Teaching art to students with learning differences takes a special approach. Betty Sue Finnell has been teaching this subject at Fairhill for 20 years, and an additional 8 years prior to coming to Fairhill. While at Fairhill, her department has produced numerous award-winning artists – some receiving scholarships for college. When asked what she does differently to teach students with learning differences, Mrs. Finnell said “When teaching LD students, an art teacher needs to sometimes reinvent and tweak the curriculum to keep them engaged and motivated to reach their true potential.”
Mrs. Finnell teaches art to grades 1-12 and approaches each grade level differently. Students are progressively challenged to spend more time and effort to accomplish assignments as they move to higher grades. These students with learning differences are given basic outlines to execute the project but are encouraged to use their own creativity to make it their own. Mrs. Finnell reminds the students “The process of making art is as valuable as the end result.”
Many LD students like to manually manipulate their art materials. The process often begins with a two-dimensional format to plan ideas and then move to a three-dimensional construction phase. Mrs. Finnell supports the process by researching, developing, planning, buying supplies, and creating an example. At times, she also provides a visual slideshow which breaks the project down into sequential steps. In this way, students see all the steps necessary for accomplishing each phase.
When asked what the secret to her success is, Mrs. Finnell said experience has taught her to focus on the needs of the individual student. “Necessity is the mother of invention. It took me years to truly understand that phrase. I’ve learned that teaching art to students with learning differences requires understanding what makes them tick and what might motivate and interest them.”
See sample products from some of Mrs. Finnell’s students throughout the years: http://gallery/
Contributed by Betty Finnell, Teacher, Fairhill School