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.

NAEA: Reflections

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the National Art Education Association’s National Convention in New York City.  Amazing would be an understatement of my experience.  I struggle to find the words to describe it, but I will try.

Along with over 7,000 other arts educators (this includes EC-12, higher education, and museum education), I soaked up the learning, the contacts, and of course, the sites.  I had the opportunity to hear from professional artists and educators from all over the globe – 34 countries were represented at this conference.

This was my first time, and I love that I could curate my own learning experience.  Some of the areas I focused on were Teaching for Artistic Behavior (choice-based arts education), Studio Habits of Mind, instructional/educational technology, GSuite for Education, gamification, and virtual reality.  It was also wonderful to expand my own PLN (personal learning network) and learn from some of the top educators in the field.

Some highlights:

One of the amazing things I happened upon when walking through three (THREE!) levels of the exhibit halls was Doodlematic.  This app turns your physical drawings (and that of your students) into digital games.

I was excited to learn from many fabulous educators, one who discussed meaningful, practical ways that she has blended her art room – and three others who have integrated virtual reality into their art rooms as a means of exploring the world, creating empathy, having students create virtual gallery spaces to globally communicate, and create their own multimedia art spaces by designing their own augmented realities.  I felt empowered and encouraged (who doesn’t need that?) after hearing from Cassie Stephens, Anne Bedrick, Jessica Balsley, and David C. Driskell (among many others):

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” – New England Chamber of Commerce

I thoroughly enjoy professional development because I am passionate about learning.  Hearing from other educators from all over the world was rejuvenating: I left New York feeling refreshed and excited to explore these skills, approaches, and ideas.  This is why I love education (specifically public education) – because as educators we get to teach each other and build each other up.  We rise because others rise and pour into us.  We rise because we share and reflect and grow because we want others – our students, our colleagues, our community – to grow.

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:

The Spirit of a Nation

Recently, I had the chance to collaborate with the fabulous 8th Grade Social Studies team at my school.  As part of their curriculum, they discovered the significance of the landscape artists of the Hudson River School.  After a brief art history presentation of the hidden qualities of these paintings, students ventured across the country into the pop-up mini galleries.  Using iPads to access QR codes, students compared and contrasted selected works of the portfolios Hudson River School artists and journeyed along the path in which an artist made their plein-air sketches before returning to their studio to paint.  Students then used formative and extended their knowledge with a S’More.

Finally, students were challenged to take a photograph that illustrates the style of the Hudson River School artists over their Spring Break.

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.

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!