Tag Archives: choice-based art

TAB vs Choice

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As TAB (Teaching FOR Artistic Behavior ) and Choice both gain traction in art rooms across the country, I have been reading more and more posts on various Facebook Groups about teachers’ experiences, questions, queries, and various other complaints.  One thing that I have been noticing lately is that some people think TAB and Choice are one in the same and they are interchangeable…like tissue and Kleenex or Xerox and  a photocopier.  I am writing this post to say they are not the same.  I am going to short, and sweet, and get right to it.

While they have similarities and while there is much choice in a TAB classroom, just because a teacher offers choice in his/her classroom, it doesn’t make her or him a TAB teacher.

What makes TAB different from choice is the purpose of what is being taught.  It is not about letting students choose what materials to use in an artwork.  It is about teaching students how to think.  It is about teaching an understanding of the artistic process and the design process, AND about how to use them.  It is about letting the students be the artists, letting them make the decisions, and letting them fail and figure out how to grow/move on from there.

And, while sometimes a TAB teacher may set limitations such as theme or a big idea or what stations are open, the student is still the main artist.  The student is the one who interprets things, does the research, does the exploration, creates the artworks, reflects, revises, and then decides when it is finished, and even it is successful.

Offering your students some choices, but still not letting them actually drive the boat doesn’t mean you are TAB.  If you don’t have those thinking and behaving goals in mind for you students, you aren’t TAB, yet.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t become TAB.   And, I am not trying to exclude anyone who is TAB interested.  I think it would be wonderful to have as many TAB teachers as possible teaching and leading our students.  That would be, as they say, amazeballs.  But, I also feel that if the pedagogy is going to spread, what is and what isn’t TAB should be understood.  TAB is not something you can decide to do on a whim.  You need to do your research on it.  You need to do your homework.  And, the site I linked above, and again now (TAB) is a good place to start.  I also recommend the book Engaging Learners Through Artmaking by Katherine Douglas and Diane Jaquith, and the eBook  Choice without Chaos by Anne Bedrick.  These are great books.  Coming soon is a book called The Open Artroom by Melissa Purtee and Ian Sands (I think that is their title.)  This book will be geared towards secondary art TAB teachers.

I do hope you will join us on this wonderful journey of helping students navigate the road to becoming artists.  The more the merrier.

 

NAEA 17: New York City Reflections

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When I arrived in the city, it had been too long…almost 7 years….and so much had changed.  Even though I had lived in the city for many years, I had never actually stayed in Manhattan, so I was pretty psyched for that.  And, to stay in midtown…oh the excitement. I arrived at JFK, and took the airtrain to the subway to get to our hotel.  The first thing we did that day was check into the conference so I could get my badge and the bag of crap that I didn’t need or want.  I mean really, who needs a paper-thin bag full of magazines and other things that weren’t eco-friendly.  Unfortunately, I had to carry that around for the rest of the afternoon, but I digress.

imag9930.jpg    We then headed over to the MOMA.  I was a little bummed that I didn’t get a discount with my badge like I did last year in Chicago. (And if I was supposed to…. ::sad face::) But, no big deal…the MOMA was fantastic.  I hadn’t been to the museum since it was in its old location, many moons ago.  The new location is great, and so much bigger.  I am a fan of modern art, so I really enjoyed this visit.  It even sparked a discussion between my friend and fellow TABber, Hillary, about craftsmanship.  We were both noticing the same things about the paintings and sculptures of famous artists; things that made us question why we ask our students to paint/color/draw a certain way when these artists wouldn’t pass that “craftsmanship poster” that is floating around.  We are in the midst of discussion of a proposal about it for Seattle…

That evening we ate Mexican outside.  Made me long for the days I lived in the city.  I am glad we had a chance to eat outside because this would be the almost the last time we could…thanks Obama for inventing global warming.  It turned imag9974.jpgwicked cold while we were there.  This Texan implant wasn’t having it.  Anyway, that night we went to Times Square.  Man, totally not the same as I remembered.  When did it turn into a 24-hour sunlight extravaganza?!

Enough about all that touristy stuff.  I really should be writing about the conference and sessions and all that artsy stuff. Thursday morning started off as a dud.  We went to the first general session, which was the keynote speaker, Jeff Koons.  Boring.  I don’t like his work, and I find he is so boring to listen to.  He was quiet toned and just wasn’t what an estimated crowd of 7000 members needed to jump-start their conference.  We left.  If only Tim Gunn could come and speak again….

