Category Archives: Assessment

Reflection and the Final Survey

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Every other year, I like to provide my students with a final survey to see where they are at and to gain some insight on my teaching from the students POV.  If you don’t already do this, I highly recommend it.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the data you receive.  (Also, it’s nice to hear that our students love us every now and then. 😉 )

I created several google forms, breaking them up by class.  I think there are different things to know from the different students.  The insights of a student that has had you for 3 or 4 years is way different than that of a first year student or a student that was only there for the fine arts credit.  Also, if you have a single media class, you can form the questions to reflect that.

“What I liked most about how you ran our art class was how you had a great relationship with your students and your class was the class everyone looked forward to everyday.”

” you’ve taught me not to judge people for who they are”

“I learned that you have to trust yourself and learn to take risks.”

“I think when you pushed us we got better”

I asked a variety of questions, ranging from the students telling me their strengths and weaknesses to how they felt about my teaching methods.  I asked what they liked and what they didn’t like.  I asked what they had learned and what they wished they had learned.  I also asked what I could change.  Kids are pretty honest.

“the artworks we did were fun because we could do what ever media we wanted to do as long as we could fit the needs of the project”

“I liked how we had the prompt or whatever and then you allowed each individual person to take their time to make their art and you helped each person with their specific questions.”

(Favorite part of class) “being able to use a lot of the equipment freely” & “being able to talk to you about anything”

One thing that I think is important when creating the forms is to make almost all questions as required.  It makes the student think and add to previous answers. The only ones that are optional are “Name” and “Anything else you would like to add”.  If a student thinks he can be more honest by remaining anonymous, then that is a good thing.

(I’ve grown as an artist…) “because when I run into a problem I can figure out a way around it instead of getting frustrated and starting over again”

“You ran [class] like were weren’t just kids and you trusted us to use the tools effectively and whenever we wanted.”

“I loved that you would give us a broad topic to help get an idea of what we want to make our art of, but what we actually made was up to us. So we had freedom in our art.”

“I loved that you gave us a topic that we had to base our artwork on, but that you didn’t push us into doing anything. You let us create the artwork that we wanted and let us use whatever media we wanted”

As I sat this morning finally reading their responses, about a month after they filled them out, I made some notes.  I jotted down some of the things they liked.  I jotted down what they wished they had learned.  I made notes on things they felt would have helped them grow more.  I even wrote down some quotes that I didn’t put in this post. And, I have to admit, reading their words about how much they enjoy the TAB studio/pedagogy really helps to solidify that I made the right decision when I made the switch.  I’ve been TAB for several years, and I rarely doubt the decision to go ther, but it is still nice to hear from those that it truly affects that it was a good thing.

I am glad that I waited a month to read the responses.  Enough time has passed that my mind is fresh, but it hasn’t been so long that I can no longer hear the voices of my students in their responses.  This list will help me when I go in about a month to work out things for next year’s classes.  I can know what is missing, and what not to change.  Now, I don’t agree with everything they said.  I know some kids didn’t like writing about the artists we learned about and some didn’t like the computer stuff; that I won’t change because I do think it is important for their artistic growth…they just don’t see it at the moment.  But, I was surprised by how many liked learning about current artists and how many actually liked the drawing tests.

I have been doing surveys for as long as I have been teaching, but I think this year’s surveys were the most informative.  I think I finally asked the right questions and got responses that will be able to help me create a better studio and learning experience for my students.

“Most people just take art because they need a year of fine art and honestly that’s why I took art, but as the year went on I started to really love this class and making artworks.  I can’t wait to have art again next year!!”

 

 

 

 

 

TAEA 16 in Dallas

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It’s November here in Texas, and you know what that means…warm weather, rain, Christmas decor explosions at all stores, and of course, the Texas Art Ed Assoc. annual conference.  This year it fell the weekend before Thanksgiving.  So, that was a bonus for me because I got 2 extra days of vacation added to the week off for Thanksgiving my district gave me.

