Thursday, July 20, 2017

What TAB or Choice Based looks like in my classroom... Part 1

About 2 years ago now, I first learned about TAB- Teaching for Artistic Behaviors.  The idea was interesting, and I joined the Facebook TAB for HS Group to learn more.  I'll be honest here- I'm not entirely sure if I'm doing it "correctly" in my classrooms, but I do what works for my students (so far) and continue to adapt and reflect on that each and every semester.  

You can see a bit of my journey in my previous posts: Something Kinda' TAB-ish, and Something Kinda' TAB-ish part deux, and TABish and More- NAEA 2017 Presentation.  

In this post, I want to outline how I used what I learned from my guinea pigs (my sculpture class), to apply to future classes and how I am slowly transforming my classes into a more TAB or Choice Based format. (Please note:  I use the words TAB and Choice Based interchangeably here because, while they are not exactly the same thing, I teeter between these and so therefore I mash them together in my verbiage.)  

Sculpture (Spring 2016):
The setup:  Teaching a class of 18 Ceramics 1 students (all hand building) in one classroom, and a class of 10 sculpture students in the adjoined room.  These 10 sculpture students were juniors and seniors- many I recruited to get the program started.  They were an ideal group of students to challenge my teaching because they were all very smart, very creative, and in general a great group of students receptive to out-of-the-box teaching.  These kids were self directed on the most part, so I was able to run between the classrooms without worrying too much about keeping them engaged.  We have class every day for 53 minutes, and it is a semester long class.  

In our classes, we have an expected curriculum through our district (what is being taught by us should be the same as being taught at our other high school to ensure kids are receiving the same experience).  I took a twist on this and feel that if my students are learning the same concepts and techniques, their "experiences" may still be very different, and that is okay by me.  This is where I shifted from project to artwork.  In the past, I had created the project from start to finish, and had them follow steps to achieve great looking artwork.  Students learned skills safely, and created "artwork" that was unique to them, but when you put theirs next to their peers, they looked like they could be a series from one student.  (I feel that the words "cookie cutter artwork" can be pretty harsh, but that's basically what it is.)  Now, I learned to teach like that!  Most art teachers have.  I remember learning how to teach concept and just thinking... my kids won't get that.  They just won't be able to wrap their heads around that in order to actually make the amount of "product" that I am expected to teach.  These are what I call, PROJECTS.  (My definition of projects:  Highly structured, teacher designed and researched lessons that create a similar product for each student.)

I began the class by explaining how this is new for me, and how we are going to try this together.  We talked about Artistic Behaviors- ways in which artists think and approach creating and their own personal creative process.  This is how we approached our units.  For example, I taught a unit on subtractive processes, and I feel it is important (and fun) for the students to learn how to pour and carve plaster.  In my previous class, I taught this by showing a powerpoint on abstraction and showing examples from Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.  Students made sketches and started creating.  If they made mistakes, it wasn't that big of a deal because we talked about how their work can morph from those mistakes, and since it was abstract, there was less risk.  

This time, I started the unit talking about How Artists Observe.  I can't even tell you how different this was for me, and my students.  Starting this conversation, the students kind of stared at me.  I asked them, "In which ways do artists observe, before they create?"  The conversations transformed from "with our eyes" to "by feeling an object with our eyes closed" and then into "listening to the community discussion."  It was amazing!  Then, students researched and sketched their ideas from THEIR observations.  They created additive clay maquettes, practiced subtractive techniques with floral foam, poured plaster of their choice of size, and carved away!  Lastly, we talked about ways to display the work (on a pedestal, handing on a wall, hanging from the ceiling...).  

Here is their Subtractive Plaster ARTWORK: 
(please ignore the plaster dust- didn't have time to touch up the photos)
Can you tell what these pieces are about?  You might notice how some students changed their artwork from maquette to subtractive plaster artwork, or how some faced the challenging and frustrating limits of the materials (oh no!  It broke!  now what?!).  I found it INCREDIBLE to read about each student's journey in researching, creating, and creatively problem solving, and discussing these artworks, the deep personal meaning they had with these works, and the investment and engagement was phenomenal.  Their critiques were profound as they discussed these ideas and the various ways to communicate visually, as opposed to looking at and critiquing the same "project."  
I was impressed by how my student artwork looked so different than it had prior, even though it was the same material and technique being demonstrated.  

