At the end of every school year I find myself completely rethinking my entire curriculum and all of my teaching methods. It can get frustrating seeing as this is the end of my seventh year teaching, and I would hope to have a few more things figured out by now. Yet, I feel that I am continuously growing as an educator, constantly responding to my students, reflecting on what is working and what is not. I absorb new ideas and theories in choice based art education and meld them to produce new processes of teaching and learning for the following year. This year is no different, and as artwork is leaving the classroom, counters are getting cleaned for a final time, and everyone is headed home for the summer, I thought I would take some time to write down my thoughts and reflections on the year past - as well as some ideas for the year ahead.
Overall I’m inspired by the constant growth and creativity of my students and how it continuously feeds me to become a better teacher for them. Perhaps it is the end-of-the-year whirlwind that happens, but I’m feeling lost for time right now. My main goals for next year are to slow down, open up, and be responsive to the possibilities that emerge in the studio. I want my classes to be more joyful. I hope to stop fighting with the assessment and grading expectations of my school and manipulate it to start working for me and the students. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll be able to do all of this but I’m excited about the potential. Plus, when in doubt, go back to the basics - I’ll be revisiting the foundational concepts of TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behaviors) and building from there. Until next year, have a creative and restful summer!
Each unit that goes by I try to get closer to my philosophy of choice based art education through the Teaching for Artistic Behaviours Model while still finding creative solutions to teach class wide skills and hack required exams. The closest I've come to my ideal is through the Independent Projects that I end the year with for every class. This comes after the students have already settled into the routines and expectations of the class and have their creative juices flowing from a year of creating. This year however, I'm shaking things up and offering a BIG Independent Project in quarter 2. I want to offer students more independence and choice right from the start and this is getting closer to where my curriculum needs to be to best serve them.
"So we can make whatever we want?"
This is the main question I get asked when I present the idea of an independent project to them. And the answer is yes - mostly. Just as in other creative classes, like writing for example, I ask that students support their idea, whatever it may be, with thoughtfulness and engagement. A handful of students are excited right off the bat and furiously start scribbling down a plan, a good majority however is overcome with the Blank Canvas fear. That all encompassing whiteness that appears when too much choice is offered. This year to help guide my students in creating a major artwork I introduced the Artistic Thinking Process (#2).
Created by Melissa Purtee, this is the second version of the Artistic Thinking Process that was inspired by the Design Thinking Process. Read more about her development of this on her blog Thoughts On Arting.
30 Min Intro Activity
To first present this to the students I wanted a quick activity where they would demonstrate all of the steps of the process without even knowing it. So I set them to this task:
With your table create an artwork under the theme “happiness.” You may use your ipads for research if you need. You have 30 minutes
I thought of a few different themes to use but at the last minute I changed to "happiness" and I'm glad I did because it was very approachable to the students but also yielded interesting results. While they were creating I walked around spying trying to overhear or see them in different stages in the Artistic Thinking Process. When I caught them in the act I gave them a slip of paper in which they wrote down exactly what they were doing at that moment.
The papers were actually color coded to match the Artistic Thinking Process stages. When the 30 minutes had finished I introduced the Process by passing out a small copy to everyone (to put in their sketchbooks) and read through it together. After each stage I would ask who had a specific color paper, the table would read out what they had written and we would talk as a class on why it was an example of that particular stage. Here are some examples of what students wrote:
Now that they had a foundation of the process, they were ready to jump into it. We used the rest of the class time that day to focus on finding inspiration (encouraging sharing and reflecting). I asked them to have the following three questions answered when they returned next class:
What do you plan to make?
Why do you want to make this?
How will you make this (with what materials)?
This year we are using SeeSaw as our Process Journals to record our progress after each class. Here are a few from the development stage:
These two students are working together to create digital fantastical drawings of their classmates. They used the development stage to create and send out a survey and start sketching some ideas.
As we head into the creation stage next I feel that my students are already set up for success by having an vision of the overall artistic process. I plan to add some small reflection and sharing activities along the way and will try to put them in here after I'm done. We have an exhibition coming in December and I am excited to see the diversity of artwork, subject matter, and media expand with each show. Lastly, although the 30 Min Intro Activity was not really about making an artwork I did enjoy seeing what they came up with under the theme "happiness."
