Sunday, February 26, 2012

American Art and Studio Thinking Unit Planning

Listen as two teachers from World Language High School, Little Village Lawndale Campus collaboratively plan an American art integrated unit. It's an excellent example of the support and expertise an art teacher can bring to the development of lessons in other content areas.

Teachers are using the Studio Thinking Framework as a guide and common language in the development of cross-curricular lessons/units. Check back to see documentation, process, synthesis and analysis from these units as they unfold during the next couple of months. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lois Hetland Considers the Current Climate for Arts Education

What are some of the common trends that you see developing as you visit diverse learning environments across the country?

Upside: Dedicated, courageous, curious teachers, administrators, and kids; kids benefiting from arts learning by becoming autonomous, self-reflective, complex, flexible, self-motivated thinkers; low-achieving students engaging deeply and developing appreciation of and skill in thinking and language through art experiences; increasing connections of arts curricula to contemporary art practice and less to “surface” or “trivial” art activities; more out-of-school art programs in communities and museums; people willing to stay dedicated in the face of overwhelming obstacles; local funders and wealthy individuals recognizing the value of the arts and supporting them financially; continued federal funds for arts research; more critical friends and action research in schools; teachers eager to improve and find ways to be more effective

Downside: teacher, parent, child, and administrator frustration with and exhaustion from lack of support, lack of professional community, and lack of connections to their field as artists and art educators; fear and anger at the threat of programs being extinguished; fear and anger at the threat of having to choose between artist-teachers and teaching artists as a cost-saving issue; fear and anger at inadequate art supplies, technological access and training, teaching schedules, class sizes; teachers feeling despair, devalued, misunderstood; lower-income kids getting less arts and turning away (being turned away) from school success; misapplication and misunderstanding of research paradigms, data collection, research design (mono-method paper and pencil high-stakes testing, teaching to the test, ignoring education of the person)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Getting the inside track to Understanding the Art World and Reflection

This year I am attempting to set up a framework where art history is touched on in every grade level and when the librarian at my school showed me this book, I was very excited to use it. The second graders loved reading it with me! This book opened the door to them seeing how two artists created their work so differently.

When Pigasso Met Mootisse

After reading the book the first day, the students looked at a book about Picasso and saw some of his portraiture. They worked on drawings using both a forward look and the profile of a face and drew and colored (if they had time). I helped them by pointing how how strange Picasso chose to draw and had them practice saying, "Weird is GOOD!" so that they wouldn't get hung up on 'right and wrong' or perfection. One of the things I had experienced with these second graders is the dreaded "Eraser Addiction" that wastes all 40 minutes of my classtime. The drawings were pretty great (as you'll see below).

The next class we spent some time looking at a Matisse book and talked about how he liked to use big shapes and how his shapes were similar but not all exactly the same. I focused again on having things not be 'perfect.' Also, I had them use a new medium, oil pastels. They were able to color over other colors with ease, which made it easier for those who had trouble staying in the lines. The students were able to create art without feeling nervous of making mistakes.

In the final class of the unit, the students were asked to "Wrap It Up." A few of them took that literally and as they made their comic strips about what we did as a class, they used 'wrap it up' day represented by presents. I kind of love these kids. The acrostic poems were a bit trickier because of their lack of spelling knowledge and their desire to input random words that happen to start with the letter. So it ended up being a poetry lesson as well.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Visit to Hamilton Elementary

We recently had the opportunity to visit Ms. Schick's classroom at Hamilton Elementary. We sat down for a while after school to talk about her studio space and how her students interact with it. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.

"I wanted a class that was sort of homey. Kids probably spend more time here than they do at home. I think it’s important. Also, for art, if you’re in a sterile environment or space, it’s not creative. It’s not inspiring." 

Let’s start with the paint table. How does it function?
"Well, like today, we were drawing with oil pastels and I didn’t want to just put the paint on the table because kids will just start painting. Painting is too much fun. I had everything set up over there. And then when they raised their hand, I would look at their work and then they could go get the paint. So, yeah, kids should be able to get their own things and put them away and not be waited on."

"That’s the supply table. That’s where the markers, glue, scissors, drawing books are. They really like how-to drawing books. When they are done with an activity, they can go get a how-to draw book. Kids really like those and I think it can really build your confidence in drawing."

I’m impressed with how many supplies you have.
"I’m a pretty good borrower and stealer. And, one of the moms in this arts group, said 'we all have wish lists, right?' So, she said let’s put a bin in the hallway, so people can donate. People always want to give, but they don’t want to email me or they don’t know where to bring it. Now they just walk in and throw it in this bin. And it’s been overflowing with stuff, which is really nice. The bin has a list and now I have pretty much everything on the list."

"We have an art gallery here too. It’s an art gallery/café. I rotate with the other art teacher here. Every other month we each do a show. I would consider that one of the top 5 spaces. There’s this really cool installation hanging in there now." (Students created bird sculptures and placed them in the school garden. The garden installation was documented and exhibited in the café gallery. The students also exhibited the bird sculptures in a flying sequence above the café tables.)