Researched antlers and how the animal would fight
for its young (demonstrated through the scratch marks)-
ultimately displayed using wire posted to a pedestal)
Observed how water travels and carves out space.
Heard about the word Biomorphism and researched.  

During our mounting political environment,
student demonstrated how we are
linked together and divided politically-
neither side coming together.
Researched geometric prisms combined with organic matter. 
Originally created a heart to demonstrate her passion,
this student included the ceramic needle tool piercing the
heart to demonstrate her passion for ceramics.  
Researched mountain ranges and trails.  
Discussing the Syrian Refugee crisis.  
Demonstrating the highs and lows of mental illness.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TABish and More- NAEA 2017 Presentation

As promised, here is the presentation my colleague, Anna, and I gave at the NAEA 2017 Conference in NYC.  This outlines my journey to a choice based/ TAB style classroom and how I worked wth my students to use video to document and make this learning explicit to the community beyond the classroom.  In doing so, Anna and I applied for and received a grant to create an Interactive Gallery using an iPad Pro, creating and interactive gallery experience in our school.  We highlight this process that we went through to work on this and some of the roadblocks we ran into and overcame to make this experience happen.  

In my next post, I will explain a little more about how I moved my classes (one at a time) to TAB/Choice Based Curriculum, what that looked like for me and my students, and what were the benefits that I saw occur in my students' education and art creating.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Something Kinda' TAB-ish... part deux.

Love our local Art Museum!
Well, that's embarrassing!  My last blog post was from January of 2016?!  Whoopsies!  I have been wanting to follow up on how my teaching practice has changed over the last year and a half since I learned about TAB or Choice-Based (Or my favorite... the Choice-Based Continuum).  I just didn't realize it has been that LONG! 

I have spent the last year and a half transitioning just a FEW of my classes (one at a time) over to this new model (or what it looks like for me), documenting like crazy (my students tell me I use my phone more than they do... pshaaa, seriously??!), and working weekly one-on-one with another amazing colleague (Instructional Coach) to really zero in on best practice (for me and MY students).  Last year, I spoke with this amazing colleague at NAEA NYC sharing my journey from documenting to writing a grant to creating an interactive gallery to sharing our creative process beyond our classroom and back to best practices in teaching art (again, in my own work) and how that has impacted and grown my students' thinking and creating.  

NAEA NYC 2017- Can you find me?
In the next series of posts, I will be posting the presentation from NAEA that documents our journey, as well as the outcomes that I have been finding as it relates to best practice, student learning and thinking, evaluation responses, and response from the community.  Keep on a look out for these next few posts (which I promise will be soon... not a year from now).  

After that point, I will be shifting posts from "projects" (will my blog name be no longer valid?!) to overarching ideas and how students internalized and created artwork in this new forum.  

Please note:  I am NOT against "projects." (Even though you will notice in future posts how I am working to get away from saying, "In this next project you will..." and shifting to "What artwork you will be making from... ?")  In fact, I know some incredibly talented and inspiring teachers who teach highly structured, highly successful, instruction led projects that build major confidence and have beautiful outcomes.  I was definitely one of those teachers, and sometimes I struggle with wanting to do those again (and as you will see, sometimes I toss quick projects in so that my kids do build major confidence quickly).  I still feel very strongly that you have to teach to your demographic and the needs of those students.  I used to teach in the city, where I had classrooms of 43 kids who needed major structure (and with that many kids I also needed a lot of structure).  Now I teach in the burbs and in a school where kids are highly motivated for the most part, and on average I teach 24 in a room (36 in summer school).  (Don't get me wrong- at one point I taught 4 levels of ceramics in 1 room, and a completely different sculpture curriculum of 10 kids in the adjoining room, all at the same time, so... choose your vices, I suppose).  

