Category Archives: Art 2: painting/drawing

The 2017-18 School Year in Review

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Another school year has come to a close.  That makes 11 for me.  The 2017-18 school year was a good year for me.  I had a couple of bumps in the road–that one student who felt she no longer needed to be here (luckily she is still here ♥) and the whole grading issue with me not being in compliance.  Overall, it was a fun and happy year.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look back and see what went down.

⇒ I entered 3 students this year into Scholastic Art and Writing.  We didn’t get any awards or even mentions, but I am proud that I was able to enter the work of these 3 young women.  I think we were robbed, but life goes on, right.

⇒ I was honored when Diane Jacquith and Kathy Douglas asked me to have a small part in the 2nd edition of their book, Engaging Learners Through Artmaking.  I speak of how I include current artists in my curriculum through an activity called Artist Monday.  Students watch a short video and then answer some questions about the artist and what they create.  Artists are always current, and many create art in ways that go beyond the traditional ways my students know about art making.

⇒I took my upper ceramic students on a field trip…on a Saturday!  It was so much fun.  We went to the Texas Clay Festival in Gruene, TX.  My students got to see a woman who was burnishing a pot and talking about terra sigillata.  They saw a variety of artists and got to see what people would be willing to pay for ceramics.  And, they got to watch a raku firing.  I am so glad that we went.  The fact that they were willing to give up a Saturday to go on a field trip was tremendous.  I hope to make this a yearly activity.

Seattle 2018.  This year’s NAEA conference was in Seattle.  I was lucky to be able to present not once, but twice at this year’s conference.  And bonus for me, both were with my very good friend and amazing TAB teacher, Elizabeth Honeysett.  We presented on Single Media and the TAB Classroom.  Liz talked about her jewelry classes and I talked about my ceramics classes.  We also did a ticketed event–The Secondary Choice Demo Room.  This was extra fun for me because I got to see adults make art.   Seattle was a blast.

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Restorative Discipline was brought into my school in the 2016-17 school year.  Each year they train a small amount of teachers.  I was lucky to be asked to be part of the 2017-18 cohort (cohort 2).  I really like restorative discipline because it focuses on relationships and community building.  It stresses being proactive instead of being reactive.  It was a great fit for me because I am all about relationships and community in my classroom.  We had many trainings throughout the year, which kept me always reflecting on my teaching.  I reflect anyways, but the reflections from the RD perspective made me think about things I sometimes gloss over.

⇒ RD brought the academic circle into my teaching practice.  In RD, there are many types of circle activities you can do with your students and the academic circle is one I really liked.  I utilized it in my ceramics classes.  There had been a disconnect between what my students researched on a artistic behavior and the art making that went along with it.  The academic circle filled the gap.  It allowed me to check what my students learned on their own. It allowed my students to share and connect with each other.  It allowed for questions.  It allowed for students to see ceramic art their peers were drawn to.  And, it helped to clarify the big idea for the students before they moved to the creation of their work.

⇒ I applied for a grant and was award it!  In our community, there is a Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 11.42.27 AMfoundation called the Taylor Educational Enrichment Foundation (TEE) that offers thousands of dollars in grants annually.  I finally got the courage to write a grant proposal for a raku kiln kit.  When the day finallyarrived when we would find out who would be awarded, I’ll admit, I was nervous.  I heard the band and the cheerleaders coming down the hall.  I kept hoping they were coming to me and not going to walk on by.  My principal ducked his head into my office and told me to come out into the hallway.  I was so excited.  I was dancing around my classroom.  I have since ordered and received the kit and I can’t wait to set it up and teach my students how to raku this fall.

⇒For a few years, I make and gift some special seniors a piece of “Duck Art” pottery.  It started when some seniors bugged the crap out of me for cereal bowls.  So, as an end of year gift, I made bowls and gave them each one.  On the inside of the bowl, there was a duck.  The next year the seniors weren’t into cereal so much as they were coffee.  So, the image was transferred to a mug.  Each year, the duck image changed, but the sentiment was the same.  I made X# of mugs–all similar in shape, color, and image–and handed them out to the lucky ones I had forged relationships with.  This year, I wanted something different.  I really don’t like being a production potter.  I don’t like making the same thing over and over.  I decided to make each mug different and glaze each mug different.  The only thing that was my thru-line was the Duck Art medallion I made.  I made a sprig, which was a good lesson for the students, and went from there.  At the end, the students got to pick which mug they wanted according to their tastes and what fit well in their hands.  This has become the new and final senior Duck Art Mug.

