I have found that sketchbooks are a good way to level the playing field
especially with students who are insecure about art abilities. I tell them
my weekly assignments are the "bread and butter" of their grade. Do them
conscientiously, spending abou an hour a week, and getting them in on time
usually gets them an "A." Late sketches are automatically given a 30%
reductiion in grade or more if they are bad. As sketchbooks count for 30%
of the overall grade, the hard-workers can afford to "slip" in class and
get a "B" occasionally, yet the sketchbook scores boost them to a semester
grade of "A." The non-motivated find that classroom "B" slips to a "C"
because of the sketchbook homework.
I always assign the subject for the drawings in the early art classes, but
by the third year, the only requirement is to draw from observation. AP
students are allowed to use weekly sketches to make plans for their next
I try to make sketchbook drawings serve a purpose with future class
assignments. When we do printmaking in January, most students have 15
possible subjects already in their sketchbooks. Once again, the
conscientious are rewarded. Those who have done poorly will have to
struggle to come up with a new idea.
Frankly, this one requirement does discourage some students from taking
art. "It's too much work," said one. Curiously, another told me, "I think
more people would take art if you could cheat on the homework.
Unfortunately, you just can't get together with someone who has done the
work and just copy their answers." I suppose if I scare some off because of
this, it may not be such a bad thing.
In addition to weekly sketchbook assignments, I require a gallery visit
every marking period.