CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

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.

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

How to Handle a Cup

6th grade “K” arrived today hoping it was her turn on the potter's wheel, because she knew what she was going to make. She told me about a tea cup her mother bought from a friend at a yard sale (originally from Amsterdam I later learned). It had a handle that was cut from the rim. Did you ever hear of such a thing? I never have.
Here is the cup that inspired "K"

“K” was delighted when several people ahead of her on the wheel-list declined their turn, allowing her to get right to work. She quickly threw a nice round cup shape and then debated whether she should cut and attach the rim/handle right away, or wait for the clay to firm up by covering it lightly overnight.

Not one to hesitate long, she “went for it!”
"K"='s" cup - ready to dry

“K” was able to plan for her time in the studio today before she even set foot in class. Since tools, materials, references and resources are arranged in studio “Centers” for student use year round, students can rely on having what they need when they come to work as artists in their studio. This makes possible the kind of creative planning and idea-execution that “K” demonstrated.

And isn't this a groovy new way to make a cup handle?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ephemeral Centers: Bookmaking!

Two years ago, a 6th grader made a series of books right after I opened a “Bookmaking Center.” Last year, she had no interest in this activity, even after I set everything up hoping to entice her. Now an 8th grader, she asked: “when are you going to open the bookmaking center?” My response? “Tomorrow” of course!

Temporary center occupying flex-table

Sometimes these “ephemeral centers” pop up overnight like a flush of mushrooms on the lawn. I try to keep one table free for this sort of flexible use. This week, the Bookmaking Center appeared here. When interest wanes, a new offering will take its place.

The center contains tools, materials and references of the bookmaker. For tools we have; an awl, large needles, a bone folder, beeswax, binding clips, double-sided tape, hole-punches, a Japanese book drill and an antique book press. There is a box of “cover stock” (mat board and cardboard donated from the local frame shop), a box of papers in various sizes for pages, and another box containing my collected hand-made books which serve as inspiration and models for possible books styles and designs. Several books about bookmaking are there too, including “how-to's” and a collection of amazing artist-made books. 
Artist-made books and classroom experiments

Instead of providing “how to make a book” lessons for everyone, interested or not, I encourage interested students to browse through the sample books, leaf through the instructional manuals and then engineer their own book in their own way, for their own purpose. 

Today a 6th grader asked for some help binding her book. She already designed a cover and a back and selected her page-papers. She needed a way to secure the pages within her beautiful cover. Together we worked, private-lesson style, to find solutions to her technical issues while also addressing aesthetic considerations. Together we learned to create a hinged front cover so the book could open freely. After examining several of the model books, this artist decided to try an interesting Japanese binding which would hold the covers in place and secure the pages. I was needed to tug the needle through the holes that she drilled with an awl – a job that required considerable hand-strength and a pair of pliers!

"E's" beautiful book
While we worked, I kept an ear an eye on the rest of the class, which was buzzing happily along. The fact that each artist in the room could work with autonomy allowed me to focus on the one-on-one bookmaking lesson. In the future, this new bookmaker will be able to help peers by sharing what she now knows and coaching others, just as I coached her. 

In this way, the studio-learning setting cultivates both learners and teachers: all teachers can be learners and all learners can be teachers.