Category Archives: Classroom

TAB, Modified TAB, and Other TABby things

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TAB is a huge buzzword these days. I see it thrown around in many Facebook groups. But what is TAB exactly? TAB is an acronym for Teaching for Artistic Behavior. It is a philosophy that has three core values. It asks “What do Artists do?” It believes the child is the artist. And, it believes the art room is her/his studio. It is these three ideas that drive a TAB teacher’s curriculum…how they run their studio.

That brings me to my next topic, Modified TAB. This isn’t really a thing. A teacher either believes in the philosophy or doesn’t. They don’t really pick and choose which of the values they want to believe. What confuses people is the misunderstanding that being a TAB teacher means you are balls to the wall full choice, all day long. Like I said…this is a misconception of the philosophy. When running a TAB studio, no matter the level, there is a spectrum of choice. The amount of choice a teacher will allow has several variables.

  • Campus/district expectations
    • Some teachers are expected to do x, y, and z. And most of us do like to be in compliance.
  • How “on board” a principal is with the change in the art program.
  • Bootcamp vs studio time
    • bootcamps are short amounts of time where the full class will explore a specific topic such as acrylic paints and color theory or copyright. Bootcamps should last a few days to a week tops. Studio time is where the students create their artwork.
  • Needs of the child
    • Each child is different in their learning styles and how comfortable they are with freedom. TAB is differentiation at its best.
  • Have to’s
    • There are certain things that teachers believe every student needs to know. This could be doing an attachment test to be able to use the sculpture center or biweekly drawing tests that have kids focus on the eye/brain/hand connection.
  • Teacher comfortability with giving up control.

Basically, a TAB teacher utilitizes varying degrees of choice throughout the year, for various reasons. But, they don’t utilize varying degrees of the philosophy.

Teaching in a “TAB-like” way isn’t a thing, but using varying levels of choice is. You can offer choice without being TAB, but you can’t be TAB without offering choice. You are a TAB teacher or you are not. There is not a formula as to how to run a TAB studio. There are as many ways to run the studio as there are TAB teachers. That’s the beauty of it. Believe the philosophy and do what works for you, your population, and your admin…as long as you have student Artistic autonomy as a goal for your students.

For more information about Teaching for Artistic Behavior, visit teachingforartisticbehavior.org

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A High School TAB studio with multiple mediums being worked on at the same time.

2018 Texas TAB Lab

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One would think that by now I would be sitting in the sun, sipping margaritas and enjoying my summer.  One would think that if one didn’t know me.  I have 2 kids and the Texas sun is way to hot to sit under all day.  Now sipping margaritas…that’s another story for another day.

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My third week off for summer was spent doing some very important and exciting professional development–the Texas TAB Lab (#TxTABLab).  Lori Wallace and Julie Bates20180613_0938451693010827.jpg honored me months ago by asking me to help out with this year’s mini-conference, by heading up the secondary portion of the conference.  This year was our second event.  At our first meet-up, there were about 30 of us tops in this small conference room in a hotel in Waco, TX.  Ginger Tapia set the whole thing up and it was wonderful.  It was there that an event was born.  This year, TAB Lab was definitely the place to be, as we more than doubled the attendance with 67 teachers.  And, I am happy to say that the secondary peeps went from about 7 or 8 to almost 20.  It’s a good time to be a Tx TAB teacher.

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Let’s get to it.  Our main meeting hall was the Frank Fickett Center  (FFSTC).  The hotel suggested it because the conference room was not going to hold us all.  It was a wonderful space to be in for 2 days.  The conference kicked off with one of our keynote speakers, Katherine Douglas.  She was unable to make it to Austin, so she spoke via interwebs.  Among the many fabulous things Kathy spoke of, she told us in regards to child art that “adult eyes need to learn appreciation for it”.  She also shared her 7 goals for her TAB studio and her students.

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  2. Get materials and tools to explore idea
  3. Explore/Make idea, with false starts, change directions, mistakes
  4. Know when it’s finished
  5. Put away materials/tools properly
  6. Reflect/Share ideas
  7. Think about what’s next

Thank you Kathy so much for joining us.

That afternoon we went to visit some classrooms.  The elementary teachers broke into 2 groups–visiting both Julie’s and Lori’s classrooms in Pflugerville.  The secondary teachers made the long drive to Taylor to visit my classroom.  I am so happy they made the journey.  In spite of the 80+° room temp, it was an amazing experience.  I talked briefly about my journey, then we toured my room and how it was set up.  We talked about daily activities and classroom flow.  There was much conversation…conversation that lasted well past when I thought we would leave.

