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Re: [teacherartexchange] Units--what are the questions?


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2006 - 06:43:16 PDT

>How does one come up with or create units in order to
>build lessons around them. Is there some starting
>point and systematic "system". No one has yet to
>explain or teach how to do this.
Kathryn (new teacher) from Missouri


This should be taught in college, but it is hard to learn in college. Most art students do not yet have the teaching experience needed to get their minds around the issues. College art students are still figuring out how to be an artist. Teaching art is still a foreign land.

An art unit is a series of learning experiences (also called lessons) that are used by our students to practice the kinds of skills, expression, and thinking that is needed to live a creative, fulfilling, and productive life. An art unit facilitates learning to make life successful and make the world we all share a better place?

Making an art learning unit is like making any other work of art. Just as every artist must use their own creative approach, every art teacher must use their own creative approach to improve the unit every time it is used. Just as we move our art forward based on review and reflection, our teaching is always renewed by critiquing what we just did. There is always new learning that the teacher gets is is based on the successes and failures the last time the unit was used. We used to do this with notes in the margins our lesson. Today it is done with edits to our computer files.

My first list is based on student needs. As the art teacher, what do I think every student needs learn from me that is essential for a successful life--whether or not they become artists? What is unique that I as an art teacher offer that no other teacher is apt to offer that is essential for successful lives in the future? What is it that only I teach that makes the world a better place in the future?

We each have our own lists, but this is what needs to be in every unit we teach. If we lack a list like this, why are we teaching? Every art teacher must also use their own creative approach and they need to improve it every semester based on reflection and new learning.

My second list (sometimes I think this should be the first list) has to do with me, the teacher. In what ways am I particularly competent as an artist, a person, and as a teacher? What can I do best? What do I have to change about my personality and methods to make my students want to teach themselves and learn in my classes because of my influence? What are the mistakes am I making that I need to learn from? How long since a master teacher has visited my class and given me feedback about my strengths and weaknesses? What feedback am I getting from my students?
How can I care, rather than preach?
How can I share, rather then teach?
Again, this list is unique for every teacher, and it must be tweaked every semester.

My third list is for those external requirements set by the administration, the state, etc. By the time we do the first two lists, this list will largely take care of itself, but we have to write it down to show the authorities who pay us. Lists I and II are for ourselves. List III is for the authorities. It shows how List I and II fulfill List III. I would always start with LIST I and II. If we sweat the big stuff, the little stuff falls into place.

I will not bore you with my personal lists for art units.
If you have visited to my web site you can probably guess what my UNITS would NOT look like.

from Marvin Bartel -- a Missouri art teacher from 1995 to 1970

Nine things NOT to put in our UNITS

Twelve UNIT ideas that nobody else in the school is likely to teach:

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