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"So called" esteem building????? You BET it was esteem building for this
kid! He's a senior with very poor hand/eye coordination, and is ADD with
other learning difficulties to boot. This art class is a one-shot deal for
him before who knows what. Self-esteem is a MAJOR issue, coupled with lack
of motivation, and the inability to settle down and really be productive.
We'd been through a guided introduction to portraiture, first, and he had
produced a reasonably good initial portrait but was frustrated with his
The kids were allowed to work from a photograph of their choice, and he said
he'd like to do one of Buffalo Bill (I think it was) but "knew" he couldn't
do it, why try, etc. So I suggested that he blow up the photo on the copier
and then trace the outlines to get correct placement of features. The
"tracing" took maybe 5 minutes, but this kid then WORKED for 3 days on his
portrait--taking the time to fill in details, learn about shading, etc.,
etc. He said it was the best thing he'd ever done, and he was very proud of
it. And I was very proud of him for sticking with a project and working to
the best of HIS ability.
We matted it, and he's giving it to his mom for Christmas. AND, based on
that success, he went on do to two other portraits (by just looking at the
photos he was working from) during this unit. While they're not as
technically "accurate" as the one he first traced, he had gained the
confidence and had acquired enough skill to try more on his own.
The process IS important in art education, but the product can be equally
important. Tracing is a tool--not THE tool--that can be used in the art
room and I feel that its occasional use in NO WAY "diminishes the artist or
And as to the other tracing I mentioned--the Shrinky Dinks that we used as
an end of semester filler and after exam activity--this was successful and
fun, too. The kids traced some, drew their own, mixed and matched, and
generally had a good time with this.
The overall curriculum is challenging and academic, and these kids are
LEARNING! In addition to their studio time, they have weekly reading and
written assignments that either relate to what we're studying at the time OR
that focus on a particular artist, and they also have weekly careful
observation homework drawing assignments.
Today the last group of students finished an 8 page comprehensive exam that
included questions on artists and art periods, on the elements on art, on
brain function (as it pertains to creativity), and on the cultural
significance and purposes of mask-making. The exam also had skill problems
on such things as value scales, proportion, figure drawing, atmospheric
perspective, linear perspective, etc., etc.
I've found that when students are able to achieve success, they are more
open to accepting new challenges. I'm very concerned, too, about what I'm
teaching my students (grades 5-12), and I'm very excited about what they are
producing. (Before secondary school, I worked 7 years in an elementary
school, and loved that, too.)
Over the Thanksgiving break I started learning HTML and I'm in the very
early process of developing a webpage that (among other things) features
some of my students' art and some lesson plans. (The big picture on the main
page is just one and a half walls of a 4 wall, 14 easel exhibit.) More art
and lesson plans will be added (as I have the time to do so!) The address
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