Beyond the dots

Demonstrate the importance of visual arts in expanding student and teacher critical and creative thinking skills.

This unti:

  • incorporates a background of Aboriginal art and perspectives to encourage students to reflect on the their own artworks and representation without replication through both making and appreciating.
  • demonstrates effective ways to structure a visual arts lesson through examples of strong pedagogy
  • shows the ways in which visual arts can enhance learning in HSIE, literacy and cross-curricula priorities.


Watch introduction to beyond the dots video (02:09).

For inspiration and to increase their understanding.


Louise Challis

At Chullora Public School we have a very culturally diverse community with many different language backgrounds. We work really hard to make sure that the students feel a strong sense of belonging here at school but also some strong connections with the broader community as well. The role that the Arts Program plays in the school curriculum really is I think to enrich those developing and understandings that students are engaging within their class programs.

This year we’ve focused a lot on collaborating and that really requires them to engage with each other around you know what they think about those themes and issues, connect closely to what’s happening in their classroom teaching programs. But also most importantly connect with some of those issues that are relevant within the community.

Julia Brennan

Power of the visual arts is that we can achieve cross curricular outcomes. We can also see the students working on cross curricular perspectives and priorities such as thinking critically and thinking creatively. And that can be achieved really in any way that you like in both making and appreciating.

Sophia Alexiadis

One of the opportunities I came across was an annual event run by the Reconciliation Council called the NSW Schools’ Reconciliation Challenge. One of the requirements was that they create an artwork around Reconciliation and this year’s theme was ‘Always Was Always Will Be’.

So, it was really important to expose the students to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and other Australian artists, not for the purpose of copying them or recreating them but for inspiration and to increase their understanding of the cultures and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Generally, I divide the lesson plans into four stages: there’s a research stage, the planning stage, the art making and then a reflection.


[End of Transcript]

Watch step 2

Watch step 2: the planning stage video (02:12).

Take what you have learnt and link it to your background knowledge and experiences.


Sophia Alexadis

Alright, everybody this is your planning stage, this is where you take all the new information you’ve learned, link it to your background knowledge and experiences, think about the inspiring artwork …

In the planning stage I like to give the students an opportunity to make decisions and have ownership over their own artwork. I often provide a choice in the media they use. I encourage them to consider what audience, think of their own message and point of view and how they can put that across to their audience, plan out the layout, select what images they’re going to include, make all their mistakes at that stage too. Sometimes they’re given the opportunity to conference with a peer and build up their independence.

Alright, I saw some good ideas as I walked around the room then. Now, that you’re well into your planning stage, I want you to take a moment to talk to someone nearby and run your ideas past them, do a little conference with them. Okay, off you go.

Student 1

I’ve done the Uluru and I drew the Harbour Bridge for the Sorry Walk that they did for the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders and the voting box and I’m also going to do some symbols to demonstrate it.

Student 2

Okay, so for my artwork I did the infinity symbol because it represents always and continuously. And I’m still going to be doing some spirals and on the edges I did significant events that happened to Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders.

Student 3

I’m going to do three flags, the Torres Strait Islander flag, the Aboriginal flag and the Australian flag and then I did the Uluru to represent the Aboriginal people.

Student 4

I’ve done the Harbour Bridge to represent the Sorry Walk. And I’ve done some arrows to represent the past and the present and I’m planning to draw on some spirals to represent it’s not too late, it’s always going to be forever.


[End of transcript]

Watch step 4

Watch step 4: the reflection stage video (04:59).

An opportunity to think back on their art making process.


Sophia Alexiadis

In the reflection stage I get children to think back over the process of their art making. I often get them to write an artist statement and in that I ask them to explain how their artwork relates to the theme or the purpose of the artwork.

Often I’ll get them to share if they’ve come across any problems during their art making or they had to change their plan in some way and how they overcame those problems and found solutions to those situations. I like them to share that because it helps with problem solving skills and resilience and goal setting.

Your artworks are looking amazing. Now, some of you are getting to the stage where you’re ready to pack up. You know how to do that safely and considerately and if you are finished then it’s time to move onto your artistic statement.

You’re going to write a statement explaining your artwork and explaining the decisions behind your artwork and make sure you tell us how it relates to Reconciliation and the theme ‘Always Was Always Will Be’.

Okay, so if you’re ready to pack up, off you go. If you’re still working, continue.

If you’re ready to start your artist statement move straight onto that.


Sophia Alexiadis

Great work everyone I can see you put a lot of effort into those artworks and a lot of thought. Now, everyone’s finished their artwork and their artistic statements.

We’ve got some artworks here on display, we’re going to share a few of those statements.

So Tarli, come on you’re up first. Show us your artwork.

Tarli (Student)

Here is my artwork. My artwork shows the sunset going down and the Aboriginal person hunting for the snake and the emu and the kangaroo. The scene represents the importance of the land to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the connection they have always had. Uluru represents the fight for land rights and the three flags represent all the people in Australia living together in harmony.

Sophia Alexiadis

Great work, Tarli, fantastic. Okay, Armoure we’d love to hear your one.

Armoure (Student)

This is my artwork. My artwork is about Reconciliation. The arrow represents the past, present and future. The ballot represents the right for all Australians to vote and have their say. The historic Harbour Bridge Sorry Walk has been included as a symbol of apology. The image of Uluru refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people’s fight for land rights. The clock and the hour glass represent history and that is time to fix our mistakes.

Sophia Alexiadis

Well done, Armoure.

Julia Brennan

What was fantastic about the art lesson we have seen today is that the students are not only working towards their visual arts outcomes for Stage 3 but they’re also looking at HSIE outcomes. So, we saw them engaged in learning about the community and remembrance but also Australia as a nation.