Over the next three days I went to several sessions on TAB/choice. img_20170316_173427.jpgTwo were by 2 different men, both with wicked cool mustaches.  In fact, I scribbled their mustaches in my notes.  Both men were interesting and full of information that I already knew.  I guess that is what happens as you move up the high school TAB ladder.  One thing that I did take away from Andrew McKee’s (red mustache) presentation was the “style book”.  It’s basically a place to save ideas, get ideas of what they like, are into, etc.  So the students can pull from that when they create their work.  I mean I have my Pinterest page that I refer to often when I create my work, but I don’t “require” my students to do that.  I think it might be helpful to incorporate something like this in my art 2 classes next year…and also maybe my ceramics classes.

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I went to a very interesting Raku session, which of course now has me wanting to write a grant for a raku kiln.  Thursday afternoon I went to an MCAD session on drawing as thinking.  We basically spent the 50 minute session doing a bunch of drawing warm-ups. It was a nice break, and it left me with some great exercises to bring into my classes next year as we move into block schedule.

The rest of my session were, like I stated above, choice/TAB sessions.  While the sessions were fabulous, (I’m looking at you Cynthia Gaub, Joy Schulz, and Melissa Purtee), I felt a little empty.  And, it’s nothing against my colleagues.  I am just looking for something more…something more than what I already know and am 100% agreement with.  I am looking for more than an intro to what TAB/choice is. I want something for those of us who have been doing it a while.  I hope that makes sense.  I did have an “a-ha moment” during Joy’s session.  For years, I thought Joy had this magical way of pulling greatness from her students.  After sitting through her session, I get it now.  She is so organized and her analytical side really affects how she works with her students.

The final session I want to talk about was a super-session.  It starred Katherine Douglas, Anne Thulson, Sharif Bey, and Olivia Gude.  It was amazing.  These four leaders really hit it out of the park.

These were my lasting thoughts from the session:

~Do we intervene: how, where, when, why, how much (OG)
~concept=something we use; not something to possess (OG)
~2 sentence curriculum: what do artists do? the child is the artist (KD)
~art supplies are materials; concepts are materials (can’t remember if this was OG, I think so)
~How do we keep students in that magical place as they get older? (OG)
~we have the capacity to exist in many art worlds (OG) [personally for me, this meant a lot]
~Sometimes LESS can be liberating (OG)
~We’re getting lost….ON PURPOSE (OG)

I know it seems that Olivia gave me much to think about, but Kathy always gives me much to think about…I wouldn’t be here without her.  Anne gave an activity to try for next year when we talk about “artists observe”.  It will get my students out of my classroom and really looking at the small, mundane details around them.  And Sharif…oh Sharif….we are kindred souls and I think we should totally hang out.

imag9999.jpgWhile I enjoyed the sessions I went to, I did think the selection, for me anyway, was limited.  I don’t understand how imag9987_1.jpgsessions are selected.  I don’t understand how they choose to schedule which ones and when.  I also don’t understand why so few TAB/choice sessions are offered, when clearly, year after year, the sessions offered are packed–which was another downside to conference in NYC…small rooms…or at least those rooms that held popular topics were small.  And, rooms that held research sessions (no offense to research) were in these huge rooms with few attendees.  And when I say TAB sessions were packed, I mean, way over room/safety capacity, on the floor seating, out the door, room temp went up 15 degrees packed.  NAEA needs to work on this.  It is just ridiculous.  I pay a lot of money, out-of-pocket, to attend the national conference.  I want to get my money’s worth.

imag0028.jpgMy favorite part of the conference is always the part where I get to see and hang out with my TAB/Choice mentors, colleagues, and friends.  I even got to meet some new friends whom I have only seen on the interwebs.  I want to thank Kathy and Diane for setting up the amazing dinner we had Friday night.  And, thanks Diane for making me not sit with Hillary and Liz.  It was fabulous to get to chat with Melissa, Joy,Cynthia, and Anne for a while.  Spending time with those that get it, and get me, is always a good time.

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I hope to make it to Seattle next year.  Cynthia promises it will be a fabulous time.  So, hopefully, at least one of the sessions I propose or co-propose will be accepted.  And, maybe someone will help me write a grant and/or convince my school to pay for it…I just can’t afford another year.

