I pay close attention to what my kids work on in class but I always wonder what they actually take away from our lessons. One of the many things I love about the reflective blog posts I have students complete at the end of each unit is the window into their thinking that opens when I grade. I don't always see exactly what I planned on them learning reflected in their writing - sometimes I get more that I hoped for, sometimes less.
For our Artists Solve Problems unit that ended on Friday I wanted them to shift their thinking about problems and begin to view them as learning opportunities. I was pleased to see that many students "got" this concept. I was surprised to see that many kids wrote about seeing professional artists as people who make no mistakes. Read on to see what they learned, in their own words.
Manili, Art 1 "During this unit, my perspective on limitations have really changed. I used to think that limitations were something that held you back, and that your quality of work would be reduced knowing you had a setback. However, after going through this unit i realized that the limitations helped us in coming up with ideas. I found when we were brainstorming how to get around the limitation, my group came up with so many creative ideas that would have never even crossed our minds without the limitation in place; it promoted creative thinking and inspired us to try something new. "
Eduardo, Art 1- "Throughout the unit my thinking about solving problems as an artist changed, mainly because at the beginning of the unit I had a different perspective, I thought that artists were so talented that they were accurate when they do art and they could just make a perfect piece without really having any problems , but in this unit I actually experience what is it like to have challenges and limitations when doing art, and I learned that every artist at some point along their path will have challenges, limitations, and difficult decisions that could either affect their work in a positive or negative way."
Kearstyn, Art 2 - "I filled up the balloons and started throwing them. I realized that the paint was too light, this means I didn't add enough paint to the water mixture. I fixed this by adding more paint. It worked out but I had a major problem after that... The rubber cement did not work and it was impossible to see the words or people. This was the point where I had to change my idea completely and go back to the drawing board. I ended up throwing dark blue and purple paint balloons on the paper making it look like tie dye. When that dried I took masking tape and spelled out the quote in big letters. I was going to keep the tape but I wanted to splatter white around it, to add on to the texture. When I took the tape off though the letters were really hard to see. Since I still couldn't use paint brushes, I used a credit card to outline the letters in black. After climbing over all those difficult hills, I am proud of what I accomplished with this artwork and I am proud of getting the message out there to people about bullying. This unit has taught me a lot about patience and overcoming problems."
Ashley, Art 1 - "Throughout the artists solve unit I learned how to better solve problems or encounter tasks that I am frustrated with. I started off by scrapping what I would be working on, and starting over from scratch, but then I realised I was wasting a lot of art, and that there was more to be done to it or to "fix" it. I often discovered how using different materials could improve to look or quality, and that all it might take is a line, and the entire picture has a fresh, bold, or new meaning.
The limitation I chose for the final project was working only in materials that could not be erased, such as pen or sharpie. I did a bit of work in the area of pointillism, which is creating a picture out of small dots, but also stippling, which is shading a picture with the use of dots. they are very similar, but not the same. I started of with something very generic, a flower, but as each day went by, I decided to work more with eyes, as they are more complex and the shading in them can be ridiculous at times. I, in time, moved to anime eyes, because each one is unique and no other can look the same. but also, the way you shade them is more unique than any other style of eye.
The reason I chose things that couldn't be erased as my limitation was because that meant that I then had no choice but to role with what happened. If I were to sneeze, and scratch a blue line through my purple eye, I would have to work around it. It caused me to appreciate what I could to with my art work without constantly erasing every "mistake" that I made. It has given my a good lesson on how to better solve problems, than pretend there was never a problem in the first place."
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.