We had students engaged in language. They were exploring vocabulary and they were discussing and communicating about difficult and challenging topics.

We saw the students looking at cultural viewpoints. And we saw them thinking imaginatively and creatively and critically across the curriculum. Through looking at the artists, artworks, the audience and the world the students are flexibly achieving their visual arts outcomes. They’re investigating the world around them and they’re appreciating artworks as well as making their own and using their own perspective and viewpoint to achieve that.

Louise Challis (Principal)

The really high quality arts education provides students with those opportunities for what we call twenty first century skills: creativity, communication, opportunities to collaborate with others, you know problem solving. When we give children the opportunity to engage with authentic themes to develop their own ideas, you’re giving students a real voice in the school and also helping them make connections to themes and issues that are in the broader community.

Sophia Alexiadis

I was really impressed with the theme and the purpose of it. It gave a focus to the art lesson that was cross curricular. It gave the students a real purpose for their artwork. It helps them to start to understand the meanings of visual images. And in a respectful way it develops their skills in being able to voice an opinion respectfully and form those opinions when they make an artwork, others will interpret their message.

Everywhere you go today you will be confronted with images and children need to know how to interpret that. So, that’s all a really important part of art education, it’s not just about creating artworks.


[End of transcript]

Watch step 1

Watch step 1: the research stage video (05:06).

An aim to increase the students’ knowledge on the subject matter.


Sophia Alexiadis

In the research stage I aim to increase the students’ knowledge on the subject matter to give them an opportunity to link it to their existing knowledge and their experiences and to consolidate and expand on the knowledge that they’re gaining in other KLAs. It’s also the time when I introduce artworks from other artists so they can build on their appreciation skills, get inspiration from those artworks and think about the intention.

Reconciliation is a process aimed at building relationships between Australia’s Indigenous people and other Australians. It’s about building respect and trust. We’ve been learning a bit about this lately. Is there anything more you can add to that? Paris.

Paris (Student)

Understanding the importance of the land.

Sophia Alexiadis


Ahmad (Student)

Being fair to everyone.

Sophia Alexiadis



Fixing mistakes and making things right.

Sophia Alexiadis

I want to introduce the word ‘sacred’ into our discussion now. I want you to think pair share, what you know about this word and how it might be relevant to our discussion today. Turn to each other now.


Sophia Alexiadis

Okay, well done, facing the front again. What did you come up with? Who’s got an answer? What did you think sacred meant? Or how is it important to our discussion today? Gabriel.

Gabriel (Student)

I think sacred meant like ancient and very important.

Sophia Alexiadis

Anybody else? Menna.

Menna (Student)

I think it’s like a tradition that passes down from generation to generation.

Sophia Alexiadis

Can you think of somewhere or something that’s really important and special to your family and to your community? Can you imagine if someone or some group of people were treating that special place or special object in a disrespectful way or an inappropriate way, how that would make you feel?


Sad and depressed because that’s where my family go.

Sophia Alexiadis

In pairs you’ve had time to research on the internet about significant events that have taken place in the Reconciliation process, what did you find out? Maarij.

Maarij (Student)

I found out about the Sorry speech that Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd did.

Sophia Alexiadis


Rahab (Student)

I found out about the Sorry Walk at the Harbour Bridge.

Sophia Alexiadis

Artists often use symbols in their artworks to represent meaning. The theme for our artwork is Always Was Always Will Be. Let’s look at the word ‘always’ and come up with some synonyms for that. Who can offer some suggestions? Anita.

Anita (Student)


Sophia Alexiadis

Infinity, good. And Lile.

Lile (Student)

Long lasting.

Sophia Alexiadis

Long lasting. So, you’ve given me some suggestions for synonyms for always, the theme of our artwork. Thinking about those words now, can you think of some symbols to represent their meaning? Gabe.

Gabe (Student)

A sideways eight.

Sophia Alexiadis

The infinity symbol which you might have seen in mathematics which means to continue on indefinitely. Any other symbols perhaps ones that don’t have a beginning or an end and they can represent always in that way? Mariam.

Mariam (Student)

A spiral.

Sophia Alexiadis

A spiral because it can continue in both directions. So, we’ve looked at a number of artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. We’ve seen examples of rock paintings, rock carvings, bark paintings, weavings, masks, sculptures, sand drawings. And we’ve also looked at contemporary style artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. We’ve noticed that some use more traditional patterns and natural earth colours and we’ve seen some use modern techniques and all sorts of colours and media.

So, we’ve seen images by artist Bronwyn Bancroft, these magical, beautiful places she creates with all sorts of colours and she’s showing us how important nature is to her. The more you look at her images, the more detail you see and hidden within those images are some figures almost inside the trees and the mountains and the waterways.

Why do you think the artist has chosen to incorporate those figures in that way? Menna.

Menna (Student)

Maybe because it shows how connected they are with Mother Nature and how they feel about it.


[End of transcript]

Watch step 3

Watch step 3: the art-making stage video (01:27).

And they move onto the art making.


Sophia Alexiadis

And they move onto the art making. I organised the classroom in a way that allowed easy access for students to all the resources they would need. And I’ve explicitly taught how they should access them, use them and return them. Every class leaves the room tidy and clean for the next class and that maximises learning time.

The students really enjoy their independence. They want to take care of their learning. So, if a student’s ready to start art making because they’re finished their planning they can move off and access the equipment and move onto the next step and they’re not held back by students who might not be ready to do that yet.


[End of transcript]


Please note:

Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Creative Arts K–6 Syllabus (2006) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.

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