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- 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". 

Sunday, October 19, 2014


   The school year started off strong in LES Art. Third graders did cartooning, flip books, and clay pinch pots already. Fourth and fifth graders played the collaborative drawing game, "Exquisite Corpse" (except I called it "360 Degree Doodles"). Some people call it "Picture Consequences". Really, it is basically a cooperative drawing, which makes for a great opening week activity. Fourth graders made radial prints from collograph plates (mainly because the linoleum blocks were not in yet, but I also had an abundance of cardboard and glue), did negative space tree drawings, and are starting an abstract art painting unit. I found a lot of people pulling collograph plates as if they were intaglio (i.e. using a printing press), but we just inked and printed. This website is pretty good about the simpler method:  Fifth grade has done radial art with colored pencil, done computer rotations for digital mandalas using Adobe Illustrator, and are now starting a huge graphic design unit. All grades completed their sketchbook SLO's (Student Learning Objectives). I have nearly 300 pieces of artwork on our digital gallery, Artsonia. I admit, I have been working some long days!
   I used to like to ease into the schedule, but experience has taught me that holidays, testing schedules, concert practices and field trips start taking my students away from art class as early as November. So now, we dive into media and techniques by the second week.
  I am also starting a Sketchnoting push in my classroom with a dual purpose: to help students make better connections about art concepts and also, to help them learn better outside the art room. No one really teaches kids how to take notes. I thought this video summed it up:
My students cracked up at how fast the narrator spoke, but seemed pretty interested otherwise. I would have loved to learn about using text, image, and hierarchy to make sense on my notes when I was in elementary school. We drilled on the Roman numeral method, mostly in English class to outline for papers. "Note that the standard order of an outline is:
I. Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, V, etc.)
A. Capital letters (A, B, C, etc.)
1. Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.)
a. Small letters (a, b, c, etc.)
i. Small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.)"
I used that skill set for note taking in college, but ended up being a big doodler on my notes (especially in Biology classes, back when I thought I was going to be a medical illustrator). At any rate, I was doing visual note taking a LONG time ago. I always worried that I would get busted by a professor for not doing notes the right way. Fast forward to now--I think this method is good for many students, especially by helping them make connections. It is better than "mind-mapping", in my opinion.
    Recently, Wall StreetJournal wrote an article about the power of doodling and memory:

"Michiko Maruyama, a medical-school student, says she writes down key words during class lectures and later draws "daily doodles" that bring together what she learned. Ms. Maruyama, who attends the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says she fills gaps in her understanding while she draws images of gastric secretions, hernias and other subjects of study.
"It's not until I doodle that I think about how everything comes together. I find out what I know and what I don't know," she says. When she stopped doodling for a week, her grades went down.

Doodles by Elizabeth Bales of Seattle 

 citation (from website): The Power of the Doodle: Improve Your Focus and Memory, Research Shows That Doodling Helps People Stay Focused, Grasp New Concepts and Retain Information

The appearance of a doodle can stimulate ideas for improvement, according to a 2014 study by Gabriela Goldschmidt, a professor emeritus of architecture at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and a researcher on learning techniques of design. A doodle can spark a "dialog between the mind and the hand holding a pencil and the eyes that perceive the marks on paper," the study says."

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Creativity in Crisis: What I Learned

I took a three credit hour class called "Creativity in Crisis" (based on the book by Sir Ken Robinson) and I found it very refreshing to have an art focused class with primarily art teachers in it. I got a lot out of this class and am posting a few things I learned, as well as my action plan for the year based on that knowledge.
Ken Robinson lists these nine principles under three categories: a) personal (a creative leader should “facilitate the creative abilities of every member of the organization”; b) group (“the second role of a great leader is to form and facilitate dynamic creative teams”; c) culture (the third role is to “promote a general culture of innovation”). I don’t disagree with the categories, but there seems like there is a lot of overlap. For example, creative spaces could be personal, and creative potential facilitation should be part of the culture of an organization or classroom if you want to foster innovation.  One of the most important things Ken Robinson wrote in the book was at the start of this chapter: “Creating a culture of innovation will only work if the initiative is led from the top of the organization” (p.119). This is so true! I will discuss the principles using either the classroom context (for grades 3-4-5 Art) or the personal context depending on which one I feel I can realistically implement.
Principle 1: Everyone has creative potential. I could not be an art teacher if I did not believe this. There are myriad ways to nurture individual creative potential, and the first one is to build an environment of trust and openness. I feel like my students are so locked-down in their classrooms, and I give them the chance to make choices: they choose their seats; they can choose the subject matter, sometimes even the media for a certain project (with a tight budget, there are constraints there). I also believe that nurturing creative potential means empowering my students. To that end, I encourage students to bring items or reference from home to add to their artwork. Another idea that I have been flirting with is to let students design their own projects more often. Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) somewhat addresses some of the classroom management that would be involved; it would be a daunting management issue for 660 students. I already have a TAB center for computer arts, one for research, and one for A.T.C.’s (Artists’ Trading Cards).  I am thinking about trying to add more TAB options (i.e. more discovery learning) to replace one or two projects a year, per grade level.

