Think back to this post where I talked about bringing in some choice to my art 1 students. They were able to work in groups and were each given an egg carton to which they could do whatever they liked as long as their final artwork had informal balance. We worked on the project for about 2 weeks, then we took a week’s break (spring break), and finished up in about 2 or 3 days. During spring break, I decided not to grade them on the outcome of their project, but instead to grade them on the process and what they had to say about that process. I had created a list of questions for them to answer.
When it came time to actually figure out a grade, I really had no idea what to do about it. I didn’t really have a rubric on how to grade what they had written. They had never done anything like this before, so they had no idea what I was really looking for. They were honest in their answers. In the end I gave each student a 100, unless I specifically recalled them spending days not working (which one child did and his partners said something about it in their answers) or they failed to answer all the questions. The grades ranged from 85-100.
It has taken me a long time to write about the project/process; I’ve been reflecting about it…a lot. What had I really hoped to gain from this “experiment” of throwing so much choice at the students? I mean, really, it was all for me. Yes the kids learned about informal balance. And I truly believe that many did understand it by the end. And, of course, there were some that didn’t, but I am not sure they would have gotten it anyway, if I am being honest here. I had been reading so much about choice that I really wanted to try it out. I felt the only way to see if I liked it and how I could implement it in my classes was to do a trial run. I felt this unit was really more for me then for them. Part of me feels like I shouldn’t admit that, but how am I to know what works and what doesn’t if I don’t try. Many things look good on paper…
I learned a lot about choice and how to make it work in my classroom and how to make it work for me. I admittedly am a sort of small control freak. It is hard for me not to know an outcome. But, I rolled with this. I think I need to do some sort of a modified choice. I think that leaving it so broad was hard for me and for the students. (Many did say they they didn’t like not knowing what it “should” look like, and that it was hard to come up with an idea.) I think I would have to slowly bring them into the “choice world”. It was too much at once. I think to make it work well, I would need to limit choice to either 2-D or 3-D. (I have done some choice things in my 2-D and 3-D classes and it has been successful.) Maybe I should spend some time on different techniques, then go from there where they could expand, explore, and build on things we have already discussed. I still have a lot to think about. I like giving them freedom, but I need some sort of control. I need to find a balance that benefits us both. We (my students and I) need to have a symbiotic relationship if we are all going to thrive.
Overall, it was a fun time in the art room and there was lots of good conversation and exploring going on. They were doing what I had told them was my motto for the year (stolen from the Frizz of course) “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!”
We are starting on our second week of choice in Art 1 when creating a project about informal balance. Today I walked around and talked with the different groups to check in on their progress and to make sure they are on the right track. I want to say that about half understood informal balance and are able to incorporate it into their artworks. About a third of those who didn’t understand it and were not consciously addressing are now able to once talking through things with me. And, well, out of those that are left, some just are making things out of egg cartons, and one group basically said they weren’t going to do anymore, and to just give them a 70. At least they were honest about it.
I am excited and surprised by many. I have to be honest that there are some students that are surprising me in their art. Some that I thought would be the ones making the egg carton alligator are thinking outside the box. While others that I thought would nail this are the ones making the alligator.
Choice hasn’t been easy for me. Not knowing the outcome is hard for me. But, I have to learn to go with it. I will update once the unit comes to an end.
STUDENTS WORKING HARD 🙂
PROMISING ARTWORKS AND OUT OF THE “CARTON” THINKING
beginnings of a truck
plan on using texture to balance
using the egg cartons to make a 2-d work (bas relief)
will balance with color
ARTWORKS THAT ARE “PREDICTABLE” AND NOT OUT OF THE “CARTON”
I have been teaching sculpture for about 5 years now. It has grown from a 1 year course to 3 courses that you can take once finishing art 1. I love building things. I love to explore with different materials and creating sculpture allows for that. And, because sculpture encompasses so many techniques and materials, it was always hard to choose what was important to teach. So, I taught as many as I could afford to do.
Because of this, I was feeling disjointed. My students were learning many different things and creating many different artworks, but no one was really mastering anything. It was frustrating to me that in my advanced class when I assigned a work that had an overall theme and left the medium up to the students, I had to almost re-teach some basic skills that we learned in beginning sculpture and revisited in intermediate sculpture. I felt like a failure of a teacher. It seemed like no one was really growing as an artist and building upon what they knew.
I thought about it and decided to chat with my principal about it. He understood and he agreed with my plan. He even suggested that I make the switch at the midterm to “test it out”–to make sure it was really what I wanted to do and that it was what was best for the students. My plan was to switch my curriculum from the more general subject of “sculpture” to the narrower subject of “ceramics”. I feel that with ceramics there are some basic techniques that can be built on and honed over 3 years–thus allowing the students to “master” the art of clay by the time they finish up their senior year in advanced sculpture.
I took the plunge and started to do some research. I talked with other art teachers about their ceramic programs. I went through all the materials I had about the ceramics classes I took at UT. I combed the web and pinned things on Pinterest and book marked them onto my Firefox toolbar. I created a technical reader for my beginning class that the students would carry with them over the course of the 3 sculpture classes. I bound them with comb binders so that over the summer I could add pages to the books for the next level. The students in beginning class were aware of the change that was going to occur starting in January and they were 100% behind it.
January came and we jumped right in. It’s been rocky and somethings have changed as we continue on our journey. Somethings work, somethings don’t. We are nearing the end of our second artwork and already I am seeing the growth of the students. They are learning from their mistakes. They are building upon things we learned in our first artwork. It is exactly what I am hoping for. The students are engaged in the process.
It is still a learning process for me as I figure out the curriculum and how best to run a ceramics program, but I think it was the right choice–for them, and for me.