Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Navigating a Learning Community

Hi Everyone,
As we approach our next PD we thought a review of some factors set forth by Lois for creative learning, innovative practice and sustainable models was worth revisiting. This is a time when you might be questioning what are my next steps, what do I need to do? We'll reference these guidelines throughout our PD. We find them really helpful for guiding our process.
Drawing by Gail Geltner,
Professional Learning Community: Stay in regular touch, virtually and f2f, with explicit intentions (make your goals public) and with actions linked directly to those intentions (focus) and with regular checks to see what you’re learning and how, by comparing what you’re doing and learning to your intentions!
Professional development focused on student learning: Research is clear that PD that builds community and is focused on student learning is what is effective.
Assignments/Accountability: Agree to stay with it; understand that others depend on you; participate; make explicit commitments to regular meetings, experiences; conversations, and explorations/investigations/inquiry. 
Seek a question of importance to you and pursue it: Teacher action research is a powerful source of teacher learning and satisfaction, and a powerful counter-force to the despair and exhaustion that’s permeating the atmosphere of schools.

Make Learning Visible: share your successes, failures, and process; use video documentation in the classroom and as a way to reflect; visit each other and talk about what you see; look together at student work to see student minds as they develop; make “thinking walls” and post your understanding goals to make your purpose visible to all in the learning community (students, teachers, parents, colleagues, administrators, visitors) and keep it in the front of all your minds.

Drawing by Gail Geltner,

Exposure/Contact with Contemporary Artists and Art: Familiarize yourselves with and use Art21 and other videos of artists and artworks; read blogs and periodicals and websites; go to museums and galleries and artist talks – with and without kids – and talk about art; invite artists to visit your class; go to visit artists in their studios and on the street; make your own art regularly; watch TED talks on arts.
Keep Making at the Center: Dedicate 60 - 75% of learning time to students actively making work; link all non-making learning and activity tightly and directly to making; do mid-process critiques often, keep them short, do more early in the process when ideas are still flexible; offer mini-DLs on new processes; Give students choice and make assignments roomy so students have to/get to make lots of decisions (thinking!).
Track uses of the Studio Habits: Use Studio Habits to analyze your students’ work and working, your lessons, your courses, your own art-making, your viewing of work of professional artists, your viewing of videos and texts of artists talking about their working and work; and your students’ uses of Studio Habits to do all these things.
Use the habits yourself to see how they benefit you: Teachers need to take the time they need to become fluent in thinking with the habits. Use them to reflect on many different contexts (what you and others see, what you and others do, what you and others make, how and what you and others teach) and share your observations and questions and tentative conclusions.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

purposeful instructions

One comment that Lois made during her presentation in Chicago that's been on my mind was "to give purposeful instructions, but not too much information that you can't do what you want." At the time, my students were starting a "Teen still life" and had just brought in objects that are symbolic of their lives at this moment. Typically, we review composition basics again and then they are focused on how to arrange things to meet those guidelines. After the presentation, I decided to do a little experiment with this project and only give students enough information to continue working with the purpose of developing their idea. Some students opted to combine their objects together, and we focused more on the concepts of using color and shading techniques to visually expand on the symbolic nature of the selected objects for observation. The focus became more about what they were trying to say rather than on direct observation of objects. Students could select colored paper and used soft pastel pencils. Although I have given feedback regularly, I've been mindful to approach the conversation so students continue to work based on their own decisions.

I haven't introduced the Studio Habits of Mind yet, but students have already been practicing some of them. Last week students completed their 1st written reflection to answer the questions of "what happened?" and "how did you do it?" Here are a few examples of their thoughts:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Spiral Workshop Exhibition

Spiral Workshop is having an exhibition of their most recent work. The opening reception was on Saturday. I saw Deborah Ryder from Kennedy and many other wonderful art educators at the exhibition. As some of you already know the Art Education program at UIC will come to a close next year. There will be one more Spiral Workshop next fall.

Olivia Gude has been leading this program for over 15 years. We are so grateful to her for mentoring and leading teachers towards such thoughtful and inspiring art education practice. I am now regretful that I didn't study under her at UIC but she will continue to teach in the Art and Design department. Perhaps Olivia can come and talk to our group. Olivia and Lois have presented together on many occasions.

Go see the show. It always expands my thinking!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

December 7th Assignment: Studio Thinking Test Tools

The Assignment is for each teacher to develop a Reflective Assessment tool for two of the Studio Habits which asks the students to respond to two questions - 1) What just happened?, and 2) Why or how did this happen? So, for Envision, we may want to ask, "What do you envision your next steps are for making this artwork?" and "Why are you making these choices for your next steps?" "How are these choices going to effect your artwork?" The tool should also allow for you to respond to each student through teacher narration (i.e. "This is what I noticed about your ability to envision...").

Please tailor the "What just happened" and "Why or how did this happen" questions to suit your projects, learners' needs, goals, etc. We're looking for reflection around the thinking that happens when students are making work.

The goal is that by the time we meet on December 7th, you have had your students from one class respond to two Studio Habits, and you have responded through a written narration to each student. You can find more sample tools in the Studio Thinking and American Art Google docs. At our next workshop, we will be reviewing and critiquing each others' tools. Please be prepared to share your tool and samples of student responses.

Friday, November 11, 2011

From Door Number Three...Why Did the Authors Write This Book?

I thought I'd post a few of the things that came up in our productive discussion about why the writers wrote the book Studio Thinking.  These are just the things I recorded in my book, so I hope others who were with me can add more that I missed.