Principle 2: Innovation is the child of imagination. Basically, I take this to mean that you need to foster imagination in the classroom as a stepping- stone to innovation. Most certainly, the current educational climate does not foster imagination for teachers or most students in core subjects (standards, testing, rankings and high-stakes evaluations are key culprits here). Imagination is such a fragile thing. I wrote about it in assignment 8, particularly how I think students start to abandon their imaginative ways as a way to fit in and seem older. The art classroom should be a refuge for the imagination. I think that having students step outside of their comfort zone on projects is part of the equation, and also letting them play/experiment with the media. One of the things that I need to do less of is having examples. Some students need them, in fact, their I.E.P. might mandate something like “chunked examples”, but that does not mean I have to have them out all the time. Use of stories is another great way to spark imagination, as is unusual juxtapositions (like making a garment from duct tape, although that is so common now). I also like to use visualization techniques with my students. One I have tried is “A Beautiful Thought”, where students meditate on something that makes them happy before we start making art. I think I could do something more with this, with funny/creative prompts to spark their imaginations.
Principle 3: We can all learn to be more creative. I am going to address this personally, because you have to lead by example on this. Most students expect that I am the last word on what is creative or how to be creative. Many teachers on my staff have pretty much said as much to me (e.g. “You are the creative person”). I am pretty good at knowing when my creative low is fast approaching, and this past year was about as low creatively as I have ever gotten. Just saying you are going to make more art, or experiment more just does not cut it. I like to share with my students how I am challenging myself creatively (e.g. the second year of my “365 Challenge”-, and I know that I will be sharing things that I am learning from this class. For me, the hardest part is saying “No” to stuff, but I made a real commitment to myself creatively when I dug deep on things that just killed me last year. Things I cannot control: health issues or my teaching schedule. Things I can control: backing off from extra commitments that have nothing to do with art, teaching art, being a mother, being a wife, or pursuing creative challenges. Learning to be more creative is not linear, and you have to be willing to embrace that.

Principle 4: Creativity thrives on diversity. I take this to mean a diversity of experiences as well as a diversity of people. In the art classroom, that involves changing things around: different projects each year, different instructional methods, and different modalities of learning (e.g. kinesthetic, auditory, spatial, experiential, experimental). I talked about “design thinking” in the last assignment, and that interdisciplinary method of approaching ideation/prototype/revise/repeat is perfect for the art classroom! Students who see themselves as perfect little artists sometimes crowd out the disenfranchised students, but design thinking in the classroom is collaborative, freewheeling, and puts every student in a position to attack more complex problems. I also would like to add more students as co-teachers on certain projects. It is very powerful to have students peer coach. One lesson I am going to try is designing Minecraft “skins” in Photoshop (as a TAB center). I know that there will be a lot of Minecraft experts in every class.  
Principle 5: Creativity loves collaboration. I feel like I covered some collaborative classroom strategies I could implement in the “diversity” piece (above). I am going to outline ideas about professional creative growth via collaboration. I almost feel like professional growth is creative growth for me. I love collaborating with teachers, but push for that creative angle. So, instead of just having students design characters for an online program, I try to have both classes meet together and brainstorm (even though that means giving up my lunch and staying after school). I try to let other classroom teachers put out their vision, then I get the chance to add the creative “wow” factor.  Collaborating in this way challenges me, and when I am challenged to try new things, I usually am my most creative. Students get a real kick out of knowing certain teachers are working together.
I do have a very cool example of a classroom collaboration that my Art Club does, and it arose out of an international collaboration of art teachers, “Rotoball”-
Each student works in a team to create stop-motion sequences depicting a ball moving across the screen. My students choose what they want to do, and we have Rotoscoped, done clay animations, paper puppet animations, and even a sand animation (yeah, that one was not great, but it looked cool). Then, these fifteen-second animations are uploaded from all over the world and compiled into one movie. It is incredible!
My most recent collaborative class project, just completed this summer, was a triptych clay tile mural on the theme of “community”. I wrote a grant to partially cover the supplies, and all of my fourth graders made clay relief tiles. I have never done a tile mural of more than thirty clay tiles. This mural was two hundred and ten tiles! I would like to try for more community/classroom partnerships as an additional way to enhance collaboration.

