Tag Archives: TAB

Restoration of a Practice

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As we enter the third week of the new semester, I thought I would update on my “restoration” of the school year. (Confused? See this post for some clarity.) I know it has been a short time, but I am starting to really feel like I am getting a hold of the school year. Maybe I should say it’s been a long time. I mean, it is January, and we’ve been in school for about 4 months already.

img_20200123_183235_2816965594421370195777.jpg       img_20200122_110002_4556652781830567087963.jpgI came into this semester in a different frame of mind. I realized in December that I needed to change what was happening in my art studio, what was happening with my students. I felt they weren’t getting the best out of our TAB studio. And, I knew it wasn’t really them, but it was me. I was doing what felt right last school year…what worked for last year’s students. I was doing what I thought I should be doing. I wasn’t really seeing what my kids were missing.

So, over winter break I sat down with notebooks and made lots of notes. I figured out what my students were needing, and got to planning.

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We started off with an exploration of the human face. It was very teacher-led, but it was a good way to start off the new semester. It got them engaged because teens love drawing eyes and lips. It helped to build their skills, and it was a nice ease back into art after 2+ weeks of sitting around.

But, it was what I decided to do after that I think is really making the difference. In art 1, we had been working through “The 9”, packets designed by Ian Sands that offer a lot of choice, but on a more basic, general subject matter (landscape, nature, architecture, etc.) These have been helpful, but I felt my art 1 students

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needed more. At one point in my TAB journey, we worked with themes. I felt it was time to incorporate themes again. What I ultimately decided was that students would have a choice of a new packet (this time portraits due to the exploration we did), any previous packet we have visited this year, and a theme. And, so far, so good. Students are much more engaged with the larger choice, and because everyone isn’t doing the same packet, there is much more delving into the ATP (Artistic Thinking Process). Also, the required student-teacher meeting between development and creation has really helped them as well.

I20200116_1003544689872620955959336.jpg am finally fully engaged this school year, and all it took was some deep reflection and a few tweaks to restore my passion for TAB and teaching.

This is 20 20.

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It’s a new year…like it started yesterday. And with the end of each old year, and the beginning of a new one, there always comes with it some reflection. Many people create goals or make resolutions for the new year. I like to choose a word that I keep with me throughout the year, having it on my mind as I make decisions and navigate life.

I recently wrote about the struggles I was having the first part of this school year. I have been reflecting on the struggles and how I can make a change to ‘better’ myself and my program. What the reflection has ultimately done was cause me to pause and remember why I teach and why I choose to follow the TAB philosophy.

So, I have decided to write a series of posts about TAB and my journey back to myself and back to my “truth”. I will post a link here with each new reading. The first being;

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my word is “Restore”.

“What’s So TAB…?”

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I often see people asking questions along the lines of “What’s so great about TAB?” Sometimes the question is sarcastic. Other times, you can catch the wif of a true curiosity. Someone who really wants to know why so many have made the switch to this philosophy of “asking what it is that artists do”, and of “believing students are the artists and the classroom is their studio”.

This post is for you…all of you. Both the sarcastic, who *think* they don’t want to know, AND the curious, who *know* they want to know.

There are many things that make Teaching For Artistic Behavior (TAB) great. Many of the reasons are common among TAB teachers, but just as each TAB studio is different, each TAB teacher has her/his top reason for it’s greatness.

Let’s get to it.

  • It’s budget friendly. Whether you have a large budget or a almost non-existent one, since you don’t need class sets of everything anymore, it allows for a wider range of materials and tools.
  • It’s a relationship builder. Because each student is working on a more “independent’ style artwork, you can find out more about each student. Because they are adding more of themselves into each artwork, and because you aren’t policing step by step instructions, you can spend more time talking with them.
  • Deeper Thinking and Connections. I’ve found that when I’ve asked my students to plan the artwork, from the beginning, even with a theme, (instead of me designing the whole unit) my students have gone deeper into the meat of their artwork, and the connections between ideas, themselves and their art have increased ten fold.
  • More Exploration. Letting students decide what medium(s) they want to use and how they want to use them is a game changer in creativity. Students are continually asking me, “what if I?” or “what happens when?” it leads to discovery and conversation and wonderfulness.
  • Differentiation. This one is a big one. Because a TAB teacher is not expecting a student’s work to look like an example, and because we are looking at the underlying aspects of art making (the artistic process, choice making, problem solving, skill building, etc.), it is much easier to meet students where they are, and to help them achieve goals that are suited to them, and not everyone else.
  • A Philosophy, not a Curriculum. TAB is a way of thinking about art education. It’s not a curriculum you can buy on TPT. There are no set lesson plans, no explicit rules to be followed. This allows TAB teachers to be flexible in what they teach and how they convey it to students. It allows for campus and district expectations to be met. It allows for a teachers’ level of comfort when it comes to giving up “control” to the students. It gives teachers flexibility when deciding to follow state or national standards. And it allows for more time to focus on the behaviors of artists instead of only exploring every medium that can be fit in during a school year.

