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.