Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

Genius Hour & Global Day of Design

School has been out for awhile, giving me time to reflect and relax. I have been wanting to write about the end of the year units I did with fourth grade (Global Day of Design) and fifth grade (Genius Hour) as they were highly successful, very integrative, and gave students a lot of voice/choice! You can see examples and a few informative videos at my school art website: http://www.lgirbino.com/

Both units were co-designed with our school media specialist, an innovative and technology-savvy person (she even created a MakerSpace and Club in our Media Center). Theoretically, any content area collaboration could work (e.g. Math/Art, Social Studies/Art, etc.). We started with the limitation of end-of-year activities really interfering with the Specials schedule in our upper elementary building. In fourth grade, the "Global Day of Design" project would be implemented in both Media and Art, and we shuttled projects back-and-forth between the two classroom areas (finally getting smart and having students do it after about a week). By having the projects go on in both content areas, students were able to really take their time. The fifth grade "Genius Hour" was comprised of two separate projects, created in Media and Art. In Media, students could work in teams; in Art, they completed individual projects (but a lot of peer-coaching ensued--a delightful development). Although the fifth grade projects were different for Art and Media, having the same concept allowed students to deeply explore what a "Genius Hour" really is, plus I was able to discuss the unit progression with the Media Specialist (and vice-versa).

The breakdown of "Global Day of Design" was:

  1. Introduce class project--design either a mini-golf course hole, a board game, or a roller coaster for a marble. Each class chose a theme for their project after learning the design parameters (size limitation, hole must be play-able for a marble, coaster must work for a marble, game must have instructions that make sense).
  2. Students created GoogleDocs for game instructions or task management after selecting their teams.
  3. Lots of time was planned for the design (about 4 weeks).
  4. One week for testing/redesign.
  5. Final week was presentation and critique. Students also graded themselves using the Art rubric.
The breakdown of "Genius Hour-Art":

  1. Introduce and discuss what a "Genius Hour" is, including how Google utilizes it. Give students their choice : an art-based “Big Question” to explore, such as “How do I draw a realistic dragon?” or “How can I construct a chair?” Alternatively, students could chose an “anchor artist” based on a Thrively strength they identified using an online questionnaire in Media . Finally, students could visually answer a “Wonderwall” question (created in Media) via an accordion book. Sample “wonder” questions include “I wonder why tree branches are brown?” and “I wonder how Steph Curry got so good at basketball?”
  2. Students were given a planning sheet, which included a list of Thrively strengths and suggested artists. This sheet also ended up working for students who wanted to choose their own project without getting on a computer for research. The Art room had ten computers available for research, and two class periods were allotted for research, planning, and 1:1 teacher conference on project.
  3. I created a class-by-class list of who was doing what, and used colored markers to put checks on the progress (orange=needs work, blue=solid progress, green=ready to present).
  4. Students spent three class periods on their projects. These were as varied as stop-motion animations, accordion books, papier mache, origami---the list was impressive! I had Snap-Guides for tech-based projects, Art Room books for drawing-based projects, plus prepared instructional resources for accordion books, weaving, and papier mache.
  5. The last week, students presented, although a few presented the prior week near the end of class. I had most students who did stop-motion animation (on their own devices, we are a BYOD district) send me their files ahead of time so I could project them on my Smartboard. The presentations were simple: tell us what you made, what you liked, and what you learned. Then, students could ask for at least two comments/questions.
As an instructor, I was blown away by the creativity and work ethic students exhibited in both "Genius Hour" and "Global Day of Design" units! I think that having students do a smaller choice-based project earlier in the year scaffolded several skill sets they needed including time management and grit. We lost some time in fifth grade for their end-of-year activities, so I would start a little earlier next year and also start laying the groundwork for the "Genius Hour" project during the first semester by letting them start researching as soon as they want to.
I also learned that you can never have enough cardboard, paper towel tubes, and packing tape! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Going All-In On A Choice-based Project