Principle 6: Creativity takes time. Once again, if you read the projects I described in principle five, they took most of the school year. Creativity takes time because it is messy, and you are going to make mistakes, and finally, the most exciting creative growth experiences evolve as the result of building relationships. It takes time to build relationships with students. It takes even more time to build relationships with other teachers (especially if you do not have common planning time and almost never see each other). Things cannot be forced. Strategies to support creativity in terms of time: a) be patient; b) forgive yourself if things don’t work out and move on; c) think “big picture”; d) be flexible.
Principle 7: Creative cultures are supple. I am going to go with “supple” as meaning “readily adaptable or responsive to new situations” (Merriam-Webster dictionary online). I cannot really say that most educational institutions are supple, so I am going to go into how to make an art classroom more “supple”. For one thing, you have to be willing to bag a project if it is not going anywhere. Conversely, letting things play out longer than anticipated is warranted if students are really into it. Scheduling is always a challenge with holidays, field trips, testing weeks, calamity days. A good teacher just has to adapt by adjusting the lesson (e.g. level of completion, depth of investigation). Ken Robinson talks about how CEOs changed their leadership roles to be suppler, which involved delegation and collaboration (Pixar, IDEO, Google) (p.239). I have started to delegate more tasks in my classroom, using a game-ification format. I need to embed that into more of the classroom culture.
Principle 8: Creative cultures are inquiring. As a teacher, you need to be more inquisitive about your pedagogy and your classroom methods if you want to grow professionally. There is significant support for that premise institutionally. How can a teacher promote a more inquiring classroom culture, though? You need to be respectful of differences: differences of opinion, differences in approaching a project, personality differences. Students will not be comfortable asking questions and making deep inquiries into the subject matter if they feel uncomfortable. I think that out of all the principles, this is the one that I could be more explicit about with my students. I need to tell them, right out front, that we will be embracing trial and error.  The European trust manager tried to balance directness and openness with listening and considering other viewpoints (p.241). I need to be more of a listener with my students (it can be exasperating at times), as well as help them consider other viewpoints.
Principle 9: Creative cultures need creative spaces. Okay, the art room is the best room in my school in my opinion! I have pictures everywhere, a mobile that hangs from the ceiling even though the fire marshal gives me the stink eye every year, an art reference library, computer table, and a “bin case” full of supplies for free draws. I have great art that students give me hanging by my desk. I wish I could paint the walls or ceiling tiles, or haul in a comfy chair for a quiet reading corner (all forbidden). As the year progresses, every surface and shelf will be bulging with creative projects. My tables and desk are arranged according to feng shui principles. Then, you go down the hall. Classrooms are decorated sometimes, but mostly for “Word Walls” and instructional posters, the desks are in arrays. I think the most creative school spaces are in Montessori schools. Those environments exhibit some of the following characteristics: a) an arrangement that facilitates movement and activity; b) beauty and harmony, cleanliness of environment; c) construction in proportion to the child and his/her needs (source: I have seen gorgeous pictures of Montessori classrooms with tons of windows, arrangements of unusual and compelling materials for students to investigate. Those classrooms look so different from even the nicest public school buildings. In some ways, a Montessori classroom looks like a very expansive art room!