So for me, currently, I work hard to figure out the best curriculum path for MY students and their needs.  I continue to go back and forth and constantly reflect on what works, what doesn't, and what could I do better at (all while balancing the work/life/family thang).  What I say is not the end-all-be-all, nor do I believe that there is no merit in other methodologies.  

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Something kind of TAB-ish

Today (err, yesterday) I posted to my Facebook "Fanpage" (which still cracks me up... as I think that my "fans" are really just people I know, and maybe feel bad for me and thus "like" my fanpage... which is still appreciated, don't get me wrong!): 

Trying to get back to my blog (which has to be feeling a bit abandoned) but in the thick of curriculum rewriting and rethinking the teaching style. (You know, reinventing the wheel.)
Thank you to my amazing brother-in-law who always keeps me real, it has been 187 days (now 188) since my last entry.  I mean, it is called project ART A DAY, right?  What's wrong with me? 

As my title states and as I mentioned in that post, I am rethinking the way I teach.  Now, this isn't a total rethinking so much as a philosophical thinking.  I know what you are thinking, "What the hell does that mean?"  I think it means that I have a style of teaching, that evolves and shifts depending on my students, and that I believe that my style has always been a little bit TAB-ish without calling it that, or even realizing it had a name.
My process has changed a little from the above after working with my music counterparts on... how to create a more cohesive language for the entire fine arts department.  This makes the artistic process EXPLICIT to the students, and demonstrates how many "words" move fluidly within that process. 

I also want to preempt this conversation and say that I also STRONGLY believe in teaching the "Artistic Process" of Plan, Create, Critique/Refine, and Reflect (again, can be another post), and I believe that this goes hand in hand with TAB (not the same as TAB, but is necessary to discuss and understand or question art).  I think that I'm working currently on wrapping my head around what this all looks like for me and my students (because I also believe that changes depending on your "clientele"), as well as MAKING IT EXPLICIT in my classrooms.  So here goes trying to explain my journey in a nutshell.

Sometime this past fall, I was on the ever-so-lovely-and-engaging facebook art teachers page and Ian Sands said something like... "Anyone interested in learning more about TAB for HS, join this new page!" And so I did. I had heard about TAB before, but really only in reference to elementary school teaching, and it sounds very Montessori-esque.  Which in my mind, sounds amazing, but in all logistical purposes sounds like a free-for-all mess.  Stations open at time for kids to make any kind of art they see fit.  Pro-CHOICE based teaching; students are given a theme perhaps and then can use any material available to them to create upon that theme or prompt.  (Now, don't yell at me because I realize that I may have over simplified, or really butchered that, but that's what I read into when I first saw posts about this.)  TAB stands for Teaching for Artistic Behaviors.  The concept of this sounds like an art utopia where we all come out full STEAM ahead, with amazingly creative problem solvers who will save the world from our current state of disaster.  (Which, if you know me, you know that I do have deep faith in our next generation and have seen what type of kids are next in line to rule to world.  I feel optimistic, but I will save that for another post.)

I decided to ease on in and creep around listening to what people post.  Oh wait, I didn't do that.  Nope.  I posted right off the bat like the ignorant jerk I am.  (And another shout out to Melissa Purtee who responded so quickly and was highly supportive of my floundering questions).  Here are 5 big picture thoughts from that discussion that have me constantly thinking about my teaching:

1. I might not be Nik Wallenda, but...:  I wouldn't say I'm all in or all out.  I'm teetering with my toes in each pool thinking about how my students still need tools in their toolbox through very process oriented projects (that is not to say that the outcomes look the same, so much as there are very specific expectations to fulfill to demonstrate to me that the students are "getting" it).  I feel like if I just give my class "free reign" then their art may or may not turn out like crap.  Only because many of them just don't have "tools in their toolbox" to help them succeed.  

