Sunday, September 28, 2014

Progress in Choice Drawings

5th grade student's artwork inspired by her favorite book series.
Yesterday I saw a question posted by the Art of Education on Facebook- 
Have you considered implementing more choice in your art room? What are your biggest concerns?
...and of course I had to chime in. Before I switched to TAB, I had a lot of the same concerns as many of the other teachers commenting. This is what I wrote:
"I started choice almost full time last year. I work in two elementary schools and have almost 800 students. I see my younger students 40 minutes weekly and my older students 40 minutes twice a month. I had many of the same concerns before switching. I don't tell the students "you can do anything". I tell them you can make a painting, drawing, weaving, (whichever centers are open) AS LONG AS you are putting in thought and effort, doing your best work, and working in it for more than one class. We have discussions about what that should look like, which obviously depends on the age of the student. I had to make a "no cards or posters" rule and that takes care of a lot of issues. I also started using artist statement forms so when the work hangs in the hallway, viewers see the thought behind it."
This is one thing I love about blogging- being able to look back to reflect on my practice and see how the students and I have grown. Many teachers are afraid that they'll get a lot of hearts, smiley faces, etc., and that is a valid concern. I saw it happening with my students at first so we had a discussion. 
If you love rainbows, you can put them in your artwork. But do you think it would be better to have just a rainbow and a line of grass, or have a rainbow as one detail in a more thought out artwork?
Some kids want to draw their favorite cartoon or video game all the time. It's a safe place to start. I usually let them do one to get it out of their system, but then encourage them to move past that to something else. When I look back at some drawings from the end of the year, I see a lot of growth from my students. They are starting to figure out how to work in their interests in a more mature way than just drawing them floating in the middle of the page. 
 Another thing I love about choice art is that students can work at their own pace, within reason. I did have to say that (most) projects should take more than one class period to get the students to SLOW DOWWWWN and I don't think I've ever felt I needed to tell a student they worked on something for too long. I expected to go through more supplies, but other than more liquid tempera, which is the most popular paint choice, and construction paper, which I just didn't think about using all that often before, I've used less of most supplies. Some students want to work fast, but many students are content to work on projects for longer periods of time than when the project was my idea. Some students were just too rushed before and rarely finished anything, like the artist of the little red eared slider. This little guy always seems anxious and though he works the WHOLE time, he just works slower than the other kids. The turtle was off to a really great start. He worked on it for I think 4 class periods (that translates to two months) before I told him he could leave the background empty if he wanted. 
 This student drew himself in his football jersey and then didn't know what to do with the background. After we talked for a few minutes he decided to create a football field on green paper then cut and glue himself onto it. 
 This colored pencil drawing of a kingfisher would have been entered into a contest if the student had finished it in time. He worked on it for I think 5 classes, trying to get everything just right.
Self portraits are torturous to many students but drawing a portrait of a celebrity is more popular. This 5th grade student saw a photo she liked in a magazine while a classmate was looking for collage materials and showed a lot of improvement working on facial features and hands. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Open House

In past years I've ran a PowerPoint on a loop during Open House with information about our art program, Artsonia, and pictures of student work. Since both my buildings have Open House on the same night I split my time and didn't want to haul my bulk laptop AGAIN. So, at my second school I spent a little time putting some information on the whiteboard before parents got there. I tried to explain the basics of how we do TAB and what that means. I was pretty proud of my quick display. Did anyone look at it? I don't think so... I put out the class folders and parents were most interested in checking out the artwork which I totally understand! I guess if any happen across my blog, they'll see a summary.

Speaking of TAB, we're going to ease into it this year. My intermediate kids are starting off the same as last year, with a "choose your own adventure" kind of approach to our focus culture of India. When they finish the first project, I'll start opening up centers. At my primary school, we're starting off pretty structured. I think the younger students in my "at-risk" schools need a lot of structure, especially while we're getting into the swing of things. We started with dot day projects and now each grade is working on a project to learn about India. They'll be finishing this projects at various times over the next 3 weeks and then we'll start with drawing. I hope that some students will choose to make a design for the Youth Art Month flag contest (Kansas people, get details here: and there's another cool contest that my district is encouraging. Some students were asking me about Day of the Dead so I can see that being an inspiration to many as well.
After the drawing center is open, I'm still trying to decide what approach to take next. I'm toying with requiring students to try out each medium (collage, painting, weaving, etc.) with their choice of subject matter and THEN going to full choice where students can use whichever medium they want. Last year a lot of students just kept putting off trying new things. While a benefit of TAB is that students can gain more depth and work in series, I still think it's important to have a basic understanding of each of the basic areas so that it's kind of in their arsenal and they can choose the medium that will best help express their ideas. If you are a choice teacher, I'd love to hear what approach you use.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dollar Tree Dia de los Muertos

I like to run through the Dollar Tree once in a while because you just never know what you might find! On my last visit, I was struck by some large felt skull cutouts with the Halloween decorations and decided to turn one into a decoration for Day of the Dead. I picked up a small bottle of puff paint and set to work drawing my designs. I hot glued a loop or ribbon to the back and it was complete! I might pick up a couple more on my next trip. The skulls are also available in white.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Painting Bees- Process over Product

Last week my oldest son told his babysitter that he could tell she worked really hard on her painting of a flower, but it was missing something. He thought it needed a bee! I asked him later that night if he would like to paint a bee and he said yes. 
I asked him what color he wanted to make his bee. Yellow! I asked him what shape he wanted to make the bee. Round. I asked about stripes, he wanted black. I was shocked when he actually painted straight lines on the bee as making things recognizable to others is kind of new. The stripes didn't last long, though, since he soon started filling in the whole body black by making lines touch. Curious, I asked him why he used so much black. "To make it more darker, mommy!"

He added some tan colored wings and then later wanted to add more yellow stripes. This little painting experience reminded me of how important it is to watch the process as kids work and not just see the end product. I had a Kinder last week paint a bunch of really cool lines... and then cover them all up. If I hadn't seen him working, I wouldn't have had a clue about his ability to paint lines and control the brush.
Almost 4 year old's bee
Of course my youngest son wanted to paint as well. You can see above that he was using both a brush and fingers. My oldest pretty much always wanted to use a brush like he'd seen me use.
15 month old's bee painting.