It is that last bullet point that is my top reason for what makes TAB so great. TAB has allowed for so many deep, meaningful things to happen with my students. I’ve seen so much growth and connection making since I changed to TAB. Once I realized it wasn’t about me, but about them, and I changed the way I taught to reflect that…

I have never worked harder as a art teacher than I have as a TAB teacher. Yes, physically I did more work when I taught in a more traditional manner, but I wasn’t as happy. Now, the hard work comes mentally–reflecting on what my students need (which changes year to year, and even from semester to semester), reflecting on my teaching practices, reflecting on myself as an artist and a member of my school community, and how I can bring those things into what I am teaching. It’s draining, but so worth it and fulfilling.

If you are a TAB teacher, what is your top reason for why it’s so great? If you are not, what is stopping you from really checking it out?

Seeing the Art of Children

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Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

~Pablo Picasso

This is the ultimate challenge to artists, isn’t it–to hold onto that wild abandon and curiosity when making art.  As we grow up, for some reason that changes.  How we make and view art as adults does a complete 180, and I believe this issue needs to be addressed.  In this day and age as we talk about creativity and how this new generation lacks creativity, we must ask ourselves how did we get here?  Then, we need to figure out how we can change that.

Somewhere along the line, we are taught that the skill to make things realistic is equal to beautiful/good art.  That coloring in the lines is a goal.  That creation comes with a set of directions that needs to be followed.  Things like expression through messiness and exploration through process go to the wayside.  Does this stem from an unconscious connection to the development of fine motor skills (FMS)?  Perhaps somewhere we think that as we develop our FMS, our art should follow suit–that it needs to look sharp and be realistic.  But, I think that is taking away what art could and should be.

The old adage that says “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind.   Art could be defined by this, and many people do define art this way.  But, should it be defined by this?  I think this minimizes what art is.  I think children get it right.  For children, art is about the process.  It’s not defined by skill.  It’s not about correctness.  It’s about telling a story.  It’s about making what is in their head a reality.

And, we as adults need to understand that.  We have been told for so long what to do and how to do it that we have lost track of our inner child.  And, as art teachers, we have an opportunity to help create the next generation of adults who can see art and make art as they did as children.

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Art 1 student in-progress work

You have to be in a state of play to design.

~Paula Scher

That is where Teaching for Artistic Behavior can come into play.  (See what I did there?)  Starting at the elementary level, we can not only teach kids how to behave like artists, but we can teach ourselves and our colleagues to see their, the children’s, work for what they intend it to be.  We can stop telling our students what to create and how to create it, and let them tell us what they want to create and how they want to create it.  Each student has her own story and voice to tell it.  We can stop pushing our adult agenda and aesthetics on students and listen to them.

This doesn’t mean we don’t help our students improve their skill.  This doesn’t mean we don’t teach them about composition or color theory or shading or foreshortening or art history.  Those things are important parts of art, and we should incorporate them into our lessons, but should they be the most important or central part about art?  We need to help guide our students on their journey and see their journey for what it is…and we need to look at it at their level.  We need to meet them where they are.  We need to stop telling them what art should look like, but instead ask them what they envision it could look like.

Perhaps a bullet list will help… And remember, these lists are not mutually exclusive and they are not complete and can change with time


What art doesn’t have to be:

  • photorealistic
  • 24 of the “same” image (ie student created “Van Gogh sunflowers”)
  • polished
  • colored in the lines
  • a finished product

What art could be:

  • made of repurposed materials
  • messy
  • unfinished
  • a “failure”
  • a journey
  • outside the lines
  • unrealistic
  • in need of an explanation

What should be your takeaway from this blog post?  That children’s art is NOT adult art.  AND, we as adults need to recognize that and stop judging it like it is.  Does that sound harsh?  Maybe.  But, what if we did just that and helped to make a generation of artists instead of a generation of followers.

 

 

The Re-Do: A Final Exam

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It appears as if I am not the only one to have students revisit an artwork made earlier in the year to re-work as a final exam for high school art.  (Melissa Purtee wrote about it here, and I did take the idea from Ian SandsJanine Campbell did it years ago.)