The beginning of a PPT in Sculpture on Artistic Behavior. 
1.5  Free for all is a free-for-all?:  I also wonder along those lines, how we have students who are so used to being told what to do, how to succeed (ie get that grade), that they don't know how to handle the "free reign" quite yet.  I feel like easing them into this process is more successful (for me).  On a tangent, (as I usually do) I said to my sculpture class (who are currently my guinea pigs for this process), "My rubric that you see for this first assignment looks differently than my usual rubric, as many of you know me.  I'm really thinking about never grading again.  What do you think of that?"  And the students said, "Wait, what?  So, everyone gets an A?" or "So, if we hand it in on time, we get an A?"  They just are so wrapped up in a society of grading, that they aren't truly creating for creation/art sake.  I feel like in my classes, they are getting steps closer to that, but still ultimately want to know what they can do to get an A.  It's a bit painful... but I also wonder, so how DO I grade them (as I'm required to).  That's another post.  

An example from that PPT about how artists make choices.
2.  Thinking deeper:  I love the idea of pushing my students to think deeper.  I typically suggest ideas and say, "now you don't have to do that.  There are a million ways to accomplish your goal.  I'm just throwing out ideas to get you to think outside the box."  But, are they really THINKING deeper?  And is that okay?  Because I'm still giving them skills to think beyond the expectations (which most of our students are driven by... "here's the expectation, so you can get an A."  

3.  Back on the grading wagon:  I hate the idea of a grade.  I really do.  I do believe that students should be able to demonstrate concepts just like in any class, to receive the marks.  However, I also believe that some things you just can't measure like that.  For instance... risk taking, connections to life, EFFORT (omg, how do you measure and quantify effort... really?), participation (wow, I have come up with rubrics upon rubrics and honestly, I just can't stay consistent with that to keep it up).  

4.  Art shows and competitions:  How to fore-go some of the end result, polished products that are expected for art shows, for the real learning and growth that occurs in a TAB-ish classroom?  Who doesn't want to show off the amazing work of their students?  What students don't want to be recognized for their hard work and vision OUTSIDE of their school environment?  Yet, consistently, my students are not the "chosen ones" because their work doesn't fit into a neat and tidy little box, check-marked on a rubric full of expectations that I never set for them as their teacher.  I want to teach students to be artists and creative problem-solvers.  At this time in their life, I don't need them to be technical savants.  (Now, don't get huffy... I'm clearly on the technique/process bandwagon.  I just think about the benefits and detriments of only teaching with that sole motus operandi.)

5.  Time; it's never on my side:  How to take the time needed in a semester long course to fully develop this process.  How to then get over the emptiness that occurs when that semester is over and knowing you may never see those students again (ie to selfishly develop the process further).   Another part of the time factor is how do I fully get to spend time with all of my kids who are on totally different playing fields.  It went from "Hey, everyone!  Look over here, this is the next step" or "Hey, look!  Johnny just had an issue with this that I see a lot of people struggling with.  Let's talk about different ways to overcome this obstacle," to "Mrs. Taylor! I need you when you are done with her." "Mrs. Taylor!  I need you too!"  "Mrs. Taylor!  When can I come talk with you?"  Which is amazing, but also so challenging!  Especially when I teach Ceramics 1 in conjunction with Sculpture (in two separate rooms with an adjoining door).  Thankfully my students are super self sufficient this semester and very good at dialoguing together about their issues.  Hence the even more student centered studio experience.  (Wow!  It's happened without me even realizing it!)  But again, this seems to work for this "type" of group of kids.  The more advanced level.  The kids who can problem solve more on their own because they all have some tools in their toolbox already.  My other "fear" sometimes is being able to provide all the tools and materials that the students would want or need in order to create their artwork.  I might have to teach a student to grommet (for example), but then teach another to solder.  Again, I see this as teachable moments for all, but I want to then see it in practice.  Hence... why I "toe the line" like Nik Wallenda.  (Ok, not at all like Nik Wallenda, but you get the analogy... right?)

I do fully admit that that was more like 10 things crammed into the space of 5.5, but I can't help it.  I'm not so neat and tidy as I'd like to be.  Plus, this is a blog, not a research paper, for crying out loud!  

Any thoughts?  Leave them in the comments below!  I'll be posting about my TAB-ish sculpture class this semester most specifically (but will also try to update lessons I've taught, and my Adapted Art class which is comprised of multi-needs students paired with gen-ed mentors.  It is one of the most fulfilling classes I have ever taught.  More on that later!) 

