Category Archives: organization

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.

Top 9: 2015-16 Year in Review

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It’s been a week since the 2015-16 school year ended.  I have taken a week off from doing any work, but it is now time to take a moment to reflect on the year. And, what better way to do that than to do a top 10, well, a top 9…close enough. Normally, a top 10 would only be the best things, but I thought I would add some of the not-so-good as well.  I mean, we all like things to be puppies and rainbows all the time, but let’s get real folks…it ain’t.

9. New Ceramics Curriculum…or should I say lack there of.  I decided to go balls to the wall and go full-on TAB with my ceramics students.  This is the last year I will have had any students that were part of my sculpture program–from before I made the switch to “all clay, all day”.  And, if you were to walk into that intermediate/advanced class, you could tell which kids those were.  But, I digress.  For the most part, for my intermediate and my advanced students, they were given complete freedom.  They were allowed to work on what they wanted, in the time frame they needed.  I did have some themes with guiding questions to help them if they were stumped, but they were in no way “forced” to follow those themes. If you are wondering how to do a single-media TAB class….read this!

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The Ceramics Graveyard and Senior Totems Sculpture Garden at THS

I think this was a great decision.  It allowed the students to move at their pace and do what interested them.  Are there some kinks to work out concerning the structure of the class? Of course.  I plan on doing a “Technique Tuesday” type of thing.  I will have a demo day once a week to show different things they could use in their work, like sprigs and molds and glazing techniques.  I also am revamping their technical reader and going to incorporate that more into the class.

8. Braeden, The Beginning Ceramics Student Who Learned More Than Me.  I was fortunate enough to have that student this year that many teachers dream of having.  That student who falls in love with your subject matter so much, that he or she just becomes a sponge and soaks up everything.  Who during their free time spends it watching videos and reading about the subject.  Who is in your room working and learning and creating at all times of the day.  I had that student this year, and his name is Braeden.  I had Braeden in art 1 his freshman year, but for some reason, he decided to stop taking art for 2 years and finally returned to me his senior year for art 2: beginning ceramics.  I often wonder where he would be if he hadn’t taken that time off.   He started off as a normal ceramics student, doing the required beginning projects.  Then all of the sudden, he changed.  He found a passion.  He found what he wanted to do with his life.  He would come in whenever he could to practice throwing. He learned to make his own clay.  He learned about glazes and different types of firing and their temperatures. He attempted to make his own wood ash glaze.  It was amazing to watch his lust for learning about all things clay.  I eventually had to tell him to stop learning because he knew more than I did.  Of course this became a running joke, and I love it when he teaches me new things.  I loved being able to have those conversations about ceramics with him. I will miss that next year.

7. Starting Over, again, and again… Sometimes you think you have a great plan. And sometimes that plan, no matter how awesome YOU think it is, sucks.  This was the case with my art 2: painting/drawing class this year.  I won’t go into too much detail, as I wrote about having to start over with this class here.  But, I will say I learned a lot from that class.  It is okay to stop and rewind.  You HAVE to do what is best for your students, and if that means if what you are doing isn’t working, then try something else.  However, if you are going to “start again”, you have to keep your students informed about what you are doing and why.  I had that tough conversation with them.  I told them I wasn’t feeling it, and that I thought they weren’t where I had thought they should be.  That we needed a new direction, and this is what we were going to try.  They looked at me with puzzled looks, but they were willing to try.  I think in the end we started over twice.  But, they say third time’s a charm for a reason.  By the third start, we figured it out.  We figured what worked for them, what they needed to grow and be successful.

Like my ceramics classes, I do have some things to tweak, like the timeline for the artistic behavior units, the digging deeper sections, and how we get to full choice by the second semester.  I wish I could open the studio to full choice sooner, but seeing as my co-worker isn’t TAB, and my art 2 classes are a combo of his and my students…I have to do a little work to make sure all students understand the TAB studio.  It’s all good though….my kids could probably use a refresher anyway.