Anyway, for my art 1 and my art 2: p/d classes, the exam was to take a piece of artwork they had made sometime in their class that they created or started to create and re-do it in one of 3 ways–make it better, make it different, or rearrange it.  We looked at a slide show, I answered questions, and then kids had at it.  When they were finished, I had the students fill out a written reflection about the new artwork, why they chose that piece to redo, how they re-did it, and which was stronger/why.  There were a couple of other questions about the work they did this year as well.   The students had to turn in the original (or a photo of the original) with the new work so I could compare.

I thought it was a great way to finish the year.  Students were able to go back over everything they had created.  Some pieces they hadn’t seen since I put them back in their portfolios earlier in the year, some forgetting even having made the piece.  The reasons students gave for choosing specific pieces varied–from it was my favorite piece to I wanted to take it out of my sketchbook to I knew I could do better.   I am so proud of the work they put into the new pieces.  It really was a good way to show what they had learned over the year–art making skills, decision making skills, and reflection skills.  It’s a final exam I will continue to use in my classes.

I wish I had taken more photos, but I was so caught up in what they were doing and the end of the year, that I forgot.

The Power of One Challenge

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I had hit a slump.  There were 2 packets of “The 9” left to complete for the year, but I wasn’t feeling either one of them.  I considered doing a watercolor exploration, but then decided my art 1 students really didn’t need anymore media explorations at this point in the year.  So, I did what any TAB teacher would do, I asked my TAB colleagues for suggestions.  It was there that I decided I would create a challenge based on Phil Hansen’s Ted Talk, “Embrace the Shake“.  Thus, the Power of One Challenge was born.

We started the challenge by watching the Ted Talk.  We had already watched it earlier in the year, but I told them we were going to watch it again as it was very important to what they were about to be asked to do.  Next, I gave them the run-down of the challenge.

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I didn’t give much other information.  I told them to think back to the video and the work that Phil Hansen made and HOW he made it.  I gave time for questions, and time for research.  They had a day and a half to look up info needed and to print it out before losing computers.  I limited computers because I have a love/hate relationship with out 1:1 school.  I really wanted them to concentrate on art making without the distraction of games and movies and whatever else it is they do on their laptops.

Some kids got the concept of the challenge right away.  Others took the whole day and half to grasp what was being asked of them.  Once they started, I just sat back and watched them learn, answering questions when asked.  They problem solved.  They were creative.  They all weren’t so original, but that often happens in an art class–one student sees another doing something they feel as cool, so they want to do it too.

I really enjoyed this 2 week challenge.  It gave me time to recoup as a teacher, but was super beneficial to my students.  When I go to do this challenge again, I will change how we present when all is finished.  And, I might change when we do it, and have it be their final exam.

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Watch through the slideshow to see what each artists “1 thing” was.  I am so proud of these kids.

A Week of Clay Exploration

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I’ve been a TAB teacher now for more than half my teaching career, and even I still struggle sometimes with creating exploration camps for my students that are open enough to give kids a taste of “new” mediums. One of these that I struggle with is clay. I know, I know, I teach ceramics, how could I struggle with this one? Giving students a week and a half to explore a medium that takes practice to understand is hard. I wanted to give them as much freedom as I could, but still limit some things due to practical aspects such as the amount of clay I have and the many students I have.

I had planned just on letting 2 of my 4 classes explore, but then decided I was too lazy to have 2 different explorations going on at the same time. And, I’m glad that I had all of them explore. Out of my almost 100 students, I had 95% engagement all week. I had about 3 kids decide they never want to touch clay again and I had several kids say they are signing up for ceramics next year–kids that I thought would stick with our 2D path. So, bonus for me and my program.

How did I run the exploration camp? I showed 2 quick demos on Monday, pinchpot and coil, with lots of finished examples of pieces created using those methods. Then on Tuesday I showed slab building. We talked about the term vessel, a hollow container, and how I was very open to how they could interpret that term. Then I let them go. They were to build a vessel of their choosing with any hand-building technique or combination of them they wanted.

If you have a lot of kids working at once, I would advise creating some damp boxes to help store as the kids work all week. See this post on how to create a damp box. It was a game changer on storage and keeping 90+ pieces workable all week. And, over a weekend for the handful that needed/wanted more studio time. I had been wanting to make some for my ceramic students, but never had time. This week forced me to make them. So glad I did.

I don’t have many pictures to share this time as we were having so much fun, I got caught up and forgot to pill out my phone.

