Art 24/7

Being an artist, an art teacher, an educator, trying to make it all work in the 21st century.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Last Year Helps You Look Ahead

So many things made this school year exceptional: 1) first year for the new state evaluation system; 2) I took on another club, unplanned, but it turned out great; 3) this was a Course of Study year (i.e. rewriting curriculum to align with state standards; 4) participated in a district "Envisioning Team", which developed a real "out of the box" PD Day, and lead to some deep discussions about 21st century learners. Lots and lots of opportunities to deeply evaluate past practice to inform future practice this year, and not in the usual "teacher reflecting" kind of way. So much is changing in education, and so many of those changes strongly impact content areas like Art (and Music, P.E., etc.).

Let me take on the first look back: evaluations. Man, I was quaking in my boots about implementing SLO's ("Student Learning Objectives"). It just did not seem like I could find anything helpful online or in other districts. I ended up doing a sketchbook assessment, which worked out fine, other than organizing 660 sketchbooks! There are elementary art teachers out there doing tests, which are easier to score, especially if you use "clickers." Being me, by which I mean, being true to what I feel my program is about, we pre- and post-assessed students' ability to draw. Really, that is at the core of most art programs. Like I said, it worked out fine! Of course, the answers to the state online evaluation form took forever, but I love rattling on about art education, so it was a pleasure.

The "unplanned club" was a Broadcast Studio. At first, I had to learn a lot of technology, but I do pick up on that stuff easily enough. It also gave me the wonderful opportunity to work with another teacher in the district; we had a lot of fun brainstorming our way through multiple tech issues and broadcast snafus. Of course, experiential learning is messy, but the students involved learned so much. So now, I am the proud advisor of three clubs next year again!

The Course of Study: new standards, new ways of approaching integration and habits of mind for lifelong learning. This was a laborious process, but I really thought that I was in a great place to rewrite my curriculum having over twelve years of teaching under my belt (this was my second Course of Study revision). All told, I put in well over a hundred hours on this! I put a lot of care into the assessment pieces, knowing that making art is about so much more than the final product, especially at the elementary level.

The "Envisioning Team": well, PD Day was a huge success if you use the metric of getting people to think! Plus, loved curating the live Twitterchat as Dave Burgess (Teach Like A Pirate) gave the final address via Skype. I have to say, we are a very progressive (and successful) district. This day lead to several offshoot activities, including a Twitter book chat, our own district version of TedTalks, and the "Minecraft Experience" up at the high school and elementary school. We are still feeling our way around engaging more teachers in the deep philosophical issues of teaching lifelong learners.

In conclusion, one of the most challenging and strenuous, yet rewarding years I have had yet. I already put together my curriculum map for next year (posted below) plus signed up for a three credit hour class called "Creativity in Crisis" through AOE. I decided to dial back on a few non-art core commitments and dive deep into creativity for myself this summer. I will let you know how it goes…

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Art Show Prep Time

  • Every year, for at least eight years (I think), our art department has pulled together a giant district art show. First, we used to take over the entire high school commons area (cafeteria, foyer, hallway). Then, we got even bigger and took over an entire high school gymnasium. I have several pinboards from the last two years on my Pinterest:
  • It takes a long time to pull all the art together and get it labeled. Hanging the show usually takes a good three to four hours (and that is after teaching all day). Still, I enjoy the process as it is a time for reflection on the year and really enjoy the students' artworks. I start pulling from the beginning of the school year, keeping the most creative pieces from hallway displays. Then, I begin shaping what to add. For instance, is one grade level more represented than another? Is there enough media variation? What can go on the limited number of display boards? What can be put on tables? Do I need more explanatory signage? 
  • I am at the stage, now, where I am spending hours labeling additional art. I always like to get new projects out there, plus I have a bias for always liking the latest project best. 
  • Thoughts on showing artwork from other art teachers:                 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Exquisite Minds