1. The Studio Habits are a new language for things we are already doing, or aiming to do, as art teachers.  However, they may be more than a language. They can be a focus or an awareness for teachers around how to ENSURE the product of art education is the child and not the artwork.  If an arts teacher is actively and consciously teaching all of the habits, then the product is definitely the child. SHOM makes teachers more reflective about their practice.

2.  The Habits may be a new way to look at grades or to grade student work, or even to enter grades. If we grade based on the habits and not only on skills the students have grasped, then we may have a truthful way to enter more grades for students, as CPS is requiring at the high school level.

3. The Studio Habits may be a good way to bring the arts to other subject areas by empowering non-arts teachers to look at teaching the arts in a new way, with a new set of criteria.  For instance, many content area teachers seem to always say that they can't teach art because "they can't draw". Well, SHOM would be a way for them to understand how they could teach art or creative concepts, without knowing everything about the craft.  More like understanding... art is communication.

4.  SHOM would be a good way to frame/think through a lesson or unit, by focusing on certain habits.

5. The SHOM have the potential to help (arts) teachers build a common vocabulary around things that are meaningful and things that we want to assess.  This common language will make discussions and collaborations among us easier, and will also be a way for us to market and share what we do.

6.  If shared with students, SHOM will be a way for those art students to understand that even though they may not be good at the develop craft portion of the habits, that they have gifts in other areas that are of EQUAL importance to the creative mind and to artistic endeavors.

What did I miss!??

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teaching the Language

Even though I teach at the grammar school level, I fought for many years to get "block schedule" for my middle-schoolers. I would get one homeroom, for example 2 x's a week instead of one, every other marking period. Next week I will see many students for the first time, so it will be a great opportunity to introduce the studio habits to my upper graders.

I am one that learns by example. As art teachers we are often isolated and unable to share "best practices" with other art teachers. I appreciate everyone who has shared their ideas of how we can translate this knowledge to our students. At first when I was introduced to SHOM, the content of the habits were familiar to me, yet I wasn't sure where to start with this new vocabulary. It wasn't until Lois showed us examples of how teachers of various levels have used SHOM in their rooms, did I realize that there is a lot of flexibility to make this our own.
I like the simplicity of the bell ringer/ exit ticket approach as a form of reflection mentioned in a previous post. I have done this in my classes before and we do it often at teacher in service days. I too plan on creating a "Studio Habits" wall. In the past I would label each shade in my room with art terms, changing periodically, similar to a word wall. Students periodically would be given post-its to identify which term, was visited or identified and placed on the appropriate shade. I feel that having a bulletin board could change its purpose over time as more ideas come to mind. I am looking forward to this ongoing dialogue!

Monday, November 7, 2011


I work at a Math and Science Academy. In some schools that are coined with the same term, it doesn't really mean much but at our school we are leaning toward becoming completely inquiry based. It fits pretty well with the "import paradigm." I'm on the lucky side of things because my school is completely embracing the idea of dispositions of learners.

So in my attempt at inquiry, I offered up a simple task for the 2nd graders. I dumped an entire box of 96 crayons onto their desk and said, "How can we organize these?" The questions, strategies, and creative groupings they created blew my mind. They were so insightful, they were talking about how there's no 'right' answer to where some colors go, that they can sometimes be in more than one category. My biggest successes revolve around the students knowing that in art (and in life) there is often more than one right answer.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Demonstrating/Describing the Studio Habits to Parents and Families

In about a week I am going to hang up some art work and in-process photos of students' process in honor of report card pick up.  I am thinking about creating labels for each lesson/process that would highlight a specific Studio Habit.  What I mean is that I would make a label/sign for each studio habit and place it with an arrow next to a specific picture.  This might be a good way to introduce families at my school to the language of SHOM. I might also need to write up a description of why this particular project/piece exemplifies a habit of mind.

For instance, this "Silhouette Shape Challenge" would be filed under Stretching and Exploring. On my blog,  I am also trying to label/file lessons and processes under a studio habit.  My students as of yet, have not been introduced to the language of SHOM, except for imagining their ideas.  I am looking forward to Wednesday so that I can try and incorporate the language into the students' everyday experiences and self evaluations.

Also, I am thinking about how within each unit of study that I am facilitating, the students should ideally be experiencing close to every habit of mind as they go through the process of creating their work.  This might be another way to frame curriculum and unit planning- to make sure to touch on all of the habits at least once. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Coonley Art Studio: Contour Line Drawing

Catherine Tanner's K-2nd grade students have recently been working on line drawings (see her earlier post). This made us think of a post we saw on Liz Chisholm's Coonley School Art Studio blog...

Coonley Art Studio: Contour Line Drawing: In preparation for an autobiographical comic strip project, 5th-8th graders at Coonley spent two weeks learning about and practicing the tec...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


These works of art were done by K, 1 & 2 students. I introduced the element of line to show students that most art incorporates line and to take away their fear of drawing. The work started with using a story from their lives to making a composition inspired by another's work of art to creating line drawings. I will use voice recorders to capture student comments, have them talk about their choices and have them discuss finished products to aid me in reflecting and critiquing phases of projects.

Lesson 1: Take a walk with a line- Using only lines draw a walk you took.

Lesson 2: Miro inspired: Using Joan Miro's work of art as an inspiration, how can you make a balanced composition with only lines and color?

Lesson 3: Birds- draw birds using lines and color.