We all have them. Kids who sit, unworking, as the rest of the class creates, or students who ask question after question, continually unsure. I've always had these students in my classes, but this year, because of larger class sizes, I'm impacted by them more. It's been feeling like there are not enough minutes in class to spend the time I need with everyone.
This week I went to a short PD session at my school about supporting kids that struggle within the general education classroom. One point that really stuck with me was that some kids need help organizing the steps of a task. I do this, a lot, but as one of our special education teachers described a student with his head down, avoiding a task not because he doesn't care but because he doesn't know what to do, I saw a few of my kid this year in her description. I realized that the resources I have in place to help kids follow the art-making process may not be enough for all my students.
She talked about how people who tend to be successful at school make mental "buckets" to group and store information. I realized that I needed to help some of my kids with organizing the steps of the Artistic Thinking Process we use as the foundation of all the work in class. So I made this form.
*Read more about what the Artistic Thinking Process is here. *
I created it on Thursday, thinking I would occasionally use it with a few students when I introduce new content, printing them out so kids could have individual copies of the process I write on the board.
I ended up using the form seven times the next day - and I wasn't introducing anything new.
The first student I tried it with has been a kid who's done little in my class this year. He's been suspended multiple times and has missed a lot of content, plus he often just seems unwilling to work. I constantly have to ask him to turn off his phone, remind him what he should be working on and redirect him. Often he just gives up when he doesn't draw something perfectly the first time. Other times he won't even try. I've worked hard to build a relationship with him but it hasn't translated into engaged participation yet.
I saw him with his head down, looking at his phone and not doing anything close to the assignment at hand. I brought over a printed copy of the form and told him that I wanted to make sure he knew what to do. I sat there and filled it out with him, making sure to help him identify the materials he needed and where they were.
He worked for the whole class, independently, and finished what he'd planned to make.
That he was able to do this is beyond huge to me and, I'm sure, to him.
I used the form with six other students who exhibited qualities of being unsure of the next steps. It helped students identify what development activities would work best to give them the information they needed to start their artwork and to keep a very accessible record of what they needed to do next.
The thing about it I loved was that it proved enough support for each of the students I used it with that they were able to work independently for the rest of class, when typically that would have needed support from me multiple times to stay on task.
An optical illusion of a 3D staircase created by a student. He was ready to give up after making the image on the left. I filled out the form with him, which helped him identify that he could ask me for a demonstration as a development strategy. The image on the right is what he was able to draw after.
I'm a firm believer that all students can be successful with the right support and if they won't or can't do a task it's my job to figure out how to help them. I'm really excited about how this resource has already started to make content in my class more accessible and how using it has impacted comprehension and engagement for kids who've been struggling.
If you'd like to try it, find it here.
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.