CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Even bananas reflect about their work

Students pausing in the making to reflect and share about their work
Every two weeks, rain or shine, banana or grapefruit, we pause in the making to reflect and share artwork. It is important for artists to learn to talk about their work and the work of others with respect and insight, so we practice. 

If an artwork is finished, students have the option of displaying their work, storing it in their portfolio, or taking it home (3D work goes home if not displayed). Displayed work is always accompanied by an artist's statement. 

Work-in-progress is acknowledged as a normal state of affairs. In our program, the student decides when a piece is finished - or if a piece gets finished. Not all work is brought to a finished state, although there is a persistent idea among adults that students need to learn to finish what they start.
Objects painted silver but then abandoned
There are many reasons why artwork does not always reach a finished state. I feel it is up to the artist to make this determination. 

"I'm done!" declared an 8th grade needle-felter.."No wait! it needs feet!"
 When I speak at Art Educator conferences around the country, one of my favorite questions to ask an audience of art teachers is "How many of you have work at home that is unfinished?" Most hands go up. Next I ask "When are you going to finish that anyway?" Sometimes I add "It's due Friday." They get the point. Not all work gets finished. That's an authentic artistic behavior.


Last spring three tall boxes arrived containing our new art stools. In true art-teacher-form, I prized the boxes as much as the stools, and stored them in the art closet all summer, waiting for kids to return to make good use of them.

 I offered these treasures to any artist or collaborative team who could provide a plan worthy of the box. 


A group of three 8th graders design the first (Outer space box).
8th Graders researching images for "Outer space Box"


Three 5th graders designed the next (Aquarium box) and a solo 6th grader designed the last (Robot box).
5th graders prepare their box with gesso

"L" (grade 5) created the sketch for her team's box painting, which wasn't complete until four cats were created to look over the top of the aquarium.

The 3-D paintings adorned the school atrium for a few weeks becoming an interactive exhibit for students to arrange and rearrange. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

No Grades: Follow-Up

"I loved the idea of no grades because my work was my own...It wasn't for a grade. It was for my love for ART and how art helps me become a better person." ~8th grade girl

For years now I have been polling students as they finish a term. First, I ask: "If you were grading yourself in art, what grade would it be?"
Then, of course, I ask "Why?"
After that, I inquire: "If there were no grades in art, how would this affect you and your work?"

21% think grades have a positive affect on learning & creating
  9% think grades have a negative affect on learning & creating
70% think grades have no affect on learning & creating  

 Based on the data I collected and my observations over several years, there are no grades in art this year. Strictly speaking, I am piloting this change and observing if there is any (change). We have just completed the first term in art, and students responded to this item on their final reflection: "There were no grades in art this year. How did this affect your work?"

The overwhelming majority of students replied that there was no difference for them, or it was better, because there was "less pressure" or "less stress" (I wasn't really aware of that much pressure or stress previously...but that is just from my point of view!) One student so far (out of 40) commented that he did not stay as focused, and another said that it made him "not so precise about my work." 
I look forward to collecting and compiling this new data set as the year goes on. 
"Out - In" handmade paper collage, by "H" Grade 8

 "The no grades didn't affect my work because I come with an expectation that I have something to do and I am going to do it even if I am graded or not." ~8th grade boy

Annotated handmade paper collection, By "J" & "C", grade 8
 "I think that having no grades did not affect my work this year. I think either way I would have done my best." ~Boy, grade 8
Needle-Felted Creature, By "A" grade
"I liked that there were no grades because I felt freer in expressing myself through my art." ~Girl, grade 8

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Spiral Curriculum

Papermaking has made its glorious return after a year off. I have determined that I will offer papemaking every other year, and alternate it with batik. Both of these ephemeral centers feature processes that take extensive set-up, some safety training, and tend to dominate the room. 
two tone paper
 It is interesting to observe the different approaches and products of students who are first-timers, those just testing the water, devoted papermakers using the center each day, and old hands who have experienced papermaking previously. Like any technique, there is a learning curve, and students need to practice the basics before they become innovators.

Rainbow paper
 Like many artists, my students sometimes design tools to aid them in their work.  Here (left) a student devised a separator so that more than a single color-pulp could be poured into the deckle (paper mold).
inset circle
Students who have the opportunity to return to a medium or technique over time gain facility and look for ways to make their work unique, interesting and innovative. 

This 8th Grader is using a collection of her handmade papers to create a product for a Social Studies assignment
A small hand-bound book sits atop a pile of handmade papers (Grade 8). We use our antique book press to flatten the papers and resulting books.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Authentic Assessment

How do you know what a student "knows and is able to do" in Art?

Marvin Bartel, in The Learner Directed Classroom (2012, Jaquith, Hathaway),  highlights the usefulness of looking at more than just a single artwork when engaging in critique with a student. This process provides a rich opportunity for asking observational and affirming questions about the work - questions that don't judge or find fault, but instead ask the student to look closely and and make "positive choices" (pg. 139)  about the work. Questions such as 'What do you notice first " or "How do the rims differ in these two cups?" lead the student to reflect on specific qualities in their work. 

This line of questioning avoids both value statements or empty praise, and instead is used to guide students through an authentic assessment of their work.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Materials Challenge

Every art teacher is grateful for material donantions for the art program. But alas, as I admitted in a previous post, I can be somewhat of a hoarder, keeping stuff that is too-good-to-use tucked away in the art closet. Well, the art closet is bursting its seams, so when we got a recent donation of a mixed array of good stuff, I decided to bypass the sorting and the storing and put it right out in the studio for immediate consumption.
I labeled the box "MYSTERY CHALLENGE" and invited students to create something using only materials from the box. I whipped up a soft-sculpture to try to drum up business, but with mixed results.

A few 6th graders made an attempt to get something going, but have since set these aside to pursue other interests. 
It turns out, sewing is slow-going, and not everyone has the stick-to-it-ness to have satisfactory results. 

"J", grade 8, employed hand-applique and machine sewing techniques to create this soft-sculpture made from items found in the mystery box. She demonstrated a working knowledge of the Studio Thinking Habits: "Envision", Develop Craft" and Engage & Persist."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

PUPPET Center Debut

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I have opened a Puppet Center at CBMS. I have been here five years, and puppet making is one of my favorite things. So why have I held back? It's simple: all the great stuff I have saved for years in the bins marked "puppet making" is TGTU ("too-good-to-use.") Many art teachers suffer from "too-good-to-use-syndrome" (TGTUS). The main symptom is hoarding.

An "ephemeral center" in the studio, Puppet Making is here-today, gone-tomorrow (will likely stay up for a few weeks)
 Thanks to all the generous donations parents have sent in to the art studio, the storage closet is overflowing with good stuff. It is high time to let loose the puppet making paraphernalia and let the puppet making begin!
"I," Grade 6 is specializing in paper-bowl stick puppets.

"E" prefers sock puppets