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Since you asked about my elementary K-5 choice-based art class, I'll describe
it briefly here. For those of you who are familiar with Karen Ernst, she
offers a wonderful description of her choice-based room in her new book, "A
Teacher's Sketch Journal" (Heinemann, 1997).
I have six stations in my room. They open one by one, during September and
October, and I go over the rules and expectations for each station with each
class as it opens. Always available are: Drawing, 3-D Construction, Computer
(for 2) and Clay. The other two stations change - in the fall we had Collage
and Painting; now it's Paper Mache and Puppetry. Later on, we'll have Fiber
Arts and Printmaking. Some stations require a 2 or 3-week commitment. The
trick is to have everything out and available, so children don't have to ask
me where things are. Anything I don't want them to use is put out of sight.
If students don't clean up a station at the end of class, the class loses
that station the next week. Management usually runs pretty well, unless I am
not prepared. I still do some whole group lessons, because there are certain
skills everyone needs (and those standards to consider). My K's and 1's use
the stations less because they have a lot of skills to learn! Art History
enters in relation to specific activities - for example, I might show them
Lucy Lewis' work when we open the clay center, or read about artists as they
are working. Obviously, choice works best if you have a room. I tried it on a
cart for a while, but found it too physically demanding. I do know someone
who did it on a cart successfully; she arranged boxes with supplies for each
station, and students did the set-up. You have to REALLY want choice to make
it work on a cart.
Students love to share their work, and we try to allow some time at the end
of class for that. Their work is so much richer than anything I could dream
up for them to do! John has made an entire air fleet of clay, which inspired
many more planes from younger students. Christine is making a huge paper
mache dragon for our office. Matthew discovered that he's good at watercolor.
Yes, sometimes it gets a little crazy, but it makes educational sense to me
and that's why I offer choices to my students.