As all TAB art teachers do, I am constantly thinking about the organization of the art studio and supplies. My room has a lot of challenges but it also some great things going for it. As we are starting off a new school year I wanted to try out a fresh idea: Class Art Kits.
The idea evolved from frustrations of un-cared for supplies from last year. Specifically the drawing pens - which everyone LOVES - would go missing every class. The erasers were used as frustration relief and had constant holes stabbed in them before they disappeared all together. The teacher before me ordered a class set of gorgeous drawing pencils but I didn't dare bring them out for fear that they would be disassembled within minutes. It's not that my classes are crazy or the students don't know how to put things away properly, but when we are rushed cleaning up and getting to the next class students take shortcuts.
Reflecting on those challenges I created these goals:
- set up routines/expectations that help students be successful
- develop a fool proof way to set clear expectations of desirable supplies
- keep student ownership and responsibility on collecting, using, and putting away supplies
- have a clear way to keep students accountable who are misusing supplies
- keep supplies separate from the HS students (taught be another teacher - shared classroom)
In comes the Class Art Kit. These are small kits of supplies that I developed. The Art Kits are assigned to each student in each of my classes by number. That student is responsible for the care of the supplies in the kit during their class period. If the next class finds something missing or broken, the previous student will be called in and held accountable.
In each Art Kit I have placed:
1 Drawing Pencil Set With 12 different pencils
1 Thick Black Marker
1 0.7 Drawing Pen
1 0.5 Drawing Pen
1 0.2 Drawing Pen
1 0.05 Drawing Pen
1 Pair of Scissors
Other supplies that I am considering adding throughout the year:
Paint Brush Set
I also have this written on each Kit:
Materials break and burnout naturally. If this happens while you are using it bring it to Ms. Blundon for a replacement. It is your responsibility to check your Art Kit at the start of every class to ensure that all the materials are in good condition. If they are not, see Ms. Blundon as soon as possible otherwise you may be held accountable.
To introduce the Art Kits, I am having each student complete this Google Form Quiz that includes them agreeing to care for and take responsibility of the supplies.
Each material in the Kit is labeled with the Kit number. I painted the end of each drawing pencil a different color to help quickly tell the difference. It has taken a few weeks of work here and there to prep the whole Kit but I'm hoping that it will be worth it to keep supplies in good shape and teach students more responsibility. Here's hoping!
For our very first PYP unit in 5th grade this year I wanted to provide students with a foundation of generating ideas that could be referenced back throughout the year. In this unit we focused on Where Do Artists Get Ideas? and explored a range of activities leading to the development of unique, original ideas for their own artwork.
Curriculum (PYP Talk)
Our very first class we spent time making a whole class mind map/web showing where ideas come from. Each table discussed it with themselves first and then shared their ideas while I wrote them on the board. This gave us a great jumping off point.
Then we played one of my favorite idea generating games: Quantity of Quality. The idea is to generate as many ideas as possible without worrying about if they are "good or bad." Each table got a few art books, while flipping through them students stopped at images they found interesting and then translated that image into a short phrase, ie man eating fruit, colorful mountains, mom and baby in tall field. The phrase was written on a small paper and placed in a pile in the center of the table. After about 15 minutes I collected all the papers - or idea cards as we called them - in a paper bag. Each student then drew two cards out of the bag and created an artwork in response.
For homework I asked the students to bring in three pictures:
1. An artwork that inspires you
2. A quote that inspires you
3. A photo of something that is your favorite.
With the photos that students brought in for homework, we arranged them onto a bulletin board in class as our class Inspiration Board. I love that this is 100% student generated and that it fills the room with so much inspiration.
On day two I played them this quick video as a refresher from what we discussed last week. Video by fellow Art teacher, YouTube channel: Panthers Palette
Inspiration Around the Room
The purpose of the Around the Room activities, originally developed by Cynthia Gaub, is to provide students with short exploration of media as an introduction to skills and techniques. I thought this would be a perfect set up to use as a short exploration into various sources of inspiration. I created six different "centers," each with a title and a prompt/task for students to complete. They had access to the basic drawing materials. I asked them to label each page with "Artists get inspiration from . . . " I gave them 25 minutes to complete each center and they did marvelously! Here is the break down for each center:
Prompt: Choose an object out of the box. Look at it carefully. Try to draw it as realistically as you can.
*Supply center with a box of still-life objects.
Prompt: Choose a card from the pile and create an artwork that expresses that emotion using only lines, shapes, and colors.
