Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Pattern: A TAB/PYP Unit of Inquiry

What effect does creative expression have on well being?  What connection might patterns in our daily lives have on well being?  What might the connection be between well being, religious art and pattern?

Grade Level: 4
Conceptual Lens: Pattern
Related Concept: Repetition
Key Concept: Function
Level of Integration with Homeroom UOI: 2
ATL: Application
Creating and Presenting Outcome: Use a variety of materials, tools and techniques for different purposes in response to design challenge
Exploring forms and cultural contexts outcome: Interpret a variety of visual art forms they see at home, at school, in their community, and in visual arts experiences
Reflecting, Responding, Analyzing Outcome: Identify and document art related strengths and interests while creating a plan for areas of improvement and soliciting peer and teacher feedback.
Open Centers: Drawing and Painting
Cultural/Art History connections: Sand Mandalas, Op Art, Islamic Art

Some examples of student work:

Zentangle patterns on the tree and moon (full disclosure, this one is my daughter's and I love it)

A zentangle cat in a one point perspective room with zentangle curtains :)

A carefully chosen glittery border embellishment on this radial design

A bird with funky patterned wings

This artist learned how to add texture with seed beads 

This artist also focused on the negative space in her 7 circle design

Completed works and reflections on display

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

PYP Learner Profile in Art

For my professional inquiry goal this year, I want to find any gaps in my TAB/PYP practice and figure out how to address them, with a push on promoting even more learner agency than before.  My Pedagogical Coordinator thought it might be smart to start out by creating a profile of traits that a PYP/TAB learner should have so I had a metric to gauge which students still needed more scaffolding. I started making a list, and all roads took me back to the Learner Profile.  If you look closely there are many links to both the Studio Habits of Mind and the ATL's. So, 

It became clear that is was time to update my old Learner Profile posters with clear and succinct statements about what each profile trait might look like in a TAB/PYP art room where the students are in the driver's seat of their own learning.

It also was a good opportunity to include photos of diverse contemporary artists at work. These were all made on Canva and are available in full resolution here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Why do artists create?

Ever realize a big problem with a unit of inquiry right in the middle of it? It happens!  We were doing How We Express with our Grade 3's and our Arts Team is integrating with the homerooms based on the premise that Artists create art to evoke a response.  Wish I could qualify that statement with "sometimes."

The unit traditionally was great collaboration between music and art as well and it culminates in highly creative stop motion animation videos that have custom-made sound tracks that the learners create in music class. We co-teach the concept of a narrative arc in both music and artistic terms and the stop motions are all meant to provoke a response in the audience. The "film festival" and mini art show that parents come in to see is the cherry on top.

Fantastic stuff, but when a Grade 3 teacher described one of her students digging into the "why" she created a piece outside of class, we stepped back a bit and realized a problem.  Kids don't to create to evoke a response, most of them anyway. Not authentic. Evoking a response is ONE reason artists create art, but certainly not the only one. Why were we as a team limiting our learners to this one aspect of inspiration?

So, why do artists create art?  I made a few visuals to share with my students and hopefully make them realize that one size does not fit all, and it sparked a bigger conversation-- is this a complete list?  What would you add or take away, and why?  Can you rate these in order of importance and explain your thinking?  Might your answers change depending upon your cultural upbringing, gender or age?

Looking forward to working with our Grade 3 team to re-look at this unit.  What stories can art tell? might be a good starting point.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Authentic integration and single subjects

I remember years ago when I taught at a newly authorized PYP school, I attended a grade level planning meeting for an upcoming unit.  The Grade 3's were doing a unit on Migration, and the previous art teacher always made paper mache Canada geese with the students for the unit.  The team looked at my expectantly, could I make the geese with the students this year?

That's me on the right, yelling for help!

At the beginning of my PYP journey back in 2002, I happily made the solar system models to go along with the How the World Works unit and the Greek vases along with the Where We Are in Place in Time Unit.  But the question remains, does linking to the content over the concepts result in deep learning?  When we, with the best intentions, dictate the cave paintings, the "Picasso inspired" portraits, who is doing the heavy cognitive lifting, the student or the teacher?

This is old hat for many of us at well established PYP schools, but in the schools that aren't, art teachers making the case for conceptual integration can be more of a challenge, especially for teachers who might be new to the PYP themselves and are worried about ticking all the boxes.

The fact is, there are many authentic ways that single subject teachers can integrate with homerooms Units of Inquiry without sacrificing the opportunity for deeper, conceptual learning.  What are the big, transferable ideas in the unit and how can we support the students as they choose the best way to demonstrate their understanding?

At my current school, one of our fab Pedagogical Coordinators named Andy Vasily (follow him on twitter at @andyvasily) created "Levels of Integration" so that there is clarity about all the ways single subject teachers can integrate.  So even if a single subject is doing a stand alone unit, there is always room for linking to whatever ATL or Learner Profile attribute they are focusing on in the homeroom.