 

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The Duck Art Mug!!

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The lefties

Those are really the bigs things that happened this year.  Like I said, it was a good year.  I made some stronger relationships with both students and colleagues.  I am sad that my ceramics seniors are gone.  They were a great group of kids.  But, I am excited for those returning next year.  I learned a lot about my teaching and how I want to move forward.  I really understand the end goal I have for my students–both those that will be with me for a year and those that will continue on.  I have worked hard (and continue to) on how to help my students meet those goals.  I have much in store for next year…I hope to implement “the 9”, courtesy of Ian Sands, with my art 1 class.  I have taken the 9 and created my own version–“the 10”–which is geared for my upper ceramics kiddos.  And, our principal decided to split the AP Studio art program between my co-worker and myself…so that will be interesting.  I am happy with my 11th year, and I look forward to another fun-filled TAB-tastic year in the Duck Art Studio.  But, until then, I will relax and enjoy my summer.

Artists Curate

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This unit was something I have been wanting to have my art students do for some time, but it never seemed to be the right time.  Well, in January of 2018, I looked at my art 2 students and decided this was the group that could pull it off.  And, I was right.  While not every student hit it out of the park, most did…in one way or another.

This was my final unit for my art 2 students.  We spend over 6 weeks working.  It will also double as their final exam.  Here is the information students were given about the curation of a show.  They were given a few days to figure out what they wanted to do, then they jumped into the work.

This unit was amazing.  Most students decided to curate a show of their own new work.  I’ve never seen so many of my students jump in and work constantly–walking in the room and getting right to work.  They were passionate about what they were creating because it was all them…I had no say in what they could create.  They came up with their own themes for their shows, and figured out what type of create to meet that theme.  One group of 3 boys had originally decided to curate past work they had made, but out of no where began to collaborate on a large panel piece of a dragon in space.  I was thrilled by how well they worked together.

About a week prior to the hang, they made flyers to advertise their shows.  They hung copies in different areas of the school and we added information to the cafeteria announcement slides.

Finally the day came to hang their show.  I gave them some pointers on how to hang their art on the walls of the student centers, and then let them go.  In addition to hanging their pieces, they added labels and a show/artist statement.  They all look so fabulous.   I am so proud of my students.  And, the comments from others around the school have all been so positive.  I know my students are proud of their work.  I can tell, even if they won’t admit it to me.

The show will be up for a week, and on it’s final day we will have a closing reception with some small snacks, drinks, and a “guest book” for each student that people can sign.  Next week, I will meet with each student individually to talk about their curation experience and together we will decide on a grade for their exam.

I am really glad that I finally was able to do a unit like this.  I really like to show off what my students create, but usually it just gets hung in the fine arts hallway.  It really showcases the students and their talents.

Exploring 21st century principles

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This was a very challenging unit for my art 2 students.  And, while it was a miss in some respects, there were others aspects that were major hits.  Not only did my students learn a lot about Olivia Gude’s Post-Modern Principles, I did as well.

My first experience with Olivia Gude was in New York City when she was part of a panel for a Super Session at NAEA 17.  There she spoke of what she had called the Post-Modern Principles.  I was intrigued about what she was talking about, and I began to wonder how I could bring them into my classroom.  Now, they aren’t the easiest concepts to grasp–especially for a bunch of 10th and 11th graders.  I was hesitant, but man did I underestimate them.

I set up the unit in a the different way than normal.  I didn’t want to lecture to the students.  I knew if I did, the information would go in one ear and out the other.  Also, I didn’t want to do all the work.  I checked with our instructional coach and together we decided that I wasn’t asking too much of the kids.  (What?!  Sometimes I wonder, but then I shake me head and say that maybe I am asking not enough.)

I briefly showed my students a slide show with Olivia’s definitions for each principle.  I didn’t go into detail.  At the end of slideshow was their assignment (to research each principle, understand what they means, be able to share out their findings, and find images that exhibit each principle.)  I wanted to show an example of what I was looking for, so I picked the easiest of the bunch.  I explained everything I did to research–the sites I went to, the articles I read, the videos I watched, things from previous knowledge I had.  Then I set them free.

After the research part, we came back together as a group and went over what they had learned.  We went through each principle, with each student sharing what they had learned.  Many things were repeated, but I think that helped validate each student’s research.