Artists Observe

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This will be the first in a series of several posts about the units and activities my art 1 students are participating in to get a good grasp on the artistic behaviors.  Last year my art 1 students went through an “artistic behaviors bootcamp“.  After going back and looking at what we had done, I felt it was too fast and there wasn’t enough depth to each behavior. We spent a day or two on each behavior, but it was like we just glossed over the behaviors and my students never really understood them.

This year, I am spending a week or more on each behavior.  We are doing activities that focus on the behavior, while building skills in various media and techniques.  I think this will be a better solution.  The students may not be making as many finished artworks at the moment, but that will come when second semester rolls around and the studio is really much more open.

Our first behavior that we focused on was “Artists Observe”.  I found a powerpoint at Ian Sands’ Art of South B page that was perfect for what I wanted students to do.  The week was split into 3 activites.  First students created mindmaps/had class discussions of what they like to observe and what kinds of things artists would look at when observing something. They then moved onto a 3-day sketching activity, where they learned sketching techniques and sketched from life.

Our second activity included learning to shade and a group activity, originating from Melissa Purtee, where students would get into groups of 3-4 and together create a large shaded sphere.  It was very cool to watch the students work together, within the time frame, and figure out how to make values darker and to replicate the sphere I demo’d for them.

Our final activity brought the students in the world of 3-D.  We spent our final day doing the Tantamounter.  Faculty lent items that the students replicated in an artful way.  They had to make decisions, work in small groups, and create a copy of the original item.  They had a 30 minute time limit to complete their piece.

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After the weekend, students came back on Monday and spent the day reflecting on our unit.  We went into the hallway and discussed the spheres they had created, looking critically at the spheres and trying to take non-objective judgement out.  They added tiles to their BlendSpace lessons, reflecting on what artists observe means and how the activities we did correlate to the unit idea.  They also reflected on what they learned from our unit activities.

The rest of the week will be spent on building some color drawing skills before we move on to another artistic behavior unit.

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.

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.

Top 9: 2015-16 Year in Review

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It’s been a week since the 2015-16 school year ended.  I have taken a week off from doing any work, but it is now time to take a moment to reflect on the year. And, what better way to do that than to do a top 10, well, a top 9…close enough. Normally, a top 10 would only be the best things, but I thought I would add some of the not-so-good as well.  I mean, we all like things to be puppies and rainbows all the time, but let’s get real folks…it ain’t.

9. New Ceramics Curriculum…or should I say lack there of.  I decided to go balls to the wall and go full-on TAB with my ceramics students.  This is the last year I will have had any students that were part of my sculpture program–from before I made the switch to “all clay, all day”.  And, if you were to walk into that intermediate/advanced class, you could tell which kids those were.  But, I digress.  For the most part, for my intermediate and my advanced students, they were given complete freedom.  They were allowed to work on what they wanted, in the time frame they needed.  I did have some themes with guiding questions to help them if they were stumped, but they were in no way “forced” to follow those themes. If you are wondering how to do a single-media TAB class….read this!

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The Ceramics Graveyard and Senior Totems Sculpture Garden at THS

I think this was a great decision.  It allowed the students to move at their pace and do what interested them.  Are there some kinks to work out concerning the structure of the class? Of course.  I plan on doing a “Technique Tuesday” type of thing.  I will have a demo day once a week to show different things they could use in their work, like sprigs and molds and glazing techniques.  I also am revamping their technical reader and going to incorporate that more into the class.

8. Braeden, The Beginning Ceramics Student Who Learned More Than Me.  I was fortunate enough to have that student this year that many teachers dream of having.  That student who falls in love with your subject matter so much, that he or she just becomes a sponge and soaks up everything.  Who during their free time spends it watching videos and reading about the subject.  Who is in your room working and learning and creating at all times of the day.  I had that student this year, and his name is Braeden.  I had Braeden in art 1 his freshman year, but for some reason, he decided to stop taking art for 2 years and finally returned to me his senior year for art 2: beginning ceramics.  I often wonder where he would be if he hadn’t taken that time off.   He started off as a normal ceramics student, doing the required beginning projects.  Then all of the sudden, he changed.  He found a passion.  He found what he wanted to do with his life.  He would come in whenever he could to practice throwing. He learned to make his own clay.  He learned about glazes and different types of firing and their temperatures. He attempted to make his own wood ash glaze.  It was amazing to watch his lust for learning about all things clay.  I eventually had to tell him to stop learning because he knew more than I did.  Of course this became a running joke, and I love it when he teaches me new things.  I loved being able to have those conversations about ceramics with him. I will miss that next year.