In an effort to be on top of things after Spring Break, I brought home some artwork to photograph and upload to my digital gallery, Artsonia. I put a giant push on getting all my grading done before break, which made it easier. So, imagine me sitting in my art closet and grading, during my lunch, during my planning, and when I get to school (most days a good hour and a half before I need to), with stacks of 12" by 18" drawings to my left, literally towering over my head. These were the results of the fifth grade collaborative "Graphic Novels" project. Then, to the right of me was another tremendous stack of art, weighted down with old encyclopedias (which will be transformed into "Altered Books" later in the school year). Those pieces of art were the results of the watercolor project for fourth grade, "2 Cartoon Versions". In the flat file drawers, another 220 pieces of art (give or take) is waiting to be graded, the third graders' "2 Environments" watercolors. Here's the thing: these pieces of art are overall, just SO COOL!
Kids are so open at this age, their minds are just, well, exquisite! I admit, I hear at least ten times a day, "I can't do it", or, "I am not a good artist", or even worse, "My mom/dad says 'Art' does not run in our family." But, we push on, nurturing that creativity, working on that eye-hand coordination and higher-order reasoning while simultaneously having some fun.
I found a few quotes about why this matters---nurturing creativity, from "Nurturing the Next Van Gogh":
"The collective understanding puts creativity into two categories — legendary status, like Van Gogh — and everyday creativity, like cooking, scrapbooking, or drawing. Kaufman and Beghetto have dubbed these kinds of creativity “Big C” and “little C.” The problem with this dichotomy, however, is that it privileges the legendary Big C above all else, making it seem that only few have the potential to be creative. From "Nurturing the Next Van Gogh":
"...Kaufman and Beghetto favor what they call the 4 Cs. They’d like to include “mini C”moments, when one has a flash of inspiration or insight that is personally meaningful, but might not matter to anyone else, and “pro C” moments, when someone is an expert in their domain, but the full potential impact over time can’t have been determined yet. With this more complete spectrum of creativity it’s easier to imagine becoming more creative. And, according to the researchers, to move from a “mini C” idea to a “little C,” all that’s needed is some feedback. And to move from “little C” to “pro C” a person just needs practice. "
"With creativity comes uncertainty, which many teachers would prefer to keep out of their classrooms. And, while everyone says they want creative thinkers, creativity isn’t rewarded at the “mini-C” and “little-C” levels. Often the kids who operate at those levels are the ones considered to be distracting the class or straying off track. Because society favors the pro and big-C levels, it’s harder to nurture those lower levels. But it’s important to recognize that students can’t get to be a legendary creative genius without having their creativity nurtured along the way — recognizing the 'little C’s'."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Art Standards: State Roadmap or National?

Our k-12 Art Department is nearing the end of a year long process, writing our curriculum to align to the new state standards. Yet, the National Art Education Association is rolling out National Standards soon and it would have been nice if they had been adopted at the state level (much like Common Core). So, how do they compare? The state standards are here-
They fit on just a few pages, which I like, and they focus on Enduring Understandings and break into simple progress points:
Enduring Understandings:
Personal Choice and Vision: Students construct and solve problems of personal relevance and interest when expressing themselves through visual art.
Critical and Creative Thinking: Students combine and apply artistic and reasoning skills to imagine, create, realize and refine artworks in conventional and innovative ways.
Authentic Application and Collaboration: Students work individually and in groups to focus ideas and create artworks that address genuine local and global community needs.
Literacy: As consumers, critics and creators, students evaluate and understand artworks and other texts produced in the media forms of the day.

Progress Points:
The student will at the appropriate developmental level:
  1. Recognize that people from various times and cultures create works of art to be looked at, valued and enjoyed.
  2. Explore a range of art concepts and artworks and construct meaning about the works.
  3. Connect making art with individual choice and understanding personal cultural identity.
  4. Produce artworks that express and represent their experiences, imagination and ideas using a range of media including new technologies.
  5. Form and express opinions about artworks and apply critical and creative thinking skills to assess and refine their artworks. 

