A day (year) in the art room…

IMG_0961.JPGI am constantly working on setting up a routine to meet the needs of my students, administrators and district.  I feel like every year I get a little closer to figuring things out.  Here is the way my room will run this year (stay tuned as it will probably change next year:).

Open the school year with opening routines and explaining the room.  The room is set up with several different centers.  (If people are interested I can post pictures of my room).  I have a fiber & craft center, drawing center, paint center, printmaking center, collage center, paper center, 3-D/sculpture center, resource center(area with reference books) and digital center with iPads and laptops.  Within each center are various tools and materials for the students to access.  For the most part, I do not pull items and set them on the table for the students to use.  I treat the room like an art studio.  Students get the tools and materials they need to express their ideas (more on this later).

I open the year with a creativity challenge.  I talk to the students about how creativity is a skill that can be learned and developed with practice.  “Practice” comes in the form of open-ended questions allowing for divergent thinking.  I have conducted many different creativity challenges (I can discuss these in a later post if anyone is interested) as quick 1 class activities where I introduce the challenge, conduct it and reflect on it after with the class.  I will conduct these creativity challenges throughout the year as a fun break from the routine and a great way to develop creativity.

Before we begin a project, I have the students practice certain skills and learn vocabulary through small center rotations.  I might have the younger students practice line, value, texture by practicing these skills using different tools and materials and rotate through 3 separate areas, each area with a different focus.  I may have the older students practice juxtaposition, creating the illogical and interaction of text and image (Olivia Gude’s Postmodern principles).  This day serves as a way to practice new skills and build a “toolbox” of creative approaches to use in their art projects.

The next step is to introduce the project.  Each grade level has a different grade level focus that guides instruction throughout the year.  This introduction usually features picture books ( another possible post. I have built a great collection of picture books over the years), contemporary artists, artifacts from visual culture, movies, etc. We discuss the connection between the artists/designers and the grade level focus.  The project challenge is guided by an essential question.  Once we discuss the essential question, the students are asked to brainstorm (the act of brainstorming takes many different forms.  i.e. questionnaire, brainstorming, word association, etc.) ideas related to the essential question.  Once they have their idea, they then run the idea by me to make sure they can articulate the connection between their idea and the essential question.  Once they are ready to begin, they choose the tools, materials and skills they need, to best execute their idea.  They may choose to use the skills they practiced at the beginning of the lesson, or not.

Occasionally, we will stop a project in the middle to have the students share out their creative process.  This mid-point share out session, enables the students to make adjustments as needed before they are finished.  If we don’t do this in the middle, then we do a share out session at the end.

The last step is to share out the projects.  We do this in a variety of ways.  We may share out the projects in small groups and the students will create short skits to explain their ideas and connections to classmates artwork and ideas. We have also had silent museums, where the students arrange their artworks on the tables for their classmates to see. The class then wanders around with post-it notes and is asked to focus on certain aspects of the artwork and leave a post-it note comment, question, or connection.  For example, I may ask the students to select and artwork they have a personal connection to and explain why.  They may write down the most creative use of a material and why.  I may have them write down something they want to learn to do/try in their own artwork, etc..  I can write a more detailed explanation of this, or any of the above mentioned parts if you like just leave a note in the comments.

Other side notes… Each grade level completes usually 3 projects a year.  The first project is the Creative Conceptual project.  This project focuses on the student as an artist, expressing their ideas, thoughts, wonderings, and imagination about the world they live in.  The next project is the Collaborative Design project.  This project usually features a collaborative effort to solve a design problem.  This helps the students learn to collaborate, while working through the art and design process.  The last project is the Independent  project.  For this project, the students are creating their own lesson and asked to write up a short lesson plan for me to approve. The purpose of this is to empower the students to take an active role in their learning.  The students are able to use the tools, materials, and skills they have learned throughout the year and apply them to a project they design.  Each grade level follows these 3 project outlines.  The grade level focus, falls into each one of these 3 projects.

Another side note… I exhibit all projects in the commons area of our school from day 1.  The purpose of this is to show the students, staff and community how important the creative process is.  I choose to show the project evolve over time and exhibit the growth, change and development over time.  I will display finished products as well, but I will accompany these artworks with a process board that shows images, quotes from students and project explanations throughout the entire process to show viewers that art is a creative thinking process, not just a finished product.

Please leave comments if there is anything specific you would like me to explain further.  I would like this blog to be driven by the readers and what you all want more of.  So just let me know!  I will keep posting a broad range of topics until I get a request to dig deeper into a specific area.  I am still new to the blogging process and I want to make sure this blog is useful to you the reader.

Some of the topics I could expand on…

Pictures books in the art room, creativity challenges, classroom set-up, lesson plans, contemporary artists, post modern art education, art advocacy links, student work samples, display boards of art and design process, share-out ideas, administrator buy-in, these are a few of the topics I am interested in and could explain further.  Just leave me a comment on what you would like to hear more about.  I may not be able to provide all of the answers, but I may be able to provide some insightful questions.

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