6. Two Wonderful Opportunities.  I work hard, both at my job and as an advocate for TAB.  So, it is nice when someone else recognizes what I am doing.  This year, not one, but two different people recognized this.  First I was asked by my friend, Betsy Murphy, to come and speak about TAB at the T(exas)AEA High School Division meeting at the 2015 conference. I was honored that Betsy, once my mentor, now my friend, thought of me in this way–that I had something important to share with my colleagues.Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.37.47 AM

Second, I was asked to present at the AOE Winter 2016 Online Conference.  I presented about the assessment model I was working on.  It, again, was an honor to think that something I was doing would be of interest to other teachers.  I hope that it helped people make a connection between assessment and grades.

5. Speaking of AOE…Blog Finalist Here.  That’s right, Me, Jean Barnett, author of Art
Class by Mrs B, was a finalist inRisingStarFinalistHI the Art of Education, Blog of the Year, Rising Start category.  I didn’t win, but I think it is pretty cool that I made the list.  I even got a nifty badge to display on the blog.  Oh yeah!  I write my blog with the hopes of not only documenting my journey, but also of helping another art teacher by sharing with I have learned along the way.

4. Art Club I have been at my school for 9 years.  For 8 of those years, my co-worker “ran” the art club.  Well, I wouldn’t really call it running an art club.  I’m not really sure what it was. This img_20160211_220850.jpgyear I took over art club.  I can’t remember the exact reason why he was willing to give it up, but he did, and finally it was mine.  When we started, the club had no money (in fact the account had been closed due to inactivity), and they hadn’t done anything in years.  I advertised the club.  We met every Friday morning during tutorials.  We elected a president, a vice-president, a secretary, and a treasurer.  We sold popcorn, made Duck Art t-shirts and sold them, and even held a painting party.  Was it the best art club?  No.  Did we do a whole lot?  No.  But we did paint a mural in our computer lab, and I am glad to say that we did have a few hundred dollars in the art club account by the end of the year.  Furthermore, we still had members returning to meetings at the end of the year. So, I call it a win!  Small steps people!  I am so proud of the kids.  Next year will be even better.  I know it.

3. I am Not Invincible, But At Least My Admin Believes in Me. I like to think that I am invincible.  That nothing is going to bring me down, except for maybe myself.  And, that was definitely the case this year.  I won’t go into details, but I did have an incident this year that caused me to pause.  I can’t change what happened, but I can say that students can be unpredictable and retaliate in damaging ways.  Luckily for me, I have some students that know who I am, what I stand for, and what my students mean to me.  They were honest and I commend them for that.  I also learned that I have an administration that believes in me and what I do in my classroom.  My principal understands the climate of the art room, and how it differs from an academic class.  We had a long talk about it, and when I left his office, I knew that finally, I had an administrator that finally understood.

2.  School Art vs. Authentic School Art vs. What the Student Really Wants to Make Art This was something that I had not had a ton of thoughts about until I attended a session by Justin Clumpner at NAEA16 in Chicago.  He was talking about an AP student he had who wasn’t making the work or getting anything done.  Then one day he saw her sketchbook and asked her why she wasn’t creating works like her sketches.  Her reply, “I didn’t think I could.  I didn’t think this was ‘school art’.”  I thought that was an interesting concept…school art.  In TAB, we talk a lot about “authentic art”, and what our students are making is authentic art.  And, I thought that I encouraged authentic art and that my kids were making what THEY wanted to make.

That was until the end of April this year.  I happened to come across a tweet by one of my art 1 students of a painting she had just finished at her house.  I tweeted back to her that I thought she should do that in class.  When I talked with her about it the next school day, I asked her why she didn’t do this stuff in class.  She said she couldn’t figure out how to work it into the themes we were doing.   That’s when the lightbulb went off.  As much as I thought I was empowering my students to bring their own life into their artwork, and as much as I encourage authentic art…maybe I wasn’t doing all that I could.  I don’t have an answer yet as to how to really encourage it more, but I have an idea to work through over the summer.

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The Twitter Painting

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The Final Artwork

And, just as an aside, while this girl in particular worked hard all year, I never saw her work like the way she did on that final painting.  She learned so much and was so proud, and I could tell she was a little sad (but still proud) when I said I wanted to keep it to display in August when we returned to school.

1. Knowing You’re on the Right Track  Deep down in my heart, I know that TAB is what is best for my students.  It keeps them engaged.  It really helps them to grow artistically. And, it makes them think and reflect.  My years of running a TAB studio have been my favorite years of teaching.  But, sometimes, it is hard.  Sometimes you feel like the kids just aren’t getting it.  You feel like maybe the “others” are right, and you aren’t really teaching them anything.  You doubt yourself and your program.