What If We Didn’t Grade Artwork?

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How to grade artwork is a topic that comes up often in groups populated by art teachers.  I am sure that not one art teacher really wants to grade art, but unfortunately for most of us, it’s part of the expectations those in higher pay grades at central office place upon us.  But, if we really thought about it, is grading the artwork itself really a good measure of a student’s artistic growth, learning, application and understanding?  And, isn’t that the point of school–growth, learning, application and understanding?  I mean, school is the best place to “screw up”–to fail at something, reflect on it, and learn from the process/what went “wrong”.  No big merger or client’s money is really at stake here, so why not take risks.20180914_073706.jpg

Risks are huge in creating artwork.  All the masters that so many teachers use in their classrooms are great because they took risks and experimented.  For every artwork that was successful, they had at least 3 that either sucked and were failures or just were meh.  (Just for the record, I am making that number up.  I am basing it on my own journey as an artist.)  If that is the case, why are we holding our students to different standards that working artists don’t hold to themselves?

If we grade artwork on how many lines students used, or if they incorporated X# of organic shapes and X# of geometric shapes, then how do we as teachers know what are they really learning.  I don’t know many artists that work like that?  Why are we telling them they need to have this or that?  Shouldn’t the artwork dictate that?  Whose work is it anyway?  Letting the students figure out where and what to use or not use in their work will help them learn how to grow as an artist.  Having conversations with them will help them reflect and grow.20180828_135406

BUT, what if we just decided NOT to grade the artwork and grade their engagement in the process instead?  What could that lead to?  I’ll tell you what it could lead to.  It could take the pressure off students to be “perfect” in their work.  It could tell them that they are in charge of their  work, not me, the teacher.  It could lead to students taking risks in their artworks.  It could lead to students trying new media and techniques.  It could lead to experimentation that otherwise may not have happened if they are just trying to have X# of shapes in their work.  It could lead to failure, which in turn with reflection leads to learning.  And all of this leads to the students learning to behave, think, and become artists.  And, isn’t that what one of our end goals of art education should be?

 

Working with “The 10”: Ceramics Packet Reflection

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My friend, Ian Sands, developed a system called “the 9“.  They are packets based around the basics of subjects of art that artists create.  It’s not about content, but more about category that art would fall into.  The packets include: the object, architecture, nature, landscape, figure, portrait, imagination, non-representational, and conceptual.  He introduced them to me some time last school year, and I thought they were wonderful.  I’ve been successfully using them with my art 1 students this year.  They are a great introduction to art categories, while allowing my TAB students to make lots of meaningful choices.

I tested them out last year with one of my classes, and thought that they would be a great tool for working with my ceramics students as they move along their artistic journey.  Sometime last spring, I began planning how to use Ian’s model for my ceramics program.  I began researching and decided that for the most part, ceramics artists’ works fall into most of the same categories.  But, I discovered that there are 10 categories, instead of 9.  They include: nature, animal, architecture, “figure”-ative, functionality, imagination, non-representation, portraiture, the object, and conceptual/installation.

Following Ian’s template, I created consideration questions for each packet, changed up the suggestions and geared the planning around requirements I have for my students.  I am very happy with the development of my packets.

Now, here’s where I am dissatisfied with “The 10”.  I rolled them out in a way that I find isn’t working the way I hoped.  I thought it would make my students more independent, so I introduced it with my intermediate and advanced students.  (They meet at the same time.)  I think this was my mistake.  I should have used it with my beginners after we completed the “have-to” portion of our class.  Seeing how my art 1 students are growing using “The 9”, helped me to see this.  Currently with my beginners, we do ceramic artistic behavior units right after finishing our “have to” section.  We just began our first unit, Ceramic Artists are Inspired by Nature, but I think that after this unit, we will pass out sketchbooks and move onto the next packet.  Nature is one of the packets after all.  We will continue through the rest of the year going through packets, picking up next fall with where we left off.  Then we will dive into deeper meaning with Ceramic Artistic Behavior units.

I will continue with my upper ceramic students in the way we are working. With the exception of one student, they are all seniors, and I’m not too worried about it.  They are working and learning and growing.

They say it takes 3 years to really build up a program.  Like I previously stated, this is the 5th year of the program.  I’ve been playing around with it, trying new things each year to replace things that weren’t working.  I feel I finally have a great grasp on the program and the progression it should take to truly have my students behaving and thinking like artists.  The timing of “The 10” was the final piece of the puzzle that finally fell into place.

 

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Example of “The 10: Nature Packet”

 

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.