Learning new things is hard. So is teaching them. I want my students to master foundational knowledge so they can make independent choices about what to make and how to do it, but things get in the way: my kids have a huge range of prior knowledge and they learn new information at different rates. Plus, some are enthusiastic and motivated, while others seem uncomfortable or disengaged. The solution for this - group work.
When I teach new skills I use the Gradual Release Model, which I've written about here and here. The step that I most often skip is "you do together", which I realize more and more is exactly the wrong approach. Giving students the opportunity to apply new skills with the support of others helps everyone acquire new knowledge quickly - which get us to more student choice quickly and successfully.
I started my Art 1 Bootcamp yesterday with value. Normally I teach this by demonstrating, then having kids practice. This time I demonstrated and had students draw along with me or just watch, depending on learning preference. Next we formed groups of 3 and used the base of the classroom stools to trace a big circle form for them to shade together. The conversations were great.
"Okay guys, where are we going to put the highlight?"
"Do you think this is a good shape for the cast shadow?"
"Dude, don't forget the reflected light, didn't you listen?"
The knowledge learned through these types of conversation is so important for learning. Talking through a task with a group clears up any misunderstandings, builds vocabulary and cements new learning. This short experience will give them information they need to be successful with the more student-directed drawing experience that will end this section of the bootcamp.
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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 soon to be published book The Open Art Room. In my free time I love to garden, cook and jog - all while chasing two boys under four!