Example of how artists choose materials.
Another example of how artists ask questions.
And then I show them an example of how when an artist chooses the material, how then essential question and form follow along.  I then show many slides of different types of forms created with plastic bags. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lesson: Linear Perspective MONSTER ROOMS!

Have I mentioned before that I LOOOOOOVE monsters?  No?  Well, then you must not have read my previous monster posts here, here, or here.  Shame on you!  Go visit them after you read this one.  You'll be happy you did.  

Taylor's example
Okay, so I have taught Drawing 1 this past semester and again in summa skool.  One topic I really hate teaching is ONE POINT LINEAR PERSPECTIVE!  You might ask yourself, "I know, it's the math, isn't it?"  Nope.  "Is it the streets and houses and rooms you get bored of?"  Wrong again.  "Is it the sword fighting that happens when metal rulers are brought out?"  Hmm, actually, no I like that part.  In fact, I usually give my students 30 seconds to get that outta' their systems.  Then, done.  No more.  What?  You didn't get to spear your classmate or poke out an eye?  Too bad for you!  You were too slow.  It's over.  

NO!  It's the cheesiness.  The tackiness.  The rudimentary elementary looking artwork that I get from this.  Maybe I'm not a good teacher when it comes to linear perspective, and THAT'S WHY!  Or maybe I just don't like to give a huge amount of time that truly is needed to get the details just right.  I don't know.  It just seems that it's just so easy to mess up.  Even the most skilled student who really understands the concepts can quickly and easily draw one line wrong and the whole things just looks "off."  UGH!  

So, instead of fighting it (totally and completely), I try to make it as silly as possible.  Last semester I had the students create a B Movie Poster using one point perspective.  That was fun, and the kids enjoyed it.  Still not my FAVORITE, but okay, I did like it.  I'll post on that one later.  Right now, I'm in my monster kick (if you couldn't tell) and so I'll show you what my students did for Drawing 1 in summa skool this summer.  

MONSTER ROOMS, of course!  I ended class one day with a collaborative game.  I had students first draw a shape (any shape will do!) in their sketchbooks.  Then, they passed their sketchbooks.  Then another set of instructions (draw eyes).  Then pass.  And so on and so forth.  When finally passed back to the original owner, they received a silly collaborative MONSTER!  yay.  Love it!  

Student uses his brainstorm sketches in his
sketchbook to create his artwork.  
The next day, when the students came in, we talked about Linear Perspective (MY FAVORITE! gag).  We practiced drawing streets with buildings and then a room of choice.  Then, I told them that they had to create an environment, a room perhaps, for their monster (with the option of making a new monster instead of sticking with the one from the collaborative game).  

They had to create a 1/2" border (on a 5" x 7" paper I provided), pencil in the drawing, ink the drawing using line weight, and add pencil shading to enhance.  Lastly, of course add a signature and a title.  Here is what we came away with:  ENJOY!

Lesson: Color Scheme Value Minis

I have to attach this to the previous post about textured monsters, specifically this one, because I plopped this little mini lesson right in the middle of that lesson.  We were ready to paint our monsters, but I HAD to teach the kiddos how to mix paint... and create tints and shades... and so here is what I did:

In the middle of it all, we started a new unit on color and value.  I gave the students a crash course on color theory (this is summa skool, member?  we have soooo little time):  we created a color wheel together, labeled primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.  Then wrote down some color schemes and labeled examples of those.  Then, students colored their monsters in their sketchbook using a variety of color schemes.  Once happy with the color choices, students learned how to mix acrylic paint to make a "sophisticated" color (i.e. not right outta' the tube).  I then showed students how to create tints and shades of that one color using white and black respectively.  Each time they mixed a new tint or shade, they plopped that into their notes and painted a square of paper I gave them.  Once all completed (white, black, 2 tints, 2 shades, and original sophisticated color), we let the squares dry.  