On Thursday morning, I got packed and drove on up to Dallas to stay at the Hilton Anatole. While I enjoyed having my own room and a whole bed to myself, I did not enjoy the price it all cost.  I kept getting asked why my district didn’t pay for it.  Well, I don’t know why, they just don’t, so I deal.  I do it all in the name of continuing education, and because I love my students.  If you know how to convince my district to pay for me to go to these conferences, let me know.

Anywho.  Let’s talk conference.  The state conference is something that when I first started teaching–I mean like still in college to become an art teacher, I religiously attended.  Then, I had kids, so I stopped attending.  I started attending again again 2 years ago, but since switching to TAB, I find there isn’t as much for me here anymore.  TAB teachers seem few and far between here in this big ‘ole state, but maybe I’m wrong about that…who knows.  So, now, my main reason for attending is presenting.  If I can make a few teachers think about the way they teach and why they teach the way they do, then I’m good.

This year I presented twice.  Once on assessment, and once on TAB in general.  I felt my assessment presentation did not go well.  Don’t feel bad.  I’m okay with that.  It was dry and the flow wasn’t very good.  It was on assessment after all, so, no love lost.  The best part of the session was when I got to grading and how I don’t grade.  That was my favorite part.  Maybe I will do a no-grading session next year.

My second session about TAB basics, called Embracing the Chaos, went a million times better.  I had a pretty full house…well, 75% of the seats were filled and for a 4pm session on a Saturday, the last day of the conference, I’d say that is pretty good.  I was able to be my energetic and animated self.  There were a lot of questions.  We even went over time, which I felt bad when the next presenter did come in and finally said something.  But in my defense, usually the next presenter is there right at the ending time, tapping their foot, ready to set up.  After we left the room, I did get to talk to a couple of people for another half hour.  I think I have some converts.  So, success!!!

While I didn’t go to a lot of sessions, I did have a good time.  I met and befriended the Terraforma card guys, Michael and Stewart.  They are a fun duo, and their cards are kinda cool.  I got to catch up with Justin Clumpner and hear him speak.  His session on AP art really made me want to usurp the AP program at my school, and perhaps start a Pre-AP program.  He gave me lots to think about.  And bonus, he took me off site to get a burger, which was a total win! I attended a session by fellow TABber, Wynita Harmon, where I got to participate in an art challenge with some strangers.  I saw Cassie Stevens do a keynote and provide us with this quote full of wisdom, “Stop giving a shit.”  I participated in a #K12artchat tweet-up. It was totally interesting to be tweeting to the people sitting right next to you.  And, I got to throw a few pots for a local empty bowls event.  I think this was the best idea this Dallas team had!  It was so relaxing and fun!  It brought me to my happy place.

One thing that always interests me when I go to the state conference is the VASE winners’ gold seal artworks.  I am fascinated to see what types of works are considered tops in my state from the previous year.  Last year I wrote a post about my feelings on VASE that got me on the wrong side of some people.  My feelings haven’t changed, but this year I am going to be a little nicer.  While most of the 2-D winners were still very “portrait steeped in realism” heavy, I was happy to see that many were breaking away from the usual media I had grown accustomed to–prismacolor and pencil.  I snapped some photos of ones that I really liked.

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I do always love the sculpture winners.  They are always full of creativity, originality, and fabulousness.

In the end, I enjoyed this year’s conference.  Was it as fun as a National Art conference? Hell no!  I mean seriously, that’s when I get to see my tribe and my TAB mentors.  But, for a state conference, it was one of my favorites.  I am glad I went, and that I have decided to start going to them again.  See y’all in Galveston next year, and look out for at least one TAB presentation from me.

The “No-Grade Challenge”

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Sounds interesting, right?  Well, my good friend Ian Sands nominated me earlier this summer to go “no-grades” this year.  And, after much consideration, I have accepted his challenge…well, mostly. There is no way at the high school level, with the GPA reward system we have going in America right now, that I can not grade. My kids need to have some numerical grade…for UIL purposes (pass to play), for college applications, and for the “ever important” class rank–which if you live in the great state of Texas like me, it is important to those kids in the top 10% (or for some colleges like UT–Hook “Em!!–it’s the top 7 or 8%) for automatic admission to state schools.