 

We went to dinner at Rudy’s BBQ and went back to the FFSCT for some more art chat and some Paper Smaché with the one and only Clyde Gaw.  Paper smaché is like paper maché, but Clyd-i-fied.

 

Our second day opened up with our second keynote speaker, Clyde Gaw.  I bet you thought he was just here for Smaché.   He was also here for the cardboard. In 20180613_092720-1358794459.jpghis presentation, he told us of his journey–his life journey–from the train tracks by where he grew up to his current job as a high school TAB teacher in Indiana.  It was interesting to me to hear how and when he met people I know (or know of), like Clark Fralick, Diane Jacquith, Kathy, NanHathaway, and John Crowe.  My biggest take away from Clyde that morning was the rhizome.  He likened things to it and called us rhizomatic. (def 1 def 2).  If you were’t at TAB Lab, but you are meeting up with Clyde at some other TAB event this summer, I’m sure he’ll talk about it.

 

The rest of the day included a working lunch, small group sessions, mini-presentations from attendees and 2 guest speakers, Priscilla Lamb and Manuel Gamez.  Priscella presented on Autism and Special Ed.  Manuel is the Fine Arts Director for PfISD.  It was interesting to hear the perspective of a non-teacher, someone in admin.  He very much supports the arts and really likes TAB.  Bonus for Lori and Julie. We ended the day with some gelli printing with Lori and some faux screen printing led by yours truly.  Unfortunately, after testing the screen the night before, I didn’t wash it fully and the prints weren’t as clean as I would have liked.  But, my fellow teachers were cool with it and didn’t complain.

 

After dinner, many of us met back at the hotel conference room and had some cookies, milk, chat, and arting.  It was a fun way to end the day.

 

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Friday was our last day and Lori had set up a great activity at Austin Creative Reuse.  ACR is a store that is supplied by donations.  It is a TAB teacher’s dream.  Well, and it’s the dream of artists and crafters and people that are into reuse.  We met in the classroom at ACR and split into 2 groups.  Those with the late birthdays went to the store first.  I have already been to ACR, so I knew what was up.  The others were new and were in amazement.  After shopping time, we went back and we participated in what was essentially like “Chopped”, but with art materials. We worked in groups of 4/5.  We were given a theme of “represent”.  And we went from there.  I was fortunate to get with a group where we all just flowed and worked well together.  Our sculpture was called “Bond”.

 

All in all it was a fabulous conference.  I am so glad that I was able to go and that I was enable to pass on my knowledge to others.  I know that I didn’t provide much of what I learned at Tx TAB Lab, but if you are curious as to what was shared, visit out Padlet.  It has links to almost everything.  I look forward to next year when I hope we go even bigger…it is Texas after all…Go Big or Go Home!  Until then, I have Facebook to be able to talk to my new TAB friends.

 

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.

A New Approach to the Bootcamp

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Well, it’s a new bootcamp approach for me and my students. Normally when we do bootcamps, there are many demos by me. And, since I don’t want to spend the whole class period doing demos, it ends up being one per day and then work time. So, each approach is learned separately. Granted, this has been okay for our drawing bootcamps and painting bootcamps. Last year I followed this approach for printmaking as well. It was kind of a disaster. Most kids didn’t really learn much, they whipped through each technique, and they wasted a lot of materials. So, this year, I decided we needed to do something different.

My school is 1:1 MacBooks, and it is an expectation that we include a technology component. I thought this would be a great way to meet that expectation and change up the bootcamp. This year, I would expect the onus of learning the techniques on the students. We talked about how this bootcamp would be different and that they were the ones to watch the demo videos for the technique they needed to learn. I would only be doing one demo–inking and pulling prints.

I create a Google Slides with my expectations for the bootcamp and shared it with my students in Google Classroom. At the start of the bootcamp, we went over it. I expected that each student would learn a minimum of one printmaking technique. They students could decide to either work alone or in groups of up to 4 people. Each group had to make 3 copies of an artwork that utilized different printmaking techniques. AND, they couldn’t repeat techniques in their piece. So, for example, a group of 4 had to create an artwork that had 4 different printmaking techniques. If you worked alone, you had to learn 2 techniques.