The final part of the research was the image find.  Students didn’t share these out to the class, which in hindsight I wish I had them do. They did share with me though, through google classroom.  This was the amazing part to me.  This solidified to me that they understood the concepts and could find artwork that appropriately showed the principle.  And, they knew some images utilized more than one principle, so the students chose to highlight the one that was most prominent.

After the research, students did create artwork.  I think this was the hardest part of the unit for them.  Great artworks, that were full of creativity and thought, with powerful messages, were made.  But the implementation of the newly discovered principles into their work was weak.  But I was, and still am, okay with that.  Not every unit we do in class has to be about artwork.  There is more to art.  Being able to know how to research art concepts is important.  Being able to read artwork is also an important skill.  I like to think that these students will look at contemporary art in a completely different way, not just walk by without a second glance, and really see what the artist is trying to convey.

Exploring a Medium and Multiple Pieces

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One aspect of a TAB classroom that gets criticized is when we allow our students to explore the same medium over and over and over.  Critics often think this is wrong that we TAB teachers don’t expose our students to a variety of media by making them do different projects based on different materials.  Unfortunately, this is not how artists work.  Yes, some artists work in several mediums…Picasso and Degas come to mind. Both painted and sculpted.  But, they came to other mediums because they wanted to explore, not because someone else told them to.  I am sure they were aware of other mediums, but they preferred what they preferred.  We do the same for our students.  They are aware of other mediums, but ultimately, they should work in the medium they prefer or what they feel is best to convey their idea.

On Mondays, I introduce my students to contemporary artists.  I want them to know what is being made in today’s art world.  While deciding on artists to have them meet, I found 2 artists that reinforce this idea exploring the same medium over and over.  First is El Anatsui.  Second is Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor.  I have included clips from both these artists.  If you click on their names, you can find the entire video.  Neither of these clips are about the art they make, but rather the message they are sending.

When we let our students continue to explore the same medium, they will begin to understand what it can offer.  They can push the boundaries of the medium.  They will understand what it means to research in an artistic sense.  They will behave like artists.

Artists Tackle Social Issues

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I have been wanting to have my art 2 students take their work to a deeper level–to really bring in their voices.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple of students that already do, but most still create artworks that haven’t quite broken the surface.  I’ve tried doing a unit on stereotypes before, but it seems that I get the usual suspects.  So, this year, I decided it was the year to “bring it on”, so to speak.  I decided to challenge my students with the tackling of social issues.

They first started by defining some “common” words… opinion, social issue, society, commentary, and parody.  I also asked them to consider why an artist would want to us social issues in their work.  That question seemed to be a hard one for them.  I asked them to watch either a video on Maxwell Rushton and his “Left Out” project or on Favianna Rodriguez, a Latina printmaker, and make connections between the what they watched and our unit idea of using social issues in art.  The final part of their research was to find artworks that used social issues.  And, they couldn’t show any that I showed them for our intro to the unit.

To help my students get warmed up for creating their own artwork, I gave them a challenge.  They had 2 choices.  Choice one: talk to 5 different people about some “hot topic issues” of today, and create a sketch of a possible artwork based on their “favorite” opinion.  Choice two: Pick a social issue that is hot today, create a slideshow of at least 5 different artworks around that issue (on either side), and present to the class.

These girls gave me permission to share the links to their slideshows.  I think they did some great work.

Gender Inequality

Islamophobia

The best part for me about this unit was how invested in their artwork the kids became.  I didn’t have to prod the kids to get going.  They quickly had a social issue they wanted to talk about and set off creating.  I am so impressed with their work, and their voices.

Think Walk Make

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Last year in NYC at NAEA17, I went to a super session, “Meaningful Choices”.  One of the speakers was Anne Thulson.  In her portion of the presentation she talked about an activity she did with her students at The School of the Poetic City.  The activity was called “Think Walk Make”.  From the moment Anne mentioned it, I was intrigued and began jotting notes down feverishly, hoping not to miss a single nugget.  (Luckily, as a member of NAEA I was able to see the presentation again to gain anything I had missed.)

In this activity, Anne and her students would walk around their community, trying to see the world in a new light.  Each student would have a bag with them that contained several items (field journal, pencil, chalk, tiny people, tape, etc.); and it was with those items that the students would “approach the city in an artistic way.”  They could index the city, message the city, assess the city, situate themselves into the city. They could even make a tiny world in the city.