7. Starting Over, again, and again… Sometimes you think you have a great plan. And sometimes that plan, no matter how awesome YOU think it is, sucks.  This was the case with my art 2: painting/drawing class this year.  I won’t go into too much detail, as I wrote about having to start over with this class here.  But, I will say I learned a lot from that class.  It is okay to stop and rewind.  You HAVE to do what is best for your students, and if that means if what you are doing isn’t working, then try something else.  However, if you are going to “start again”, you have to keep your students informed about what you are doing and why.  I had that tough conversation with them.  I told them I wasn’t feeling it, and that I thought they weren’t where I had thought they should be.  That we needed a new direction, and this is what we were going to try.  They looked at me with puzzled looks, but they were willing to try.  I think in the end we started over twice.  But, they say third time’s a charm for a reason.  By the third start, we figured it out.  We figured what worked for them, what they needed to grow and be successful.

Like my ceramics classes, I do have some things to tweak, like the timeline for the artistic behavior units, the digging deeper sections, and how we get to full choice by the second semester.  I wish I could open the studio to full choice sooner, but seeing as my co-worker isn’t TAB, and my art 2 classes are a combo of his and my students…I have to do a little work to make sure all students understand the TAB studio.  It’s all good though….my kids could probably use a refresher anyway.

6. Two Wonderful Opportunities.  I work hard, both at my job and as an advocate for TAB.  So, it is nice when someone else recognizes what I am doing.  This year, not one, but two different people recognized this.  First I was asked by my friend, Betsy Murphy, to come and speak about TAB at the T(exas)AEA High School Division meeting at the 2015 conference. I was honored that Betsy, once my mentor, now my friend, thought of me in this way–that I had something important to share with my colleagues.Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.37.47 AM

Second, I was asked to present at the AOE Winter 2016 Online Conference.  I presented about the assessment model I was working on.  It, again, was an honor to think that something I was doing would be of interest to other teachers.  I hope that it helped people make a connection between assessment and grades.

5. Speaking of AOE…Blog Finalist Here.  That’s right, Me, Jean Barnett, author of Art
Class by Mrs B, was a finalist inRisingStarFinalistHI the Art of Education, Blog of the Year, Rising Start category.  I didn’t win, but I think it is pretty cool that I made the list.  I even got a nifty badge to display on the blog.  Oh yeah!  I write my blog with the hopes of not only documenting my journey, but also of helping another art teacher by sharing with I have learned along the way.

4. Art Club I have been at my school for 9 years.  For 8 of those years, my co-worker “ran” the art club.  Well, I wouldn’t really call it running an art club.  I’m not really sure what it was. This img_20160211_220850.jpgyear I took over art club.  I can’t remember the exact reason why he was willing to give it up, but he did, and finally it was mine.  When we started, the club had no money (in fact the account had been closed due to inactivity), and they hadn’t done anything in years.  I advertised the club.  We met every Friday morning during tutorials.  We elected a president, a vice-president, a secretary, and a treasurer.  We sold popcorn, made Duck Art t-shirts and sold them, and even held a painting party.  Was it the best art club?  No.  Did we do a whole lot?  No.  But we did paint a mural in our computer lab, and I am glad to say that we did have a few hundred dollars in the art club account by the end of the year.  Furthermore, we still had members returning to meetings at the end of the year. So, I call it a win!  Small steps people!  I am so proud of the kids.  Next year will be even better.  I know it.

3. I am Not Invincible, But At Least My Admin Believes in Me. I like to think that I am invincible.  That nothing is going to bring me down, except for maybe myself.  And, that was definitely the case this year.  I won’t go into details, but I did have an incident this year that caused me to pause.  I can’t change what happened, but I can say that students can be unpredictable and retaliate in damaging ways.  Luckily for me, I have some students that know who I am, what I stand for, and what my students mean to me.  They were honest and I commend them for that.  I also learned that I have an administration that believes in me and what I do in my classroom.  My principal understands the climate of the art room, and how it differs from an academic class.  We had a long talk about it, and when I left his office, I knew that finally, I had an administrator that finally understood.

