Please Don't Eat the Artwork


Token Response


99% of my lessons have been production  based so far. I think this is because I am such a hands-on and kinesthetic person. But, in order to have a well-rounded art education, it is important to include aspects of art criticism and art history. I wanted to play “Token Response” with 5th graders so I could incorporate more aspects of art and practice critical thinking with them. This is a game I played in a college class and it lead to a truly meaningful discussion about art that really got everyone to think about their opinions.

I set out 7 reproductions around the room and we talked about the title, medium, artist, and when the piece was made. We talked about opinions and how there is no right or wrong answer and it is important to respect what someone else thinks about something. I told the kids that when you look at artwork you automatically think “I like it” or “I don’t like it” but it is important to realize why you feel this way.

Each student received a set of tokens (you can buy a pre-made set here but it was just as easy to make my own using construction paper):


So what do they mean?

The HAND: which artwork has the best craftsmanship?
The LIGHT BULB: which artwork is the most original/unique?
The HEART: which artwork do you like the best?
The “X”: which artwork do you like the least?
The MONEY: which artwork is worth the most money?
The CLOCK: which artwork took the most time to make?
The HOUSE: which artwork would people hang up in their house?

With a variety of reproductions including examples of realism, formalism, expressionism, and instrumentalism, there were many diverse opinions. Students walked around the gallery and placed their tokens on the artworks.

image (8)
image (4)
image (5)

The most popular pieces were sculptures and the least popular were the realistic or abstract pieces. Students expressed their opinions and shared with each other why they chose to put their tokens where they did.

This activity was just as meaningful for 5th graders as it was for me in college — they got a chance to form and argue their opinions, interpret art, compare and contrast artworks, and develop and evaluate ideas.

Author: artwithmsk

Hello! My name is Ms. Katzin and I am an art teacher at an elementary school near Atlanta, Georgia. Teaching art is my passion and I love what I do!

7 thoughts on “Token Response

  1. I absolutely think this is one of the best activities in your blog so far. I know you used the idea from college but translating it to be applicable to your young students is such a creative and innovative idea. I can imagine that their responses were very animated and insightful. Great idea, really impressive!

  2. Great idea! I pinned it to my ‘art games’ pinboard, but it is really a much more important activity than that….

  3. I love this idea. My students would love this too! This will make art criticism so much more interesting.

    • Thanks! The kids really enjoyed it, especially comparing and contrasting their opinions with their friend’s opinions. Let me know how it goes if you try it out 🙂

  4. I want to do this, but how did you gather the research to find the statistics about each artwork??? It has been nearly impossible for me.

    • Usually the reproductions have the title, year, medium and artist on them. When we have class discussion I tell them that there are no right or wrong answers and that it is all a matter of opinion.

      Or you could have the students research the statistics themselves maybe assign one piece of art per group so that they can present their findings to the rest of the class.

      When I did this activity, I emphasized art aesthetics rather than art history. Otherwise, a quick Google search of the image ought to bring up some info!

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