Anyway, I have accepted his challenge and plan on grading as little as possible this year.  I know I am pushing it, and it my admin gets wiff of it, I may be up sh*ts creek. But, if I am going to start a change and get people talking and thinking about change in the grading arena and the education realm, I need to start somewhere.

Now, don’t confuse what I am doing in so far as grading with what I am doing in terms of assessment.  THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING!!  And, you better believe that I am going to assess the hell out of my students.  In fact, together we, my students and I, will asses their learning and growth like there is no tomorrow.  It will mostly be informal and occur through dialogue between us–the students and myself.  And, that is what an ideal classroom, at least in my opinion, should be like.  It should be about growth and understanding how to think and move forward in the thinking.  And, in order to do that, things need to be assessed.  Grades have no part in that.

Now comes the part where you say, but how will you do that?   You have to grade.  Why not put numbers to your assessment levels?  Then you can be in compliance and all that jazz.  I answer you with, I’ve done that.  And it works well, but I feel it is truly not a good showing of what a student in my studio has learned or how they have grown artistically–either in skill or thinking or both.  It doesn’t really show growth over time.

Last year I read the book “Hacking Assessment” and I have taken a few things from the book about assessment, like having conferences with the kids and letting them be part of the conversation.  I also went to a fabulous session at NAEA-Chicago with Justin Clumpner who at one point talked about grades and what they mean to each individual student.  I think at one point he even said, I ask the kids what grade they want. Those things really resonate with me right now.  Students need to be involved in their assessment of their learning.  It is a 2-way street.

Now, if you know anything about the program I run, I like to have my kids reflect on their learning and their journey.  We have done that through blogs and, more recently, BlendSpace.  So, it occurred to me, why not combine all these things and thus my answer to the “no-grade challenge” was formed.

I do have to have at least a grade every 3 weeks…one a progress report time and one at report card time.  (Technically I am supposed to have more, but don’t tell my admin, okay?) My plan is to have my students reflect on their learning and art making processes to help them determine their grade for that time frame.  Of course, I have final say if I feel they have either graded too high or way too low.  But, I think this will help shift the focus away from grading and back onto their learning, which is what it’s about….or should be. (Do I say that a lot, because I feel I do.)

Here are some screen shot of the google form they will fill out for this reflection process.

 

Will this work?  I don’t know.  Will it need to be tweaked?  I am sure.  What document is perfect from the get go?  I am confident in what I am about to embark on. I think that it will make a difference; a difference even bigger than when I stopped grading artwork and focused on the processes only.  Keep your eyes out for updates as the year progresses.  And who know, maybe soon you too will also be up for the challenge.

Book Review: “Hacking Assessment”

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I recently joined the FaceBook group Teachers Throwing Out Grades and it was suggested to read the book Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School by Starr Sackstein.  So, I went to Amazon, saw that book was relatively cheap (and it does have a kindle version), and I ordered a copy.  I mean, what could it hurt?

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This isn’t the first time I have read a book on teaching practice.  But, it is the one of the rare times I read a teaching book that didn’t bore me, put me to sleep, or made me give up in the middle. Most books I read about teaching are full of wonderful ideas, but it gets lost in “grad-school paper talk”, if you know what I mean.  Hacking Assessment is written in a way that is comfortable and not off-putting.

Assessment must be a conversation, a narrative that enhances students’ understanding  of what they know, what they can do, and what needs further work…..they need to understand how to make improvements and how to recognize when legitimate growth has occurred.                               -Starr Sackstein, Hacking Assessment

Alright, let’s get to it.  Hacking Assessment is one of several books in the “Hacking” series. Starr Sackstein is a teacher who actually threw out her grade book and goes as gradeless as she can at her school–she is still required to have a grade for each semester.  So, she writes from a place of first-hand experience.  She also adds in the experiences of other teachers who have also tried to go gradeless.  One thing, for me, that was a major plus is that Sackstein is a high school teacher, and so were most of the other teachers who shared experiences.  As a high school teacher myself, it is helpful to hear from other high school teachers.  They understand the issues of GPA, college applications, and a whole “lifetime” of using grades as a measure of learning and smartness.