Like I said, I was so intrigued by this because I often feel like I am alone in seeing things in a different way than others.  I talk to my students about how I take photos of the things I see that perhaps one day, when they’ve trained their artist eye more, they would see too.  (They usually just smile and nod.)   But, this activity gave me all the feels because there were others who thought like me out there.  And, I thought if I could do this activity with my students, then they too could start seeing things, ordinary things, with a new perspective.

I ask my art 2 students to do this activity with me.  At first there was a bunch of complaining that we were going to go outside.  This confused me, but isn’t it always that way with “today’s youth”.  I made them go anyway.  We spent the first 10 minutes of class going thru Anne’s slideshow.  I wanted them to see some examples of things they could do when on our “think, walk, make” outing.  I then handed each student their pre-made bag and we headed out into our campus community.  It was hard at first for many students, but after a while, I knew some were getting into it.  My second class took much more coaxing to come out of the shade of the building and to really explore, but I am not giving up hope on them.

Here are a few shots from our first outing.

I asked my students to take photos with their phone, then they could upload using the seesaw app.  That way, they could edit, add captions or drawings, and they can share what they saw with their peers.

On our second outing, the weather was beautiful.  But that did not stop the complaining.  Some kids thought it was too hot…not even 80 degrees in a state where we have record numbers of 100+ degree days in a row.  SMH.  Then there were the kids that said, I did 2 things, am I done?  I understand, well not really, that some kids don’t want to go outside, and I understand that art isn’t for everyone.  But, I believe so much in this activity and how it can help budding artists to really see the beauty around them, and to really see the ordinary that they may pass by daily.  I truly believe this is important for them to experience.  So, for those reasons, we will continue to go think, walk, and make several more times this year.

Shots from our second outing.

Reflection and the Final Survey

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Every other year, I like to provide my students with a final survey to see where they are at and to gain some insight on my teaching from the students POV.  If you don’t already do this, I highly recommend it.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the data you receive.  (Also, it’s nice to hear that our students love us every now and then. 😉 )

I created several google forms, breaking them up by class.  I think there are different things to know from the different students.  The insights of a student that has had you for 3 or 4 years is way different than that of a first year student or a student that was only there for the fine arts credit.  Also, if you have a single media class, you can form the questions to reflect that.

“What I liked most about how you ran our art class was how you had a great relationship with your students and your class was the class everyone looked forward to everyday.”

” you’ve taught me not to judge people for who they are”

“I learned that you have to trust yourself and learn to take risks.”

“I think when you pushed us we got better”

I asked a variety of questions, ranging from the students telling me their strengths and weaknesses to how they felt about my teaching methods.  I asked what they liked and what they didn’t like.  I asked what they had learned and what they wished they had learned.  I also asked what I could change.  Kids are pretty honest.

“the artworks we did were fun because we could do what ever media we wanted to do as long as we could fit the needs of the project”

“I liked how we had the prompt or whatever and then you allowed each individual person to take their time to make their art and you helped each person with their specific questions.”

(Favorite part of class) “being able to use a lot of the equipment freely” & “being able to talk to you about anything”

One thing that I think is important when creating the forms is to make almost all questions as required.  It makes the student think and add to previous answers. The only ones that are optional are “Name” and “Anything else you would like to add”.  If a student thinks he can be more honest by remaining anonymous, then that is a good thing.

(I’ve grown as an artist…) “because when I run into a problem I can figure out a way around it instead of getting frustrated and starting over again”

“You ran [class] like were weren’t just kids and you trusted us to use the tools effectively and whenever we wanted.”

“I loved that you would give us a broad topic to help get an idea of what we want to make our art of, but what we actually made was up to us. So we had freedom in our art.”

“I loved that you gave us a topic that we had to base our artwork on, but that you didn’t push us into doing anything. You let us create the artwork that we wanted and let us use whatever media we wanted”

As I sat this morning finally reading their responses, about a month after they filled them out, I made some notes.  I jotted down some of the things they liked.  I jotted down what they wished they had learned.  I made notes on things they felt would have helped them grow more.  I even wrote down some quotes that I didn’t put in this post. And, I have to admit, reading their words about how much they enjoy the TAB studio/pedagogy really helps to solidify that I made the right decision when I made the switch.  I’ve been TAB for several years, and I rarely doubt the decision to go ther, but it is still nice to hear from those that it truly affects that it was a good thing.

