For the past 3 years I have started the school year by hosting a TASK Party in each of my classes. My students LOVE it! Every single one of them. Every single time. It is playful, fun, and creative. It gets kids up and moving and making! Which is exactly what I want on my first day back!
A TASK party is a simple concept. Participants select a task randomly out of a box and then they complete the task. Tasks are designed to promote creative thinking so they are not straight forward. The TASK Party originates from Oliver Herring. You can watch this video of his to find out more.
TASK Parties can involve a fair amount of materials consumed so I always use a large selection of recyclables. About a week before the party, I put an email out to my staff to drop off any recyclables to the art room. I always have enough to go around. I've come to realize that students don't need any fancy materials for the TASK Party, whatever you can gather up will be enough for them. In addition I allow students access to paper scraps, markers, colored pencils, scissors, and yarn. When I've allowed tape in the past, they have grossly over used it and I haven't gotten my order in yet so this year I set up one hot glue gun. It worked out just fine! This is how I ended up organizing my recycled materials for class:
The list below are my basic expectations that I go over with the students before we begin. TASK Parties are energetic and can get a little chaotic with a lot of students moving around but the kids are always SO engaged that it has never been a problem for me.
Picking & Making Tasks:
The best rule that I developed was the "Put back once" rule. Meaning any time you pick a task you are allowed to put the task back ONCE and pick another one if you choose. This works so well. It gives the student a chance to change tasks if they really hate the one they pick but it avoids the situation of a student picking tasks endlessly.
Making tasks is something I allow on a class by class basis. It is a traditional part of the task party to have participants make the tasks that others will pick. However, I found that Middle School kids tend to make tasks that are boy/girl related or designed to embarrass others, which take away from the atmosphere of the party. My classes range from 12-18 students and the amount of tasks that I have prepared are more then enough to keep them busy for an 80 minute time period.
Previously I've had them put the tasks in a separate box when they are finished but this year they placed them back in the same box and it worked out great. (If they picked a task they already completed, they just picked again).
That's really all there is to it! I let students know that when they finish a task they can choose to keep what they have made or take it back apart and put it back in the materials. Some artists go through many tasks in the part and others spend the entire time on one task. Don't try and control it, as long as they are creating I'm happy. For me, the TASK parties are about CREATING without fear and having FUN! Below are some of the creations from the TASK Parties this year.
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 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