|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.