Tag Archives: lessons

New Year, New Curriculum

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Summer is over for me as in-service starts on Monday the 7th.  And, that means it is time to shake off the sun, which is hard in Texas.  Anyway, with the start of the new year comes new lessons, new ideas, and new curriculum to be implemented.

Curriculum: the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program.

Since I am the only ceramics teacher, I am in charge of my own curriculum for those courses.  And, the ceramics curriculum is going to be the biggest thing I will implement this year.

For some years now, I have taught my ceramics classes in a way that lends itself to my TAB philosophy that I follow.  My purpose is for the students to be able to think like ceramic artists by the end of their time in those classes.  That includes knowing about clay, glazes, and different techniques to achieve the ideas the artist wants to create.  I have structured my classes as a teacher-led beginning, with the first semester leaning more towards a choice class with “projects” I have designed to teach the basic building techniques ceramicists use.  From there, we move into a more TAB atmosphere with themes and the students using the design process while interpreting those themes.  My upper classes have even more freedom to either take or leave the themes.

I have found that most students were not really understanding how ceramic artists work nor were they able to think like one…relying too much on me and very low-level ceramic skills.  That when I finally made the connection that I needed to dump themes like I had in my art 1 and art 2 classes, and move to a more unit based curriculum…but not units based necessarily on the artistic behaviors that I use in art 1 and art 2.  Instead, I needed to come up with common artistic behaviors that ceramicists use.  Creating 3-dimensional objects requires a different mindset and understanding that creating 2-dimensional artwork.

I racked my brain for what I had learned and seen over the years in ceramic arts, and invented a list of things I felt that ceramic artists did when creating their work.  Many are based on the type of work they create and how they create that work.  I will take those behaviors and structure the units like I do my normal units–with 3 parts: digging deeper, challenge, and your turn.  In the digging deeper students will define some pertinent words to the behavior, students will watch and analyze a video about an artist that works in that fashion, and then will find examples of ceramic art in that style.  For the challenge…well, I don’t know yet how that will work…but, I’m not too worried about it right now.  And of course, the your turn section.  I think that is self-explanatory.

My plan on using this is to start with my intermediate/advanced class and have them be the guinea pigs.  Once the beginning class has finished the first semester and is ready to move onto the units, I will have tried them once and can tweak what is needed so they will be able to use them.  Basically, intermediate/advanced will be a semester ahead.  And, in the long run, it should work out that those in advanced next year will be able to truly be full TAB having been through the ceramic behavior units.  (I hope that makes sense because it does in my head.)

Here is my list of ceramic behaviors:

  • Artists Work in a Series 
  • Artists Explore Color 
  • Artists Explore Surface Treatments
  • Artists Work Conceptually 
  • Artists Create Realism 
  • Artists Communicate 
  • Artists Work Decoratively
  • Artists Work Functionally 
  • Artists Develop a Style 
  • Artists Create Installations 
  • Artists Work “Figure”atively

This is all a work in progress, but I feel that it will be very successful.  My move away from themes and into AB units in art 1 and art 2 were highly successful in my students becoming artists, so the natural conclusion is this will too.

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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.

Year in Review: Part 2: Things Learned and Things to Learn

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In this part of my reflection on the 2014-15 school year, I decided that I would look back over the changes that took place by bringing TAB/CBE into my classroom.  While I have offered modified choice in my room for a while, this was the first year to fully implement the TAB pedagogy. It has been a huge learning experience, both for my students and for me.

I had heard and read about all the wonderful things that have an open studio could do, but to be honest, I was still skeptical.  Could my student population really do well with such freedom?  The answer is yes.