    Here are the National Art Standards-

    You need to scroll down to page sixteen before you get to them...They are divided into grade bands that do not make sense to me (k-4, 4-8, 9-12 is the only one that makes sense). The standards are subdivided into "Achievement Standards" and "Content Standards". So in grades 5-8, you have one that reads 
    "1. Content Standard: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
    Achievement Standard:
    a. select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in
    communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choices
    b. intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of *art media, techniques, and
    processes to enhance communication of their experiences and ideas"

    I do not really see the value in separating them out. I guess you can see that I am leaning towards the state standards. The national standards, though, are much simpler because there are only SIX CONTENT standards  in each grade band instead of 17->18 state standards (divided into PE, perceiving/knowing, PR, producing/performing, and RE responding/reflecting). The national standards also provide a simple rubric.

    I guess I like the state "progress points" better than I like the national "content standards". For instance, in the national k-4 band, there is "2. Content Standard: Using knowledge of *structures and functions", and I have to admit, without the glossary, I would have had problems interpreting that. For the record, the glossary definition is: "Structures. Means of organizing the components of a work into a cohesive and meaningful whole, such as sensory qualities, organizational principles, expressive features, and functions of art." (Remember, that is a k-4 content standard!)

    So, this is what I wonder, are we getting too fancy and elitist with national content standards that need a glossary and state standards that are divided into PE/PR/RE? Can we make art and learn about amazing cultures and their artifacts, maybe get some integration and design thinking in there without all the mumbo jumbo?


Saturday, February 8, 2014

How Graphic Novels Unit is Going/ 3rd Grade Note

  • We are into the third week of the fifth grade "Graphic Novels" unit, and I finally feel like a can take a deep breathe. I decided to use the myth, "Pandora's Box", and found a one-page version at an appropriate reading level for my students. I wanted each design team to use their own strategy to divide it into a beginning, middle, and end. I really did not think that would be such a hard thing, but it ended up taking an entire class period for some groups. Still, the "pirate" in me decided to stay the course in letting the students own the learning, let the pacing be student-driven, and be prepared for more scaffolding. Then, the storyboards started. I could have easily said, "One storyboard of four panels per student." I let the students decided who would do what, and some groups went with the minimum requirement of 12 panels, 4 layout pages, while others wanted to add a ton more to the myth in service of their selected "tone". There are Pandoras who are Pandas, robots, fairies, and sporting Manga hair as a result----I love it! Stuff popping out of the box (envy, crime, hate, disease, plus hope) also might look like ghosts, fairies, zombies, etc. In several cases, the box is a portal to another dimension. Exactly the type of creative thinking I was hoping for!
  • Onto the layout panel designing...Having reference on Pinterest was helpful for some groups, others just wanted to copy my layout, others used the posters I had in the art room. The place where I need to make changes for next year is cycling back to "why" different layouts serve the story. I talked with groups 1:1 to make suggestions for changing up their layouts, but my voice is nearly shot after a week of 1:1 conferences (14 groups a day, 5 days a week). and another thing---turns out some students do not know how to use a ruler correctly to draw a 1/2" border around their layout pages. I was a bit floored by that, but definitely brought some math into the language arts lesson. I do not want to make it easier by having them trace a border, so I need to allow time for this component.
  • Now, we are at the fun stage, the drawing! After all that scaffolding and cycling back to the concept of "tone", I am anxious to see how the art turns out. The process is the point, and I definitely think integrative learning is the best, but the art teacher in me is dying to see some drawing finally.
  • 3rd Grade note: I had this fun idea to get a bunch of cereal boxes and have my third graders cut them up, make either owls or fish, and paint them before doing a little free-form weaving on them. It has been really well-received because of the novelty of using that donated cardboard. The kids started making a game out of seeing who got what type of box ("I got Cheeerios!"). During a demonstration of cutting and gluing, a few students incredulously asked me, "Where do you come up with these cool ideas, Mrs. Girbino?". My favorite comment came on Friday, when one of the boys in my last class of the week came up to me and said, "When I get home, I am looking for an empty box and making a dragon!" My mood matched the sun streaming in my window---sunny! Great way to end the week and worth the hassle of cutting up those boxes all week.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tech, Art, & Putting It Out There

