Thursday, December 8, 2016

Art Room Procedures Using Stop Motion

I think that creating videos is something that all art teachers have deep in the basement of their to do list.  Unfortunately for me at least, they rarely get done.  It's something about the lack of free time...or the inability to hear a recording of my own voice without cringing....or the complete inability to make the said non existent videos funny and engaging like this one:

Link to funny and engaging video I will never make

Link to my video which does the job and makes most 4th graders laugh

As I was making sample stop motion animation videos for my Grade 3's, I thought it might be fun to make my own stop motion for the clay routines for my Grade 4's that I repeat 800 times a day like a deranged parrot.  Here is what I came up with-- it's rough-- but it works pretty well and took me about 30 minutes to make.  And the sound effects make it funny for me.  Stop Motion Studio Pro for the win. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Digital differentiation using iPads

I've done mandalas with kids for ages, and this year with my emphasis on choice they had total freedom in media and design.  Some of my Grade 4's chose to create large and loose compositions with with big swaths of paint while others chose to be very detailed oriented with colored pencils and lots of shading.

As a result, some children were finished literally weeks before their peers.  I gave the early finishers a challenge: digitally add your mandala into an image in a way that it looks like it belongs there.  This is a classic low entry point high ceiling activity in that a child could just plop a mandala onto any background or use the various tools within the app (or even jump between apps) to create their desired effect.

This was right around the time of the US election so there was a lot of Trump related art, which I did not object to as long as there wasn't any violence involved in the image.  It actually started some good conversations about how things that are on our minds tend to bubble up to the surface when we are free to choose what to create in art, whether we are conscious of it or not.  The beauty of self expression!

Here are some of the completed collages:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Self portraits and TAB in a PYP art room

The Grade 5's are starting to finish up their self portraits and looking at this project over the last three years through the lens of my professional inquiry into Teaching For Artistic Behavior, it is striking how much more personal their work has become.  The personalities of each artist shine through, and isn't that the point of a self portrait?

Though this is not "pure TAB" of course because the subject of a self portrait was given to them by yours truly as a part of a Who We Are PYP Unit, it is a long way from where I started this journey on 2014.  A few of my early finishers were given an opportunity to have a go at the collage center or the drawing center and some were absolutely stumped when given no guidance about what to create.

In that regard, there is still work to do.

I overheard a few of the kids commenting about how happy they were with the ability to use "anything we want." They were heavily influenced by each other (very authentic creative collaborations) and most were keen to share their new discoveries with their classmates as they were happening.  Many of them jumped back and forth between digital and traditional tools which was really fascinating to see considering I just introduced them to both ArtSetPro and Baazart a month ago.  They are digital natives indeed.

The central idea of this project was: "Self portraits send a message about who the artist is or what he/she wants to be."  I love that the students were so free to interpret this however they wanted and the journey was evident through their reflections, which are based on the Studio Habits of Mind.

Here is one sample reflection from a student who made himself a vampire:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Road to Choice: a self portrait in more ways than one

When I think about my journey into choice based art, I wonder why it took so long.

For many years, I had heard about TAB and I knew deep down that it sounded like the right way to go but I let fear hold me back. Fear of students making artwork that looked like junky, and I would look like a bad teacher as a result. Fear of losing control of the behavior in my classroom and looking like a bad teacher as a result.  Do you see a pattern there?

At the end of the day, my decision to transition to choice led from an understanding that it's not about me.  It's about letting my students develop their artwork from their creativity and passion in a way that is meaningful to them.  When the teacher dictates the idea, the medium, the color choice, the skills, down to the size of the paper, the teacher is the one doing the heavy cognitive lifting and the teacher owns that learning, not the student.

I am still inching towards my goal of a choice based classroom (crawling on my hands and knees some days) but I know that it is the right thing to do.  Teaching one subject in the same way for 15 years will do that to you.  Today I thought I would share the evolution of a self portrait project over the course of three years: 2014, 2015 and currently.