While I have 2 things I need to revise for next year, and I will get to those in a minute, I think overall this was a success. The majority of the kids watched multiple video demos before making decisions on what they wanted to learn. They communicated with others on the artwork creation and learned from each other when they had questions about techniques. Of course I had those that needed more attention than others, and I had some that needed modified requirements, but that is normal in a TAB classroom where differentiation is a common occurrence.

The biggest thing I have to revise is HOW I deliver the information and expectations to the students. The multiple copies aspect of printmaking was a difficult concept for many. I also want to look at the time line for next year. The students had 8 studio days (48 minute periods) to create and do a google slides for a presentation. I think I need to make it a full 2 weeks (10 days), not including a day for presentations.

I am proud of my students. They worked hard and learned way more than they realize. I plan on trying to incorporate this type of bootcamp into our future bootcamps. I am glad that I put the learning was put on their shoulders because it allowed me more time to observe and interact with my students.

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.

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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.

2 Weeks of Exhausting Fun

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September is finally here, and for me, it marks having the first 2 weeks of school in the books.  It’s been exhausting and I have had to stop my personal exercise regime because of it. BUT, it has been so worth it.  My new (and returning) students and I have had a blast and have rocked it.

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I don’t like to start off the school year in a traditional way.  I like to have my students jump right in and get busy getting messy.  On our first day, we had 20 minute classes, and I was required by my admin to go over certain things during certain periods.  But, that did leave me time to show a small video to hopefully get my kids thinking about my class and art making in a different fashion.

Over the summer, or maybe it was last year, I found this video by artist and motivational speaker, Erik Wahl.  I thought it was perfect for some first day inspiration.

 

The next two weeks were spent doing not one, but two community projects.  First my students prepped, and installed our own Unity Project.  The welding students cut down steal tubing to use as our braces.  My students painted 7′-6″ PVC poles black, and they balled up miles of yarn.  Once the set-up was complete, they began to add their voices, by choosing the identifiers that represented them, then bringing it to life with yarn on the installation.  (I will write more about the Unity Project in another post once it is complete.)
 

Once we were finished with our part in the Unity Project, it was time to play with some clay. I like to start the year working with clay.  The majority of kids like clay, and it gives them some time to get to know me and each other without much pressure.  I use this time to teach some basic clay skills–slab draping, scoring/slipping and other surface treatment techniques, and to have the kids give back to their community.  This is the one piece the students will make this year that they aren’t allowed to keep.  I do ask all my students to create a bowl for out Duck Art Club’s charity fundraiser–Empty Bowls.

Next week, we will finish up our bowls, then move onto exploring the artistic behaviors that are essential to my classes.  I hope my students keep enjoying art class and continue to knock it out of the part when it comes to my expectations as the weeks, semester, and year continues.

Finally Figuring It Out

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It took the better part of the year, but I think I have finally figured out my Art 2: Painting/Drawing class.  Last year I ran art 2 the same way I did my Art 1.  All of us were new to TAB, so, I felt the need to make art 2 different wasn’t necessary.  But, this year, since I had some kids from Art 1 in my Art 2, I had to change it up.  I started out with an altered books unit I had done for many years.  It is basically a way to get students exploring using media in different ways.  However, the kids were not exploring and were not really understanding the purpose of the book, but they did them anyway.  In my gut, the class just felt off.  I told the students this, and they kind of looked at me funny, but were willing to just go with it.

After about half-way through the second marking period (we run classes for a full year, broken up into 2 semesters consisting of 3 6-week (mostly) marking periods) the class and I “started over”.  I stopped with the altered books and put them into the storage closet. We went back to what I knew worked–themes.  Students were coming up with some great ideas.   I thought things were finally on-track until I was talking to a student during our second theme and asked him how he was thinking of proceeding with his idea.  I asked about media and paper type.  He looked at me like I had 5 heads.  Then I took a look around the room, and I began to think the class looked like it was a beginning class, not a class that had gone through a year of high school art already.  Yes the students had good ideas, but the artistic process stopped there. There was no skill development, there was no risk taking, no reflection, no connections.

At this point, what does any good art teacher do?  Do they just keep on keeping on?  Or do they reflect on what is going on and change things to help better the learning and understanding?  I chose the later.  We would “start over” just one more time.

By this point, it was the end of the first semester.  This gave me the much needed time to really reflect on what my students needed.  It was at this point I was going to try a unit style that Ian Sands developed.  It involves 3 parts:  digging deeper, challenge, and create.  (You can find examples of his units here.)  I borrowed his unit, Artists Steal.  The students were successful.  I mean, there was still work to be done, but for the most part, the transition was a smart one.  I could see them beginning to have a deeper understanding of things artists do and how they, artists, create their artwork.  Many of the kids used what they created in the unit challenge for their artwork.  I was impressed by the level of understanding of appropriation.

