>Subject: Need advise for painting lesson
>From: "Joe Cox" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2006 11:33:02 -0600
>I am in need of some advise. I have committed my beginning high school
>students to an art contest/show where each student will do an acrylic
>painting on a 24 x 30 stretched canvas. The sponsoring organization got
>supplies donated to the teachers so this was an opportunity to receive free
>supplies and I got 79 canvas, acrylic paints, lots of brushes, markers and
>other assorted supplies. When I signed up I didn't realize that I would
>receive such a nice donation, it is a bit overwhelming. The paintings the
>students have to do is "Their Hero in Action". They have to paint someone
>who is a living person or has lived that they feel is their hero. Now this
>is a beginning art class so the skill levels vary greatly. Therefore, I am
>having a hard time figuring out how to approach this lesson so that the
>student won't feel overwhelmed. If you have any suggestions please send
>them on I would love the help.
>One other question. How do you keep students from wasting paint? For
>example squeezing a whole puddle of paint when they only need a little bit
>and then washing the what they don't use the drain?
This assignment sounds frightening, but it has huge potential if seen as a creative challenge. I would see it as a challenge for me in learning how to teach. My first step would be to do the assignment myself. I would NOT show my work to the students. I would do it because it is the best way for me to review and learn how to better understand all the choices and skills sets that need to be introduced and learned (not shown or taught, but learned). As I worked on developing symbolism and the technical challenges in my hero painting, I would be imagining how it would be to do this for the first time as a student. I would be planning choice making assignments and a set of preparation experiments and experiences that are easy enough for the students, but hard enough to be challenging, and all necessary for the preparation for the final painting task. I think I would share with them who my hero is and have them guess the reasons I picked this person (see below for my choice).
I would keep in mind that the purpose of this assignment is not to win any prizes (nice if it happens). To simply mimic a nice painting might win a prize, but that would be mere production training. It is a nobler purpose for students to learn HOW TO LEARN new skills and to learn how to meet new challenges in creative ways. That is education. In the end, the assessment is as much about what we learned about learning as it is about how well we painted.
Lastly, even if the paintings are not all professional looking, what a teacher learns about teaching can be more important than anything the students learn about painting. The most important part of the lesson may be what the teacher learns from mistakes and successes. What the teacher learns will be useful for many more students in the future.
Enjoy the opportunity and the challenge. May each of your students be a winner in their own minds.
P.S. I might decide to hang my own painting in the classroom or out in the hall after their final critique sessions, if I felt it would provide inspiration for somebody to continue their quest for higher skill, expressiveness, and quality through continued practice. I think I would paint Bill Smith, my ninth grade metal shop teacher, as my hero.