Archives for category: effort and involvement

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStudents taking my professional development courses often ask me how to evaluate and grade artwork that their students have made. Unlike other curricular areas such as math or history, art is a subject that doesn’t result in answers that can be marked “right” or “wrong”, so how should a teacher go about grading it? The answer — in my opinion — is easier than you might think.

When I’m evaluating student artwork, I focus mainly on two things: their effort and their involvement.

Where art is concerned, people tend to get caught up in what the finished piece (or outcome) “looks like”, rather than the quality of the process that got them there. Differences in art exposure and experience will produce vastly different outcomes between students, so that hardly seems an equitable approach to evaluation. For example, as a trained artist, how my final art piece compares to the work of someone who has never held a paint brush doesn’t make sense. But EVERYONE can demonstrate a high level of effort and involvement when creating art, and I believe this is the key.

Rather than “getting the right answer” — in the form of a finished piece that looks a certain way — I believe that authentic art experiences should encourage exploration of subject matter and materials. Sometimes this exploration results in an end product that is expected and satisfying to the maker and the viewer… sometimes not. But both should be valued as creative growth and as successful.

With older students in particular, I often list requirements or expectations for a given art experience. This lets the students know in very specific terms what techniques and/or materials I expect them to use during their work. When such a list is part of the assignment, then naturally the use — or omission — of them becomes part of my evaluation process. If a required element is not explored or included, that counts “against” the grade. This circles back to my original premise of evaluating effort and involvement, because if a student hasn’t attempted the requirements, they clearly haven’t demonstrated their full effort, nor have they been fully involved in the assignment.

An example came up this week with a professional development student of mine submitting photos and an evaluation to me of an art lesson she taught to her own students. Of one student’s work she remarked, “His piece ended up just looking like a lot of black on the paper, rather than distinct lines.” Nevertheless, she included that piece in the display, and I applauded her for that. What I said back to her was that for that particular student, his process of drawing the lines — though he did it over and over again until his work was a mass of black — was a more important exploration and experience, than of having a final piece that looked a certain way. Did he demonstrate effort in the creation of his piece? Yes! He took the process of drawing lines so far that they became indistinguishable from one another. Was this student involved in the process? Absolutely! And do I love his teacher for not getting “hung up” on what his final piece looked like, and for accepting his creative effort and involvement for what it was? You better believe it!

If you have questions or thoughts about this topic, please share them in the comments section. If you’re looking for some fun, affordable, and convenient professional development credits, click here to find out more about the distance learning art classes I teach. (No previous art experience is necessary — but your full effort and involvement will be!) Thanks for reading.  😉

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s hard for me to believe that January 2014 is almost over, and I’m wondering if you feel the same way?

Believe it or not, Valentine’s Day is coming up fast, so I thought I’d share some easy-to-implement art lessons that would be lots of fun to do with your students. With a minimum of supplies and no art background or art teaching experience necessary, these lessons really are a must-try for virtually any grade level. (Just modify to best suit the age and ability levels of your students.)

IMG_2538The first one involves making little three-dimensional pop-up cards or books. If you have your students make cards, they would make wonderful gifts to people in retirement homes, senior citizen residences, or even hospitals in your community. And what about servicemen and women? Think how much a handmade card of caring and gratitude would mean to them. The real-world connections here to language arts and social studies are both meaningful and profound. Making little pop-up books would be fun too, it just depends on how involved you want to get. You can read all about this fun lesson here.

IMG_1659The next lesson idea takes you step-by-simple-step through the creation of Giant Stuffed Paper Hearts, and you can get all the details in a previous post by clicking here. Not only will the resulting hearts make fabulous decorations for your classroom, school site or even district office if they’re so inclined to let you decorate, but you will have helped the environment by cleaning up trash or by recycling paper that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill.

IMG_1649And finally, how about having your students create some fun little Valentine heart bouquets? Read all about this lesson here. Again, these would be perfect for your students to make for someone special. This could be one of the community groups mentioned above, someone at your school site, their student buddies, or even someone at home. In my experience, students LOVE making things to give away and will likely extend even more effort than usual on a piece that they know will be a gift, so be sure to determine the recipient(s) ahead of time and let your students know who they’re creating their artwork for. The excitement this generates is inspiring! Have fun with these, and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about it if you use one or more of these lesson ideas in your classroom.