*Supply center with pastels and THESE EMOTIONAL PRINTABLE FLASH CARDS
Prompt: What if your life was a book or a movie? What event would be on the cover or the advertisement poster? Create a book cover or movie poster for your life.
Prompt: Choose a news article that interests you. Create an artwork in response that that article.
*I printed off 10 very short, easy to read, current news articles from Time for Kids. You can find your own or use these
Place your pen on your paper. Close your eyes and scribble for 3 seconds. Open your eyes and think of something you could turn that scribble in to. Create something new from the scribble.
Find an artwork that inspires you, create a new artwork of what it makes you think of (don’t copy it).
* Supply center with a handful of art books
My post-center plan for when the students finish all the activities is to have them choose one of their artworks they made and bring it into a WOW - or finished piece. If finished in time (we will take a few weeks to work on them) the students will present them to the community at their end of unit share day.
Teacher Take Away
I am blown away with the engagement the students are showing during these centers and the artwork that is resulting from these activities. Their creativity is booming! I'm glad we are taking our time to work through them. Some students have been finishing around 20 minutes so I may shorten the time a bit. Overall I am very happy with how this unit is shaping up and am excited to use this as a launching point for the rest of the year.
Thanks to inspiration from my time at the Teaching for Artistic Behaviors Summer Institute and the workshops hosted by Cynthia Gaub, I decided to start my middle school students (grades 6-8) off this year with a Draw Around the Room. The intention of this was to provide them time to explore drawing media, some familiar and some less so, in new and playful ways while laying the groundwork for them to feel comfortable experimenting with these media. This was my set-up:
Objective: I can explore and experiment with different drawing tools and techniques to learn more about them and develop my craft.
Warm-Up: (Every class I have a warm-up on the board for the students to start on when they enter) With your table group create a KWL chart for Drawing Media (ie colored pencils, markers, charcoal, pastels, pencils, pens). Fill out the K - what do you know already, and W - what do you want to learn, sections. *I quickly learned that having the students make the chart themselves took too much time so I made a blank template and printed it out for them so they could get right to the heart of the discussion. I've attached this chart below:
Set-Up: After explaining the activity, each table collected a medium and accompanying menu. It was important for me to have them do this themselves instead of having it already on the table because I want them to know where to find the media for future classes.
Media: I have six tables in my room so I chose six different media: Drawing Pencils (Set of 12), Markers (variety of thicknesses), Colored Pencils, Pastels (chalk, soft, and oil), Drawing Pens (Set of 5), and Charcoal (vine, pressed, pencil, with erasers).
Menus: On the menus I included the media name, definition, and some small examples. In addition there were a few questions on each for the students to think about as they were exploring. On the back side of the menus are nine different drawing techniques for the students to try out. I've included the menus here for you to download. One file is the front sides and one file is the back. I never laminate things but I did laminate these to make sure they survived all my classes. The menus and drawing techniques were inspired by Frankie Fisher.
Task: Students were asked to create one page in their sketchbooks for each medium. It should include the name and definition of the medium and then a variety of experimentations made while exploring that medium. To aid them, each menu had a back side of different drawing techniques for them to try. I encouraged them to consider themselves as explorers and this as their field notebook, reminding them to take note, label marks, and write observations.
Teacher Take-Aways: Starting the year out with play and exploration feels so freeing and . . . right, even if I did have a lot of underlying structure. Some students struggled with the idea of further exploring media that they have used for years, the charcoal and pastels were definitely the most entertaining of all the medias. Overall I feel that the two classes will be very useful in the student artists' development. I am still debating on what to do next. I was considering moving on to a Paint Around the Room but I feel like this Draw Around the Room should have a larger conclusion, perhaps choosing one or more mediums to continue exploring for a week or two. All in all, the year is starting out well and I already see improvements on the choice-based curriculum I have been developing through student engagement and growth.
The following are four interview questions and answers based on the core values of the PYP. The goal of this was to show my understanding of international mindedness, the PYP curriculum model and its associated elements, address how learners construct meaning, express the practices and principles of inquiry, and identify the roles of reflection and collaboration.
What would I see walking into your PYP classroom?