I am glad that I waited a month to read the responses.  Enough time has passed that my mind is fresh, but it hasn’t been so long that I can no longer hear the voices of my students in their responses.  This list will help me when I go in about a month to work out things for next year’s classes.  I can know what is missing, and what not to change.  Now, I don’t agree with everything they said.  I know some kids didn’t like writing about the artists we learned about and some didn’t like the computer stuff; that I won’t change because I do think it is important for their artistic growth…they just don’t see it at the moment.  But, I was surprised by how many liked learning about current artists and how many actually liked the drawing tests.

I have been doing surveys for as long as I have been teaching, but I think this year’s surveys were the most informative.  I think I finally asked the right questions and got responses that will be able to help me create a better studio and learning experience for my students.

“Most people just take art because they need a year of fine art and honestly that’s why I took art, but as the year went on I started to really love this class and making artworks.  I can’t wait to have art again next year!!”

 

 

 

 

 

2016-17 Year in Review

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It’s that time.  Another school year has come to an end.  And, in honor of me finishing out my 10th year, I will count down the 10 biggest things that happened this year.   Not everything that happened this year was good.  In fact, it was kind of a crappy year.  But, I did learn a lot and made some great relationships with me students.  So, without anymore drivel from me, let’s do this.

10. UNITY:  I will admit, I saw the Unity Project video on Facebook, and I was in.  I emailed my principal and he was all in.  I created a gofundme project for it and through the kindness of others, the project was funded quickly and I was able to go shopping for materials.  It was a great way to kick off the year.  I had so much support from other teachers and our student body.  While there was a few hiccups along the way (one being when a students thought he could climb on a pvc pole and he broke it), in the end, it was an amazing installation.

9. THE PURPLE HOODIE: I had a tough student this year.  He was hard to reach.  He didn’t talk much, and he often had his purple hoodie pulled up over his head.  I started the year off by giving him some space, and by asking his monitor teacher for some strategies with him.  It took a while, but we built a relationship.  He spent much of his time during his class in my office, but he would do the work I asked him to do.  And believe me, he did not like making or talking about art.  After a while, he would come in during lunch to hang out and chat.  He did this at other times as well.  We built a relationship where I could be honest with him and give him a fair dose of snark and it was all okay.

There was this one day that was bittersweet.  It both made me sad and touched my heart at the same time.  He came into my office one morning during tutorials, but there were already like 6 other kids in my office.  I said hi, and he looked at me, but then left as quickly as he came in.  I sensed something was off.  I figured I would ask him later that day.  He didn’t show up to class.  When he returned the next day, he told me where he was…talking to some people in the office.  When he told me why, I was saddened.  I won’t go into details about why.  And I know this is weird, but it touched me that I was the 2nd person he came to find to talk with him.  The first wasn’t in her office, so he came to me. I care very much about this young man.  And, I am glad I gained his trust.  Sadly, he has moved to another city with his father.  But, rumor has it, he will be back next year. Relationships can sometimes matter more than art making.

8. ESCALATION: I have a co-worker that has been teaching with me for the past 10 years.  We get along on the surface, but when you look closely, you will notice we couldn’t be more different.  For starters, we teach on complete different ends of the art spectrum…he’s dbae and I’m TAB.  We don’t play well together and it has been building up for years.  I finally got up the courage to talk to an admin about the situation; I went in with the intention of seeking advice in how to make our department better and how to work with him.  It was suggested that we circle up, a restorative discipline term.  Basically, it was like mediation.  He basically refused, and one day it escalated between us in my classroom.  Luckily, I was on conference and I held my cool. We still haven’t worked things out, and I have been told our head principal will eventually talk with us, but I’m not holding my breath.

Why am I adding this?  Well, this was a big event that happened this year.  I think it needed to happen.  I would have liked to go to mediation, but I am mostly okay with the outcome.  The fact that I spoke up and I was honest about my feelings and that I took ownership that I wasn’t innocent in any of it was big for me.  I don’t like confrontation, nor to like to create waves in my workplace.

7. SCHOLASTIC ART: This year, I finally got up the nerve to enter my students work in the Scholastic Art contest.  I was so nervous.  I see the potential and awesomeness in my students’ works, but do others.  My kids don’t make “normal” pieces, and often times it’s not what “they” consider gold seal work–one reason I don’t enter into our state art event.  But, I was told Scholastic was different.  My kids didn’t win anything, and after looking at what did win for my region, I wondered about the judges.  But, that is neither here nor there.  I am so proud of my students for trusting me.  I still think they were shafted because their work was super cool.  I know, I’m biased.  I look forward to next year and entering more student works.