2.  School Art vs. Authentic School Art vs. What the Student Really Wants to Make Art This was something that I had not had a ton of thoughts about until I attended a session by Justin Clumpner at NAEA16 in Chicago.  He was talking about an AP student he had who wasn’t making the work or getting anything done.  Then one day he saw her sketchbook and asked her why she wasn’t creating works like her sketches.  Her reply, “I didn’t think I could.  I didn’t think this was ‘school art’.”  I thought that was an interesting concept…school art.  In TAB, we talk a lot about “authentic art”, and what our students are making is authentic art.  And, I thought that I encouraged authentic art and that my kids were making what THEY wanted to make.

That was until the end of April this year.  I happened to come across a tweet by one of my art 1 students of a painting she had just finished at her house.  I tweeted back to her that I thought she should do that in class.  When I talked with her about it the next school day, I asked her why she didn’t do this stuff in class.  She said she couldn’t figure out how to work it into the themes we were doing.   That’s when the lightbulb went off.  As much as I thought I was empowering my students to bring their own life into their artwork, and as much as I encourage authentic art…maybe I wasn’t doing all that I could.  I don’t have an answer yet as to how to really encourage it more, but I have an idea to work through over the summer.

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The Twitter Painting

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The Final Artwork

And, just as an aside, while this girl in particular worked hard all year, I never saw her work like the way she did on that final painting.  She learned so much and was so proud, and I could tell she was a little sad (but still proud) when I said I wanted to keep it to display in August when we returned to school.

1. Knowing You’re on the Right Track  Deep down in my heart, I know that TAB is what is best for my students.  It keeps them engaged.  It really helps them to grow artistically. And, it makes them think and reflect.  My years of running a TAB studio have been my favorite years of teaching.  But, sometimes, it is hard.  Sometimes you feel like the kids just aren’t getting it.  You feel like maybe the “others” are right, and you aren’t really teaching them anything.  You doubt yourself and your program.

But, then something happens. You assign a completely open final artwork for your art 1 students.  You see 90% engagement. You see growth at its peak. You see that they have been paying attention all year.  You see the research and the planning, the trials and errors, the experimentation, and the pushing forward all come out of the students.  Yes, I was physically exhausted for the last 2.5 weeks of school.  Yes, my room was a constant mess, for which I apologized to Connie, my custodian, on a daily basis.  But, I was happy.  I was proud.  I knew I didn’t need to doubt.  I hope to remember this next year when I will more than likely doubt myself again.  I can’t wait to display all this wonderful art in August.  I did include a few pieces from my art 2 class’ final work, Artists Work in a Series, in the slide show.

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Hope your year was as good as mine.  After I finish recharging over the summer, I will look forward to implementing what I learned from this year.  And I do want to take this opportunity to say thanks to my tribe for helping me and encouraging me along the way.

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Journey of an Artwork

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I want to share a story.  The tale of the journey an artwork.  Today a student’s piece finally found where it was going. She started with a proposal to make some kind of moving box…I don’t even know. I didn’t quite understand it.  But, she jumped in and started working, trying to figure out how to make it move.  She cut thin cardboard into enough squares and rectangles to make a box. She found some string and 2 buttons to help pull the walls down.

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When she got frustrated because she couldn’t make it do what she wanted, she took the box and began to spray paint. Every day she did a different side, experimenting with the spray paint.  Trying different color combos and using different tools.  Learning all this on her own.  She then decided she would instead turn her box into a lampshade.

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After completing the forth side, she came back into the room, her face all lit up with the spark of a new idea.  “I have a new idea Mrs. Barnett” she said. She began taking tape off her lampshade.  A little while later she came to me with 5 smaller pieces; each from a different part of her box. She found a silver piece of matboard in the cardboard bin.  She said, this is what I want it to be.  She was so happy.  I could tell she was much more in love with this piece. So was I.

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I write about this because I think that TAB has allowed this type of focus of the journey and the process.  If I had decided on the lesson and artwork ahead of time, my student would not have had the chance to stray, to experiment with different ways to work with spray paint, to problem solve, to experience the artistic process first hand. She was able to see that ideas change over time.  And to see that it is okay.