Walking into my classroom you would see students actively engaged in inquiry. You will notice the students asking provoking questions to not only myself, but also the other students. Each participant will be absorbed in his or her learning activity, which may be different than the next, but all connect to the same experience. The learning will be being produced through experiences, activities, tasks, games, creating, etc. Discoveries are being celebrated and recorded. Students may be working independently, in small groups, or in larger (whole class) groups at any point in time. Each student knows what he or she is doing and why.
On the walls of my classroom you would find information and questions displayed about our current unit. In addition you would see various forms of reflection and discovery evidence related to the questions and lines of inquiry. These provocations would be open ended and globally minded, questions that revolve around large concepts but are broken down for student understanding. Student work fills up most of the display space. The classroom itself has predominately open availability with students accessing their own supplies as needed. Materials are varied and visible.
What is your role as the teacher?
My role as a teacher is more of the facilitator of the classroom. Yes, of course I directly teach content sometimes, but this is more in the manner of modeling behaviors and skills. Most often I guide students in furthering their investigations with the goal of students having independent control over their learning. I introduce provocations that invite questioning, learning experiences, and eventually taking action. I help students develop conclusions and move towards understanding of concepts. I encourage discussions and curiosity through an open dialog and offer suggestions and redirections when needed. I guide students through the learning process by gathering data on what they know and what they have learned so far to better inform their learning experiences and my teaching.
What is your process of planning in your teaching?
The planning process of teaching is not a solitary task; collaboration is imperative. I meet with other members of the school community (team teachers, other grade level teachers, specialists, support staff, and admin) regularly to explore our plans for the learning experiences, assessments, and student’s levels of past, current, and future units. Often I have informal sessions with teachers of my same grade level. We also share planners that can be accessed at any time so we regularly see the result of our own planning combined with others. In addition this is where we share our written reflections so we can continuously work to improve our student’s learning experiences. Planning is not just a beginning, middle, end task, it is a continuous circle that is constantly being informed by students, data from assessments, other community members, and more.
How does International Mindedness influence your classroom?
International Mindedness is one of the core values in my teaching. The plans, activities, and skills I teach within my classroom are based off of international mindedness, which is apparent through the focus of the Learner Profile. These are attributes that are seen in internationally minded people: Thinkers, Reflective, Inquirers, Balanced, Knowledgeable, Caring, Principled, Risk-takers, Open-minded, Communicators. Through modeling, fostering, and by teaching these attributes we as educators can help mold globally respectful, critically thinking, open minded individuals. To do this I am sure to invite an open dialog about different cultures and perspectives, we study and discus important and sensitive issues with tolerance and respect. We also bring this into the activities of the classroom by having opportunities for mother tongue experiences as well as organic developments of language learning. One of the most important parts of International Mindedness is to promote action that is why in my classroom we are continuously striving to develop modes of action where we can not only think and plan solutions but also see them through. By continuing to readdress similar themes throughout their years, students can see similar ideas through different points of view and develop skills and attitudes that will support them through their learning journeys. Finally, in my classroom we not only tolerate but we celebrate differences.
I’ve been intrigued by PYP since I first heard about it a few years ago, and what I had gathered about the programmee suggested that it would fit well with my teaching philosophy. I now discover that this is truly the case because both of them are routed in inquiry based learning. My approach to teaching art is based on Teaching for Artistic Behavior, a methodology that recognizes the student as the artist, the classroom as their studio, and the teacher as the facilitator. Rather than teaching students how to make art, I teach them how to be artists. I use the artists’ habits of mind (attached) as a guide to invite the students to begin thinking and acting like artists while developing technical and creative skills. In my classroom I am but one of the many sources of information, students use their devices frequently to tap the wide knowledgebase of online tutorials and inspirational images, they also often reference each other’s skills as one student emerges as a master of a material or technique. Students move fluidly between working independently, in pairs, or in small groups depending on their interests that class period.
The physical space is a challenge in my classroom. I only teach grade 5 of the primary school (the rest of my classes are secondary) so the art classroom is primarily occupied by the teacher of grades pre-k to 4. Although I have a great relationship with the other teacher, I am not able to set the room up to my ideal since it is not my space. I have been able to put out a selection of materials. It is imperative to me and my teaching for the students to have access to and responsibility over a variety materials. Currently I have three centers open, drawing, collage, and painting. Each of these holds the respective materials for the art form and were introduced to the students so they know how to use and care for them.