Creative spaces are eclectic and reflect the people or person working in them. They should be colorful and light filled. There is a reason the school tours always stop in my art room---it looks fun!
    Action Plan for ways to personalize learning for my students:
1) Makers Lab: This is an idea that has a lot of traction nationally and our district initiated one at the high school level. In some ways it is like shop class on steroids. A great resource is here-
    Our high school Makers Lab is primarily a computer center with connections to community think tanks. Students used to do it during their free time, but now the district has allowed them to get credit for their work with a credit flexibility program. They designed “The Minecraft Experience” for the upper elementary students, do robotics, and are also doing multiple student-driven research projects. In my upper elementary school, I proposed turning our science lab (we used to have a full time science teacher but the position was cut due to budget constraints and our lab is underutilized) into a Makers Lab, but the idea was turned down. Now, I am thinking of ways to turning a corner of my (already cramped) art room into a Makers space. In some ways, all the clubs I run do some sort of “making” (Broadcast Studio, Art Club, Newspaper Club blog). The first step would be connecting with the local engineering company that donated a huge amount of funds to my art program last year. I think they would be very interested in supporting a few more things. Plus, I think the PTO would be helpful. I would need Legos, balsa wood, wood glue, hammers, nails, scrap lumber, a task light, safety goggles, and tinkering cast-offs (e.g. small wheels, nuts/bolts, rubber bands, etc.). I have a planning period at the end of the day, and I could see the Makers Lab as something that could be utilized during that time. Ideally, a parent volunteer or high school student could run it.

2) Game-ification: I read this amazing book last year, The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon ( The idea is that you structure your learning experiences as a game. John Hunter’s “World Peace Game” is a perfect example of that. Lee Sheldon’s experience is as a Hollywood producer and game designer, so the book explains how to “level” classroom experiences like a video game. He is now a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He has some very original ideas on grading, too, such as everyone starts out with a zero and has to work to level up. Obviously, a lot of this would be hard to implement at the elementary level, but I did “game-ify” my class tasks last year and that worked out really well. This year, I want to try “game-ifying” at least one project. An example for a regular classroom: “Gamification projects offer the opportunity to experiment with rules, emotions, and social roles. Read an optional library book on the topic being taught in class? Receive “Reading” points. Get perfect attendance and complete all homework assignments on time for a month? Earn an “On Target“ badge. Get assigned as a “Lead Detective” role in science class? Work hard to ask the best questions. When playing by these rules, students develop new frameworks for understanding their school-based activities. As suggested by Leblanc (2006), this can motivate students to participate more deeply and even to change their self-concept as learners.” (cite:
     I think the easiest way to get my students started is with creating an “experience points” system for drawing. I envision a game board they could move across with tokens as they level through drawing tasks. As I am writing this, I am getting so excited that I know what I will be working on when this class is over! The ideal situation is turning the whole curriculum into a meta-game run by the students, but just like John Hunter, I better start small and let things evolve organically.
 3) TAB Centers: Teaching for Artistic Behaviors is a pedagogical movement that truly uses personalized learning as the students have choices about what they would be doing and when. I am not fully onboard with this concept for a variety of reasons including budget, hitting the standards, and my belief that some students would really dislike the concept. Still, I have created some TAB centers in my art room (computer, research/reading, and A.T.C.’s) that have been well received. Also, I think that there would be a negative perception of the art program, in general, if everything was just centers that students rotated through. The best way to personalize the learning without driving myself crazy trying to keep track of who is doing what and when (220 students per grade level with three grades to teach and grade) would be to offer a TAB option to my students to replace a project they do not like (“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”, John Lydgate). Actually, I found a great resource from AOE entitled, “Yes, You Can Write a Tab Lesson Plan”- I think that “collage” would be a great TAB center that would be easy to implement using TAB principles as a student-selected project substitute. I love Pinterest for finding meta-collections of resources, and a really nice one on TAB is A collage center could even be “gamed” with students building up experience points if they hit the center more than once, which would also solve the “I’m done, what do I do now?” problem. I would not have a budget problem since collage uses up the scraps of everything I always have after my regular projects. I need to start on the TAB resources now, getting the project requirements in a format I could laminate and ready to introduce. I found a “Wow” or “not Wow” resource I like a lot for this, which gives the students non-judgmental requirements that could fit most self-directed projects they might explore.  

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!

The Sketchbook Project

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

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

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