Let’s start with some positives from this year:

  • P1050661Kids worked through artwork until they were satisfied…at times starting a new piece because it just wasn’t working.  This just amazed me.  I’ve had kids work hard on things before, but never with the fervor I’ve seen this year.  They pushed themselves. And it paid off.
  • Kids learned from other kids on how to do something I didn’t teach them.  They would see something someone else had discovered and asked how to do it.
  • Kids tried new things, even when previously saying they didn’t like such-n-such medium. Some would try out a material, such as clay, just to discover they still didn’t like it.  Others would finally break away from what was known to the, only to find a new love.
  • Clean-up/ownership of materials and tools.  I have to clean a lot less than in previous years.  I am not seeing a mis-use of materials (paper, paint, etc.–except for ez-cut.) Trusting my kids to be responsible with tools and materials was probably my biggest hang-up when moving to full choice. But, I was pleasantly surprised when tools got returned, when I still had erasers at the end of the year, and when the majority of brushes were cleaned.  I think that giving the students trust to maintain the studio was a big factor in this area.
  • I am noticing I use the word kids a lot.  My students are in high school and probably wouldn’t want to be called kids, and they aren’t related to me, but they feel like my kids.  This year I have had the most comfortable relationships with students.  I know more (and some things I would like to forget..can you say tmi?) about my students this year than I ever have before.  I think thP1060155is stems from a combination of reading their blog posts and the type of conversations I was able to have with my students.  Because I wasn’t focused on them creating a certain thing or following a specific rubric, I was able to go deeper with them into their work and their lives.
  • Lots of growth happened this year.  Not every student grew.  Some kids are just there for the credit.  They don’t care one way or another, and no matter what you say/do or don’t say/do isn’t going to change that.  There were classes I took in both HS and at my first college where I felt the same.  It’s normal.  It’s okay.  And I accept that.  But, for the majority of students, they did care.  I saw them push themselves.  Some grew in drawing skills.  Others in painting.  Some grew in meaning put into their artwork.  I had a couple that finally stopped copying things from the interwebs and began making their own.  One student who did the bare minimum for 90% of the year finally came alive at the end once he realized he could things in an anime style if that is what interested him.  He didn’t pass, but he promised me that the flame I saw at the end would be there for the whole time next year.  I have a hundred stories to tell about student growth.  It makes me smile when I think about them.P1040736
  • The art making didn’t always stop with just creating the theme artwork.  Many students just kept going.  They wanted to create this or that, so I let them.  Why stop the creativity?  Why make them sit there and do nothing?
  • My school is a 1:1 macbook, and this year I felt I really had the students using the computers in a positive way.  We weren’t using it just because it was an expectation.  We were using it to communicate and reflect.  The website/blogs created by the students and by myself were a great thing, even if their writing needs some help.

While I did change things during the year to better meet the needs of the students, I still have areas that need addressing over the summer.  And of course, there are areas I feel that if I just changed it up a bit, students would be more successful.

  • Helping the students to understand why we do the blogs.  We started out with artist behaviors.  The students wrote about what they were doing and addressing the behaviors.  I thought P1040846they were moving along and understanding things.  So, we moved to artist statements after winter break. Nope. Most students weren’t there yet.  I then gave them the option to either do an artist statement or pick 2 behaviors like we did previously.  After reading their end of year surveys, I know they didn’t really see the point of them.  A handful of students did (and by handful I mean like 5), but the majority couldn’t see the point of writing in art and thought it was just busy work or for a grade. This is good to know.  I know my student population has an issue with writing, and I am sure that our state testing is partially to blame.  They are not good at writing, sad to say.  But, what I gleam from all this is that need to help them to see that artists write about what they do.  That reflecting on the actions they are doing can help them grow as an artist.  And, that writing is not just for English and History class.
  • I did well creating demos for the students, but I feel I could do more.  I feel that I left some things up in the air…like color mixing…and some kids never explored that on their own.  Perhaps if I give them a taste of what color mixing could do…it could bring more life to their artwork.
  • The students have the ideas, they just need a bit more help as to what is possible oP1050608ut there–both in image, media, and technique.  How do I get them to see beyond the typical art room materials?  How can I encourage them to try something new?  How can I get them to go deeper and think further beyond the obvious? I need to address my line of questioning, the way images get shown to them for inspiration, and helping them to make more dynamic composition decisions.
  • This is the first year I had all 3 sculpture levels doing ceramics.  It was a lot of trial and error. While the students were happy with how things ran, it could be better.  I haven’t figured this out yet, but I will…even if every year we change some things to make it better.
  • Themes were tricky.  Ones that I thought would be killer…dropped dead.  I like working with the themes and I think, especially for my art 1 kiddos, they worked well.  Feedback said the students liked to have a starting point for their artwork.  Things I have been considering for next year…giving the entire list of themes and having them pick as they please…but then how would our padlet brainstorming work with that method.  Having the students suggest themes and then having a vote.  Something else?P1060109
  • Feedback and critique needs to change…big time.  I give personal feedback as I walk around, but I feel I miss students or I hit them too late in the process and they have yet to fully understand things can still be changed and you can go back to an earlier stage.  I want to do critiques more…especially mid-project. (And definitely mid-project in ceramics.)  I am hoping that this topic will be brought up at the TAB Institute this summer so someone can help me to suss this out.

