Art Links and Kinks

Trina Garcia email

Instructional Objective

Players will explain or evaluate postcard reproductions of museum artworks according to a random combination of elements and principles of design and the California Visual Arts Framework Strands. Points will be awarded by other players based on accuracy and completeness of explanation or evaluation.

Learners & Context of Use

Game is designed for high school visual art students to use in the classroom either as part of the curriculum (aesthetic valuing) or as an extra activity for students who finish assignments early. Game could also be played on an ongoing basis as warm up activity. Game board is made of canvas and can easily be folded for storage in the classroom with playing cards and postcards. However, because of the size of canvas, and number of students playing, floor space or wall space is necessary. Prior to playing game, students are introduced to the State framework strands, elements of art and principles of design through video, bookwork or instruction. They have already described artworks using correct art vocabulary as a whole class activity with guidance by the instructor. Instructor can preselect postcards of portraits, pop art, or renaissance to tailor game to the current instructional unit. The game will develop student's ability to choose or classify artwork postcards that meets the criteria set by a random combination of cards chosen by the player and then justify or defend their choice to the rest of the players.

Competing Products

Several years ago at a California Art Educators Conference an art domino game using Phaidon boxed postcards was introduced and some elements are adapted from this game. There is a deck of "Art Talk" cards used to spark discussions, but it lacks any competition element.

Object of the Game

Each player is dealt 3 postcards reproductions at the beginning of the game. Game ends when student is able to place their last postcard on the board linked to a postcard already played.

Content Analysis

Content Analysis

Game Materials

  • Postcards of images from art museum collections. On the back of each postcard is information about artist, title of artwork, media, school/style, time and place created.
  • A 36-inch by 36-inch canvas board with a random pattern of colored blocks the size of postcards with paperclips attached to anchor linked postcards.
  • Classification Drawing Cards
Framework cards
One deck of drawing cards with the State Frameworks strands (Aardvark - Artistic Perception, Cat - Creative Expression, Hippo - Historical Context, Alligator - Aesthetic Valuing, Condor - Connections) on one side and hints/questions to help students apply the strand to their postcard.

elements_card2.jpgOne deck of Elements of Art drawing cards (Line, Shape, Form, Space, Color, Value and Texture)

principles2.jpgOne deck of Principles of Design drawing cards (Contrast, Balance, Unity, Movement, Pattern, Emphasis and Rhythm)

Time Required

After the first time game is played, it sets up quickly. Time of play can be shortened or lengthened by changing the number of postcards drawn. Class could also be divided into teams and a card could be played at the beginning of each class as a warm up.

The Rules

  1. Players or teams choose 3 postcards.
  2. Take 10-minutes to read and understand the information provided on the back of postcard about the artwork and artist. Players may also take this time to research the artwork using textbooks or internet art sites such at

  1. Player with reproduction of most antique artwork begins play by taking the top card from each classification - Frameworks, Elements and Principles pile of cards.
  2. Player chooses one of their postcards to play.
  3. Player verbally analyzes their postcard focusing on the Framework Strand, Elements and Principles classification card they drew.
  4. Opponents must agree artwork meets all 3 classifications before postcard can be placed on board.
  5. Then opponents decide how many points player is awarded. Clearly explaining how artwork uses or fulfills all 3 classifications with detail - earns 6 points. Explaining how artwork fullfills two classifications adequately with detail - earns 4 points. Explaining one classification well - earns 2 points.
  • For example - "Picasso's Three Musicians is a early 20th century Cubist artwork (Hippo - Historical Context) with figures made of flat shapes (Element - Shape). Painting is unified by the use of repeated patterns, warm colors and black outlines around the shapes (Principle - Unity)", would earn 6 points..

  1. Next player draws 3 classification cards.
  2. Then chooses one of their postcards to play that they can link with the card on the board and also be able to explain how the artworks are connected using the classification cards drawn.
  3. Opponents must agree there is a connection between the 2 postcards before new postcard can be placed on the board.
  4. Then opponents decide how many points player is awarded. Clearly explaining how both artworks use or fullfill all 3 classifications with detail - earns 9 points. Explaining how artworks connect and fulfill two classifications adequately with detail - earns 6 points. Explaining one classification connection well - earns 3 points.
  • For example - "Picasso's 'Three Musicians' and Vincent Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' are European artworks created in France by artists from other countries (Hippo - Historical Context) who used black outlines around geometric shapes (Element- line). Van Gogh used interlocking curved lines throughout his painting to unify it, while Picasso used flat abstract shapes throughout his painting/collage (Principle - Unity)", would earn 6 points. Both artworks have historical and line connections, but there is no explanation of a unity connection. Each artwork is unified but the techniques used are not similar.

Motivational Issues

Students react to art. This activity encourages them to understand their reaction to the images and make connections between artworks. Students who are inspired by competition will engage with the materials quickly in order to "win", while those who thrive on cooperation will help their "opponents" by suggesting connections. Because the play is determined by random combinations the outcome will not be predictable and student performance will improve over time as they hear the way others make the connections.

Design Process

While this activity was being designed it was also necessary to work on developing essential questions for the VAPA Peer Learning Community. The PLC activity focused on the learning activities in an art classroom that can be reliably measured and apply to several different art disciplines. The original concept was to incorporate Discipline Based Art Education questions or Marzano's classification activities. However cards with questions such as "how does this artwork relate to life?..why is this artwork still important to people?...what did it mean when it was created?" would require more research and experience than most 9th grade art students can accomplish during one class period.

Choosing five as the ideal number of players is based on experience. More players make the games last too long, and fewer players can lead to more aggressive play that negates the cooperation which enhances the intended learning experience of classroom games.

The students currently thrive on the competition inherent in playing Bingo with art vocabulary definitions, but will also often yell out the vocabulary word to help other students win. They also enjoy telling stories about what they see in an artwork much more than they enjoy writing the stories down. When we play dominos with postcards the students look more closely at the artworks to find the connections necessary to play their card. Trying to incorporate those ideas into the process of designing this game was not that difficult and other art teachers were willing to share their opinions on how it could work in a classroom. The rules need to be simplified or a short video to illustrate setting up and scoring would make it easier for students to understand the concepts.

After student groups played the game for two class periods, they had several suggestions to improve the playability of the game.
  • They believed the game board was unneccessary and using the paper clips to attach the postcards to the board was awkward and time consuming. Actually the quote was, "half the time is spent choosing playing pieces and messing with the board."
  • They suggested using the bulletin board and push pins to speed the game up.
  • Another complaint was that it is "hard" to remember the information from the back of the postcards and requires taking the postcards off the board and paper clips to review the information. After discussing the problem, the idea of attaching the postcards to the front of notecards and writing the information on the back was the solution most students preferred. This allows the open note-card to be pinned to the bulletin board with the information next to the image.
  • The strategy players didn't like the randomness of choosing the classification drawing cards. They suggested each player getting a "set" of all the principles and elements cards and play ending when they completed using all the elements and principles to describe the artworks. If necessary, they could draw more postcards in order to use all the elements and principles. They also reminded me that artists usually use a combination of at least two principles of art to organize a whole group of elements.


  • Books & Journals
    • Wilson, Brent (1997). The Quiet Evolution: Changing the Face of Arts Education. Los Angeles, California: The Getty Education Institute for the Arts.
    • Marzano, R., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J (2001). Clasroom Instruction that Works. Alexandria, Virginia: Associaiton for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    • Marzano, R., (2003). What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Alexandria, Virginia: Associaiton for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Electronic*
    • URL1
    • URL2
    • etc.