But, then something happens. You assign a completely open final artwork for your art 1 students.  You see 90% engagement. You see growth at its peak. You see that they have been paying attention all year.  You see the research and the planning, the trials and errors, the experimentation, and the pushing forward all come out of the students.  Yes, I was physically exhausted for the last 2.5 weeks of school.  Yes, my room was a constant mess, for which I apologized to Connie, my custodian, on a daily basis.  But, I was happy.  I was proud.  I knew I didn’t need to doubt.  I hope to remember this next year when I will more than likely doubt myself again.  I can’t wait to display all this wonderful art in August.  I did include a few pieces from my art 2 class’ final work, Artists Work in a Series, in the slide show.

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Hope your year was as good as mine.  After I finish recharging over the summer, I will look forward to implementing what I learned from this year.  And I do want to take this opportunity to say thanks to my tribe for helping me and encouraging me along the way.

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Tired of Traditional Wedging?

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I hate wedging.  There I said it.  My name is Jean, and I hate wedging.  I have no upper body strength.  I don’t have a wedging table that is the correct height for me.  And I don’t like spending my spare time wedging.  Earlier this year one of my ceramic students came upon this video that showed him how to “Slam and Stack Wire Wedge”.  He said it would be easier for me, but of course, I didn’t believe him.  And, well, it seemed like a lot of work…I would have to have him teach me and set up a make shift wire cutting station.  I was very busy. (Yeah, I wasn’t busy, I was just lazy and wanted him to do all the grunt work for me.)

I finally told him that if he would make a tutorial video for me, I would watch it over the summer and use it next year.  He said okay.  Then, about a week ago, a video appeared on a Facebook group, Clay Buddies, showing exactly what my student had been talking about. The method looked easy enough, so I thought I would try it out.

So, I had my student take some our reclaim and spread it out onto our plaster wedging table to dry out some.  We left it overnight, and the next morning, he set up the make-shift wire cutting station for me.

Game on.  We cut the clay into 4 “smaller” sections, so it was easier to work with.  I took 2 pieces and slammed them together 4 times, flipping over each time.  Next I cut the “new” piece in half with the wire cutter.  Then I put the 2 pieces on top of each other and slammed again 4 times, flipping over each time.  Wash, rinse, repeat for 30 times.

The result?  My clay is wedged.  My students can get back to hand-building.  My arms aren’t so tired.  I am a little sweaty, but I did get a lot of frustration out with all that clay slamming.  And, it saved me so much time.  I call this a win.

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The clay after 30 stacks and slams. You can see it is uniform and ready to be used.

Does this mean I don’t have to wedge traditionally anymore?  Yes.  Of course I will wedge my clay before I throw, and of course my students will wedge before they throw.  But, that will be smaller quantities. This is good for all that clay I have in my reclaim buckets.  Now I have 2 methods to help me with all that “old” and reclaimed clay I have just cluttering up my classroom and kiln room.  (Other method for larger blocks of clay.)

Here is the “Stack and Slam Wire Wedging with Michael Wendt” video:  

What to do with all that dry clay

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I have been teaching ceramics classes for about 4 years now.  And before that I taught sculpture classes and we would always have at least 2 projects with clay during those classes.  Now, as students work, clay dries out and because “unusable” for awhile.  Clay dries out because as you work with it, you hands and the air take out the moisture, kids build things that they don’t want or need, they fail to wrap up their pieces correctly and instead of trying to work with it, they move on, or they rip holes in the bags that hold the clay.  So, due to all of these reasons, I have a ton of extra clay.  Seriously…it is just so.much.clay.

Normally, I reconstitute my clay by putting the pieces in a 5 gallon bucket and then fill the bucket with water.  Eventually the clay softens and becomes slurry-like.  From there, I pull some out, put it on a plaster bat, and let it dry enough so I can wedge the clay back into a usable form for my students.  Quite frankly, this is a pain in the ass.  I hate wedging with a passion.  It reminds me how weak and out of shape I am.  Not to mention it is time consuming.