6. DALLASThis year’s Texas Art Ed Assoc held it’s yearly conference in Dallas.  I presented not once, but twice.  I presented once about grading and TAB…it kind of bombed.  I was told it was fine, but I know better.  The other presentation was a overview of HS TAB.  It went really well.  Beyond the presentations, I participated in my first live twitter chat, got to have great burgers and beer with a friend who I met in Chicago at NAEA16, I met the terraforma cards guys, and I got to throw some bowls for a local empty bowls event.  It was a pretty fun time, I must admit.  It was a much needed and much appreciated work-cation.

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5. THE BIG APPLE NAEA17 was held in my old stomping ground…NYC!  There was no way I was going to miss a chance to go “home”.  I don’t even know where to begin.  I got to room with 2 of my favorite TAB ladies.  I got to finally meet and hangout with Melissa Purtee.  I stayed in a hotel in midtown.  I lived in Queens, so the hotel stay was new and so cool.  I got to go to the MOMA, which is in a completely different location from the last time I went there…over 20 years ago.  I had a fabulous dinner with other TABbers, provided by my fabulous mentors, Diane and Kathy.  Times Square had become something I couldn’t believe…so bright and shiny.  And, I got to have a reunion with one of my closest friends from college.

4. 4th Annual THS Art Show:  Six years into my time at THS I asked if we could have a high school art show.  Up until that point, there wasn’t any.  This year marks the 4th year that I have put up a show that celebrates all art made at our school.  I don’t just show off my students and my co-worker’s students.  We include any other elective where art is created–welding, fashion, photography, floral design, culinary, and we include our teachers.  It is a lot of work, but in the end, it is so worth it.  This year I was worried that it wouldn’t go off well.  (See the escalation paragraph above.)  But, I put that aside and just focused on the art.  I think it was a great turn out.  Students sold their work, and not just to their parents.  The rain stayed away (every year it rains at the beginning of the show) during the show itself; I do believe it rained earlier in the day though.  I found a better way of hanging the paintings, almost none fell down this year…the rain always brings the humidity and that doesn’t play nice with how we used to hang out artworks. Granted no one from central office showed up, even though they were sent formal invitations, but I’ve come to expect that.  And quite frankly, those who are important, like parents, friends, teachers, and the community, showed up in support.  I look forward to celebrating our students again for years to come.

art show poster (1)

3. A SMILE LIKE I’VE NEVER SEEN: Art is a funny yet fabulous thing.  It can grab hold of the most unlikely and unexpected people.  This year I was lucky enough to witness this.  I watched a student finish a project early and ask me if I could show him how to use the wheel.  We weren’t slated to use the wheel for months, but who am I to stop a student from learning to art.  That week, I knew art had put her hooks in him.  Over the next few months, I watched him grow, and learn, and create.  I watched him create bowl after bowl, vase after vase, each time honing his skills, and using every ounce of clay we had.  But, it was more than that.  I saw the passion for what he was doing rise in him.  I saw a smile, and a light in his face when we talked about ceramics and his work.  I am so glad that he decided to sign up for beginning ceramics.  If only he found it before his senior year.

2. RESTORATIVE DISCIPLINE: Our school started to implement a new behavior management system.  It is called restorative discipline, and for the most part, it is meant to be proactive instead of reactive.  It is not something that the entire campus learns at one time.  It is done in stages.  I know that seems odd, but after learning about it, it makes sense.  I was lucky enough to have been asked to be in cohort #2, which began it’s training 2 weeks before school ended.  It is so much about community and building relationships…which is right up my alley, and why I was asked to be in the 2nd cohort.  I personally think it was cool to be asked knowing why they asked me.  (Some were asked because they thought that teacher was lacking in that area.)  Anyway, so far, so good.

But, more than being part of the next cohort, I did participate in a couple of tier 2 circles this year…these are reactive, but they can make such a difference.  I had one student who I kept butted heads with, and if she kept it up, we knew she was headed to our alternative center.  We circled up and we both spoke our piece and listened to the other person.  We made a contract and tried to implement it.  We hit a bump and had to re-circle.  But, that time worked.  We now have an amazing relationship, and don’t tell her, but I will miss having her in class next year.

