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Re: Questions about Art Ed (about rubics)Choice Teaching


Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 17:53:49 PDT

This is a very long post about choice teaching: I hope that it is helpful to
Jan and others who might be interested. Others will probably not wish to wade
through it!
In a message dated 5/7/04 11:03:46 AM, writes:

> Kathy, your thoughts are really wonderful, and for me, inspiring me to
> carefully evaluate what I do. 
> My question is, how do you take the unbridled energy and get the student to
> focus?   You have to start somewhere - where do you start at the beginning of
> the year?
> Jan, your questions are good ones, and ones that are necessary to ponder
before changing a teaching concept. This is how I begin my year with first
graders who have never been in my classroom, and it is how I would start with all
ages were I to begin in a new school in the Fall. The first art room class
finds shallow boxes on each table. In each box there are crayons, pencils,
colored pencils, erasers, rulers, french curves and markers. On each table is
drawing paper in two sizes. I begin the class by saying that artists are people
who make art about things which are filling up their minds. I do not know
what is filling up my students' minds and eagerly look forward to finding out
what those things are. I say that the boxes on their tables contain some of
the drawing materials that we have in the art room. I mention that some
artists draw what they can see, some draw what they feel, some draw what they
remember, some what they imagine, and some experiment with marks made with a
drawing tool. I tell them that I look forward also to what sort of drawing they
choose to make. Everybody gets to work, and as they work I pass out our still
life objects: models of butterflies, dinosaurs, plastic horses, etc. As a
student finishes a drawing I invite her to choose colored construction paper as
a backing and I staple the drawing to that. The student signs the work on
the front (they will always do that in my class) and they put the drawing on
the hallway table for safekeeping (they will always do that also) Near the end
of class I ask the students to return the materials to the boxes and show
them that there is a place in the classroom where they will always be able to
find these materials for the rest of the time they are in the school. And I
show how the materials are to be put away in the Drawing Center. Week two I
introduce the watercolors we use (they have magenta and turquoise and we use the
"new color theory" with those colors) The demo is very simple, five minutes,
as it was the previous week. The students are then invited to either use the
watercolors _or_ the Drawing Center, or both! At the end of class, once
again I explain how paint materials can be put away in the Paint Center and that
they will be available there for the rest of the time they are in school. Week
three is collage: boxes containing construction paper, paper punches in two
sizes, scissors, edger scissors, string, brass fasteners, and cups of glue.
The five minute demo is about collage and cutting and controlled tears, and
layering and so on...and now the students have three choices of materials...and
some students use all three centers to make one piece. Week four is a segue
from paper collage to paper sculpture...and I add tape to the materials mix. It
is important to demonstrate safe and prosperous methods to tear and use
tape...and where glue might be a better choice, or perhaps a brass fastener. And
so the 9th week the students have had an "entry level" introduction to
each of the centers in the room. I continually spiral back to add more
media to the centers: "biggie block" tempera paints to the Paint Center, oil
pastels to the drawing center, found object sculpture etc. Each week has a five
minute demo in the beginning. I do not add thick tempera paints until things are
running smoothly and much time is spent demonstrating how to set up a painting
space and how to put the paints away: the students must be able to do this on
their own.

 <<Right now, at my school, we are highly encouraged to do that thematic
stuff - and I often use the predominant theme of study currently in the classroom,
folded into techniques and art elements designated by the curriculum..   My
guess is that probably if I just let them go, some would persue the theme,
others, stuff they're interested in.>>

Thematic stuff is really huge in schools. It helps the classroom teachers
do that science or social studies, it is easier for the layman to understand
than personal art making, and it is a big improvement on some art programs which
follow the old september: apples in a basket, october: pumpkins and witches,
November: those turkeys, and so on. But it is really easy to lose the art to
the social studies. We are fortunate in Massachusetts: we have Visual Arts
Frameworks and it is important for me to align to them. I feel that this is
quite difficult to do if one is required to "do" social studies. Now when a
grade level is visiting the Aquarium I can easily display my books on the sea
and my plastic tropical fish models and students who have been engaged by
classroom study show that in their art work in a big way. I always try to point
that out to the teachers. I welcome students to bring diorama projects and
the like to art if that is their choice and I am happy to assist them. I also
make that clear to the teachers. I teach my paper sculpture demonstration
when the first graders are studying solid geometry in class and I send simple
directions for the teachers at the end of class. I require students to
observe the demo; they are not required to make the shapes in my class. The
teachers require this if they wish. And so on.

<<How do you fold teaching of new or reviewing of old techniques?>> I take
lots of notes while students are working: I had noticed recently that grade 1
and 2 students were using only tape and never glue for their sculptures, which
did not please me. So this week the five minute demo is a review of
attachment strategies: when is cellophane tape the best? masking tape? brass
fasteners? glue? wire? sewing? and at the end of class today I saw improvement in the
work. This is a highly interactive process; it is easy to see what students
do and do not know. I know what I want to cover in a year with a grade
level; when and how often I reinforce a particular procedure depends on what the
students show me that they need. Not everybody does this but I almost always
have a five minute demo at the beginning of class.
<< How, then, do you grade?  I see below that you haven't answered that
yourself, but if you're using the ideas below, do you have to submit grades?  What
do you evaluate?>> The evaluation is onging each week and within each piece.
  Conversations about individual artwork are constant, and, like artists,
students are learning to self evaluate at every point of production. Students
talk about their work a lot, to their peers and to me. We celebrate
struggles, strategies to overcome problems and suggestions for new approaches ("if you
had it to do over, what would you do differently?") And for me, each
evaluation needs to help the artist move to the next piece. I do not make a report
card grade in my school, so I am careful not to claim that. John Crowe created
a special area of the school report card which worked well for him and his
self evaluating students. Read his story on the Knowledgeloom for detailed
grading information. Pauline Joseph created a form to be inserted in the report
card: she checked off boxes next to various statements such as "your child
prefers to work 3-D or 2-D, your child works in a group, or alone," etc etc. I
believe in giving parents information, but it needs to be authentic. I find
that choice teachers really get to know their students, as each exhibits a lot
of uniqueness. I believe that that can make it easier to give information to

Now this post is already very long. The knowledgeloom was created for
people just like yourself: people who want an overview of a concept and then enough
replication information to be able to actually try the concept. Many
people find the Loom site overwhelming as there is so much content there. The
coolest part of it is the print tool which lets you print out the entire visual
arts area: I really recommend this. It prints out an 80 page booklet complete
with table of contents. You will find detailed replication information from
several choice classrooms. I encourage you to collect that information.

On the Tab Yahoo group it will be useful to read Diane Jaquith's posts. She
transitioned to choice teaching fairly recently in a system with strong
curricular requirements. Her writing has a lot to offer you.

I enjoy hearing your questions; we welcome your questions and interest.
Katherine Douglas