Teaching Through Games: Everyone’s A Critic

Teaching Through Games: Everyone’s A Critic

Age level: Middle School, High School, College and older!

Description: From their Materials Bingo to their MOOC on Art and Inquiry, the Museum of Modern Art does some of my favorite work in bringing art education to the masses in fun and engaging ways. They just released a new game called Everyone’s A Critic, which you can view here or pick up at the Education and Family Information Desk on the 2nd floor of the museum.

moma2Everyone’s a Critic is a well-designed game with two ways to play: one version for two players and one for three or more players. And while this game is not designed for people with autism or other developmental delays, I think it can be very useful and fun for that population of learners and art-lovers.

In the game for two players, one player is the Artist while the other is the Critic. The Artist secretly chooses a Theme from the choices inside the game booklet (pictured below,) such as “Freedom.” The Critic then points at any artwork in the gallery, and the Artist must describe how that work reflects the theme of “Freedom.” The Critic has 1 chance per artwork to guess the correct Theme. If the Critic gets it right, the Artist gets 1 point. If the Critic has not guessed the correct answer after three artworks, then the Artist gets no points and the two players switch roles.

In the game for three or more players, the Critic chooses a Theme, then demands that all the Artists find and present an artwork from the gallery that reflects that Theme. Taking turns, each Artist tries to persuade the Critic that his or her artwork is the best reflection of the Theme. The Critic chooses the Artist who best represented the Theme, and that Artist is awarded 1 point. Then a different player becomes the Critic and you begin a new round, tallying all points at the end to determine a winner.

Skills & Modification: This game provides a clear structure with visual prompts for learners with autism to engage with art and discuss it in a meaningful way. There are some modifications that may be important to allow for ease of gameplay.

  • Pictured below is the page of Themes the game presents as options. For some learners, many of these words will need to be defined and practiced prior to playing the game, especially more abstract terms such as “zest” or “harmony.”moma3
  • For other learners, the field of choices is much too large. You may want to consider making your own insert with a smaller number of choices so that your particular learner can play the game more easily. If you have the opportunity to play it multiple times, you can gradually increase the field of choices as you play.
  • Finally, it may also be helpful to play this game at home or in school using artwork found on the computer or in books prior to playing during a museum visit. Because the game is available for you to view on your home computer here, you can practice the skills associated with it in a more controlled environment prior to playing in an unfamiliar and very busy environment.

Perspective Taking – The two-player game requires the Critic to take the perspective of the Artist. The game for three or more players requires each Artist to take the perspective of the artist who created the particular work he/she is using to represent the Theme provided by the Critic. This can be very challenging for learners with autism, especially since some of the themes are abstract. You may need to provide verbal prompts at times, or use one of the modifications listed above. It may also be useful to provide a page of sentence starters as a textual prompt, such as “The colors in this painting make you feel _______” or “This pieces illustrates _______ by doing _______.”

Abstract Thinking – This skill is very difficult for many learners with autism and other developmental delays. There is no right or wrong answer in this game! Allowing learners an opportunity to participate in a game with open-ended responses is important, and can be very valuable if you are working with learners who are highly motivated by art.

Taking Turns – I love that this game provides an avenue for practicing turn-taking in conversation. It may be moma4useful to provide some sort of visual cue that it is one person’s turn to speak, this can be something simple, such as using a scorecard as the “talking stick” or can be indicated through gestural prompts. This game can be used to practice waiting until a person has paused before beginning to speak, making sure your own comments are not too long, and asking questions about what another person has said.

Pros: I have several students who are highly motivated by art. I love that this game provides an avenue for working on challenging skills in a unique way.

Cons: My only con is that there isn’t a version for younger learners. However, it’s not too difficult to modify for younger learners if you think they might benefit from the experience.

Ideas for Extending the Lesson: Take a look at an article or quotes from real art critics. Have your learners look at the art discussed by the critics and state whether or not they agree or disagree with the critic and why. Identify points at which the critic attempted to take the perspective of the artist. Identify themes the critic mentions about the artwork. Were there any themes the critic didn’t mention that your learners thought were shown in the art?

Cost: Free! You should invest in the game if: you have learners who are highly motivated by art, you are seeking an activity to add structure to a museum visit, you are a teacher seeking high quality art activities for your learners.

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