Sackstein breaksdown her book into 10 chapters or what she calls “hacks”.  Each addresses a different area of grading and assessment.  The different hacks include:  shifting the grades mindset, promoting buy-in, rebranding assignments as learning experiences, facilitating student partnerships, digitizing your data, maximizing time, tracking progress transparently, teaching reflection, teaching students to self-grade, and cloud-based archives.

Each hack is broken down into different parts: the problem, the hack, what you can do tomorrow, a blueprint for full implementation, overcoming pushback, and the hack in action.  It is this breakdown that makes the book so accessible.  As I read the book, I kept shaking my head in agreement and saying, yes…this makes so much sense.

As we rid ourselves of the grades, risk taking and questioning became a natural part of the process.                                              -Starr Sackstein, Hacking Assessment

As a TAB teacher, I already do some of the things she suggests, but I don’t do all of the things.  Hacking Assessment outlines how each hack is important, but as you read you understand how they all work together to create a meaningful learning experience for the students.  The addition of the hack in action section helps to put it in perspective.  You start to think, if this can be done in a math class, or an English class, of course this can be done in the art class.  I also really appreciated the pushback sections for each hack.  It gives the common arguments against that particular hack and how to combat that.  For me, having it all in one place is helpful.  I have conversations about the different aspects, but they seem to be everywhere, all over the interwebs, and it is hard to gather my thoughts easily on the matter.  It helps me to focus and have the conversation more easily.

Hacking Assessment is a quick read, but one I encourage if you have any thoughts about going gradeless, or even lessing the amount of grades in your class.  If nothing else, using some of the hacks will help your students be more reflective of their learning and gain back a little bit of the love they used have for learning.

How Far Can I Push It?

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There’s been a lot of talk lately on all the art related Facebook groups I am a part of.  I mean, it is a subject art teachers discuss a lot, but in the past few weeks the conversation has been longer and more engaging.  We have been discussing grades vs. assessment, participation vs. engagement, eliminating grades all together, how the high school GPA would be affected, is it even possible to not give a grade at the high school level, and much more.  It is enough to make your head explode…and it’s beginning to make mine explode.

Grading and assessment is always on my radar.  I wrote about my assessment model in this post earlier this year.  I even presented on the model at the AOE 2016 Winter Conference stating how we as teachers need to grade less on compliance and instead create meaningful assessment.  So it is easy to understand why all this talk about grading has caused the wheels in my head to go into overdrive.  I began to look closely at what I am currently doing, what it means, and how could I change it?  I wish it was as simple as deciding I won’t grade anymore, but because there are so many facets to all this, it’s not. In this current education model we are in, as a high school teacher with parents that expect grades, colleges that look at GPA to determine a student’s acceptance to their school, a UIL board that requires passing grades to play and compete, and students who are motivated by them, I HAVE to provide a grade.

Currently I give a mixture of completion grades and grades(numbers that are perhaps arbitrarily assigned) that reflect artistic behavior/growth assessments.  I find that the assessment feedback is important to my students and their artistic growth. I want to continue to provide that to them, but I hate that I have to translate that feedback into a numerical grade.  However, the assessments boil down to only doling out a few grades…many less than the amount my district “requires”.  That’s where the completion grades come in.  But, do those grades really show anything other than the fact that a student completed an assignment?

And then all the “WHAT IFS….?” start to walk in.  What if I pushed?  How far could I go? What if I just stopped caring and gave everyone a 100–what would that do to my classes and the “importance” of them?  What if I gave the minimum amount of grades I get away with giving, would I get a stern talking to?  Would all this change the student input/output in my classes?