Recently it was brought to my attention that our district has a grant program.  I thought great, I can apply for a grant, talk to the principal to see if the district will help with the cost, and add in the money that ceramics club has raised, and with all that I can purchase a pugmill to help me on my “mission” to get all this dried clay usable again.  I asked a group of potters on a Facebook group I am part of for a pugmill recommendation.  That is when a woman told me this method of reconstituting I had never heard of.

She told me to put no more than 2 cups of water into the bag with the dried out clay.  Next put the clay bag in a big bucket–like a 5 gallon one, and fill the bucket with water until the bag of clay is covered.  Finally, let it sit for a week or so.  The theory is the pressure from the water outside of the bag will push the water in the bag back into the clay and soften the clay so it can be used again.  I’m gonna be honest here, I was a little skeptical.  But, I did it anyway.  P1080085

Well, after about 5 days I checked the bucket.  Almost all of the water I had put into the bag was gone…it had soaked into the clay.  I took the bag out of the bucket and opened to see what the clay felt like.  It was a little slimy on the outside, but the clay it self was wet all the way through.  It was as if it was brand new from the store.  And bonus, because this was a bag of clay that was solid and not a bunch of pieces left over, I don’t have to wedge it.  I was able to re-bag it and put it with the other clay for my students to use.IMAG5300

I am so excited that this worked.  I went through all my clay and pulled all the bags where the clay was one big giant block like this and put them aside.  I loaded up my bucket with a new block and water, and in a week I hope to have another bag ready to go.  I still have the other buckets with scraps the kids create, and that will have to wedged, but this new method will really help me out, and I can save the ceramic club’s money for something more fun for us to use it on.

A New Exploration Activity

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A New Exploration Activity

I know it has been over a month and a half since I last wrote, but it’s kind of been the same old, same old in my classroom.  But, as the new year and the new semester began, I have many new ideas and things I am trying out with my students.  And, I am going to start with a new to me way of exploring.  I did an activity similar to what fellow TAB teacher Cynthia Gaub does called Around the Room.  I changed it to Exploration around the room: collage and mixed media.

Art 1 jumped right back in when returning from our winter break.  They had new media and techniques to explore and I wanted them to have a new way to explore them.

So, I lined the counters with some large sheets of paper and place a ton of items out for them to explore with: plexi, excess pieces of laminate, and plastic bags for monoprints, cardboard and styrofoam for printmaking, bubble wrap, flowers, feathers, spools, and a plethora of other items for stamping.

I gave a brief introduction outlining part 1 of our exploration activity and then let them go on their way to create some new textures and backgrounds.  At first some were hesitant, but by day 2, they were comfortable and trying new ways of printing with the different methods and objects.

 

Once we were done exploring stamping and printmaking, we learned about collage and mixed media.  Students were then challenged to take what they had made during their exploration and to use them in someway…either as the ground for a new artwork to be placed on top or as paper to be cut up and used in a collage.

Once the students finished with their exploration artwork, the students reflected on what they learned through a technique exploration blog post.

​Here are some of the fabulous practice works the students created.

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I have a few tweaks to make, but I like this way of exploration.  I want to combine it with the other methods I use.  Not sure how I am going to do that yet, but it will come to me.

 

 

It’s Art Show Season

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Art Show Flyer

It’s art show season for me, and probably for many of you.  This is my second year heading up our annual art show.  And, it is the second year my school had an annual art show.  So, um, yeah.  I thought I would share some things that I do to make my show a success.

