother is holding the boy’s hand. With her other hand, she is balancing a large number of objects on her head. In fact, there are nine objects stacked one on top of each other. Some of the objects are circular, some are oblong and others are capsule-shaped. The objects are in different colours, white, blue, yellow and orange. A couple of the objects are evenly divided into two colours: blue and white, red and white. 

Copy the descriptions onto slips of paper (make multiple copies if you have a large number of Ss).  Get a hold of two types of envelope which either differ in shape or colour (you’ll need four of each). Put each of the artworks into one type and the descriptions into the other (So you’ll have four sets with 2 envelopes each). Ss will also need A4 sheets to draw on and crayons or colouring pencils. An on-screen timer.

Procedure

  • Divide Ss into four groups and organize them on four tables or in four corners of the room.
  • Distribute one set to each group and instruct them not to open them until you tell them to.
  • Use the on-screen timer to keep Ss on track.
  • Ask Ss to open the envelope that contains the descriptions and individually draw the scene that’s being described (3 min)
  • Get Ss to compare their drawings with others in their group (2 min) and notice the differences.
  • Have Ss open the other envelope and compare their drawings to Slinkachu’s original artwork (2 min).
  • Have them discuss what the artist was trying to say through the artwork and how he expected his audience to react. Ask Ss to also share their own thoughts on the artwork and whether they believe it’s a true reflection of what’s going on in the world (3 min).
  • Now, ask Ss to to put all the descriptions and pictures back into the envelopes while giving their drawings to you.
  • Get them to move clockwise so they’re in a different corner of the room. Repeat this procedure so Ss get an opportunity to think about and discuss another artwork. Depending on how much time you have, you might want to get them to move again so they get to experience all four artworks. If time’s an issue, run it just once although I like the idea of having Ss repeat the activity and perhaps work on some automaticity.
  • Wrap up the activity by getting Ss to share their thoughts on all four artworks and segue into error correction if required.

I’ve been trying incorporate art into my lessons ever since I took two MOOCs from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). You can read up about some of the activities I gleaned from the second MoMA MOOC here.

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