Exploring Choice

Exploring

Do you remember when you learned to swim?  There you were, standing at the waters edge with your “floaties” on with your mom (or dad) gesturing for you to jump in. You shook your head vigorously and chose instead to dip a toe in, and then back in slowly over the edge of pool.  Or, perhaps you chose to ease in one step or ladder rung at a time.  Or maybe you bravely dove in?

I have been testing the waters with TAB, or Teaching for Artistic Behavior, and choice in the art room.  Diving in, exploring choice, and co-constructing learning seemed scary to me.

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via GIPHY

The steps started small.  Still cleaving to my DBAE, or Discipfile_000line-Based Art Education, roots, I offered choice and by variations within a project or having student input when designing a project.  For example, this fifth grade Artist Guitar project:

OR this second grade Britto project.

For this project, student interest and input designed the lesson – we sipped cocoa (sugar-free, of course) and students chose color and patterns.

All well and good, but student choice (and voice) was still limited.  I went to NAEA and took every Choice workshop I could, and started to wrap my head around it and really flesh out my goals.  I love how Anne Bedrick describes her goal in her essay (and book) Choice Without Chaos.  She says:

I teach the way I teach because I am keeping my eye on the end game, the adults that I want to help build… the innovators, the ones who persevere, the ones who ask questions and see possibilities, the ones who are able to be self-directed, organized, and can manage their time.  I want to help them realize that the key to success in anything is their trust in their own judgment.

As an art teacher, I am educating people.  Whether or not my students grow up and continue to make art is not the most important thing to me.  I hope that they will continue to make art, but if they grow up able to recognize problems and see possibilities in situations, then I will feel that I have succeeded as a teacher.

-Anne Bedrick, Choice Without Chaos

I had the chance to meet Anne at the NAEA convention, and I could not help but feel inspired by her passion and experience.   That is my desire – to create an environment that builds a well-rounded person who have the skills for jobs that don’t exist.  Yes, they will learn and develop and build things – and they will be wonderful because they created them – but, I – I am in the business of building up people.

Since then, I have begun swimming in the TAB pool.  I started with the younger students, and deconstructed a project I have done in the past and turned it into a “skill-builder”.  The students explore art materials and after that design a project.  Sometimes it has been more in-depth with art history embedded into the the skill-builders.

Art History and Image Resources (1)I have also begun curating digital resources.  Our district is going 1:1 with devices, so I have begun organizing videos, instructional resources, art history content connections, and image banks to help facilitate blended learning.

Video Art Resources (1)

What I love about this whole experience is seeing the the A-ha! moments – hearing them describe in great depth their thinEdTech Resourcesking and problem-solving behind the framework of their composition, their design choices, and choice of art materials.

HyperDocs and Project Design

Have y’all heard of HyperDocs?  They have revolutionized the way I prepare and facilitate curriculum and instruction in my classroom.  For me personally, I feel that HyperDocs and blended learning make me a more efficient teacher.  Also, it enables me to better accommodate my students and their needs as learners and embed more choice in the art room.  It creates autonomy in my classroom and allows more time for enrichment.

You can learn more about HyperDocs here.  Simply put, they are interactive documents with hyperlinks to various forms of content relevant to a given lesson or unit curated to engage the learner in an inquiry-based manner.

Here are some ways that my students have explored art through HyperDocs this year:

Spelunking through Art

Emojis – the cave art of the 21st century?  When we think about the current status of visual communication and how individuals communicate – information is shared visually – through the use of visual communication.  This conversation is not unlike that of the cave and rock artists, people groups who created some of the earliest art known to man – before written languages.

Using their prior knowledge of emojis and the Aurasma app on their iPads, students compared and contrasted these to common cave art symbols as they explored Lascaux in France and various Aboriginal rock art sites in Australia.  They traipsed through the caves of our school and visited art galleries highlighting these art forms from different parts of the globe.  In the local school gallery, students dove deeper into cave art and reflected on their findings by creating their own cave drawings, answering the question: If you were to tell your story, what would you want civilizations thousands of years from now to know about you?  Furthermore, students took photos of their finished cave drawing and posted them on a digital cave wall using Padlet.

Finally, students wrote about their art experiences and documented them on Google Classroom.

Digital Self-Portraits

Word PortraitThis is a lesson that can be done with upper elementary all the way to high school art.  As a group, we studied portraiture, specifically self-portraits.  Students are asked to take a photograph of themselves and convert it to a black and white digital image.  This can be done with any basic software that comes with your computer’s operating system, in addition to photo-editing apps available on smart phones and tablets.