The 2014 portraits fit the model below created by Melissa Purtee over at Thoughts on Arting to a tee.  

Last year's group had to choose to represent an emotion, their culture or a memory and there was criteria for each.  They also could choose colored pencils, watercolor pencils or paint.  I didn't have a Drawing Center or resources to support a huge variation in media choice like I do now, so it was pretty chaotic.

This year...we are still experimenting with media (many kids are loving Art Set Pro on the iPads) but the overarching understanding is that self portraits reflect who the artist is or who they want to be.  I've given examples of 4 paths that students may choose to take, with a lot of variation. I look forward to documenting the process and watching the kids experience creating art that has intrinsic value to them.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Using the Studio Habits of Mind

Last year was the first year that I really worked on familiarizing my students with the Studio Habits of Mind, another winner from the Project Zero people at Harvard. This framework dovetails nicely with the Teaching For Artistic Behavior model in that it respects learners as artists-- artists who make choices, experiment with media, collaborate with others.

I used the SHOM mostly for reflection last year, one Haiku Deck that I created and used as a visual can be found here.  The children chose one or two sentence stems from each category and filled in their reflections at the end of their projects.

This year, since I am giving TAB methodology a try across all grade levels for the 1st Unit, I wanted to create visuals that gave students concrete examples of what kind of cognitive and creative work they are meant to be doing in class.  I also would like to see the children use the framework as a springboard for our SeeSaw reflections, which will occur during the last 5 minutes of each class and be more authentic than waiting until they complete a project.  I also like the idea that the reflection is not limited to their artwork, they are genuinely reflecting on their own artistic habits on a regular basis.  This consistent and more relaxed (kids can record themselves using iPads instead of having to write) formative assessment should help to develop these transferable skills.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Can TAB and PYP co-exist? I'm about to find out!

I've had my eye on TAB for a few years now and slowly adjusting my teaching to amp up student Voice and Choice while still staying true to the PYP.  With the support of my PYP Coordinator and my amazing Pedagogical Coordinator Andy Vasily, I've decided to jump in with both feet this year. I will be adjusting my already conceptually based units and letting the learners decide how they will demonstrate their understanding in a studio that respects them as artists and the drivers of their own learning.  I am very excited and also very nervous, but I wholeheartedly believe that I am doing the right thing.  More concrete examples to come, Grade 5's will begin with a unit on Identity.  Are there any other PYP Art teachers who also use the TAB/Choice model?  Please do get in touch.

Right now in addition to gathering material for my Studio Centers, I am working on creating visuals for a "Nuts and Bolts" wall-- general procedures, types of Studio Learning (thanks to Ron Ritchhart I am training myself not to use the word "work"), design cycle, etc.  Here are some highlights, created on

Stay tuned for more as my students and I embark on our TAB/PYP journey starting next week...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Meaningful Reflection and SeeSaw

First of all, if you're not using SeeSaw, you should be!  I was introduced to it at EARCOS, and its an powerful tool for sharing, reflection and immediate feedback.  I've found it to be much more organic (it is very kid friendly which makes me more likely to whip out the iPads when we have a few minutes for a quick formative assessment) than traditional digital portfolios. The children love getting recognition and feedback for their learning as it happens.  Many parents who downloaded the app to their phones respond immediately when their child posts something (they get a push notification) and the kids just love it.

Students are now commenting on each other's work and I've created a reminder to make "Art Smart" comments.  Taking literally one minute to talk about this and showing the slide below has transformed the comments from, "It's cool" to "What grabbed my attention was the detail of the trees in the foreground."  Nothing like a little meaningful application of art vocabulary to spice up the old art teacher's day. :)

In addition, when they share their own artwork on SeeSaw, they love creating videos and drawing on them while they are explaining.  The following guide keeps their dialogue on track:

If you haven't tried SeeSaw yet, give it a shot, it's free!  (No, I am not being paid to write this, I just am a fan.)