   The last project of the semester for my fifth graders was an entirely choice-based sculpture project. I approached this idea with a lot of trepidation; it was the end of the semester and right before our winter break. Additionally, students were missing classes for Choir practice, Band practice, and Orchestra practice (tis' the season for concerts!). We also had a magazine drive reward on a Friday, where up to 75% of the class was on a field trip to a water park. Yet, I had really sold this project way ahead of time and felt like I could not back out (and the prep I had done had been daunting).
   Students needed to sketch ideas for their sculpture ahead of time, with some focus on an art element or principle (I was not too strict on that, though). Also, if they went outside of the usual supply list (yarn, cardboard, paper, paint [acrylic], markers, colored pencils, papier mache, paper towel tubes that I had saved all year, various recycled plastic containers that had been squirreled-away), then it was the student's responsibility to bring it in. I had big worries that the students who chose to do things like animations and dioramas would show up empty handed, but that only happened a few times. I did have some students with glorious, highly creative ideas just hit the wall and decide to do either weavings or "totem poles" (the default project because of my abundance of supplies in those categories). With nearly 640 students school-wide, and nearly 220 in this grade level, I was also worried about storage and media management. I cleared out my kiln room and hoped for the best...
   So, how did it go? Pretty amazing! Students begged to come in at recesses to work, they did research at home, brought in their own devices to photograph animation made with play-doh, Legos, or a combination. They edited their videos and did soundtracks! I had a few videos that came in the day of presentations, which made me scramble to upload them to my Vimeo account, and I had to find and download an app just to get the one video from a student's YouTube account (why does YouTube make it so hard?). We had puppet shows with scripts peer-edited in GoogleDocs, weavings in the round and incorporating unusual things like zippers and shredded leather. There were robots, stabiles, mobiles, and incredibly detailed dioramas. I was astounded by the variety of ideas!
   Was I exhausted? Yes! I also was sick for a few days in the middle of the messiest stage, and I worried about my sub, but all the prep and EXTREMELY detailed lesson plan paid off. I also decided to let some students, who just were not working in class, take their art home, which I never do. 75% of the projects came back! The most important thing was that I stuck with the presentation schedule, which had been outlined at the beginning, when students completed a timeline for their project. So, finished or not, each student or group (because they also had choice there), presented that last week. They wrote a reflection first (handed-in), that scaffolded the presentation points: what you made, one great thing, and one area that you could improve on. After the presentation, students could call on peers for feedback and questions. That presentation piece was key---it underscored the thinking process and supported rich discussions that I could not of anticipated.
   What was a great thing? The students were really invested in their projects! Also, having a Sculpture Contract that students could follow. What could I improve on? Well, I think I need a few more 3D "default" options, as the weavers needed more support than I anticipated. I might pre-make more looms, too. I also think that some projects got too big, leading to frantic papier mache sessions. I might make a box like the airlines do for carry-ons, and the project cannot exceed that size. Lastly, I learned that you absolutely cannot have enough scrap cardboard around (my favorite for ease of student cutting is empty cereal boxes).
   Next up: planning a collaborative "Genius Hour Twitter" with our Media Specialist.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer School

Like a lot of teachers, I have been taking a class this summer. This one is three credit hours, all online, about teaching strategies in the art room. Lately, I have been trying to re-focus my "work" energy and attention strictly on art, art making, art teaching. I still joined a technology committee this summer, but the workload was highly manageable with just a few meetings.

I like learning new things, then sharing them with my students. Some of the nuggets I got out of this class:

  • A great visual guide-making site called "Snapguide". I have already made several guides for my students, plus they have a fairly impressive library of created guides.
  • Padlet--a place where you can create "walls" of whatever, videos, pictures, links, and collaborate on them.
  • Using a 2D and 3D matrix to organize your media lessons. I found this to be a valuable tool to see where there might be holes in my current curriculum map. They are below...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


     Everyone in our district got a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. I had ample time to read it at home due to the snow days we had (what a winter, lots of records were broken). Here's the link to her TedTalk--http://bit.ly/19cSDOY  (I shortened it on bitly). As an art teacher, I think we use "growth mindset" language in the classroom pretty regularly. You know what I am talking about: "You are not there yet, but with some more effort…"; "It takes practice to get good at ______, but you will get there…"; "You know, I had to work hard to get this good at drawing." In the ARTS, students often believe they need "the gift" before they can be an artist or a musician or a dancer, etc. If you just "Google" growth vs. fixed mindset, a bunch of cool charts come up, and lots of good inspirational images are also readily available. I put one such graphic at the bottom of this post.
     Of course, Aristotle had it pegged ages ago with one of my most favorite quotes ever,  "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."
     I have to say, I enjoyed the book. It is a quick read, with ample examples that could be shared with students. I think the sports analogies would particularly resonate with certain classes. It is good to be reminded that explaining the malleability of the mind is important, because students just naturally assume that they are either "smart" or "not smart" (or "artistic" or not). Dweck outlines case after case where students and adults can change how they approach learning after being taught growth mindset strategies.
     So now, I have some good information to share with parents and even fellow teachers when they say something like, "I could never draw a straight line, even with a ruler!" Or (and this is one of the worst), "The art gene does not run in our family." I would guess that no one ever says to their child, "You know, the reading gene does not run in our family."
     I put a whole slew of quotes I like on my interest page---things I think would start deep thinking and interesting discussions. It is on my board "Art Openers".

