Friday, January 23, 2015

Positive and Negative Leaf Prints

I've purchased enough gelli plates now that I can take them to school and 4 students can print at a time. In October, I had a gelli printing station. Each 2nd and 3rd grade student had a chance. I demonstrated a few techniques and then let student choose and combine how they saw fit. The most popular choice was using the positive and negative space of leaves with first generation and ghost prints.

 I had many texture combs, stamps and found objects available for students to use to create their first print. The students came around the printing table, asked me to squirt the color of acrylic paint they wanted to use, rolled it with a brayer, and pulled the print. They also printed the ghost of the texture/pattern.
The students who wanted to play with the positive and negative space then chose a second paint color, rolled it out, arranged a leaf or several vein side down, and chose one of their printed papers to print on AGAIN. Next, they removed the leaf and printed the ghost. The paper with the leaf ON the plate will have the negative space in the shape of a leaf, which acted as a mask. The ghost will have the positive space showing the texture of the veins. Gelli plates show a lot of detail and texture so this pretty much always turns out cool. Different print combinations- first/first, ghost/ghost, first/ghost, ghost/first yield different results. The students enjoyed exploring and playing with the possibilities.
You can see the lesson plan on the smARTteacher.
 Some students tried different ideas- layering textures or images drawn with cotton swabs.
You can make a homemade gelatin plate for printing, but I've never tried it. I've heard good things about it but buying some plates with Blick gift coupons was a quicker choice for me! I now have gelatin plates in 8x10, 6x6, 5x7, 3x5, and the 8 inch circle. I haven't even had time to try out the circle plate yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kindergarten Students' First Choice Drawings

The first choice assignment given to my Kindergarten students last fall was drawing. They'd already completed one teacher directed assignment covering many skills and I was ready to see what they would do on their own. Each student had a piece 9x12 inch drawing paper and the choice of basic drawing supplies. Most stuck with crayons or marker to add color to their pencil drawings. I asked them to draw something they wanted, just to make sure they were doing their best. We had talked about filling the space and coloring neatly during the mini lesson at the beginning of class and had already symbolically gotten our scribbles out on the first day of art class.
When students thought they were finished with their drawings, they checked them with me. This way I could encourage them to keep working on it if needed or have them tell me about their artwork if it was really complete. If there was a good unoccupied space on the artwork, I asked the students if they wanted me to write their description on the front. (In first grade, I usually have students write a sentence on the back of their completed work serving as an artist statement).
We're currently working on writing the art curriculum in my district based off of the Core Arts Standards. Here are some "I Can" statements that I think apply to many of these drawings.
  • I can explore and play with different art materials.
  • I can use my imagination while playing with art materials.
  • I can explain how I make my art.
  • I can tell what art is about.
  • I can describe details in artwork.
  • I can create art that tells a story about me. 

I got SO much information from these open ended drawings. I got to know my new students. I found out about interests and ability levels. I saw which students were naturally inclined to be very detailed and which are more expressive. I saw how they think and organize things. I saw who was confident, who was timid, and who needed some extra encouragement. Valuable information.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Vote for Blog of the Year!

It's time to vote in the Art of Education's annual Art Ed Blog of the Year contest! This year they've added categories and, as always, you can vote for more than one. That's a relief, as I was able to vote for some old "friends"! Check out the finalists and vote!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Who's the Master Builder? (It's Okay to Have a TAB Classroom)

Just in case you were living under a rock last month and never got a chance to see this video, make some time to watch it ASAP!

It really resonated with me and I think art teachers everywhere did a collective fist pump.

The speaker addressed some of the issues that were nagging at me as I felt a pedagogical shift toward student choice. I was working hard to merge the DBAE training I had with open-ended projects that allowed "room" for students to make choices. I alway thought it was working, until I started having students write artist statements. I provided prompts like "why did you make this", or "where did you get your idea" and was floored at the number of students who said "because my teacher told me to." That showed me that even when I thought I was giving students choices, they still saw the assignments as having a predetermined outcome, or at least as being MY idea. In short, I realized that I was doing the heavy lifting and more of the thinking.

Here is part of my post from almost 3 years ago. I will address my own concerns in a different color.