I have more questions, but this has gone on long enough.  I feel that I will always have questions and that is a good thing.  I can’t become stagnant and complacent in my art studio.  No one will benefit from that. All in all, it was a fabulous year.  I mean, there wasn’t one day this year where I woke up and said I didn’t want to go to work.  That says something…don’t you think?  And I know that things will just get better and better if I keep putting my students first by helping them to think like artists and behave like artists and create like artists.

Big changes are on the horizon at my school.  Our entire admin staff is changing.  We are getting a new principal and moving from 4 assistant principals to an assistant, an associate, and a dean of curriculum. And, they will all be new people.  I’ve had a chance to sit and chat with our new principal.  He is very easy to talk to.  I told him about all the changes that I’ve done this past year.  I talked aboP1050334ut TAB and choice and the pedagogy.  He thought it was wonderful and that it aligned with something that was talked about at some principals/superintendents conference.  That made me happy and feel that I was doing the right thing.  And, surprisingly, when I said my final good-bye to our current principal, he said something I never thought he would.  We didn’t always see eye to eye, and sometimes I thought he just didn’t notice and didn’t understand.  But, he told me to keep doing what I was doing.  To keep my expectations high and keep pushing the students.  He said that that is what they will remember and what they will appreciate.

And to that, I say, they do.  And I will.

Let There Be Light?

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Light:    

  1. the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.  
  2. understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment.
  3. (of a color) pale.
  4. of little weight; easy to lift.
  5. gentle or delicate.
  6. (of entertainment) requiring little mental effort; not profound or serious.
  7. (of persona) good; vs. evil (dark)

This was our theme.  Seems like there could be a myriad of possibilities.  I thought it would be “easier” that our previous theme of “Sound“.  Unfortunately, it was much harder than I thought it would be for my students.

I don’t know if it was the theme or if it is just that time of year.  (To be honest, I have hit that proverbial wall that often shows it face in February as we are just on the cusp of beginning the last 2 marking periods of the school year.  But, I digress.)  While a few knocked it out of the park and had some deep thinking and meaning to their artwork, many just went through the motions.

Not everything that came out of this unit was bad.  It helped me to realize some things about my students, myself, and the atmosphere in the room.  My students need a break from computers.  Enter our next theme of surrealism where they will rely on their minds for ideas.  I need a break.  I know we just returned to school, but I feel like I am about to start up this huge mountain of responsibilities and I won’t get to the top until mid-April.  And, finally, my room has become too comfortable.  It’s a double-edged sword really. It’s what I wanted.  I wanted my students to want to be here.  I wanted my students to want to make art.  I wanted my room to be a living thing.  And it is all of these and it is not all these things.  I don’t know how to explain it.  I like the chaos of art making and several of my classes deliver.  But what I don’t like is just general chaos–which other classes are becoming.

So, see, this unit has brought reflection and thought for me.  This is a good thing.

Here are a few more good things that were brought about by this unit.

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The Importance of Art History?

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Admittedly, art history is probably the weakest area in my teaching.  It is something that I have never had an interest in studying.  It was one of the hardest art courses I took at both colleges I attended.  I have never figured out a way to really make the incorporation into my classes fun, interesting, and worthwhile.

