Category Archives: Exploration

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.

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 Abstract/Don’t Represent

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Normally I teach both abstract and non-objective art in a full-on unit.  This year I decided to revise that.  While I think the information included is important, it was information that could be learned in a shorter amount of time…with the right activities and check-ins.  I am lucky as our school is 1:1 and has a set of TVs at the front of the school that we can hook in to.

Day 1: Each class broke into 5 equal groups.  They brought one computer with them and we headed to the front of the school.  Each group hooked into a tv, and they were asked to first define both abstract and non-representational/non-objective.  After that, each group went thru a slideshow and determined if an image was abstract or non-objective, based on what they had discovered in their definition search. At the end of class, we went thru the slideshow as a whole class.

Day 2: We briefly went over the definitions of each style of art.  The students then were to watch 2 videos through playposit.  One video was on Joan Jonas and the other was Soo Sunny Park.  They students had to determine which artist would be considered abstract and which was non-objective.  They also had to say why.  This was really to stress the difference between the two genres and to let them see 2 artists at work.

Day 3:  At the start of class, we had a check for understanding where kids defined each term, said what they had in common and what made them different.  Then it was time for was our image find day.  Each student had to create a document that contained 10 images.  Five of the images had to be abstract.  Five had to be non-objective.  They also had to say why they chose those images–what drew them to those pieces.  I like having them do this because it causes them not to choose the first 5 they find and to really search through a ton of images.  Furthermore, it gives me some behind the scenes info into art they find intriguing.

Days 4-6: These were studio day.  Students chose which type of art they wanted to create, then had 3 days to create that art.  It was awesome.  The first day about 60% of students were working, but by the second day, 95% were working and not rushing thru.  I was very pleased with the conversations and the engagement by my students.

Day 7:  Our final day of the bootcamp was reflection day.  I asked students to fill out a google form.  I asked them again to tell me the differences and similarities between abstract and non-objective.  I asked them what genre their artwork fell into.  Then I asked some opinion questions about the bootcamp and abstract/non-objective work.  With the extra time left that period, kids could finish up anything they hadn’t gotten to over the past 3 studio days.

This was a huge success.  It wasn’t so long that they eventually lost interest. And, it was focused and narrow enough for 95% to understand the two concepts.

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.

The DuckArt Tantamounter: A midterm exam.

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My school expects every class and every studeny to have a midterm exam.  I hate exams. And, without “testable content” in a TAB classroom, a written test was not really a good idea.  I’ve done portfolio reviews and semester learning questionaires before, but with art 1, they’re hit or miss.  I’ve done the “final artwork” thing before too, but I don’t grade artwork normally, so coming up with a rubric for one sucks.

Then it hit me. Why not do the Tantamounter.  I love doing it as an activity with my kids. We hadn’t done it yet.  It was a great way to show off the artistic behaviors and thinking I had hoped they had been learning…problem solving, communicating, collaborating, observation…and of course, it showed they could work in a shared studio as part of their task was to leave the studio as clean as they found it.

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It was such a huge success.  I painted our living painting, much to the dismay of many who thought it was going away for the rest of the year, and put it outside our classroom.

Upon entering the room, the class was told they were now the inner workings of the tantamount machine. After a brief slide show, a statement about materials, and time for questions, time began–they had 60 minutes.

Seriously, it was awesome.

I do want to thank my coworkers for bringing such interesting items to be Tantamounted.  I couldn’t have pulled it off without them. I have decided this is my go to midterm from now on.

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.

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.