How do single subjects at your school integrate with Units of Inquiry?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Explicit teaching and learner agency

Some of my earliest frustrations with TAB stemmed from giving students too much freedom when they weren't ready and didn't have enough experience creating self directed art to know how to use their time in class. Scaffolding the specific behaviors I am looking for at each stage of the creative cycle and then giving them time to reflect on those behaviors is a critical part of giving learners the foundational skills they need for success in a learner directed art room.

After some great conversations with fellow PYP/TAB teachers in our facebook group, I made a new poster for our art studio.  The full sized version can be found here. It lists key stages of the creative process and then behaviors that are expected from each stage.

I also made two sketchbook sized versions where students will reflect with evidence of how they met each criteria.  Learners can choose whether written or oral reflection suits them- one tool allows students to respond by writing and the other can be used along with an oral reflection on SeeSaw, our digital portfolio tool.  All learners will use the reflections to set goals for the next lesson.

I hope these will be useful as we scaffold the skills that these young artists need to be self directed in the art room.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Visual Arts, PYP Exhibition and TAB


At the start of planning this year's Exhibition, I wondered how I could meaningfully and authentically integrate the Arts into PYPEXH while honoring the choice based art philosophy that I've worked so hard to cultivate in art class?  The answer for our team this year relied on mutual support among team members, a commitment to a flexible schedule and letting the students own how they wanted to share their EXH journey artistically.

Here is an infographic I created to share our team's process.  By using our own Arts focused central idea we were immediately were able to dive into art and artists who raise awareness instead of playing the waiting game until the EXH students were able to know enough about their issue to tackle it artistically.

By looking at contemporary art through the lens of raising awareness, students were better connect with how artists can symbolically share their message or use emotion to educate the viewer.  This deeper thinking about the purpose of art really came through when it was time to create and the children in the art room were focused, engaged and happy throughout the process. What more could an art teacher want?  Next year we plan to refine the structure and give the children even more choices and make time for even more opportunities to create.  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Art teaching in the PYP: from Art Activities to Big Ideas

For years, I planned integrated PYP art units pretty much the same way: looked at the homeroom units in the POI and planned art activities that seemed to match.  The older entries on this blog are full of examples of this.

Where We Are in Place and Time: Greek vases, Egyptian masks, "Magic Carpets"
Who We Are: Self Portraits or Personal Mandalas
How the World Works:  Landscapes

This kind of teacher directed artwork is sure to create beautiful decoration for the walls of the school and it also gives the impression of strong single subject integration with the homeroom UOI's.  But when you look deeper, one wonders who did the cognitive work to create this piece of art, the student or the teacher?  Does a Greek vase that was 80% planned and designed by the teacher really demonstrate student understanding of the Big Ideas of a unit?

Over the past few years, I've worked on taking existing art units and opening them up from teacher directed art activities to concept driven units that give learners an opportunity to choose how to demonstrate their understanding. The key to doing this is to focus on the universal and timeless concept rather than the topic, which is more appropriately used as an example of the concept rather than the driving force behind the unit.

For example, Mandalas are topic which can fall under a variety of concepts.  In the past I used mandalas to fit into a Who We Are unit, you can find the lesson here. This year, instead of focusing on the topic of mandalas, I focused on the concepts of pattern and repetition.  This allowed for a natural integration with a Grade 4 Unit on personal well-being.  Some questions we explored included: how do artists use pattern and repetition, why do artists use pattern and repetition, what connections can we make between patterns in our daily activities and our own feeling of well being?

The provocation for the unit was the same as in the past-- a video of Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala. However, mandalas were used as one example of many artistic interpretations of pattern and repetition rather than a model for students to emulate.

The next step was introducing the children to four specific types of pattern and having them complete a sorting and labeling activity in small groups.  This was a good opportunity to introduce them to other exemplars of pattern like Warhol's soup cans, Islamic art and MC Escher.

Following this, the students independently practiced creating simple patterns with pencil in their sketchbooks using a worksheet I created. This gave me a chance to walk around the room as they were working to check for understanding.

Once everyone was confident, students filled "WOW" proposals for their final project.  I created a Youtube video that took each child step by step through the whole process (we are a 1:1 school and each child has their own iPad.)  That way everyone can work at their own pace and I can walk around and conference individually with children who need some guidance.  It also makes it a lot easier to catch a child up who was absent on art day.

If a child chose to use a media that they didn't have experience with, they needed to get a "driver's license" for that particular media by independently following an instructional video and having me check for basic skills.  One example of the skill based videos we use for in class instruction can be found here.  I also track which media they have experience with and what media they choose to use for WOW projects with a tracking sheet that is in their sketchbook.  This "in class flipping" was a lot of work to put in place but it allows the children to have the freedom to use various media without the chaos of me trying to teach five different types of media skills at one time.

If you are interested in incorporating a more choice based approach to your PYP Visual Arts classroom, please look for our PYP/TAB Art Teachers Facebook group, we would love to hear your ideas.  Thanks for reading.