It is an area that I am “supposed” to bring into my classroom.  It is part of the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) I must adhere to when creating my lesson plans.  I have skated around it for the past 7+ years saying that I add in art history by doing this activity or that activity.  At the beginning, every lesson had an art history component.  I don’t think the kids ever really made the connection between what we were doing and the artist or genre we were “studying”.  In fact, I don’t think they really cared.  Over time, I changed the activity about 7 times…that works out to be some new way to bring it in every year.  I was exhausted.

So, just how important is it that we teach our kids about what came before them?  As an artist, I usually don’t go looking into the past when working.  I am concerned about the now.  When I read about who artists were influenced by, they are usually contemporaries of that artist.  Rarely have I read that an artist was influenced by another artist that came 100 years before them.  This is not to say it doesn’t happen.  I am sure it does…I just haven’t read about it that much.  Many of the artists that I like were/are pushing the envelope of what was occurring at their time or maybe a few years before them…but still to them, contemporary.

So, it is more important that we drone on about the past or that we introduce them to what is happening today?  I lean towards the latter.  I am not dead-set in this opinion.  Convince me that I need to continue to rack my brain figuring out how to incorporate art history more that showing images of artwork that illustrates a theme.  Tell me why–beyond because it is important to learn what came before.  Tell me that it is more important to know these things for something more than being able to answer questions on Jeopardy or Trivia Crack.

 

“Art needs to be socialised, and you need a lot of context to understand that, and that doesn’t mean having read a few art history books.”                                 ~Peter M. Brant

Ceramic Spheres

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My beginning ceramics students are slowly learning the basics of hand-building in hopes that soon I can let them enter a more choice-based atmosphere.  One of the basics we learned was the pinchpot.  In Art 1, my students create pinchpot monsters.  I wanted to do more than that in beginning ceramics class.  I also wanted them to continue to practice carving, which we had done in the previous unit, carved slabs.

Students created 2 pinchpots and scored/slipped them together to form a sphere-like shape.  After letting it firm up some, they were to carve, incise, and/or cut into their sphere.

Some kids spent a lot of time figuring out their designs.  Other just went for it.  Two kids added to their sphere.  But, they all learned a lot about thinking in the round and time spent in the air.  A couple commented that their carving got better, even though it was much harder to carve a round surface than it was the flat surface.

The last thing we did was glaze them.  For this I had them choose from the test tiles they had created.  They could choose from their samples or from any sample from the other students.  Luckily they all took good notes.

Here are some of the results.

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Clay Slab Tiles

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Beginning ceramic students learned all about rolling out slabs when making their clay boxes.  So, I thought I would use the slab to let them experiment carving.  They all rolled out and cut 6″X6″ tiles.  From there they were given the “rules”.  They needed to have a minimum of 4 levels.  How that was achieved was up to them.  They were shown this Pinterest board for some examples.  They had to have a frame…again, they decided what constituted a frame.  And, one element had to break said frame.

And go.  As usual, I have a few kids that can just jump in and go for it…and get great results.  Others carefully planned and revised their designs.  I had one student wind up at our alternative center and had to work on her tile without help from me or others…she did a fabulous job.

Once they were finished, I had decided this was a great project to show them a non-glaze surface technique.  I had seen pieces done on my Facebook Art Teachers group and thought the oil pastel tempera resist would be perfect for them.  First they color the tiles with oil pastels.  I tell them to color darkly, but not to color fully.  Where ever there were holidays, the tempera would soak into the ceramic. Next they covered the entire piece with tempera.  On my example I had watered it down.  I didn’t have them do that, and they turned out just fine.  After that they held the tiles under a running stream from the faucet.  I reminded them just to let the water wash over it and not to scrub.  The water would rinse away all the tempera where they had colored with the oil pastels.  Many were nervous and seemed as if they didn’t believe me.  I love their faces when they finally saw the amazing result.  As a last step, I had them spray with a spray gloss to seal the piece.

They were super happy with their tiles.  I don’t think they ever would have though to do anything like this.  A few of them are in painting and drawing with the other art teacher and the connected what we did with the resist to a similar project they did on paper with tempera and ink.  Love when they can do that.