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I love this time of year! This season of magnificent color presents an exciting opportunity for students to notice and record what they observe happening around them. If your students aren’t already keeping “art journals”, I suggest that now is the time to have them start! You can read my earlier posts about the ease of setting up and using art journals here, here, and here. There’s also a post here about observational drawing that you might find helpful.

My proposal is simple. Have your students observe leaves, one at a time — over time — as they change colors throughout the fall. While many different approaches are possible, I would suggest that you begin by simply having them each select one leaf to bring into the classroom. For this first observation, I would encourage you to suggest that they look for leaves that are primarily green. You might say something like, “We’re going to go outside (to some specific area) and spend just a few minutes while you each find one green leaf to bring back inside our classroom.” This sets a few basic parameters as well as your expectations: A) we will all be staying in the same area together, and B) we will be spending a very short amount of time doing this.

Once back inside, the process of carefully observing their leaves can begin. (Having each student set his or her leaf on a small, pre-cut square of black or white construction paper will help simplify the background, and will make each leaf seem “special” as if on display.) I would not have any pencils or paper out at this time to help focus their attention on their leaves only, and on LOOKING. Oral language and sharing would be great here… what do they see? Students can share their observations with a neighbor. Perhaps you could make a list of class observations. Vocabulary words like line, form, shape, color, and texture can be introduced or reinforced.

When it’s time to draw, journals/paper, pencils, erasers, color pencils, crayons and anything else you might make available can be distributed and the drawing can begin. You might encourage your students to draw one large image, or perhaps you might encourage them to draw several smaller images — or “studies” — of the same leaf from different angles. (This is great for those students who always finish at light speed! Ask them to move their leaf and take another look at it from this different angle.) Most of all, encourage them to take their time, to slow down, and to really look at what makes their particular leaf special and unique. The trick to observational drawing is to actually draw what you see in front of you, not what you THINK you see. Every child in your class has seen a leaf, and generally knows what leaves look like, but today you want them to do the best drawing they can of the particular leaf that is right in front of them.

If you have the time and the inclination, you might attach a writing component to this activity, having students describe what they see, or perhaps how they felt looking at their leaf and trying to draw it, or maybe even compose a poem about it. This writing could be as structured or as “free form” as you want it to be. The writing and drawings can be shared aloud with a partner and/or with the class. Another idea is to have everyone leave their journal open on their desk (or their paper out) and everyone moves around the room doing a “journal walk” or “gallery walk” to enjoy everyone’s work. (If this type of activity is new for your students, you might need to spend some time talking about how important it is to value all efforts, and to stick to constructive comments.)

As you notice the leaves changing colors over the next several days or weeks, explore this same process all over again, but this time you will encourage your students to select leaves that are say, yellow. Maybe a few days or weeks after that, everyone will select red leaves. Reinforce for your students how amazing it is that while you are returning to the same area over and over again for leaves, they have changed color dramatically.

This simple, multi-step journaling practice can be repeated using a multitude of subjects, some of which include growing plants, trees budding out in the spring, or something rotting like a small piece of fruit — kids LOVE the gross-out factor of this last one! Once kids get the hang of what you expect from them out of this process, this type of drawing can even be something that your students can do independently like at a station or center, or perhaps when other work has been finished. When practiced frequently, observational drawing is so much more than an art exercise for students, but rather it becomes a thoughtful, meaningful way of viewing, thinking about, and of understanding their world.

IMG_1809With graduation season upon us, and another school year drawing to a close, this is a great time to help students think about where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re headed. The “My Life” pop-up book is a small, three-section book that invites students to think about significant events/people/places from their past and present, and to imagine their future. Breaking the book down into these three main time-frames will enable your students to more easily focus on significant details without being overwhelmed.

Here’s what you’ll need: Sheets of 9×12 inch construction paper in a variety of colors, construction paper scraps, scissors, tape, staples, glue, and markers. You might also want to include other materials such as brads, cotton, yarn, buttons, ribbon, string, fabric scraps, hole punches, and construction paper sheets larger than 9×12.

Each child will ultimately need 6 sheets of construction paper — 1 sheet for each of the three pop-up sections, and 1 “backing sheet” for each section. Because this book will consist of 3 separate sections, students may begin on any section they choose — past, present, or future. After all sections are complete, the book may be assembled in the correct order.