I don’t have the answers.  I have been creating some sketchnotes to work out my thoughts.  I am on a mission to figure this out before next August when school starts again.  Yes I know that is 7 months away, but this isn’t an easy issue.  Like I said, there are so many facets I have to take into account: district requirements, local admin expectations, parent expectations, student motivation, UIL guidelines, coaches needs, pass to play, meaningful grades, assessment v. completion, and ultimately, what I believe the purpose of the grade in my class should be.  That is the ultimate question that I just can’t answer………….yet.

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Say Yes to Drawing Tests in Art!

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A concern that I have heard about having a choice-based or TAB art studio is that students don’t ever work on skills–including observational drawing skills.  I would like to address this particular concern.  My students work on observational skills…every 2 weeks.  How do they do this you might ask?  Well, let me tell you…with a drawing test.

Several years ago I went the TAEA (TX Art Ed Assoc) State conference somewhere and I attended a session on creating workbooks.  In that session, the two teachers mentioned drawing tests. I was intrigued so I asked for more information.  They gave me the run down and I have been implementing them in my classes ever since.

I thought the drawing test was such a great way to have the students spend a few moments of uninterrupted time to concentrate on observational drawing.  And, now that I am in a TAB room, I find this time even more beneficial.

Here is the low-down:

MATERIALS:

  • many class sets of objects.  I went to the dollar store and bought a ton of crap over the year that would be good for drawing–spoons, forks, ramekins, ornaments, salt shakers, etc.  For me a class set is 24.  I also bought a bunch of cheap bins from the dollar store to hold each set.  It is an investment, but worth it.  If you can find sets of things…like the forks came in groups of 3, ornaments come in packs of 12. Each box is labeled so it is easy to find and pull out.
  • squares of lightweight drawing paper. I have a ton of 60# white drawing paper.  I cut the paper down to 5.5-inch squares.  I cut a bunch at a time…enough to get me through a few weeks of testing for 4 classes.  I keep it all in a bin.
  • white poster board or railroad board. This is used to mount the tests for the book at the end
  • silver rings. I use the binding rings.  This holds the books together and makes it easy for the students to flip through.
  • white labels. to be used to label the pages of the book
  • double-sided tape. to attach drawing tests to the railroad board
  • timer. the tests are timed

HOW TO:

  • Each student gets a piece of paper and the week’s object.
  • We start off with easy things like Legos and work towards more complicated things.
  • Each test is timed. Art 1 starts with 5 minutes and works up to about 10 minutes at the end of the year. Art 2 starts at about 7 minutes and work up until 13 minutes.
  • Every week I tell the students things I want them to concentrate on when they are drawing.  I usually start with 3 things and as we move along, the easier things get removed and harder things to observe and concentrate on get put in.
    • shape
    • line quality
    • use of 3-d
    • surface quality
    • no lines
    • shading/shadow
  • There is no talking during the test
  • They must draw the entire time.  This means they either need to draw again or try to improve what they have done.
  • I also don’t let them listen to music.
  • I type up a sheet and post it on the screen during the test.  The sheet has the date, the drawing time, and what I am looking for.  Also, the reminders about drawing the whole time and talking are at the bottom.  I save all these because they give me the information for the labels later on.

Before we start, I give reminders and tips to drawing from life and observing things like shadows and planes.  I talk about making connections to help with proportion.  I point out things they should notice…like the salt shaker top is not as wide as the glass part.  During the test, in a quiet voice, I give reminders about how to observe and things to notice.

When time is up, I have the kids sign their work.  The first test they write their names on the back for my reference. The second time we talk about signatures and how artists sign their work.–I show some famous examples like Picasso, Monet, Durer, and myself.  After this, they then can write their name on the back and/or sign the front.

From there I take up the tests, grade them, and put them away for safe keeping.  Sometimes the kids ask about them, but mostly they kind of forget about the tests themselves.  I don’t hide them and if they want to see them, I let them see them. What do I do with them?  This is where a good aide comes in.  Each test gets mounted on a 6X9 piece of railroad board.  Each board gets a label with the date, the test time, and what was the concentration areas.  At the end of the year, each board gets hole-punched twice and put on rings.  I make a cover page for each book and hand them back the last day of classes (well most of them anyway.)

The students like to look through and see how far they came.  They remember which items were hard, why things were hard, which they hated, which were easy, and which they didn’t try on.  Many cherish the book for years to come.  Several years ago, Ethen left his book behind.  I kept it because it was good, Ethen was one of my favorites (don’t tell nobody), and I could use it to remember what objects I used when, etc.  This year Ethen was a senior and he saw I still had the book.  He wanted it back because he didn’t have any of his drawings.  I was sad, but silently happy that his face lit up when he looked through it and remembered our awesome class.

Anyway, this past year I stumbled upon an article that talked about some of the things my students question me about–the main one is the silence/no music thing.  Here is an excerpt from the article.

1. What if I told you, you talk too much?

Talking and drawing don’t mix.
The main problems associated with drawing is when you talk you engage your logical, language dominated left side of the brain. This side of your brain is keen on knowing an objects name, labelling it, and organising it.
Often when learning to draw, you need to temporarily hold off judgment and try not to second guess what you think the object should look like, rather than what the object actually looks like.
When you are trying to learn to draw something realistically, you have to engage your right hand side of the brain, which is keener on images and spatial perception.
It’s very hard to do both at the same time.

Why?

Because it causes mind freeze.
Have you ever been in a creative zone of absorption, a state where time travels quickly and you are in what psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’.

How Does It Feel to Be in Flow?

  1. Completely involved in what we are doing – focused, concentrated.
  2. A sense of ecstasy – of being outside everyday reality.
  3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
  4. Knowing that the activity is doable – that skills are adequate to the task.
  5. A sense of serenity – no worries about oneself, and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
  6. Timelessness – thoroughly focused on the present, our sin to pass by in minutes.
  7. Intrinsic motivation – whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

Flow is the mental state when you are fully immersed in an activity, a feeling of full involvement and energy.
You can get to this stage of involvement whilst drawing… until you get interrupted.
The combination of left and right battling against each other makes trying to draw tricky.
You can learn to talk and draw at the same time but it takes practice.
It all starts by understanding how your mind works, and how you can be subconsciously sabotaging your best efforts.

This excerpt is from an article by Will Kemp called “The 3 reasons why you can’t draw, (and what to do about it)”.  You can find the remainder of the article here.

I posted the excerpt on the students’ art blog.  Next year I plan on having them read the article as part of class, instead of just stumbling upon it.

Like I said, I think having these “tests” are important.  I think most kids think they can’t draw and this helps to show them otherwise.  Furthermore, it is good to have a time set aside for the students to work on these exercises.  Using the word “test” is mean, but I think it somehow gives the exercise a sense of importance in their minds.

Here are some examples from this past year.  It is a mix of art 1, art 2, and life skill students.

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The Art of Being Observed

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Every year it happens…the official observation that one of your administrators must do so you can be evaluated about how good of a teacher you are.  There is always much discussion on this in teacher groups…no matter what subject you teach. Some teachers are all about the dog and pony show–changing lesson plans or adding in things that wouldn’t normally occur on that day.  Others take a more “I’m just gonna go about my business” type attitude.  This is how I teach, come and get it.  This latter camp is where I fall.

Yes, I choose the day based on what we are doing.  And yes, I try to have my observer come in during my best class.  But other than that, I don’t change a thing.  I try to ask for a date where we might be doing something other than just a complete work day, but if I don’t have one of those, I let the observer know and I roll with it.

I don’t agree with the dog and pony show.  I don’t understand stopping what you are doing to show some “home run” lesson. It doesn’t seem honest and authentic to me.  Why would I want an evaluation that isn’t really based on how I am as a teacher?  If it is not something I do everyday, then it’s not me.  I want to show what it is like in my classroom, every day.  I want to know if there are practices I am doing well or practices that need improvement.

I’ve heard some teachers say they show the admin what they want to see so that admin will just leave the teacher alone the rest of the time to do what they (teacher) thinks is good and what they want to do.  This doesn’t make sense to me either. Why would you want others to think you’re something you aren’t?  If you feel you have to change for an evaluation, why is that?  Are you not comfortable with how you run your classroom?

I had my formal observation last week.  I finally received the evaluation on it today.  It confirmed what I had known, that I was doing good things in my classroom.  She saw the learning and creativity that happens every day in room because we ran the room like we did every day.  Nothing changed.  My students did exactly what I thought they would–the participated, they talked, they joked around, they learned, they made art.  They did that the day before my observation.  And, they did it the day after.

How Do My Students Feel About Choice?

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If you have read any of my posts, then you know exactly how I feel about Choice in my artroom.  And in case you are new…I love it!!!  Love it, love it, love it.

But all too often we talk about what we as teachers want and how something made us feel or if we made the right decision.  We don’t ask the students, the most important people in our teaching world, what they think.

So, I did just that.  I asked them on their midterm exam what the experience of having choice in their classroom was like.  Here are some responses.

“This effected me a lot because last year we were very limited on the materials we had to use, and we all had to do the same art work in  the same manner everyone was doing it. It was a good idea for you to change it to were we can all do different types of art work but with the same theme, for example we were able to carve, paint, draw, and a lot of types of work. i think that method should stay because you can see what each person likes, and what their good at.”   ~Aharon, art 2 student

“I was really appreciative of the opportunity to get to pick what I wanted to do and how I would do it.  Having little restrictions was really helpful in expanding my creativity and giving me more choices.”    ~Edward, art 2 student

“We had a variety of things to use and how to use them. I personally think that some of the projects shouldn’t have been so optional with such a variety of things. That the assignments shouldn’t have been so open to do what those of such wanted. Some should of been open to pick to choose their material used, but some also should of been told what to use and work with that and grow on that to know how to use it and get used to using it. When starting a project it took me awhile to pick what I wanted to do and what I wanted to use due to all the options we had. I am the type of person that I’m more comfortable to be told what to use and then go from there. So it was a challenge adjusting but I got it done. ”  ~Kalisha, art 1 student

“I liked the new way of teaching/learning you introduced because it gave me a lot of liberties. In my school (in Germany) we have more defaults and the pictures look similar. Here everybody can draw and interpret the theme his/her own way. That way everybody draws something different and unique.”  ~Dania, art 1 foreign exchange student

“I felt like it really effected me because if you wouldn’t have given us the choice to really be creative i wouldn’t really try and make something really boring just something easy. I feel like it honestly did help me because i am actually interested and feel like i could do something with my art one day in the future. I am honestly really happy i stayed in this class and you gave me freedom because without that i probably wouldn’t see how much i enjoy art and really see i can do a good job when i put actual effort into it.”  ~Casey, art 1 student

“I loved that we got to choose what our artwork was this year. It’s given me a lot more freedom and has actually made me care about my artwork because I’m doing what I want to do, instead of something that i have no connection to.”  ~Ryan, Art 2 student

“This was effective to me by, letting me use the things that i needed and allowing me to have the things i need to make my artwork be great, and make it to where i don’t just slap something on a piece of paper and turn it in. I can actually give it character.”  ~Zoe, art 1 student

“I remember last year in ceramics when we had to make a certain piece, but use the method our art teacher wanted us to use. This year, we have theme that our pieces must revolve around, and we may use which ever method of building we like. Personally, I love this new method our teacher has been using for this year. I feel this allows us to continue to use a method we enjoy and focus on improving our skills using that method. Instead of constantly changing which method we have to use and using a method some students might dislike more than others. For example, say we are assigned to make usable containers, one student could use the slab method while another might use coils. There could also be a student who wants to use his or her own method to build a container. They each can find a way they like to sculpt and continue to learn more and more about whatever method they choose. We also have the privilege to try and improve our skill in a method we are not yet comfortable with.”  ~Joseph, intermediate ceramics student

Far and wide, almost all of my students (with the exception of beginning ceramics because I have not moved that class to choice…yet–it is coming next semester) really like having the choice.  They like being able to experiment and try new things and start over with another medium when the first they chose isn’t working.  They like being able to interpret themes as they wish.

I appreciate Kalisha’s perspective as well.  I know for some it is really hard to not be told how to do something, especially when you have been told how to do it for most of your young life.  She is a fabulous artist who spends time thinking about how she will interpret things and trying new mediums.  She works hard and has created some fabulous work.  I think that one day she might change her mind about having such freedom because from my perspective, it is working for her.

For more reading my students’ responses, go here.  I would also like to thank the teachers of Apex High School (for the umpteenth time) for sharing what they have done in their TAB classrooms.  I “stole” their exam questions to use with my students.

 

Student/Teacher Collaboration

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Should we influence our students’ artworks?  And if so, how much?  I struggled with this the other day.  As I walk around my classroom, I stop and watch students work.  I stare at them staring at their work and eventually ask what they are struggling with or what they are thinking.  This has started some wonderful conversations and lead to some collaboration.

I listen carefully to what they have to say and I form my questions with great intention to pull out of them where I think they need to head in their artistic journey:  what things they need to consider, what are they trying to say with their work, what is the relationship between this and that.  I wait for them to think and answer.  And in the moments of silence, I start to think too.  Based upon their answers, I come up with some suggestions.  I can see the unknown in their eyes and I say, “what if you…?”

As I offer up ways to go with their pieces, I started to think to myself, am I giving them too much and not letting them figure it out on their own?  Am I taking something away from them?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  I like to think I am helping to open their minds to the world of possibilities and that art can be so much more than what they have seen in their little rural town.

The possibilities of where they can take their artwork and how they can bring it to another level excites me.  It makes me love art and teaching even more.  But, am I teaching or am I directing?

What do you think?

Due Dates, Deadlines, and Late Work

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This is a topic that if you ask 10 different art teachers, you would get 10 different answers.  Some teachers are very strict about due dates.  Some teacher follow what is set forth by their district or campus.  And some teachers don’t care at all about them, accepting work until the last possible moment before grades are due to the registrar.

I want to say I have struggled with due dates and deadlines over the years, but I think that is not the case.  I am a teacher that does have due dates.  Most of the time, my due dates are flexible.  If a class is working hard and clearly needs more time, I am willing to move that due date and give an extension.  I also give the students a week of time to come in on their own to finish work and turn it in for a small late penalty.  This is more than the district tells me I am obligated to do.

But what about due dates when it comes to kids that sit around and do nothing?  Is it wrong that I have no sympathy for those kids?  Is it wrong that I don’t want to give them more time?  I feel there is a difference between planning and doing absolutely nothing.  I have students that do sit and plan and do some research and appear to the untrained eye that they are doing nothing.  But, on the other end of the spectrum are the kids that sit and do nothing and expect me to give them extra time.

Am I doing a disservice to the the artistic process or is it a good learning experience?  I feel that in the real world there are “due dates”. There are deadlines.  There is no “late work” penalty…well, maybe there is a some kind of penalty for consistently turning in late work–perhaps they will get fired or get bad evaluations.  So, should I give them some practice to help prepare them for college and the “real”world?  Or should I continue to coddle them and leave them to find out on their own there are consequences for their actions, or lack there of.

I am constantly torn on this issue.  I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer to this issue.  Maybe next year when I move to a modified choice classroom and kids hopefully will be more invested in their work, I will have less of an issue with this.  Maybe with the snapshot grading system, I won’t really have as many issues because as they see when they do nothing and they have nothing to post on their blogs, that might help them.

I read this blog post on accepting late work.  It is interesting.  Do I believe in the concept?  I don’t know.  Will it work for me and my student population?  Maybe.  Will I change my policy?  Probably not right now, but maybe in the future.  Will my kids take advantage of it?  Who knows.

I looked for a good quote to end this.  Then I saw this.

So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”  -Lee Iacocca