1. NO MORE THEMES: This year I dropped the themes for my art 1 and art 2 classes.  I instead went with artistic behaviors for major units.  We worked our way through: artists solve problems, artists communicate, artists, observe, artists steal, artists represent, artists abstract/don’t represent, and artists work in a series.  This was a major step forward for me and my students in our TAB studio.  I think it really was more meaningful to them to really understand what artists do.  It really made a huge difference, the switch that is.  I could see it in their work; I could see it in their exploration; I could see it in their understanding of art making; and I could see it in their growth.  And, at the end of the year, I had the least amount of work left behind I have had since making the leap to TAB.

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It has been a very interesting decade of art teaching for me.  I have changed so much.  My teaching has changed so much.  I like to think it’s all for the better.  I keep learning new things, about art, about teaching, about students, and most importantly, about myself.  I often wonder what is going to happen next, which is something that keeps me interested and wanting to go to work every day.   What obstacles will I face and will I overcome them?  What new things will I learn?  What new things can I teach someone?  What new relationships will I make?   What new surprises will I find?  I think it’s this last one that I really enjoy because I love being surprised by what my students do and learn and create and tell me.  It is what makes it all worth it.

Printmaking Exploration

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Printmaking Exploration

I decided to start the second semester off with some good old exploration.  I was going to jump right into my “Artists Steal” unit (appropriated from Apex HS), but then I changed my mind and thought we needed to get messy for a week and a half.

We don’t have a printing press at school, so that limits what we can do.  However, that didn’t stop me from coming up with 6 different techniques involving making prints.  I got this idea from Cynthia Gaub and her art around the room activities.  The students would be asked to explore 5 out of 6 techniques and reflect on each technique.

I set up the counter with the 6 different “stations”.  We would learn about block prints (with EZ cut), collograph, stamping, styrofoam plates, monoprinting, and faux screen printing.  I laid out the week and a half in a short PowerPoint, explaining I would only do demos for cutting blocks, inking plates/pulling prints, using the gelatin plate for monoprints, and how to set up the screen for screen prints.  For the other techniques, the students would have to rely on the example cards I had created the year before.  Some of it required some thought on their part on interpretation of the card.

The students were asked to reflect on their findings of each technique.  They could either write their answers in their journals/sketchbooks or they could start a new BlendSpace lesson and reflect there.  I gave the students 7 questions to choose from…they have to answer question #1, then pick 4 from the remaining 6.

  1. What was the medium/technique explored?
  2. What qualities/characteristics does the medium/technique have?
  3. What makes the medium/technique different from a similar medium/technique?
  4. What did you like the best about media/technique and why?
  5. What did you like the least about media/technique and why?
  6. What could you use this medium/technique for?
  7. What other information would you like to know about this medium/technique?

My favorite part was reading the variety of questions they had for #7.

  • How is this art? (re: screen printing)
  • Is there an easier way to reverse when doing blocks?
  • Could block printing be done on a larger scale?
  • Was styrofoam printing invented by someone on a budget?
  • Who came up with block printing?
  • How do you add multiple colors?
  • What can you do with the collagraph technique?
  • Why is it called collagraph?
  • What is the right amount of ink?
  • How do you keep ink from getting on certain points on the styrofoam plate?
  • What other tools can be used to dent into the styrofoam?
  • How many layers can you do on a monoprint?
  • Do people really use the collograph technique and make a living with it?
  • How can you draw cleaner in the styrofoam?

Here are my thoughts on this activity:

I really think this could be a good way to explore different ways of printmaking.  While I showed the students some examples of final pieces, I don’t think I really let them know “how” different type of printmaking could be used.  They tend to think that each technique must be used alone and don’t consider mixed media, texture, background, layers, etc.  So, I would figure out a way to bring that into the activity for next year.

When it came to leaving some of the work to them…  relying on the example cards I had created the year before, I was hopeful that they would figure it out…I was wrong…most didn’t and they ended up asking me.  Sometimes they didn’t even try to look at the cards and make some educated guesses at what the process was.  This was frustrating to me as part of my philosophy does have the expectation that the students are responsible for their own learning and that I won’t spoon feed them.  I know they are high school students, but that can’t be their excuse for everything.  I did find myself smiling when I would hear a student asking another student.