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Next it was time to create my own unit.  I followed the “formula” for the unit and I decided that our next unit would be “Artists Tell Stories”.  I came up with a digging deeper section, a challenge and a create section.  With this unit, I saw several of my students really looking at artwork and finding out the story behind it or reading the story it was telling.  They were also providing an excellent reflection on the video they chose to watch.  Link  Link  Link

They say third times a charm, and they were right.  I am glad that I went with my gut and stopped and started things over twice with my students.  I can really see the growth taking place now and I can see their work having deeper thought and deeper meaning.  Is this by any means perfect?  Of course not.  It is a work in progress.  They know that.  If it were, we would have done our current unit (Artists Represent), and the next two (Artists Abstract and Artists Are Non-Representational) first.  But, hindsight and all.

I’ve got a couple of things to change on the structure of the units…like removing the option to create a pinboard of artwork.  I found this isn’t lending itself to any deeper understanding.  And, I need to work in more skills bootcamps, but that will come.  Right now, as much as I want this particular group of students to explore different ways of art making, all but 1 or 2 don’t really want to, I think right now that momentum they’ve got going with exploring things artists do is more important than interrupting them to explore painting or printmaking or something like that.  It’s all about choices and finding the right balance in the class.  And with one and a half marking periods left, I feel I have made the right decision for both them and myself…..but mostly them.

I always say that my TAB classroom is a living entity that ebbs and flows with the needs of the students.  My art 2 class this year proves that.  If you are feeling a class is off, or they need something they aren’t getting at the moment, stop and reset.  It is okay.  It can only help.  Be transparent about what you are doing; your students will understand. Mine did. And remember, it’s all for them.

Day to Day in My TAB Classroom

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A post on my art teacher’s fb page asking about how a TAB classroom works at the high school level got me to searching my blog for a post on how I do it.  I found numerous posts on why I do it, the themes we have used, and organization of my room.  While those are very helpful, they don’t really talk about how my classroom is run–the day to day.

I have said in the past that my classroom is a living entity, and that is as true today as it was when I wrote about it; and it will be true tomorrow and for years to come.  I have to ebb and flow with the needs and wants of my students.  Otherwise, I am taking away something important from the students and not living up to the pedagogy I believe in.

The basics of running my classroom include: introduction of theme, brainstorming, inspiration, demos, time to plan and work, due date, reflection.

  • INTRODUCTION OF THEME:  This is just that…I tell the students the theme.  At the start of a unit, I turn to the kids and tell them the theme. simple. easy.  Themes we have used this year include:  man/machine, interior/exterior, power, pressure, home, environment, light, sound, surrealism, self-portraits.
  • BRAINSTORMING: A few of our themes have not needed brainstorming–like self-portraits.  But, for the most part, we brainstorm as a class.  We are a 1:1 school with MacBooks, so I have the students use a program called Padlet to help them develop ideas.  This helps in several ways…it allows for multiple points of views, it helps to give a voice to those who are shy, and I can link the brainstorm board for those that need to go back and review.
  • INSPIRATION: Currently I am helping my students get some inspiration.  Many of my students haven’t been exposed to much art, so thinking outside of the box is often difficult for them.  I like to help them see what could be possible within a certain theme.  I create pinboards with a myriad of examples for my students.  I hope in the future to change this by having my students find the inspiration and creating the pinboards.  I’m just not there yet.
  • DEMOS: Part of running the TAB classroom includes giving short demos on various materials, tools, techniques for the students.  When I introduce something new, I do a quick 5-8 minute demo and I record it.  I took a page from Apex High School and created my own media portal.  I post all the videos here so students can go back and reference if they were sick or if they need a refresher.
  • TIME TO PLAN AND WORK: The majority of time spent in my classroom is dedicated to this.  At the moment, I don’t require students to plan by sketching or the like because it is not something I always do.  Some students plan on their own, while others don’t.  I am seeing that the reason for this is that they don’t know how.  This is something I am working on and planning on adding in the future (as soon as I figure out how…).  Many of my students experiment as they go, working through ideas and finding solutions–just like many artists do.
  • DUE DATE: I’m going to be honest here, I like having due dates.  I think they are important.  They help to keep my students with wandering minds on-task.  They are important for future endeavors.  I think it is something they have to learn.  I use a soft due date and a hard due date.  There is a week between the two due dates.  Basically, the day after the soft due date I introduce the next theme and we brainstorm.  During that week, those that have finished with the current theme can move on and start planning/working on the new theme; those that need a few more days can finish up working while thinking about what they want to do on the new theme.  I have found the soft/hard due date works for my student population, and it helps keep me in compliance with a few district/campus policies.
  • REFLECTIONS: During the first semester, each student created a website using Weebly.com.  As a class, we talked about 8 different behaviors that artists have.  Every 2-3 weeks, the students chose 2 behaviors and wrote about how they were or weren’t showing that behavior.  It didn’t matter where they were in the process of an artwork.  It was helpful for them to see that the processes they were going through were what was changing them into artists.  When the second semester started, I introduced the artist statement, and the students reflected at the end of each unit, writing an artist statement about what they just created.  I realized that many were not ready to move on to this and were producing better reflections about themselves and their work talking about the behaviors.  I give them a choice at the end of the unit about how they want to reflect now.

