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Re: [teacherartexchange] Team Learning


Date: Sun Jul 13 2008 - 10:57:00 PDT

Hi Marvin,

I teach K-8 in an urban school in Somerville, MA that abuts Boston and
Cambridge. I teach 6 classes daily across grade levels so
implementing a team or peer coaching unit was an extraordinary effort
on my part and worth it in the end.

My motivation was a week long teacher institute at the Boston Public
Library last summer. The library is the oldest public library in the
country and the original classical building designed by Mckim has a
modern addition designed by Philip Johnson. The library has famous
art, statues and murals (most notably an entire hall by John Singer
Sargent that he spent 29 years creating and never quite finished).

The library and surrounding area of Copley Square is amazing and I
wanted to use my experience for an extended lesson plan. The
community where I teach is next to the public trolley system and is
also a very old community with many new additions as old homes get
torn down and or refaced.

I selected two sections of 5th grade and designed an elaborate unit
over four months. I meet the students weekly for 40 minutes and my
greatest challenge was storing the ongoing project in an art room with
limited space. I was cited for clutter by an administration that
never even knew about the project and never looked at a DVD I created
about it. The appearance of my room (stuff on top of cabinets etc) was
all that concerned them.

The teaching staff, however, had a very different response. They
could not believe the learning that took place, and begged me to
repeat this unit next year.

Essentially I began by discussing art and architecture in their own
community. I purchased disposable cameras cheap online and numbered
them. I placed the kids in project groups corresponding to the
numbers. I gave them an outside assignment (rare for the art program
in an urban school like this) to take five architectural photos each
and make a list of the order the camera would be passed around. I put
one person in charge of each camera group. When the camera came back
to me, I had the photos developed locally and numbered each package
according to the camera groups. Each group created display panels that
reflect the community where they live. Some kids took photos of a
house or public building while others just selected a window, porch,
or door style. Peer discussions took place where they compared old
vs. new and learned a great deal about architectural styles.

The next project I did was divide each class into two groups: girls
vs. boys and had each group create a cardboard architectural model
with a project manager (selected by the students) of each group. Each
week the groups accrued points by co-operation, creativity, noise, and
clean-up. Materials I got from broken down boxes my art supplies came
in. Weekly I took the trash pile from a local frame shop-so I had
some high-end cardboard, foam board and other framing supply
leftovers. I assisted with hot glue. Students became so involved that
issues of discipline disappeared. Weekly they rushed into my
classroom to retrieve their ongoing project from its make-shift
storage on top of a cabinet. Boxes of cardboard were stored behind a
high counter I have.

Finally after many weeks the projects were completed and I created a
DVD of it as the students presented what they made and one by one they
explained how they constructed it and who did what. I video-taped all
of this. Interestingly, both groups of 5th grade boys (different
days, different classes) created a football stadium, and both groups
of girls created boutique style hotels. Maybe gender differences do
exist after all. The vdeo editing was time-consuming-I did it at home
outside of school time because I have an Apple with imovie and my
school is totally PC. I burned copies for everyone in the class.

Finally a culminating field trip to the Boston Public Library took
place. I could not be released for it because who would cover my
other classes? So I set up the entire event for the 5th grade teachers
and chaperones they located to go. I created scavenger hunt sheets for
things kids to look for in the library. The library staff arranged 3
tour guides to give a free hour long tour. As luck would have it, I
needed tohave a medical procedure that day in a medical office near
the library and ended up calling in sick. I was able to meet the
group at the library first and capture some video and some still shots
of the group. I also walked them into the old building and asked them
for responses. I walked them into the Johnson wing and asked them to
compare and contrast. We continued this discussion in the classroom.
I also had them look at public art along Commonwealth Avenue -some
equestrian statues, a firefighters memorial statue that faces the
block where the firefighters lost their lives, and some graffiti art
that I asked them, was it even art? We compared buildings of Copley
Square that has the amazing juxtaposition of old vs. new. We talked
about buildings of the past, present, and what would possibly be built
in the future. Many students decided there and then that architecture
would be their calling.

In short, so much learning took place that I wish it might be
implemented across the curriculum in every subject. For me personally
the project got only negative responses from the citywide art
supervisor who was not interested in knowing about it at all.
Likewise with her buddy, my Principal-both new hires who are primarily
interested in tidy classrooms and quiet students. Cookie-cutter art
lessons are what they like, and what I did was so much more inventive,
I think. I told the teacehrs I will repeat the entire thing if and
only if they will store everything as the project goes along. To
avoid a disciplinary action, I discarded every recyclable item in my
classroom and neatly stacked what was left inside my meager storage

Sorry for the digression-it's just such a losing battle these days
trying to be an art teacher-a creative one at that-in a sea of
administrative gobbledy gook. Luckily for me I am long tenured and
senior in my large department and have a strong union.

Barbara from Boston

Quoting Marvin Bartel <>:

> I am writing an essay about peer learning in studio art classes. Do
> you do intentional things to encourage and guide peer coaching in
> the studio art classroom? Do you have questions about how to
> encourage peer teaching/learning in the art studio classroom? Do
> you have a rubric that helps students understand successful team
> participation. If so, please respond to the list or directly to me.
> Marvin
> Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
> Adjunct in Art Education
> Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
> studio phone: 574-533-0171
> Home Page in Art Education
> Home Page as an artist
> "We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new
> scnearios as frequently as they are needed." -- Maya Angelo
> ---
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