Visit Lois's profile on Pinterest. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

So Far This Year...

  • When I took my "Creativity in Crisis" course, we were encouraged to do "Morning Pages". The concept is from Julie Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, which I readily admit I have not read. You are supposed to write 3 pages (longhand) every day, whatever comes to your mind. There are websites to encourage the practice, including this one-http://750words.com. You write to free your mind, then get on with your day. The words can be lists, sentences, random, non-linear. I loved the practice, then got busy with school and stopped. Then, just recently, I started to get more active in Google+, even joining a poetry group. Writing that one poem to a prompt released a lot of good vibes for the rest of my day. 
  • So, my first point I want to share about this year is that nurturing your own creativity has to happen if you want to nurture your students. Most of us do not have the time to make art (although I did co-create alongside my students a lot this past quarter because they were used to classroom routines and working very nicely), but a little poem or doodle each day or just when you are low on creativity can serve as a real boost.
  • I still love Pinterest. I am up to a ridiculous amount of pins, all curriculum or idea related. No recipes or favorite make-up tips for me---straight school stuff. I find it relaxing to pin a few things during a boring television show or right before I fall asleep. As we all know, some units run faster than anticipated, or you just pull the plug on them sooner than planned. Having really solid options to grab without further research time is AWESOME. Some people like to park resources on StumbleUpon, Google+, Edmodo, etc. Being visual, I like Pinterest, though I have used the aforementioned. I do due diligence, though, hitting those links to make sure they are good. Often, the "pin" is of a pin, and there is nothing but the image. If that is enough, fine, but often, you need more directions. Plus, if something seems too unwieldy, I don't pin it. I also love to integrate with my classroom teachers, so I can grab resources very quickly. You know how it is---the social studies teacher has a neat idea for an integration and it starts in a week. Pinterest solves that problem nicely.
  • Being flexible with scheduling clay units is key! I started clay early, jumping in the deep end of the pool with third graders. They were so creative. Then, I thought it would be cool to knock the fourth grade clay unit out, but noticed a lot of absences right before Thanksgiving, so I held off. Next thing I know, there are a lot of kiddos out, and I am not feeling so hot myself. Thank goodness I was not in the middle of a clay unit, or it would have been a disaster. Instead, wait for it, I went on my Pinterest boards and whipped up a suitable, aligned unit without too much trouble. Whew!
  • Running clubs is exhausting, but so rewarding. I think I mentioned earlier that I am the proud advisor of three clubs: Art Club, Newspaper Club, and Broadcast Studio. This year, I kept the numbers manageable (no more 30+ groups without help), and put more responsibility on the students. So far, it is working out fine. I learn a lot about my students in these smaller settings, and get great insights into what they are thinking about school. Plus, I would never have learned so much about Wordpress if I had not been running the Newspaper Club. 
  • Streamlining my grading hints: I like to grade a project/unit when all the students are done, allowing about a week for absent students to catch up. Then, I pile all of the projects on a cart, and hole up in my art closet to grade early in the morning, while my mind is fresh. I used to sprawl out on a table in my room, but got interrupted a lot. Plus, if I did not finish a class's work before duties or meetings or teaching started, I had to pile up everything and put it someplace else. Lots of wasted time there. I get through things so much faster this way---really! As I grade, I pull out the art I want to display, putting full names and homerooms on the art while it is right in front of me in my Gradebook. So, find a quiet hideaway to store art and grade it when you are well rested and relaxed. Grading is actually a pleasure this way, even with 640 students.
  • Updating a classroom website the easy way: Put the app for your website on your phone, shoot the pictures you want to upload with your phone, and dictate the words into your phone (with your app). It took me less than fifteen minutes instead of the usual hour or so. I even figured out that you just have to say the punctuation you want to insert; the same goes for a new paragraph, just say, "new paragraph". 

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

About Me

My photo

The journey of process intrigues me and I am always changing it up.

Search This Blog