As the end of the year approaches and my to do list is filled with assessments to grade I always reflect on what students have learned. This time around, with so many different sources telling teachers what their students should know I've been thinking about what I want them to have learned.
My students all create and maintain personal blogs and in their final post of the year I'm seeing some responses that deeply affirm my reasons for teaching art. So, in my students own words:
5 Things I Want all my Students to Take Away from my Class.
1. Setting goals and mastering them.
"My friend Molly inspired me to create this project, because she's always talking about her love of drag queens, which got me interested in them. The photorealism pieces in our class' art presentations combined with Molly's love for drag queens inspired my idea for this project. I wanted a drawing where I could work on my Prismacolor skills, as well as get better at drawing realistic portraits. I thought that the colors that drag queens use in their make up was a really interesting thing that I could draw, so I found a reference image and began to sketch. Overall, I'm very proud of my final artwork. It is the best realistic portrait I have ever done, because I put so much time and effort into not only the proportions but also the colors of the make up. I'm also really proud of the textures that I incorporated into the hair and the skin, which helped to make the piece more realistic." - Jenna, Art 2
2. Developed technical skills.
"One of the most important things I've learned is to not be afraid of color. Colored pencils are my favorite to art with, it takes a very long time to draw with colored pencils but in the end the time and effort put into them shows in the richness of colors. You can tell in my first piece that I colored too lightly, I was scared of the dark side. Over all I have to say I am very happy with how my final piece came together."
- Danielle, Art 1
3. Ability to find inspiration and modify it to make it original.
'Ying-Yang signs had been interesting me lately so I went to Pinterest to see if there was interesting about them on there. There was quite a bit so I chose a few favorites and brainstormed with them. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with my final artwork. I enjoyed working on it and I feel like it is turning out well."
- Tiffany, Art 1
4. Finding a personal style.
"Megan Carn's art style was my inspiration for my paintings and style. I love her bright colors and visible brush strokes that form over all large piece. I really enjoyed having the freedom to choose my project subject. It gave me time to effectively work on my technique and develop a definite style."
- Brooke, Art 2
5. Make authentic art that is student directed, expressive and personally meaningful.
If I had to pick one learning goal for my students this would be it. For me it's kind of the whole point.
"Another project I enjoyed was the social current issues project. I'm aware of the social injustices going on currently and this unit helped me approach it in an artistic way. I have been wanting to make some art that provoked thoughts of justice and issues in the world so this unit branched out my ideas. I like this concept so I may continue with this and maybe mix it with some abstract because those are two things I'm enjoying in art right now." - Sonya, Art 2
I firmly believe that the value in arts education lies in self expression and self directed art-making. When I facilitate that happening for my students I know I've done my job.
Building capacity to tackle big ideas with confidence, or at least without abject terror, is one of my central goals in my introductory classes. This takes work. A whole course for some students.
The end results are so worth it.
For this project I gave my students the theme of identity and open media choice. They ran with it, some making work that was brave and deeply personal, others examining social issues or complex themes.
A common misunderstanding of Choice instruction is that it's a free-for-all where the teacher just sits back and lets the kids figure it out. The truth is that, like any good method of teaching, it's very planned and intentional. Developing the skills necessary to complete this work took much of the course and I carefully guided students through examining the concept of identity in the inspiration stage of this project.
During design and creation time I focused on mentoring, which I wrote about last week here. Students often need help in narrowing focus and refining ideas. I do this by asking probing questions and helping them brainstorm a range of solutions.
I'm so proud of the work that my students produced during this project. I was also impressed that so many of them made work that was really personal. It's important to give kids a safe place to examine ideas and issues that are important to them.
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.