TAB and the Single Media Art Class

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From time to time, I come across the question of how to run a class that has a single focus such as painting, printmaking, or ceramics following a TAB pedagogy.  It seems as if people think it isn’t possible to be fully TAB because the students don’t have 100% choice of everything.  I mean, the medium is already chosen for them.

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Well, I think it is possible, and I have been running my ceramic classes that way for the past couple of years.  It has evolved into the almost fully student-led class it is today, but there is always room for improvement.

As we know, TAB isn’t just about giving the students free reign over things. It’s about a way of thinking and about the process of going from conception through to end product and all the steps in between. So, since it isn’t about a product so to speak, that leaves room for lots of exploration, skill building, and concept growth.

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I have three levels of ceramics…beginning, intermediate, and advanced.  My program is small, so intermediate and advanced meet at the same time.  I think that is better anyway.  Our classes run for a full year.  I start off my beginners with a bunch of “have to” projects. Yes, I know, not very TAB, but I think this lays the ground work for moving to full student driven work.  We spend the first semester learning basic hand-building techniques: a slab box with rolled in texture, a carved pinchpot sphere, a carved tile, and a coil built vessel with some kind of additive texture.  We also spend some time on the wheel. The students do have some choice aesthetically, but in the end, I have picked the project for them and I know the outcome.

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Once we get passed that, we move to themes.  I came up with a bunch of themes and put them on the class’ website.  Under each theme, I asked some questions to help them begin thinking about how they could interpret the theme.  From there, they can pick a theme that speaks to them and begin the creative process.  They decide how to build.  They decide size.  They decide clay type (we have low-fire, mid-fire for the wheel, and porcelain).  They also decide their time schedule.  They work at their pace.  No longer is the class all together in the same place working on the same thing.  My intermediate and advanced classes work in the same way, but without the have-to projects at the beginning of the year.  We do start together with the same theme–just to get back into the flow and shake off the summer, but after that, they can move into their own groove.  If a student wants to repeat a theme, they can.  If a students doesn’t like any of the themes, they can come up with their own.  Once pieces are bisqued, they also get to choose surface treatments.  Not all students like to glaze, so I have tried to show and display many other non-glaze treatments.  This really gives a lot of variety to the pieces my students create.

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Another great thing about keeping the class student-led is that it really allows for mistakes and taking risks.  Students don’t have the looming deadline over them of a piece they may not even want to be doing.  If a piece blows up in the kiln because I rushed it or it falls apart because they didn’t score/slip properly, the kids have been okay with that. They move on to the next thing and figure out what went wrong so they don’t do it again.  If something they are building isn’t coming out right, they are more willing to fix it or take it apart and try again because they know their project isn’t being graded and that I am instead looking at their artistic process, habits, and growth.

As for assessment, I do follow the same thing I do for all of my classes.  Each student has a blog and has to write about artistic behaviors every other week to let me know what they are doing and how they are progressing and thinking like artists.  However, for the past 6 or so weeks, we have been playing with a combination blendspace and the blog.


As my class evolves, I am working on changing up the ceramic reader I have created to be more helpful to the students.  I am also going to implement what I plan on calling “Technique Tuesday”.  I have created a list of things I think the students should know how to do and what they are, such as press molds, sprigs, 2 part molds, different tools, glazing techniques, etc.

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I really enjoy running my ceramic classes under the TAB pedagogy.  My students have really began to flourish.  I can see them applying the techniques they have learned.  They are creating pieces that are important to them.  It allows them to be always working and not waiting on classmates to finish in order to move on.  It allows them to stop a project for a while and come back to it later.  One of my intermediate students, Julia, is working on a willow tree.  She has been all year.  But, she also has worked on other pieces when she tires of it.  She comes back to it with more interest each time.  It is a fabulous piece. Another student, Frank, has been able to work in a more “make it up as I go” type fashion…which is where his work flourishes and becomes fabulous.  Having “projects” wouldn’t work for him.  A beginning student, Braeden, has completely blown me away this year because the TAB atmosphere has allowed him to follow his path.  He has learned how to make his own clay, how to create his own wood ash glaze, and he is close to surpassing me on the wheel.  If I made him to projects, he wouldn’t have realized that working in ceramics is what he wants to do with his life after high school.DSC_0383.jpg

I am writing about my experience, but I think this can be done in any single-medium class. It’s all about giving them the reins to drive what interests them.  They will learn the process as they go along.  It’s about learning through exploration.  Because it is single-media, they really get to know the ins and outs; therefore, since so much time isn’t spent learning multiple mediums, they can really focus more on message, process, and content. Which, in my opinion, leads to higher quality work.