The first semester is behind us and the second semester is upon us, and I say, "Unleash the tech!". In fifth grade, students are starting a Graphic Novels unit, with a very strong Common Core State Standards (CCSS) integration: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.7: "Analyze how visual and multimedia elements   contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g. graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem)."To help achieve student-led investigations, I created another pinboard:
We have already done a pre-survey of graphic novels and I have dug into student fluency data thanks to my fifth grade Language Arts teachers. The myth I decided to give to all my fifth graders is "Pandora's Box", and the ten literary tones they got to randomly select (I "game-ified" this component) include futuristic, scary, funny, and minimal words. Already, students have come up with Pandora unleashing via wormholes, zombies (of course), and "Panda's Box". Creativity is alive and well in the art room!

Fourth graders have completed the tiles for the community tile mural project! Hopefully, the bitterly cold, record-setting weather will not interfere with their creations. I carefully covered each class's tiles with layers of newspaper before the predicted cold front came through. Hopefully, adjusting the tile thickness to 3/8" and drying very, very slow will help get us through to the bisque-firing. I wrote and received a grant to fund this tile mural project, and I cannot wait until we get to the glazing!!!

I am working on getting some visiting artists, local architects, which would lead nicely to a Sketch-Up integration. In the past, students have loved working on computers to design three dimensional artwork much like the Minecraft gaming experience so many of them are already familiar with.

Third grade is halfway into their second cartooning project, "Zonkey Cartooning". We started with "Art Dogs" (another pinboard), where we used colored pencil and focused on pattern. Now, we are talking about the cartooning style of Ian Sands and using tempera paint. This is the thing about "putting it out there"---Ian is an innovative art educator, and he posts all kinds of interesting stuff that he does with his students at Apex High School. I am lucky to have found so many talented, creative, and successful art educators via the internet. I feel grateful that they put themselves "out there", and I put myself "out there", too, through multiple platforms: my blogs, my school webpage, Artsonia, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest. I am not trying to make a buck from these things, I want to share because I seek feedback and also because I get so much inspiration from other people. Call it "crowd sourcing", Personal Learning Networks, or whatever, as the only art teacher in my building, I love having these resources at my fingertips. Thanks to all you art folk who innovate and share!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Being Flexible

If there was one behavior I had to keep in mind this first semester of school, it would be "flexibility". I had to adjust my pacing several times due to projects taking longer than I hoped for, and also because we went to a four day rotation for third and fourth grade. I also ended up becoming the advisor for another club. I should add that we are rewriting our Course of Study to align with the new state standards and yes, we also have a new teacher evaluation system (state-wide). So, yeah, "flexibility" was the watchword of the first semester for me as an art educator. If you are trying to integrate your curriculum, then being flexible is also very important because (no offense grade level teachers) you are also rewriting curriculum and coming up with cool ideas, but not a year ahead like me, merely a few weeks or less for implementation. So, I am definitely trying to pull off a new unit, "Graphic Novels", with very little lead time, for my fifth graders when we return from break. I am actually quite excited to try this Language Arts integration, and I think we will still have time to do the robot unit I had planned, just do it a little later and a little smaller. So now, resources I found for Graphic Novels are:

There are plenty more posts to come on this integration as I work through it. Right now, I plan on having ALL the students do a graphic novel based on a myth, but work within a style (like "romantic" or "mystery"). This is all in alignment to a new literacy standard. As I figure it all out, I will post.

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