  • As a class, we discussed character and character traits.
  • What character traits best described them?
  • If you made a portrait solely based on your character traits, which words would you want to include?

Then, the students made a bubble map of approximately 5-10 words of their character traits.  Similar to a Wordle, the most important character traits were repeated most often.  We also discussed value and form and how artists used value to create form with shades and tints.

Depending on the availability of software in your school, there are a couple of ways to go about this – students can use a presentation tool (like PowerPoint or Keynote) or they can use more software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator (although since text is involved, Illustrator is more ideal).  The reason I do not recommend a drawing program is largely because at the completion of their portrait, they will no longer need their photograph.

Students first placed their image onto their canvas.  Next, focusing only on the dark values and shadows, the students added their characteristics in the font of their choice, paying attention to size and rotating as needed.  To accommodate students in middle and high school, I would recommend having students using the value scale to add words in the mid-range values as well, to show more modelling and form.  After they finished, students would remove their photograph, choose a color for the background, and print.

Kindergarten: Rockin’ Robots

Rockin' RobotsSince we meet for just a handful of times during the year, I like to make sure each lesson is jam-packed with different techniques and media.   One of my favorite lessons to teach to Kindergarten is on robots.  We discuss robots and their purposes and function in society.  This project is great for exploring collage, texture, printmaking, and splatter painting.

When creating their robots, students first use metallic paint to imitate the texture of metal.  They organize and lay out their pieces to form their robot.  On the second day, students assemble and glue their robot to a brightly colored pieced of construction paper.  Then they add more texture, using splattered paint.  Then, they use small pieces of cardboard, wood, and marker lids to add details like they eyes, buttons, mouth, and other details.

Technology in the Art Room

It can be a challenge to implement technology, but it is essential to be a 21st century teacher and create and equip 21st century learners.  I have spent the last few years coming up with strategies to implement technology as instructional tools, as well as implementing free and low cost web-based programs and apps for art production.  Keep in mind that this is a working knowledge of resources.  I am building up my arsenal of technology tools and strategies every year to streamline my classroom and be a more effective teacher.  These strategies and instruments help broaden the perspective of my students on what exactly is considered “art media”.  That being said, here are a few resources for you to explore and try in your art room.

The “Re-teaching” Document Camera

One of my most essential instructional tools in my document camera.  I use this tool to demonstrate a technique, a step in a project, or Document Cameraeven to set up a still life for students to observe.  I have found it especially useful as a re-teaching tool.  Even after I have verbally given instructions, demonstrated the instructions, and written them out, there is still canDocument Camera 2 be that one student who may have been distracted.  (Gasp)  Here is where the document camera comes into play.  For example, say I am teaching my second grade students how to make the paper relief sculpture, and we are starting to make our petals.  I set the camera to record as I am demonstrating, and when I finish that step, I stop the recording.  It saves the file and there is a digital video of me teaching.  (I try to keep these short and sweet).  I open them to play (in a program like Windows Media Player or QuickTime) and set them at “Fast” and loop.  This plays (on mute!) on the projector, freeing me up to monitor and teach students one-on-one or in small groups while the other students may catch a step that might have missed or are confused about.

(FREE!) Web-based Media

Here are some fantastic websites for students to create art on the computer.  I have used these time and again as stand-alone projects or to incorporate into a mixed-media lesson.

Mr. Picasso Head – a great program for an artist study!  Students create portraits in the style of Picasso!Sea-Saws Student Example - 5th Grade

Brushster – A program on the National Gallery of Art’s Art Zone page.  This program allows for students to explore different brushes and styles of art.  Versatile and fun, this program is great for upper elementary and middle school.

Collage Machine – Also on the National Gallery of Art’s Art Zone page.  This program allows students to use shapes or textures to create digital collages.

Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas – Allows you to paint fractals like Pollock.  This is a great program for younger elementary as it is simple but creates colorful works of art – mess free!

Sea-Saws – This National Gallery of Art – Art Zone program allows students to create collages/found object “relief” sculptures using a variety of textures.  It even has an added animation capability.

Brushster 5th Grade Student Example - Insect StudyArt Pad – This web-based program is similar to Brushster.  You “paint” with a brush and can even add a frame.  As an added bonus you can “replay” your painting, and it demonstrates the brushstrokes step-by-step.

Others include: Jungle, Still Life, Flow, Photo Op, and many more found on the National Gallery of Art website under Education.