NAEA 2016: Chi-Town (part 2: the sessions)

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imag5687_1.jpgWhat is the most important part of going to a National Art Ed Conference? If judging by my first post, Chi-Town (part 1: the intro), you would think it was hanging out with friends.  And you would be right.  But, just a small percentage point behind that is the sessions.  I mean, I did pay to go to some relevant professional development so I can become an even better, more awesome teacher. I don’t want to go too awesome though, I don’t think my students could handle that.  😉

imag5601.jpgSince I am somewhat old school, I wasted a whole bunch of trees and printed out a copy of the sessions.  Yes, I know that I would get a program once in Chicago, but that’s not very helpful to a planner like me.  (Don’t be too mad, I did print them double-sided.)  I sat down in my kitchen with my coffee, my stack of papers, my yellow marker, and my phone.  As I read thru the sessions, I circled the ones that were interesting to me.  Then I would fire up the conference app on my phone and add them to my agenda.  Is this a little more work, maybe, but who wants to carry a quarter ream of paper around the McCormick? Not me.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do.  In case you didn’t know, I teach all TABbish and my interest is finding better ways to run my TAB classroom so it is more meaningful for my students. However, there are a couple of problems that I come across at art ed conferences.  I teach high school, and it seems the majority of sessions (especially TAB/choice) are aimed at elementary. Also, out of the TAB/Choice sessions, many are geared towards getting people interested in TAB/Choice.  I am already interested, I don’t need to go to those.  So, while I did attend one or two of those sessions (my fav being “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the Way”, presented by Julie Toole, Nan Hathaway, and Ian Sands),imag5836_1.jpgI opted against most because I would rather give up my seat to someone who needs to learn about TAB/choice and their awesomeness.  And, I am glad I did because those sessions were packed.  I mean, standing room only, out the door packed.  This makes my heart happy, by the way.  IMAG3327_1

So, powers that be at NAEA who deal with choosing sessions for NYC, we need more sessions on TAB…at all levels and areas of interest (getting to know vs. already am in love with) of TAB.  Obviously it is a hot topic and people want to know.  I, personally, am willing to present a session or two or three about TAB at the secondary level.  I know some others too who would be as well.  Hell, we would even do some joint presenting.  Just sayin’….

Over the course of the 3 days, I attended 15 sessions.  One was not all that, and only 1 did I walked out.  I lucked out and found 13 good/great sessions.  Don’t worry, I won’t go over each session, but I will give you some highlights.

10612715_10107362239544810_1343979125320880173_nI started off the conference with a great session called “Break theimag5692_1.jpg
Wheel”, presented by Chris Wills.  His session was about brainstorming and ways to help students get over the creative block.  It really got me fired up to go.  He had us do a small version of his activity called “60“.  I really enjoyed the activity.
I enjoyed it so much that I brought it back to my classroom and used it already.  At first my kids were all, “what the…”, but after completing the activity, which we only did for 20 minutes, they were glad we did and I think they have some ideas to work from for the next artworks.
After that I was pumped and went to a couple of more sessions that day.  One was a look at the way the AP portfolio was “graded”.  While I don’t teach AP, I was able to take some things away from this.  The presenter talked about looking into the creative process and being able to imag5699_1.jpgcapture the day to day…which is something I am working on in my classroom.  There is so much more to artwork than just the final product, and wouldn’t it be great to allow our students to showcase the process instead of just the end of it?

Rounding out the day was a presentation by Jeff Pridie that made me think about what my program goals were and why my program should be there.  And a session by the Journal Fodder Junkies.  I had seen them before in NOLA and was excited to see them again.  Every year they encourage me to have my students develop visual journals.  Maybe next year will be the year I incorporate them.