Begin by demonstrating how to make a simple pop-up tab. Fold one sheet of 9×12 inch construction paper in half, and make two parallel cuts along the folded edge for each pop-up tab you want to have, like this:

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After cutting, open your paper, and push the tabs you just cut to the “inside” of your folded paper. Close the folded paper with your tabs inside. When you open the folded paper back up, your tabs should stand up like this:

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Elements that will pop-up when the book is opened will be attached to the front of these “tabs”. Encourage your students to get fully involved in the surface decoration of each section of their book using construction paper scraps and any other materials that you have provided. For example, if their own birth is the significant event from their past that they want to represent, perhaps they will have a small crib as one pop-up element, with another being a large cut-out of the numbers for the year they were born. The “background” of the scene could be decorated like a wall in the baby’s room, and the “foreground” area decorated like the “floor” of that room. In other words, encourage the creation of entire settings or scenes to fully represent their significant event/place/person, etc.

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Depending on the age and ability levels of your students, a bit of writing for each section can be included to add depth and description to what they’ve created visually.

After a section is complete, a second sheet of construction paper should be folded in half and attached to the back of the section sheet like this:

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Once all three sections — and their backing sheets — are finished, the sections can be connected together using staples, double-sided tape, or glue. (Hint: you’ll need to be very patient if you use glue!) If you desire, you can have the students decorate the “cover” sheet of their book. For a more finished look, you can wrap a larger sheet of construction paper around the outside of all three sections of the book, and after attaching it, trim off any excess. (A 9×12 sheet won’t be large enough once you’ve connected all three sections of the book together.) This then can be decorated as the cover.

Not only will you learn a great deal about your students during this process, but they will love sharing the highlights of their lives with you and with their friends.

Interested in more fun art ideas like this one? Check out the affordable, self-paced, and convenient professional development art classes I teach through Fresno Pacific University here!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking for a unique and creative way to celebrate Earth Day with your students this year? Allow me to suggest Earth Day hats! (Pictured above is a basic, undecorated scored paper hat shown from the side/back.)

The idea here is to have each student in your class create a hat, and then decorate it using Earth Day as the theme. While the basic hat shapes will be the same, each child’s surface decoration will be distinct and unique, making each hat a personal statement about how that child feels about protecting and celebrating the earth.

You will need one sheet of 18X24 inch construction paper for each child in your class — color choice is up to you. You will also need a stapler, any type of glue, scissors, and lots and lots of discard materials for the students to choose from. This could be anything from a scrap paper box, to things like, ribbon, buttons, cotton balls, tooth picks, fabric, feathers, tissue paper, brads, yarn, pipe cleaners, glitter, etc. This art experience is the perfect time to use up a variety of random things you have on hand, and to recycle old things into something fresh, fun, and new!

To make a basic hat, just make one simple scored line in a half circle shape on the long side of a sheet of 18X24 inch construction paper. (See diagram below.) If you’ve never scored paper before, you will simply drag the pointy end of a pair of scissors — or even the tip of a paper clip that’s been bent open will do — gently across the paper. This “scored” line that you’ve just created will allow you to then fold the paper along this curved line. (Scoring as a technique is amazing! Once you start exploring it, you’ll be hooked!) Attach points A and B together with a staple, and you’re done. Super simple! (In the photo at the top of this post, you can see this stapled connection point at the back of the hat.) If you’re working with very young students, it might be a good idea to have the hats made ahead of time for them so that they are all ready to be decorated. Scoring takes a little bit of practice so as not to cut through the paper while you’re doing it, but after a few tries, you will learn what amount of pressure is just right.

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If Earth Day is going to be your theme for hat decoration, it might be a good idea to spend some time talking with your students about all of the different ways they could decorate their hats to show how they feel about protecting and celebrating the earth. They could cut out letters to include words on their hats, they could cut out, or tear out, and create symbols to place on their hats (think earth, sun, clouds, water, plants), they could add fun, three dimensional things to their hats such as paper streamers, ribbons, and more. (I would strongly suggest that you not use drawing materials such as markers, crayons, or pencils for hat decoration, as drawings tend to lack the excitement and involvement that other types of surface decoration provide.) Perhaps this brainstorming could be captured as a list that the students could refer back to while they work?