I’m attracted by the idea of TAB- students being real artists instead of making what they think I want them to make (no cookie cutters!), but I do have a few reservations. My reservations are more practical than theoretical, such as
  • If students are responsible for what materials they use, how do you order adequate supplies with a limited budget? 
    • I order about the same supplies I used to order. I've found that we use less of some supplies and others are more popular, but can be limited. The teacher controls which materials are available and rationing can happen when needed. I've had to insist that students finish projects they start, partly to make sure we don't waste supplies, and partly to ensure that something gets finished as I only see my 4th-6th grade students twice a month and the younger students up to 4 times a month. Other than lots of reminders about using erasers instead of recycling paper with "mistakes" and asking students not to be greedy with special collage papers, I haven't done anything different. My budget has actually dropped a bit each year and I've been just fine.
  • How do you ensure students experiment with different media and encourage them to try new things if they are content to use the same materials each class period? (I know I have some students who want to do nothing but paint, or use clay for the whole year.)
    • My intermediate students who have art twice a month are supposed to try a different medium or technique after each project, before repeating. With only 18 classes a year (if we don't have snow days or other events that cause us to miss class and find we are unable to reschedule), I feel like that's what we need to do. I'm not as strict with the younger students on that note because most have art twice as often, though I do make sure that at some point in the school year they try at least drawing, painting, collage, weaving, printmaking, clay. I'm testing something different with Kindergarten this year to ensure that they get a good foundation covering the "basics". In the first lesson of the year, we covered tracing a circle, drawing lines, cutting, and gluing. Next, each student drew a self portrait. Then there was time for a choice drawing before heading into a "paint papers and make a collage like Eric Carle" project. After that, students could make a drawing or a collage. I'm trying to alternate a specific skill with a choice project until we've covered all the bases. 
  • Students are obviously responsible for their learning and designing their assignments, but how do you make sure they are pushing themselves and not coasting when they are allowed to work at their own pace? (Sadly, when I have 6th graders who chose to make a snake for their project because they think it will be easy but "can't" roll a coil and want me to do it for them, this is a concern.)
    • The teacher in a TAB/Choice room is still the teacher and guide. I have gotten to know many students better by talking to them about their interests and observing their choices and work habits. I can tell when a student is trying to coast and I can do something about it. I don't start off with deadlines since some projects will be more detailed and use more techniques, obviously requiring more time. However, if I notice a student is not pushing to finish or spending too much time on a project, I can encourage them to wrap it up, help them develop a plan, and even impose a deadline if I need to. I can also have students make up wasted class time during recess, which usually prevents the problem in the future.
Since there still seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about TAB/Choice floating around out there (like in this recent article posted on the Art of Education) I felt compelled to revisit my initial reservations and share about a few things I've figured out since switching. TAB is not for every teacher. You have to be willing to give up some control, you have to trust your students, you have to be able to multi-task, you must be flexible, you must be confident enough to embrace authentic "kid" art, and you must have a school culture that allows experimentation and accepts play as a form of research (some guy named Einstein talked about that...)

In my Choice-based art room, 
  • My students are held to very high expectations.
  • My students get more individualized instruction, small group instruction, and one-on-one conferencing with the teacher. The students can also become experts and share with their peers.
  • I do not rely on online sources any more than I always have. I make use of technology when appropriate and we have a fairly low-tech art room with an emphasis on hands-on experiences.
  • With guidance, my elementary kids actually make pretty good decisions, thank you very much.
  • I am very pleased with the quality of my students work. We have critiques when they think they are finished during which time we talk about what could be improved and come up with a plan to do it. Besides, I would rather see artwork that is meaningful to the students than artwork that is designed with an adult aesthetic.
ANNND, just in case you don't know me well, let me assure you that the point of this is not to judge how others teach, but to share MY experiences teaching with choice in MY schools and stand up for this new-to-me pedagogy that just feels right. Every community and every teacher is different and you have to do what feels right to you. Having said that, if you are intrigued by TAB or just want to try out giving your students some more choices, don't be afraid! 

Here is a post about dipping my toes into teaching with choice-

Here are some posts about using "Choose Your Own Adventure" to give students a menu of choices based on a theme: