Category Archives: Classroom

2 Weeks of Exhausting Fun

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September is finally here, and for me, it marks having the first 2 weeks of school in the books.  It’s been exhausting and I have had to stop my personal exercise regime because of it. BUT, it has been so worth it.  My new (and returning) students and I have had a blast and have rocked it.

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I don’t like to start off the school year in a traditional way.  I like to have my students jump right in and get busy getting messy.  On our first day, we had 20 minute classes, and I was required by my admin to go over certain things during certain periods.  But, that did leave me time to show a small video to hopefully get my kids thinking about my class and art making in a different fashion.

Over the summer, or maybe it was last year, I found this video by artist and motivational speaker, Erik Wahl.  I thought it was perfect for some first day inspiration.

 

The next two weeks were spent doing not one, but two community projects.  First my students prepped, and installed our own Unity Project.  The welding students cut down steal tubing to use as our braces.  My students painted 7′-6″ PVC poles black, and they balled up miles of yarn.  Once the set-up was complete, they began to add their voices, by choosing the identifiers that represented them, then bringing it to life with yarn on the installation.  (I will write more about the Unity Project in another post once it is complete.)
 

Once we were finished with our part in the Unity Project, it was time to play with some clay. I like to start the year working with clay.  The majority of kids like clay, and it gives them some time to get to know me and each other without much pressure.  I use this time to teach some basic clay skills–slab draping, scoring/slipping and other surface treatment techniques, and to have the kids give back to their community.  This is the one piece the students will make this year that they aren’t allowed to keep.  I do ask all my students to create a bowl for out Duck Art Club’s charity fundraiser–Empty Bowls.

Next week, we will finish up our bowls, then move onto exploring the artistic behaviors that are essential to my classes.  I hope my students keep enjoying art class and continue to knock it out of the part when it comes to my expectations as the weeks, semester, and year continues.

Finally Figuring It Out

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It took the better part of the year, but I think I have finally figured out my Art 2: Painting/Drawing class.  Last year I ran art 2 the same way I did my Art 1.  All of us were new to TAB, so, I felt the need to make art 2 different wasn’t necessary.  But, this year, since I had some kids from Art 1 in my Art 2, I had to change it up.  I started out with an altered books unit I had done for many years.  It is basically a way to get students exploring using media in different ways.  However, the kids were not exploring and were not really understanding the purpose of the book, but they did them anyway.  In my gut, the class just felt off.  I told the students this, and they kind of looked at me funny, but were willing to just go with it.

After about half-way through the second marking period (we run classes for a full year, broken up into 2 semesters consisting of 3 6-week (mostly) marking periods) the class and I “started over”.  I stopped with the altered books and put them into the storage closet. We went back to what I knew worked–themes.  Students were coming up with some great ideas.   I thought things were finally on-track until I was talking to a student during our second theme and asked him how he was thinking of proceeding with his idea.  I asked about media and paper type.  He looked at me like I had 5 heads.  Then I took a look around the room, and I began to think the class looked like it was a beginning class, not a class that had gone through a year of high school art already.  Yes the students had good ideas, but the artistic process stopped there. There was no skill development, there was no risk taking, no reflection, no connections.

At this point, what does any good art teacher do?  Do they just keep on keeping on?  Or do they reflect on what is going on and change things to help better the learning and understanding?  I chose the later.  We would “start over” just one more time.

By this point, it was the end of the first semester.  This gave me the much needed time to really reflect on what my students needed.  It was at this point I was going to try a unit style that Ian Sands developed.  It involves 3 parts:  digging deeper, challenge, and create.  (You can find examples of his units here.)  I borrowed his unit, Artists Steal.  The students were successful.  I mean, there was still work to be done, but for the most part, the transition was a smart one.  I could see them beginning to have a deeper understanding of things artists do and how they, artists, create their artwork.  Many of the kids used what they created in the unit challenge for their artwork.  I was impressed by the level of understanding of appropriation.

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Next it was time to create my own unit.  I followed the “formula” for the unit and I decided that our next unit would be “Artists Tell Stories”.  I came up with a digging deeper section, a challenge and a create section.  With this unit, I saw several of my students really looking at artwork and finding out the story behind it or reading the story it was telling.  They were also providing an excellent reflection on the video they chose to watch.  Link  Link  Link

They say third times a charm, and they were right.  I am glad that I went with my gut and stopped and started things over twice with my students.  I can really see the growth taking place now and I can see their work having deeper thought and deeper meaning.  Is this by any means perfect?  Of course not.  It is a work in progress.  They know that.  If it were, we would have done our current unit (Artists Represent), and the next two (Artists Abstract and Artists Are Non-Representational) first.  But, hindsight and all.

I’ve got a couple of things to change on the structure of the units…like removing the option to create a pinboard of artwork.  I found this isn’t lending itself to any deeper understanding.  And, I need to work in more skills bootcamps, but that will come.  Right now, as much as I want this particular group of students to explore different ways of art making, all but 1 or 2 don’t really want to, I think right now that momentum they’ve got going with exploring things artists do is more important than interrupting them to explore painting or printmaking or something like that.  It’s all about choices and finding the right balance in the class.  And with one and a half marking periods left, I feel I have made the right decision for both them and myself…..but mostly them.

I always say that my TAB classroom is a living entity that ebbs and flows with the needs of the students.  My art 2 class this year proves that.  If you are feeling a class is off, or they need something they aren’t getting at the moment, stop and reset.  It is okay.  It can only help.  Be transparent about what you are doing; your students will understand. Mine did. And remember, it’s all for them.

Day to Day in My TAB Classroom

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A post on my art teacher’s fb page asking about how a TAB classroom works at the high school level got me to searching my blog for a post on how I do it.  I found numerous posts on why I do it, the themes we have used, and organization of my room.  While those are very helpful, they don’t really talk about how my classroom is run–the day to day.

I have said in the past that my classroom is a living entity, and that is as true today as it was when I wrote about it; and it will be true tomorrow and for years to come.  I have to ebb and flow with the needs and wants of my students.  Otherwise, I am taking away something important from the students and not living up to the pedagogy I believe in.

The basics of running my classroom include: introduction of theme, brainstorming, inspiration, demos, time to plan and work, due date, reflection.

  • INTRODUCTION OF THEME:  This is just that…I tell the students the theme.  At the start of a unit, I turn to the kids and tell them the theme. simple. easy.  Themes we have used this year include:  man/machine, interior/exterior, power, pressure, home, environment, light, sound, surrealism, self-portraits.
  • BRAINSTORMING: A few of our themes have not needed brainstorming–like self-portraits.  But, for the most part, we brainstorm as a class.  We are a 1:1 school with MacBooks, so I have the students use a program called Padlet to help them develop ideas.  This helps in several ways…it allows for multiple points of views, it helps to give a voice to those who are shy, and I can link the brainstorm board for those that need to go back and review.
  • INSPIRATION: Currently I am helping my students get some inspiration.  Many of my students haven’t been exposed to much art, so thinking outside of the box is often difficult for them.  I like to help them see what could be possible within a certain theme.  I create pinboards with a myriad of examples for my students.  I hope in the future to change this by having my students find the inspiration and creating the pinboards.  I’m just not there yet.
  • DEMOS: Part of running the TAB classroom includes giving short demos on various materials, tools, techniques for the students.  When I introduce something new, I do a quick 5-8 minute demo and I record it.  I took a page from Apex High School and created my own media portal.  I post all the videos here so students can go back and reference if they were sick or if they need a refresher.
  • TIME TO PLAN AND WORK: The majority of time spent in my classroom is dedicated to this.  At the moment, I don’t require students to plan by sketching or the like because it is not something I always do.  Some students plan on their own, while others don’t.  I am seeing that the reason for this is that they don’t know how.  This is something I am working on and planning on adding in the future (as soon as I figure out how…).  Many of my students experiment as they go, working through ideas and finding solutions–just like many artists do.
  • DUE DATE: I’m going to be honest here, I like having due dates.  I think they are important.  They help to keep my students with wandering minds on-task.  They are important for future endeavors.  I think it is something they have to learn.  I use a soft due date and a hard due date.  There is a week between the two due dates.  Basically, the day after the soft due date I introduce the next theme and we brainstorm.  During that week, those that have finished with the current theme can move on and start planning/working on the new theme; those that need a few more days can finish up working while thinking about what they want to do on the new theme.  I have found the soft/hard due date works for my student population, and it helps keep me in compliance with a few district/campus policies.
  • REFLECTIONS: During the first semester, each student created a website using Weebly.com.  As a class, we talked about 8 different behaviors that artists have.  Every 2-3 weeks, the students chose 2 behaviors and wrote about how they were or weren’t showing that behavior.  It didn’t matter where they were in the process of an artwork.  It was helpful for them to see that the processes they were going through were what was changing them into artists.  When the second semester started, I introduced the artist statement, and the students reflected at the end of each unit, writing an artist statement about what they just created.  I realized that many were not ready to move on to this and were producing better reflections about themselves and their work talking about the behaviors.  I give them a choice at the end of the unit about how they want to reflect now.

MEDIA CHOICE:  I have set up my classroom so that almost all media is out in the classroom and easily accessible for the students.  We started off the year with b/w drawing media.  From there I added color media.  Next was printmaking, then painting and collage.  Starting in the second semester I opened sculpture and clay.  At this point in the year (10 weeks to go), students are allowed to choose whatever media they want.

I know that not every TAB classroom works like this, but this is what works for my student population and for me.  I hope as I continue with the TAB pedagogy, I am able to allow even more freedom to my students.  I keep a list of running notes of things I think will make it run better next year.  What demos did I miss this year that would have been good?  What if I spent more time on each behavior individually?  How can the students get more out of blogging?  Things like that.

There are never two days alike in my classroom.  In fact, even when I do an intro day, no two classes are ever the same.  It’s a good thing.  It keeps it interesting to me.  It keeps me on my toes.  It keeps me happy.

The Living Painting Experiment

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A friend of mine gifted me an canvas that she no longer wanted in her home.  I thought about using the canvas for myself, but I never got around to gessoing over the image to replace with my own.  Then I remembered something I read about on my art teachers group page about how a teacher had this canvas in her room that the kids could paint on when they had extra paint or had finished with their work.

I thought this was a fabulous idea.  So I brought the large (36″X40″) canvas to school and had my aide put one coat of gesso on the canvas.  You could still see the original painting through the gesso, but I thought that might help kids to get started.

I put a sign up that read ” LIVING PAINTING” with a smaller sign underneath.  It reads, “Got extra paint?  Add to the living painting.  Please refrain from curse words and penises.  Thanks.”  (Some of my students are obsessed with drawing, painting, and creating penises.  It’s what they do.)

I introduced them to the canvas today, and they jumped right in.

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I have included a slideshow of the canvas in the sidebar of my school art blog to show how it changes over time.  I am in love already.

A Great TASK to Help Start the New Year

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A Great TASK to Help Start the New Year

Today was the start of a new semester at school.  I thought we needed to start off with a great activity–one that would shake off the slumber of winter break and ring in creativity and imagination for a new year.  And what better way to do so than have a day-long TASK party.

What is a TASK party you ask?

You can also find a previous post on TASK here.

I pulled out a bunch of supplies I had in my storage room:  yarn, egg cartons, craft items, fabric, 12″ dowels, wooden hearts and starts, buttons.  I plugged in all the hot glue guns we had.  I grabbed the large rolls of colored paper from the faculty lounge.  And, I started with a container full of tasks.

This party was to last all day.  I have 7 classes.  Once I started the party, I only broke for lunch, which consisted of writing more tasks.  This was the only place the students faltered…well, and when it came to blindly picking a task.  (Many wanted to pick and choose their task.  It was hard to stop them.)

It really was a fun day.  A few kids fought it at first, but ended up having a good time.  I think they need that time to play.  High school kids don’t often get that anymore.  And bonus, no one was on their computer today.  I wish I knew how many tasks were completed today…or at least attempted.   It would be fun to figure it out.  Perhaps next time.

By the end of the day, my feet were killing me and I was tired as all hell.  But, I had a counter full of artifacts.  I had a hopscotch board on my floor, and I had 2 body outlines–one in dry erase marker and one in tape.  (Just an FYI–certain dry erase markers don’t come off the floor so easily.)  I had a roll full of photos of the students making and laughing and creating and smiling.  I had a heart full of memories. And, I think it set the tone that creativity is welcome here–and encouraged.

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Setting the Stage…The Paint Stage

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One of my biggest fears/concerns this year when moving to a TAB/Choice-Based classroom was the addition of paint into the mix.  Paint is always a scary thing. Kids don’t always wash brushes out and acrylic dries in them. Trays get left behind for me to clean. So much paint gets wasted because no matter how many times you say, “you can always get more”, the kids take enough to cover an elephant.  And don’t get me started on those pumps for the half gallon bottles that are always clogged.

Since this year I have everything out for the kids to access, I thought paint, both acrylic and watercolor, should be out too.  And, not to toot my own horn too much, since I had put so much thought into organization (and it is working very well), that the paint should get the same consideration.  I bought a bunch of clear, empty ketchup bottles for my acrylic to try and combat the too much paint/clogged pump issue. I looked through all the stuff I had and found a couple of racks I could use. And, I appropriated several Xerox paper box lids from the work rooms.
I made 2 areas–one for watercolors, and one for acrylics.  So far, so good. Kids have access to it all, except they do have to ask for the canvas boards. They have been taking only the paint they need.  They close the caps on the paint bottles.  Almost all brushes are washed well.  (They have been following the brush washing video I made for them.) The paper paint palettes help so much with giving them less to clean and more time to work.

It seems my fear of introducing paint was unnecessary. Let’s hope they keep up the good work, and good clean-up.

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Watercolor station. Includes paint trays (not pictured), brushes, paper, salt, resist medium.

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Canvas board size choices, on the wall near

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Acrylic paints in their new bottles. There is a small spice rack stand that holds the neutral colors.

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Acrylic paint set-up. Brushes, other tools, paint trays, paper palettes and brushes. There is a towel in the brushes box top so wet brushes can dry and not destroy the cardboard.

The Day(s) I Became an Electrician

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One of my Brent potter’s wheels had suddenly started to not work correctly.  No matter what I tuned, it would either not stop turning when the pedal was all the way off or if I got it to stop spinning, when in the high position it would turn only fast enough to trim pots.  Not ideal for students learning to throw.

I called up Brent and told them of my case.  Luckily for me, the wheel is still under warranty.  The sent me some new parts.  I was expected to fix this myself.  As you can see from the pictures their part had these blue caps that mine did not have.

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I wrote back and told the service person.  She told me I would have to strip the wires and attach them, but assured me no soldering was necessary.  I then cut the blue caps and stripped both sets of wires so they leads were long enough for me to twist together and cover up.  Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy.  There wasn’t a lot of wire there to work with.

But I was successful and was able to fix my wheel.

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Things are now spinning properly and only when I want it to.

Finally Having a Great Time

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And when I say I am finally having a great time, I mean that I love teaching and I love my job…every period, every day. While I struggle with the stupidity that comes with all the paperwork and administrative stuff, I do it with little complaint because the rest is awesome.

Why is it so good? Because I love teaching ceramics and because of TAB.

My ceramic classes are all working and learning and having fun. The clay is here. And the students want to be there and are eager to work and get messy. Finally all my non-ceramic classes have started working on their artworks for our Man/Machine theme.And I couldn’t be more excited by all the different interpretations and the enthusiasm in my students.

It is like my classroom is a whole new place. My eyes have been opened and I never want to shut them. I don’t watch the clock any more. I don’t surf the web anymore. I talk with my kids…about their art, about their process, about their struggles, about them. I know it’s only been a few weeks and perhaps I am still in the honeymoon phase with TAB, but I foresee us having a long and happy marriage.

My “New” TAB Classroom

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I spent the summer trying to figure out how to set up my room to best serve my students in a TAB environment. Well, it was easier said than done. Luckily, I didn’t have to buy too much. I had a friend that was moving who gifted me a ton of plastic tubs and drawers. I had a ton of stuff from before that I repurposed. I did buy a few things that I didn’t have…like a new drawer unit for magazines, but all in all, I didn’t spend too much.

My room isn’t the best size for an artroom in my opinion. It is long and narrow, and I have rather large desks and 4 potter’s wheels to accommodate. But, I think I have it all figured out.

I came in a couple of times over the summer and got rid of things I hadn’t used in years and old projects I was saving for no reason. I started to re-arrange and re-purpose. I have set up what we will need at the beginning. Paint and color will come into play in a few weeks, so I thought since I had some time, I would concentrate on what I needed right away and what had to be put away so it wasn’t cluttering up my counters.

It is a work in progress and I like to think of it as a living thing that will change as the needs of the students change and as we figure out better ways of doing things.

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Ceramic Corner

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Ceramic Corner

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Glaze Station in storage room

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Drawing/Paper Media Counter

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Storage

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Different Types of Boards (bristol, card, rail, etc.)

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Still Life Drawing Items

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Check Out Station for Prismas, Brushes, and Colored Sharpies

 

 

My Portfolio Rack Hack.

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Several years ago I made wooden cradles to hold my students’ rather large portfolios. I attended a session at the TAEA conference about building racks and the presenter gave us her plans. Well, they lasted me about 6 years, with some repairs here and there. Had I screwed them together instead of stapling them, they might still be around. Hindsight and all.

At the end of last year, I tossed all but one; I had built 7.  This year I needed something new. I looked and I looked. I toyed with plastic drawer units which would require smaller portfolios.  That saddened me, but I couldn’t think of much else. I tried to make something out of a window box planter liner and some wooden feet.  It sucked.

Then it hit me in the car on the way to the aquarium. Wire storage racks and zipties. My daughter and I headed to Lowe’s (after looking at the fish at the aquarium of course.) They had 6′ lengths and I needed half that. Luckily they had bolt cutters there for that reason.

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I ziptied the sides on first.

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Then I cut the end of the ties

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and tied the last piece down the middle.

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I added the upper supports today when I put in some portfolios to check the strength.

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As you can see, it will hold portfolios for 2 classes. I have 4 classes that need portfolios.  So, I built 2 racks. I just need to cover the sharp tips and they are done.

I am quite pleased with my hack.  And, it was relatively inexpensive.