By this time, your students will be highly motivated to get started creating their hat masterpieces, so there is little left to do beyond getting their hats and materials distributed to them. They will have a blast making something that is such a personal statement, and the fact that they will be able to wear them when they’re complete just sweetens the deal. (I’m envisioning a photo op in here somewhere!) Have fun with this, and I’d love to hear how it goes if you decide to try it! (Pictured below is a basic, undecorated scored paper hat from the front.)

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If you’re an elementary school teacher, you know that young students are very enthusiastic about art. They are willing to try just about anything, and they are willing to try it with gusto. The older children get, however, the more reluctant they become to try their hand at art. When art experiences are authentic, they usually say a great deal about the artist, so by their very nature can make one feel vulnerable. By the time students become young adults, many have completely shut down artistically.

As a teacher at both the elementary and the secondary levels, it has been my experience that the single most important way to engage the reluctant older student in art, is to first meet them where they are. Initial lesson designs should rely heavily on skills that they likely already possess or will find less intimidating. (For example, painting a still life realistically using watercolors would probably not be a good first lesson choice, but using a pencil to create an abstract design using thick and thin lines might be.) Beginning with art experiences that virtually guarantee success, and showing students that you value their authentic efforts, will build their confidence and enable them to move on to ever more challenging art production.

A second approach that I used time and time again was that of providing a specific age context for the work they were doing. For example, while keeping expectations for involvement and exploration of materials very high, I would ask my high school students to imagine they were creating a particular piece of art for a viewing audience of very young children. This would allow them to “play” with images and design like a child, while still remaining their “cool”, older selves. It consistently produced wonderful results.

By presenting thoughtful lessons, and by demonstrating interest through questions and constructive suggestions, the teacher can create an atmosphere where otherwise reluctant older students will feel safe and are willing to take creative risks as they explore new materials, skills, and concepts in art.

If you’d like some tried and tested lesson plans that are sure to engage students of all ages, please check out my professional development class offerings through Fresno Pacific University.

Do you remember the simple joy of creating one of these? Consider sharing this wonderful experience with your students this autumn. It couldn’t be easier and the rewards are great!

For supplies, you will need only three things. Paper… nothing fancy… copy paper works great here. Crayons… broken into easy-to-hold chunks with the paper peeled off. An assortment of leaves and maybe even some small twigs and branches.

Your students will love exploring outside to find just the right leaves and twigs. If you have magnifying glasses — even the super inexpensive ones — give them to your students to use. (You won’t believe how focused they get!) Once back inside, explain the process of placing their leaves and twigs underneath their papers so they can rub over them using the sides of their crayons. A simple pantomime of how they will rub over their paper using the crayon is enough — you don’t have do actually do it — let them have the thrill of discovery themselves.

And they will be thrilled! When the rubbed images appear, it’s like magic and they love it! And don’t be fooled into thinking your kids are “too old” for this experience. As a high school art teacher for many years, I was consistently shocked by how many of my juniors and seniors had never done this. And the ones that had, had such fond memories of it, that they loved the opportunity to do it again.

So why devote time to an art experience such as this? Besides the obvious — it’s fun! — so many important things are going on here. Being outside. Exploring. Talking with each other about what they’re finding and doing. Analyzing and making decisions about their leaf selections… colors, shapes, textures, sizes. Using small muscle control to make the rubbings. Deciding on colors and placement of objects. Talking to others about what they’re making. And what if you incorporated writing? Depending on your approach, the curricular possibilities are virtually endless. And then, what if you incorporated science and scientific observation? What about math? The point here is that this simple, joyful activity suddenly becomes the catalyst for a profound level of learning and involvement. (And did I mention that it’s fun?!)

For other simple ideas about how you can easily incorporate art into your classroom and support the curriculum you are teaching everyday, please check out the affordable, convenient, self-paced Professional Development courses I teach through Fresno Pacific University.

We’ve all heard the refrain. Usually it’s shouted out much sooner than we would like to hear it.

“Teacher… I’m finished!!!”

While we frequently — and successfully — handle this situation, I’m often asked by teachers what to do when it happens during an ART lesson.

Because art is one of the few subjects where the “answers” come almost exclusively from within the child, there are always — and I do mean ALWAYS — more solutions to explore.

When a student rushes to finish during an art lesson, the solution is easy. First, I validate what the student has already done, acknowledging their efforts thus far. Then I begin asking questions such as, “What more could you do here?”, “What would happen if you tried…”, “What do you think about trying this again using a totally different approach?” And so on.