This is just part one of Technology in the Art Room.  Next time I will be discussing apps in the art room for instructional use and art-making!

Magazine Bowls

IMG_2695I saw this done at a TAEA conference a few years back.  It is a great way to explore sculpture and recycled art.  As we begin we discuss artists Louise Nevelson and Mark Dion, as well as discussing possibilities for everyday items we use that aren’t easily recycled.  This is a great lesson for upper elementary, middle school, and high school.  For my 5th grade students I give them an inch-wide 14-16 inch long piece of poster board to uses as a folding strip.  With older students, I would recommend using a half-inch wide strip.  This helps them create uniform pieces to combine.  They begin by placing their folding strips lengthwise along the paper (landscape style).  I have the students folding, wrapping the paper around two times before the add a bead of glue.  Then they continue to repeat folding and adding a bead of glue until it is complete.  To build the base, students continue to create their folded strips and then when they have three or four of them, the begin creating the base of the bowl.  I have students create the base 10-20 strips thick in order to give the bowl a substantial base.  Then, the students continue the process, but instead of going directly around, they spiral the strips up to create the sides and edges of the bowl.  The resulting bowl is rather beautiful.  As an enrichment to the lesson, I have the advanced students create a color scheme for their bowl, or make the bowl transform into a vase.

4th Grade Cubist Cat Collage

Cubist Cat CollageI have always been inspired by the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  Even more, still, in the illustrations of Sir John Tenniel within this whimsical tale.  This inspiration led me to the whimsy of another great artist, Pablo Picasso.  After seeing the Picasso Monsters created in Mrs. Picasso’s Art Room, I jumped on the opportunity with my fourth grade students.  BrainPOP, as I have mentioned a few times, is a great resource to introduce an artist, art technique, or even make an interdisciplinary connection.  These fabulous people have created a short video on Cubism and its origins.

After my students explore Cubism, they compare, contrast, and analyze the work of Picasso and Tenniel.  We also discuss distortion, point of view, proportion, analogous colors, and portraiture.  The students begin their collage by creating the cat face.  We chose a set of analogous colors, and start on our way.  The majority of the first day is spent on the construction of the head.  On day two and three we create the body and tail, and add details (eyes, nose, etc).  Finally, students use similar colors of gel markers to add patterns onto their collage.  The last day is when they students weave paper to create their background and assemble their collage.  To add a bit of “flash” I have students weave using metallic paper.  This project is a wonderful chance to delve into literature and math through the lens of the visual arts.

3rd Grade Funky Clay Frogs

Funky Clay FrogWhat better way to engage your students in the art room that through the use of clay?!?  Third grade studies and observes frogs and their metamorphosis from a tadpole into an adult frog.  To reinforce their learning in science I thought it would be a great way to explore clay and sculpture in the art room.  Students learn how to score, slip, and hand-build a clay from multiple pieces of clay.  Students also learn about basic glazing techniques once their frog is fired in the kiln.  To create the clay frog, students begin with a ball of clay, roughly the size of their fist.  They then pinch it in half, setting one piece aside.  They take the other half and roll it into a ball to create a basic pinch pot.  This is to draw from their prior knowledge of clay from previous years in art, and create confidence/make them more comfortable with the medium.  Students then take the other piece and pinch it in half again.  Students create the “eye sockets” and eyes and attach them to the pinch pot.  Then, students create coils and attach them to the sides for the legs and feet.  I constantly remind them of the “Four S” rule – Score, Slip, Squish, and Smooth.  Once they combine all the parts they check and make sure everything is attached securely and demonstrates craftsmanship.  I write their names and their class label (ex. M3 for Monday, third grade) and then when they dry they are fired.  Students then glaze their frogs and they are fired again.  My students always come up with fantastic frogs!

2nd Grade Paper Flower Relief Sculptures

Paper Flower Relief SculptureWhat’s a great way to merge science connections into art?  Plant life.  In the early spring, my second grade students explore the characteristics of plants and flowers and the importance of photosynthesis.  Students refine their manipulative skills as they create petals using brightly colored paper to create the petals.  To kick it up a notch, students use gel markers to invent patterns onto their petals.  I encourage the students to used analogous colors.  Students then glue their petals in a radial fashion to the center of another piece of brightly colored construction paper.  Next, student use orange or yellow paper to tear or cut and implement basic quilling techniques to curl and create the part of the flower integral for pollination.  Students also add leaves by created a football shape and creasing the center.   They glue three under the flower.  Finally, student quill and curl the ends of the petals to create depth.