I think perhaps I could show some videos or require them to watch a video as part of each station so they could see other artists use the technique or see what it could be used for. Then, they could use that as well for more informed reflections of the techniques.

My other thought, and this happens every year since moving to TAB, is how to get kids to actually use printmaking/stamping in their artwork.  Do they really not like it?  Do they not see it as an artwork?  Do they (the students) see it as too much to add to their process when art making?

I will continue to do this Printmaking Exploration Activity, but I will make some needed adjustments to enhance the learning and the take-aways from the activity.  One adjustment might be some requirement of what they need to create from the prints…so they put more thought into what they are doing.

Since originally writing this, I did have one student revisit monoprints and the gelatin plate.  She really enjoyed the process and was glad she was able to use it again when creating a non-objective piece for our “Artists Don’t Represent” unit.

Artists Solve Problems

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Our second in-depth look at an artistic behavior in Art 1 classes was “Artists Solve Problems”.  For this unit, I really wanted to give my students a chance to create some art, while figuring out how to overcome a problem or problems.  I feel this is a very important skill to have for life…not just for art making.

We started off the unit by watching the TED Talk by Phil Hansen, “Embrace the Shake”.  Most students really enjoy watching this video.  They are intrigued by how Phil fulfills his need to create while overcoming his perpetually shaking hand.

Our next activity came to my from my friend and fabulous art educator, Melissa Purtee.  Earlier in the school year, she wrote about game she played with her student on the first days of school called “What’s in the Bag?”  I read her post and thought this would be a great activity for students to begin working on problem solving skills.

I created 6 bags for each of my art 1 classes.  That required my students to break into 6 teams of 4…no one was allowed to work alone. (Working together in a group was another problem to solve.)  Each group picked a prompt from the bucket and then received their bags.  They were given an hour (broken up over 2 classes) to bring their prompt to life.  Bag contents included: a portion of an egg carton, 3 pipe cleaners, a cork, a round plastic piece, 10 popsicle sticks, 2 tongue depressors, some puzzle pieces, 3′ strip of lollipop wrapper, 3 small square chipboard pieces, and 2 rectangular chip board pieces.  They could also use the bag if needed, but it was not required.

After time was up, students were asked to present their creation to the class, addressing the following topics:

  • What was your prompt?
  • Talk about your creation BEYOND “this is my project”…DESCRIBE IT!
  • What was the hardest problem to overcome building your creation?
  • How did you overcome it?
  • What was the best part of this activity?

Lastly, each class took a closer look at the creations and then voted for the 2 they best felt fulfilled the following criteria:

  • Best interpretation of the prompt
  • Best visual appeal
  • Best craftsmanship
  • Best use of materials

I also showed a few other videos along the way for kids to see how real life problems could be solved in fun, artistic ways.  The videos came from The FunTheory site.  Thanks Ian Sands for showing me that one.

Our final activity of this Artist Solve Problems unit was SCAMPER.  I learned about SCAMPER while at a Gifted and Talented training this past summer.  Out of all the different activities we went over at the training, I felt SCAMPER was one that I could actually take back to my classroom and have the students use.

I wanted my students to create an artwork, on their own, but I wanted it to fall under this unit.  I thought with SCAMPER I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone so-to-speak, as I have a ton of old student artwork that I no longer needed or wanted.  So, this was a great time to use them.  Students will pick an artwork from the pile and use it to create a new artwork.  The catch is, they have to choose one of the letters of SCAMPER when creating their  “new”artwork.  Subject matter, medium(s), and technique(s) are all up to the student.

S = SUBSTITUTE

C = COMBINE

A = ADAPT

M = MODIFY

P = PUT TO OTHER USES

E = ELIMINATE

R = REARRANGE

Modify was the letter most used in the activity. But, a few really dug in with combine, rearrange, eliminate and put to other uses.  I wish I had some of the before images, but I don’t.  Oh well.  Anyway, they stepped up with SCAMPER–some students taking the artwork so far off the original…YAY!  One student totally took her piece apart and created a whole new piece.  (The feathered bird above–it was once a rhino.)  One note I did have for myself for next year is to have a wider variety of old artwork for the kids to choose from.  Too many of the same starting image and ending with not changing the image enough.  Thanks DBAE. Live and Learn.

As we have moved on from this unit, I can see my students talking with each other and trying to work through problems on their own first before involving me.  This is huge.  It leaves me more time to walk around and chat and get to know my students.