Questions like this accomplish several things. First of all, they let the student know that they are, in fact, not yet finished. Secondly, they encourage the student to think more deeply, to further explore either subject matter or materials, or both. Thirdly — and perhaps most important of all — by using questions like this, you begin to teach your students that there can be many, many solutions to a problem. This type of creative thinking is essential to develop independent, critical thinkers. (A vital skill within the Common Core State Standards.)

As you settle into the routine of being back-to-school, please consider how connecting art to your curriculum will support your students in all areas of study. The Professional Development classes I teach are affordable, convenient, self-paced, and offer flexible scheduling. Click on the Fresno Pacific University link at the top of the page  —  or write to me at <jgomasfaison@gmail.com> to find out more.

 

A recent article in the February 2012 edition of Educational Leadership magazine — published by ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) — had me cheering and wanting to share! This article, entitled All Students Are Artists, by Linda Nathan, makes a wonderful case for the importance of including the arts in education — something I have known and felt for years — and she presents the facts to support her case.

One point that really grabbed my attention, was her discussion about how much of today’s educational system is focused on “doing well on the test”. Nathan says, “What if arts education, with its emphasis on process, could help us think about not being finished, instead of failing?” What a concept! Since art expressions come from within, there are rarely “right” answers, but rather “explorations” that cause students to think, question, and puzzle things out for themselves. (As opposed to math for example, where 2+2 always =4.)

As our world continues to grow, expand, and change in ways inconceivable only a few years ago, perhaps our expectations need to change as well. Can we embrace the fact that learning — in any subject area — is a process, and that what’s important is the desire to learn, accepting that all students will not “arrive” at the same time? In fact, what if there wasn’t a “learning destination” at all, but rather a continuum of curiosity and a thirst for learning that lasted our entire lives? This doesn’t mean that there are no educational standards. On the contrary, as an art teacher, I continually push my students to higher levels of learning, making sure that everyone understands my expectations of hard work, patience, and practice. I fully expect that everyone will work to the best of their own abilities — pushing themselves to meet the objectives set before them. What I don’t expect is that everyone will be able to meet those objectives at the very same time. Making measurable progress toward the objectives? Certainly. Meeting them all on the same day at the same time — as with standardized testing? Not necessarily.

As Nathan puts it, “Students crave opportunities to figure things out — things that matter.” Including meaningful art experiences in the classroom curriculum can inspire this type of meaningful engagement with school and with learning, which in turn will have far-reaching effects on the students and their lives beyond their involvement in the arts.

To learn more about this article and Educational Leadership, go to ascd.org

To learn more about my Professional Development art courses, click on Courses for Credit, or Fresno Pacific University at the top of this page.

Of great concern among many teachers I work with is the question of how art should be evaluated. Implementation of any sort of art program — no matter how large or small — should involve careful evaluation of the students and their work, just as any subject of study in school does. For many people though, their first and only thought about art evaluation is, “How does it (the finished product) look?” or, “Does it look good/real?” These are the kinds of responses we’ve been conditioned to think about because many of us equate making art with some sort of “contest”. The problem with this type of thinking is that it is extremely limited. To restrict one’s evaluation of a piece of artwork to the end product alone, leaves all consideration of the process out of the equation. In my experience, it’s during the process of making art that much of the “good stuff” — critical thinking/problem solving — happens!

In my years of teaching, I have found it makes sense to consider the process of art making as well as the end product. More specifically, I believe that both process and product should be considered within the framework of each student individually. This is not as overwhelming as it sounds. Effort and involvement are key considerations when looking at the process a student goes through when creating any piece of art. The teacher should ask him or herself things like, “How involved did this student really get with the art experience? Did they explore many possibilities, or rush to get through it? Did they explore the materials made available during the experience? Did they take any artistic risks? Did they challenge themselves? What type of thinking did they do while working on the piece?” … and so on. It doesn’t matter how much — or how little — art background an individual has, everyone can and should be expected to put forth his or her greatest effort during an art experience. Different individuals will most certainly bring a wide variety of skills and prior experience to the table, but an evaluation of their process — including their effort and involvement — instantly levels the playing field, no matter what the final outcome (product) “looks like”. (And really, who among us is qualified to “judge” the outcome only of an art experience when the expression is so personal, coming entirely from within the child?)