  1. I start collecting works at the start of the year.  I know some teachers prefer to have the students curate the show.  That’s not my style.  It is a matter of choice.  My co-worker this year had students submit what they wanted.  I am curious to see how that goes.  In any case, I find that starting at the beginning of the year helps when it comes time for mounting.  You can start mounting whenever you want.  No need to wait until the week before or the week of.
  2. I print out rosters for all of my classes with a blank grid.  As I collect artworks, I check off a box for that student.  This helps me make sure I have something from almost every one and it helps when it is time to make labels.
  3. I mount all my work on black construction paper.  There are a few examples that need white mats, but for the most part, black is good.  I don’t have a lot of extra money or time for fancy mats.  The works look good on the black construction. And, it is easy to do.  I don’t mat works that are on canvas board.  Those get hung as is.
  4. I make all the mats have a 1″ border.  I created a tool to help with mounting.  It is a 1″ wide “L” I cut from chip board.  I can line it up with one corner of the black mat, spray the back of the artwork, and then use it to guide the artwork on to the mat.  It really has helped to cut down on the time it takes to mount over 200 pieces of artwork.
  5. This year I had my aide help me out with labels.  Last year I bought a large pack of Avery return labels.   The labels fit perfectly on the 1″ border of the mat.  I only put the student’s name on the label.  My aide downloaded the template and uses the list I have created on my rosters so she knows how many labels to make each student.
  6. For 3-D artwork or non-matted work, I put the name labels on 3″X1.5″ bristol board tags.  These get either placed by the sculpture or tacked on the wall just under the artwork.
  7. If you have ever told a high school student to tell his or her parent something, you know most likely whatever it is will never get relayed to them.  So, I thought a great idea was to send invites to all the parents/guardians of the students who have artwork in the show.  Here is my template. (Please note, the original was made in pages and that does not upload to google docs so well.  The font on the original is a script, which makes it look a bit more fancy.)  I put 4 invites on a page and print onto white cardstock.  I found some envelopes at Michael’s that fit the invites perfectly.  The counselor’s secretary was super nice and printed out all the “to the parents of” labels for me to make addressing them easier.
  8. I also send invites to the superintendent, the deputy superintendent, the head of HR, all my principals, the middle school art teacher, and the teachers and staff at the school. Their invites are the same, but I leave out the part about their young artist having work in the show.  I think it is nice to formally invite my colleagues and administration.
  9. For other advertising, we do a couple of other things. A student created a poster this year to hang all over the school.  A huge banner is being created to hang from our school’s balcony.  The poster is being run in the announcement powerpoint at lunches.  We shared the poster with our district PR person.  He came and took pictures of the students getting things ready.  He will run these pics on the district FB group.  I think it will also go in the local paper.  We have the poster running on the front page of the district and the high school websites.  My principal set up an all-call to remind everyone about the show the night before.
  10. Every art show I have been to has some sort of food at the opening.  This show should be no different.  I have talked with the culinary teacher, and her students are going to create some yummy treats for the event.  This adds a little something extra to the show.
  11. This year we we also be adding some music.  I have talked to the band director and he agreed to have some students play some nice music during the show.  He will set up on the balcony overlooking the show.
  12. We are having the show on a Friday evening, so I had to take when to set up into consideration.  I am taking the day off for school related business.  I have also hand-picked several students to help me hang all the work during the day.  I contacted all their teachers and asked them if they could miss their class that day.  I found last year it was kind of a pain to have new students each period helping out.  I felt like a broken record and things were getting forgotten and nothing was smooth.  I thought having the same group of responsible students all day would make things easier.
  13. We will hang all the work using poster tack.  It works well on both our fabricated wall tiles and our cinderblocks. We have a few easels for larger paintings, and we have a place to hang framed work.  I saw another teacher this year get the little wads of tack prepared in the days before.  I haven’t done this before, but it seems like a great idea.  I will ask my aides if they want to do that.
  14. All the sculpture work goes on round bar height tables we have at the high school.  Last year I had an abundance of brown burlap, so I cut it to use as table cloths.  (I was smart and bagged them up and hid them in the faculty work room for future use.)  We will use those again.
  15. A cool thing I like to do, which unfortunately I didn’t get to this year–yet, is create QR codes for seniors.  It is nice to have a little bit of info about our senior artists near their work.  Students give brief responses to questions like what is your favorite media, why do you like art, and what are your plans after graduation.
  16. The last thing I like to do is go in over the weekend after the show and take a high-res picture of each artwork.  I then edit them, put them in a slide show, and put the show on youtube and my art website.  This way, those that couldn’t make the show can still view it.  It’s a long slide show, but it helps to advocate for your program.

I know this seems like a lot, but if you start early enough, it is pretty easy.  Organization is the key, in my opinion.  I am a pretty organized art teacher, and it really comes in helpful for events like this. As I said in the beginning, this is what I do.  I am sharing in case you needed some help on ways to make your show set-up easier.  Use what will help you.  Ignore what won’t.

Relax. Take a deep breath.  And happy Art Showing!!!

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.