MEDIA CHOICE:  I have set up my classroom so that almost all media is out in the classroom and easily accessible for the students.  We started off the year with b/w drawing media.  From there I added color media.  Next was printmaking, then painting and collage.  Starting in the second semester I opened sculpture and clay.  At this point in the year (10 weeks to go), students are allowed to choose whatever media they want.

I know that not every TAB classroom works like this, but this is what works for my student population and for me.  I hope as I continue with the TAB pedagogy, I am able to allow even more freedom to my students.  I keep a list of running notes of things I think will make it run better next year.  What demos did I miss this year that would have been good?  What if I spent more time on each behavior individually?  How can the students get more out of blogging?  Things like that.

There are never two days alike in my classroom.  In fact, even when I do an intro day, no two classes are ever the same.  It’s a good thing.  It keeps it interesting to me.  It keeps me on my toes.  It keeps me happy.

The Living Painting Experiment

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A friend of mine gifted me an canvas that she no longer wanted in her home.  I thought about using the canvas for myself, but I never got around to gessoing over the image to replace with my own.  Then I remembered something I read about on my art teachers group page about how a teacher had this canvas in her room that the kids could paint on when they had extra paint or had finished with their work.

I thought this was a fabulous idea.  So I brought the large (36″X40″) canvas to school and had my aide put one coat of gesso on the canvas.  You could still see the original painting through the gesso, but I thought that might help kids to get started.

I put a sign up that read ” LIVING PAINTING” with a smaller sign underneath.  It reads, “Got extra paint?  Add to the living painting.  Please refrain from curse words and penises.  Thanks.”  (Some of my students are obsessed with drawing, painting, and creating penises.  It’s what they do.)

I introduced them to the canvas today, and they jumped right in.

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I have included a slideshow of the canvas in the sidebar of my school art blog to show how it changes over time.  I am in love already.

A Great TASK to Help Start the New Year

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A Great TASK to Help Start the New Year

Today was the start of a new semester at school.  I thought we needed to start off with a great activity–one that would shake off the slumber of winter break and ring in creativity and imagination for a new year.  And what better way to do so than have a day-long TASK party.

What is a TASK party you ask?

You can also find a previous post on TASK here.

I pulled out a bunch of supplies I had in my storage room:  yarn, egg cartons, craft items, fabric, 12″ dowels, wooden hearts and starts, buttons.  I plugged in all the hot glue guns we had.  I grabbed the large rolls of colored paper from the faculty lounge.  And, I started with a container full of tasks.

This party was to last all day.  I have 7 classes.  Once I started the party, I only broke for lunch, which consisted of writing more tasks.  This was the only place the students faltered…well, and when it came to blindly picking a task.  (Many wanted to pick and choose their task.  It was hard to stop them.)

It really was a fun day.  A few kids fought it at first, but ended up having a good time.  I think they need that time to play.  High school kids don’t often get that anymore.  And bonus, no one was on their computer today.  I wish I knew how many tasks were completed today…or at least attempted.   It would be fun to figure it out.  Perhaps next time.

By the end of the day, my feet were killing me and I was tired as all hell.  But, I had a counter full of artifacts.  I had a hopscotch board on my floor, and I had 2 body outlines–one in dry erase marker and one in tape.  (Just an FYI–certain dry erase markers don’t come off the floor so easily.)  I had a roll full of photos of the students making and laughing and creating and smiling.  I had a heart full of memories. And, I think it set the tone that creativity is welcome here–and encouraged.

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