While waiting, students created 3 thumbnail sketches using ORGANIC or GEOMETRIC lines to create a 7 shape landscape.  They decided on one, then cut their paper and glued according to value (which was a fantastic transition into SPACE!).  We mounted onto white paper, and students had to embellish the border per value and color choices.  

(Below is my example with some example borders I made to help them start.)

Here are their little mini artworks!  (Yep, I credit Pinterest again for this little tidy idea:  perfect for middle school and excellent for HS mini project!)  Enjoy!

Interestingly enough, I just noticed how many purple and green landscapes happened... hmmm...

Lesson: Visually Textured Monsters become PHYSICALLY 3D

Didn't I already say how much I love these monster projects?  Well, here's where I take it even further (who knew?)!  Get ready for the FORM part of this unit.  Annnnd, some physical texture.  

If you haven't seen the Visually Textured Monsters post, check it out first.  Then, have fun with my Make a Noise post.  THEN... come back here.  Please.  You won't regret it.  

Taylor's example
Okay!  So, once we have made our drawn monsters, I have the students choose ONE of THOSE textured monster to create a 3D version.  Yep, a form.  At this point, I basically gave them some pointers on how to do this.  We used cardboard construction and I began brainstorming and sketching out MY monster to model how I think when I create.  I showed them a few different ways I could start with the overall form of my monster, using SHAPES out of cardboard. (This is also the point when I say, in a quiet higher pitched voice "Oh my god!  Mrs. Taylor is the best teacher ever!  We JUST learned about SHAPES!  And now we get to see how SHAPES TURN INTO FORMS!  Everything just builds on top of everything else!  Wow.  I'm so lucky to be in her class!"  Okay, so maybe I don't go on for that long, but you get the point. And sometimes I can get a chuckle out of a few students.  And hopefully the ones who didn't originally make the connection... now do.  And, well, some just stare blankly at me.  At least no one threw a pencil at my face?)  

During construction;
Taylor's skeleton
I let the students begin drawing out some ideas of construction, some start drawing and cutting out cardboard, and while that is happening I am basically just shouting out ways that I have problem solved my monster construction.  For example, I might shout out a "Hey, I was constructing my pieces and they seemed a bit flimsy.  So, I just cut out some extra supports to add here and there to really make sure my monster structure is super strong!"  Or I might even use another student as an example, "SOANDSO just realized that this wasn't working!  So she did XYZ and look at it now!  It's so awesome!!!"  

Once cardboard construction was moving along, I grabbed my few students who were ready and I started demonstrating papier mache with newspaper and watered down elmer's.  I talked, again, about crumpling up newspapers or whatnot to help develop the structure inside so that the skeleton wasn't so apparent once covering with newspaper.  And away they went!  Then those students helped others and really... I just got to enjoy watching them figure this all out on their own.  The one biggie that I had to keep saying about the papier mache process was to make sure to SQUEEGEE the newspaper (already dipped in glue) a LOT.  Many kids just kept on slopping it on, and their poor monsters just got soggy.  Other than that, they did a great job!

Taylor's monster papier machined standing next to student monster.

Once that structure was complete, students painted their monsters white and attached a PHYSICAL TEXTURE to their monster.  This texture could really be made out of anything.  I used paper pieces, some kids rolled up newspaper, some cut up construction paper, some used tape, etc.  It was completely up to them.  I even had a student bring in wax and apply, melt crayons, or add on sand!

Taylor's completed monster
with hat made by student.

Then we took a mini break and I we made a UNIT and VALUE unit in their sketchbooks. Check out here for the crash course in color theory and mini project I gave them in preparation for painting their monsters.

After making their mini tints and shades artwork (see unit above), students were allowed to paint their monsters using acrylic and watercolor.  I wish we had more time available on this, because it seemed a bit rushed at the end.  I would have given them a lot more painting tips and ideas.  Unfortunately, it was the end of the class and so there was a rush to get the monsters painted (because, of course, we then made an animation!).  

Let's not forget the self assessment and reflection!

At this point, we have already done a LOT of reflections in
which everything has been broken down in steps.
Now, I am asking the students to write as a full critique of their work. 

 Here is each individual monster!  Enjoy!