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Ceramic Slab Boxes

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Our first big unit in beginning ceramics class was to build a slab box that had texture, a lid, a handle, and a few added embellishments.  A fellow ceramics teacher, Jen,  was kind enough to share her lesson.  I tried it out for the first time last year.  I thought the kids did well, so I did it again this year.  I think it is a good intro to the hand-building technique of the slab.  Also, it brought in texture, a favorite aspect of mine, by use of texture rollers, adding a usable handle, and adding embellishments.

The students learned a lot about slabs.  The state of leatherhard is one they all know now.  Some really did understand the state, while other just never got there and didn’t heed advice to cover the slabs they weren’t working on at the moment, thus letting things dry out too much to use.  A couple kids did find out that you can mist way too much.

But, I did hear good conversation about using the stilts (in our case made of paint stirrers) to help keep slabs even, how much pressure to use when using texture rollers, and reminders to put in reinforcing coils.

I am pleased with the results of the boxes, even though more than one handle was either not scored/slipped right or was too fragile and broke off–unfortunately, usually by me.

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For the surface treatment, I wanted them to learn a technique that would enhance the texture created by the texture rollers.  I asked them to choose 2 glaze colors–a dark and a light.  They learned how to pour in a glaze and roll it around to cover the interior of the box.  They did this with the dark.  After that, they used the dark to brush into the texture.  Once dry, they washed off the excess leaving the color in the recesses (and as a slight stain on the flat surfaces.)  Then they brushed on the lighter color to the outside of the box, going over everything–including the dark in the texture.  The theory is that the dark will show through the light, creating an interesting surface with a bit of depth.

Not everyone followed instructions, and that is okay.  But, the ones that did created some wonderful looking boxes.

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Test Tiles Are Where It’s At

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The last 2 weeks of the marking period are always hard to come up with something meaningful to do–especially in a ceramics class.  It is not enough time to start a new project.  Luckily though, we have been working so hard on building and learning basic building techniques that we can take a break from building and focus on surface treatments.

One thing we are focusing on is creating test tiles.  Beginning students each cut 12 test tiles.  The took 6 of the tiles and left them smooth.  The other 6 were imprinted with a texture stamp.  They labeled one set 1-6A and 1-6B.

Now that they are bisque fired, they are trying different glaze combos.  They are laying 1-3 glazes on each tile.  And, what they do to 1A, they do to 1B so after glaze firing they can see how the texture could possibly effect the glazes and how it breaks, if it breaks at all.

And, of course, they are taking notes on what colors they use and how they apply the glaze.  They are taking notes not only for themselves, but for their peers as well.  The plan with these test tiles is to have the class share tiles so they have many choices.  Maybe someone else created something awesome.  They will glaze their spheres from one of the group of test tiles.

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Under Pressure

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I just had to put that as a title.  However, my students were not under any pressure.  Pressure was the latest theme for my Art 2: Painting/Drawing students.  This was an interesting theme.  The students had some wonderful ideas, but a few just never hit the mark.

I added into the mix printmaking–both collograph and block.  I also addedpainting–watercolors (paints and pencils) and acrylics.  Funny thing was, almost every student chose to use block printing.  I asked them about it after the fact and some said they really liked the carving aspect, but some said they thought they had to do block prints.  I looked at them with a questioning look on my face.  We discussed, again, that they could use any medium they wanted for their work.  Hopefully they get that now.  I am unsure what I said or did for them to get that impression.

I have 6 life skill students in my class.  Most of them chose to do block prints.  I want to highlight Noah’s.  While I am sure that what he did had no ties to pressure, I love this piece.  He has been scribbling since day one and he has developed so much.  I love this piece.

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This next piece is also by a life skills student.  Deven is one of my more advanced LS kids.  He plays football and much of his work is centered on it.  His pressure piece is no exception.

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This piece had so much potential when I talked with this student.  We talked about the pressure from people looking at us and watching us.  I think the execution missed the mark.

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The rest are pieces that are super successful.  These are my favorites from the group.

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