Working with a new group of students is challenging. The first order of business has to be getting to know them, as people and as artists. This prismacolor bootcamp with Art 3, I'm finding, is giving me the opportunity to do just that.
I like to start new classes with skill building, then application of new technique because it allows me to assess where students are in terms of confidence, comfort working independently and technical ability.
We started our prisma bootcamp with a quick overview of how prismas, which are high end colored pencils, work. Next I asked students to select three images with interesting textures from magazines. The goal of this Texture Challenge was to draw three small sections of interesting texture. Next, demonstrated a range of approaches to working with this medium.
I see my role as the provider of information and it's my goal to give students the ability to make choices that work best for the artists they are, not just pass on my own preferences.
I liked this assignment because of the built in differentiation it has, which was more that I initially thought it would be. I asked students to pick images of things they would like to learn about drawing or that were challenging. Their image selection showed me quite a bit about their interests and confidence level. Some students found it challenging to pick an image independently, asked what I thought they should pick.
It became quickly apparent that the kids in my class had a range of prior knowledge. It's tough for students when they have never used a material and they are setting next to someone who is a master. It's also hard to ignore differences in skill - the work is right there on the table for everyone to compare.
The focus of these sort of activities has to be what I refer to "leveling up". I tell my students - frequently - that they must compare their growth to their previous work. Having classes select a wide variety of images supports this because work becomes less about comparison than it would be if everyone was drawing the same thing.
I helped everyone level up during this activity by doing a lot of one on one conferring and demonstrations. Some kids only needed me to ask them to step back from their work to notice a lack of contrast, or to point out that blue might help a shadow recede. Others needed me to sit and draw the image they work working on, modeling my thinking out loud about how I compose, select color and thing about mark making.
Next up: students will apply new learning in drawing of their choice.
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.