Monday, December 31, 2012

Understanding the Studio Habits

I'm new to Armstrong this year so I'm teaching studio habits for the first time to my students. We spent time discussing each habit and students envisioned what each habit looks like in practice. I collected some of the drawings and put them together as a visual aid for my students.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Art Toys at Hamilton Elementary

Matt recently visited Ms. Schick's studio at Hamilton Elementary to document students at work as they were mid-process in the creation of their own "Art Toy." Students worked independently and collaboratively with assembling found objects/materials to create their own toy. After the class period, Matt and Ms. Schick briefly discussed having students use the Studio Thinking Reflection sheet in one of the next sessions. Here are a couple of video clips of the students talking about their process and a sample of their reflective writing. It is amazing how clearly their critical thinking comes forward through these two methods of data collection.

This student worked independently the entire period as he problem solved how to have his toy stand on its own. In this short clip we see several examples of critical thinking: he is self correcting as he makes changes on his own, he has a clear direction and intentionality, he refers to prior experiences of building things for his little sister, and he is sharing internal verbalizations.

And here is his Studio Thinking reflection:

The two girls in the clip below worked side-by-side throughout the period. Again, we see several examples of their critical thinking coming forward: they are talking to each other and asking each other questions as they develop strategic solutions, they are creating visual representations of their ideas and developing metaphor, and using their drawing/notations as a resource.

And, here is the Studio Thinking reflection for the girl making the "Cat Mermaid."

Below are the Studio Thinking reflections from the other students in the class.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Students reflect on a project and demonstrate critical thinking

Freshman students in my Art 1 class worked on a still life drawing, using charcoal for 2-3 weeks in class.  I wanted them to learn several techniques such as laying down a tone on the paper first and pulling out highlights, as well as enlarging a small thumbnail sketch in order to ensure a successful composition.  This type of art (Vanitas Still Life using Chiaroscuro) is an ancient form, and so we also spent time learning about that.

Following the completion of their drawings from observation, students spent pretty much an entire class period reflecting on their process and how they felt about it.  Below are some of the examples of their written reflections using the template we received in our workshops, as well as some of my thoughts when reading them.   I will post some images of the students finished works over winter break- to coincide with their reflections.

As a teacher, the best part of looking these over is the drawings the students made of themselves, “map yourself doing this activity”…  I was surprised by how much information the students’ drawings possessed. They reinforced and expanded my overall impression of the student and their view of themselves.  The drawings demonstrated emotions the students were feeling and thoughts they had while making their drawing. They showed this through the way they drew their facial expression, the posture of the person representing them, and more.

The drawings also remind me of certain actions the students took, or seminal moments in their process for them, such as placing their drawing across the room to look at it and noticing it has all the same value.

In many drawings, the students recorded an exact drawing of the shapes of their piece, upside-down, which reminded me how deep their connection with that image they struggled with- how ingrained it must be.

Another thing that was really great was reading some of the students’ “self talk” that they included in their drawing- basically their inner life as an artist. The way they drew thought bubbles with internal dialogue was really interesting.  The bubbles described how the students spoke to themselves during the project, which is not something a teacher could know about without this type of reflection.  Some examples are “Ani, step down and think”, “don’t look too frustrated”.  Students also included dialogue from their peers that went on, in speech bubbles, which is also valuable information for how the students were communicating with and helping each other throughout the process. 

This student stood while she drew, everyday.  I like how she captured that, as well as how she seems to be alone in her world.  The drawings most students created in this reflection are perfect mini-versions of what they were working on.

This student includes an image of himself asking for tips and guidance from other students at his table.

Another thing that amazed me from reading these reflections was the HUGE range of emotions that students felt during and about this process of creating a charcoal still life.  Everything from angry to irritated to sleepy to calm to happy to proud to nervous to passionate serene and graceful.
I also enjoyed reading about how the students felt this process would change them as artists, and what prior experiences they had which impacted their drawing experience.  One student said she felt calm because the objects were peaceful, another said her interest in antiques fueled her for part of the project. Others sited family members or drawing classes from the past, or past projects in my class, which gave them confidence going into the project.
While reading these over, I tried to keep my eyes open to repeating answers and feelings the students’ had- trying to learn what the students may have gleaned from the project as a whole.  When they answered the 3 questions on the back, many of them expressed that they learned to be more patient with drawings and with themselves, that they moved past frustration to make something they are proud of.  

Many mentioned that they had never worked for so long on something before. Some mentioned specific things I wanted them to learn, such as not to outline everything in order to make things look more 3-dimensional.  Many of them also mentioned that they loved charcoal or despised it, and those feelings that were rooted in an experience with a physical material dictated the direction of their feelings. I am also glad that each of my students experienced several different emotions throughout their process, this is true to life during almost any challenging experience.
As a teacher, I am very glad that many of my students felt that they learned they needed to be more patient with their work and with themselves.  Many of them expressed that if they did apply patience and worked hard, their drawing turned out really well, and they were proud of it.  “I learned that if I stick to something, no matter how hard it might get, I could make something really pretty out of it”.
This is part of what it means to be an artist, and truly persist beyond what you feel your initial capacities are.

This student drew a seminal moment in her process, when she set her drawing up across the room to see what needed to me done and get some distance on it.

I enjoyed reading about what students were thinking about, in this case music.

This student's drawing definitely expresses her sense of anger- the way she drew the clenched hand.


Thursday, December 13, 2012


The artist Slinkachu creates mini installations around the world in public spaces. Valerie and her students at Curie explore public narrative works of their own. Stay tuned for more images.

Valerie introduces a unit on Tiny Town

Valerie at Curie High school introduces a new unit for her Guerilla Art Class focused on Tiny Town.She invites students to create narratives with miniatures. She shares with us some background information on the artist Slinkachu who creates these inspired tiny installations in public spaces.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Performance Assessment Tasks

Liz shares a performance assessment task from her Art 1 class. Within their writing sample students call out specific Studio Habits. Some students are paraphrasing the language posted about the Habits.

Liz presents students with options for demonstrating knowledge but leaves room for their own decision making. How do you use performance assessments in your class? Please share.

To see more from Liz's studio at Lane Tech, check out their blog by clicking here.