I'm in my 7th year of teaching mixed level classes at a small, private
boarding/day school. It's still not ideal, but after initial panic at
the prospect, it's worked. It helps immensely (and don't start throwing
things!!) that this year my largest class is comprised of just 10 kids.
In some years I've had as many as 16 but that's the limit.
To save my sanity and to make sense of different classes sharing the
same period and physical space, they're segregated by the terms "Art I"
and "Advanced Art" (2-4). The Art Is have a curriculum that is
different from the Advanced Art kids, and even though we all know who's
an Art 2 and who's an Art 4, Advanced Art students work on the same
projects. I adjust the curriculum to offer different projects and
themes each year for Advanced Art, though the Art I curriculum is
This year my classes aren't as diverse as usual, and that's been nice.
In some years I've had (in these small classes!) a mix of Art I, 2, 3,
4, AP, and Independent Study.
Now factor in about 1/3 of each class being composed of ESL students.
One year I had Korean, African, and Lithuanian kids in the same class
and everyone is required to speak English during the academic day. It's
fascinating and I love teaching at a multicultural school! I just
picked up a new Chinese girl on Monday. :-)
My approach to this is to have an initial pre-instructional project for
the Art I kids (to gauge where they are, how they think, skill levels,
etc) and a separate initial project for the Advanced Art kids to allow
time for the inevitable sifting and sorting of periods, additions,
drops, etc for the first couple of weeks of school. I have the due
dates for the first projects staggered. Advanced Art kids will be
finishing a project tomorrow and they'll have a lecture day and intro to
first major project on Friday. Art I's finish their first project on
Friday and have lectures and intros to their first major project on
Monday probably through Wednesday. Anyone who finishes an initial
project early works on observational drawings (I have a couple of still
lifes set up).
Every now and then I'll throw in an "Art Everybody" project (usually
some sort of craft) and it's nice when we can all be on the same project
for a couple of weeks.
Last year Advanced Art kids started with the theme of Hudson River
School art. After working on drawings outside (within view of my
windows...), they came in and produced acrylic landscape paintings.
This year they're starting with a study of the techniques of colored
pencil artist Ann Kullberg for their first big project. Some of the Art
2s are just as strong as some of the Art 3s and I think this will work
well; in fact I'm pretty excited about it!
In and around this, I also teach one period of middle school art. I was
approached this year about allowing an Art I to come in that period,
thus mixing that and I said no. The middle school classes are also
small, but they need my attention just as much as I need to be engaged
with them. That's the only class I simply won't allow them to "mix"
(although I HAVE had an advanced art independent study kid in a MS
It forces me to be more organized, but I can reach them all due to the
small numbers and just take it stride. Art I kids have separate
homework assignments from Advanced Art and I also stagger the dates that
those are due.
So not ideal, but definitely do-able, and I'm really pleased with how
the year has started (updated my website this evening...).
But add in the fact that I'm also the year book person (I'll be working
with a team of 4-5 co-editors this year with no designated period for
this--all extra-curricular!) and also (still) work on the school's
website (less responsibility than in previous years) there's always,
always something to do in order to keep all the plates spinning!