Friday started off big as well.  “Art Without Authority” was standing room only.  Presenter Justin Crumpner is an art teacher from Dallas, and he feels the same way about our state VASE competition as I do…so right then I knew I liked this guy.  The more he talked, the more I realized that he believed in the TAB philosophy, but just didn’t know there were others out there like him.  In the middle of the session I texted Liz asking why he was not part of our tribe.  He talked about his realization of moving to student-centeredness when he had an AP student that wouldn’t finish her work.  But, when he saw her sketchbook that was filled with fabulousness and asked her why she wasn’t doing that in class, she replied, “I didn’t think I could do this.  I didn’t think this was “school art”.”  WOW!   Seriously, talk about a way to start reflecting on your teaching practice.  Anyway, he said some things during his presentation that were right on:  “Your (students) work is VALID”; “their voice (student) = your voice (teacher)”; and “create a climate; don’t create winners and losers”. Of course I paraphrased that last one, but still… If you missed his presentation, you can still see it.  He posted it on his blog.  As a final note, we (Liz, Hillary and I) did run into him later on in the conference, we talked over a beer, and he ended up coming to our TAB meet-up.  He has since joined our tribe on the Midwest TAB teachers page.  I look forward to meeting up with him again next year in Fort Worth/Dallas at the TAEA 2016 conference.

I know I am getting long winded and I still have more to say, so bear with me.  I attended Joy Schultz‘ presentation where she talked about choice and her students use of Blendspace.  She had the presenter’s nightmare where the technology was non-existent. But, being the rockstar she is, went on like it was no big deal.  Again, standing room only.

I attended a session on authentic assessment in a choice classroom presented by 2 elementary teachers.  While it was interesting, and it gave rise to a sudden interest in a badge system, it wasn’t anything really new to me.  I am not sure I will use a badge system, but it is something worth looking at–extrinsic versus intrinsic rewards.

Ian dragged us to a session called “New Weird Ideas”.  There were four presenters and they each talked about how they set the tone for the beginning of the year.  And of course, they said the same thing that I kept hearing over and over through out the conference…”Focus on the process and how to make the process meaningful.”  It is at this point I should mention that they presenters were giving away free e-zines and Ian drafted Andy to go get us some…you would think that a 6′-4″, lean guy would be able to leap his way up to the front and procure some, but noooooooo….smh.  No e-zines for us.

Saturday was the last day of sessions.  We got there in time to see “Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way” where Nan dropped this gem, “If there were no grades in art, how would that affect your work?”  Just let that sink in.  Yeah.  Exactly.

I didn’t really have any sessions lined up for the day, so luckily, I was with Ian who did. We went to a session about Shepard Fairey.  There is a lot more to him than I thought there was.  I left with the idea of “post-museum art“, which is art of the people; it’s an interesting concept.  Ian and I also went to a session on maker spaces.  I am now considering trying to get a 3-D printer, some paper circuits, and conductive ink.  For more info on maker spaces, check out the Makelab.

Our final stop of the day was one that Ian and I are very interested in.  It was titled “Stop Grading Art!”  It started off great with ideas like we should moved from being art focused (fixed mindset) to learning focused (growth mindset), and questions like what is the purpose of grading, what are my standards, and what are my learning objectives/goals? Next he talked about looking for evidence of learning.  It was here that it became frustrating and where I wanted to just start arguing with the presenter. He wasn’t talking about getting rid of grading (which is what we had hoped the session was about), and he was basically using assessment and grading as interchangeable terms, which of course they are not.  There was nothing new learned from this, and it seemed that he was pushing grading in art as we know it now, but with a different language.  His example was very simple, and didn’t really seem to assess any learning.  He said the learning objective (from either the state or national standards) was to provide multiple solutions to a problem.  And the evidence of learning was based on how many thumbnails a student created.  There was a cute rubric that went with it too.  How is that really assessing the learning?  That is just grading on how well a student jumped through a hoop.   And, that is what I am trying to get away from.  I walked out of the session frustrated, but with lots to think about; so #winning?  I got stuck on what my learning objectives really are and how to see the evidence of that learning.  So, while I walked out with a new conversation in my head, I’m not sure I needed a session to get me there…I have already been on that path.  Maybe I will figure something out and present on this topic next year in NYC.

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This post shows just a snippet into some of the notes I took.  If you could see my imag5715_1.jpgnotebook, your head would be swimming too.  I took a lot away from this conference–things I want to bring to my program, things to stay away from, ways to enhance the process more and to bring the kids to “buy in” sooner.  Overall, the sessions I went to and the buzz I heard about other “popular” sessions made me realize that I am on the right path in my teaching philosophy.  I look forward to hopefully presenting next year at both the TAEA [Texas] conference and the NAEA17 conference.  ::hint, hint::  I promise my sessions won’t disappoint.

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.