The two greatest areas where I feel I am continually developing are assessment practices and classroom management. I believe that classroom management is an always developing practice that will continue to change and adjust based on the students and their rapidly changing needs (and personalities). Assessment wise, I have gained some new insight and inspiration about assessment practices from this course and hope to have those influence my current practices.
The article that we read, Identifying Inquiry in the k-5 classroom, was spot on for me. Almost every point it made I could directly relate to. It is helpful to have the vocabulary and educational speak to articulate the wonderful things that you already know are happening in your classroom. In summary, I believe in the teacher as the facilitator of the learning environment, students as the main drivers of their own inquiry learning, and everyone in the classroom actively engaged in independent investigations both as teachers and learners.
A fellow teacher and I worked together to complete the tasks for this activity which focused on collaborative planning.
First we had to rate how well our school has been doing with collaborative planning in the PYP using the Standards guidelines. Our school does have scheduled regular collaborative planning sessions for each Unit of Inquiry, however as a primarily secondary specialist teacher I have not attended the two that I should have because of time conflicts with secondary obligations. In addition I cannot attend the regular grade level collaboration meetings because I am teaching at that time. I do meet every other week with the PYP coordinator and the other primary teacher which has been valuable for getting the PYP information that I have missed otherwise.
For these reasons it was important for me to work with a 5th grade teacher on this rating task since she is more connected with the primary school than I am. These are the ratings we gave each standard.
In addition we discussed what our school was doing well with the collaborative planning and reflection process, where our future vision for it is, and the positive and negative forces working for and against us. We've compiled them into this bone diagram:
We believe that the top needs of the school in related to collaborative planning and reflection is time - both before and during the school year. In addition the continual building on teacher task loads cause a negative force, to counterbalance this we recommend prioritizing the school needs and releasing that which no longer serve us.
For this activity we were asked to further revise the UOI that we have been working on for the past few weeks, my chosen UOI was How We Express Ourselves for Grade 5.
This was challenging because the actual unit is not something I teach as a specialist, rather I am integrated into the unit. As I went through the activities that were in the unit I did not want to replace them all because I felt that some may be valuable to teach other skills besides those that are based in the arts. I ended up combining my ideas with the current planner in what I hope is a more well rounded unit. The current unit seems heavy on discussion and written reflection, which although is important, seems a disservice to the creating aspect of the arts which are the core of this unit. Hopefully it is more well rounded now. I feel that more adjusting would need to happen in discussion and collaboration with the generalist teachers to truly make an outstanding unit.
In this activity I have developed a performance assessment based on the GRASP model for the grade 5 PYP UOI: How We Express Ourselves.
Goal: Your task is to curate an exhibition for The Pera Museum that reflects at least ten different artworks from different artists that connect under a single theme of a specific idea, emotion, or social issue.
Role: You are the curator of The Pera Museum. As the curator you are in charge of discovering new artists, sharing past artists, as well as developing interesting and cohesive exhibitions.
Audience: Your clients are the owners of the museum and your target audience is the people of Istanbul. All these people have different lifestyles and interests. Your job is to connect these viewers through the art.
Situation: The challenge involves having one specific theme with artwork from modern artists as well as artwork from history (at least 10 pieces total). You should be able to explain each of your selections in a presentation.
Product/Performance/Purpose: You will need to develop a cohesive theme based on either an idea, emotion, or social issue. You will present your exhibition to the owners of the museum (your classmates) who you will need to explain why you chose the theme and artwork included.
Standards and Criteria for Success: A successful result will have a digital gallery of at least 10 images of artwork. This can be create on Padlet, Google Slides, Google Sites, or another digital tool. The artwork must each be from a different artist, some of who are still alive (modern) and some of which are not (old masters). Each artwork must be cited with the name of the artist, the name of the artwork, and the date it was created. Most importantly the artwork must all match a specific theme chosen by you (and set as the title of the exhibition) that expresses an idea, feeling, or personal meaning which you will explain in your presentation.
Extension: Create a piece of art in any medium that fits into the exhibition you have curated showing a unique/original idea while connecting with your theme.
For more information about GRASP look at this document adapted from The Understanding By Design Workbook.
The writings and happenings of What's Going On In The Art Room, written by Ms. Alisa Blundon in Istanbul, Turkey
Guiding Students to Independence through the Artistic Thinking Process
Class Art Kits | Student Responsibility of Supples
Inspiration Around the Room
Draw Around the Room