CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Draw a Face

By 7th grade, art students usually start to show me that they are really struggling to make their people "look real." That is my signal to teach about "correct" proportions. I put correct in quotes, because as I teach about where things are placed anatomically, I stress that my lesson is not intended to tell students "how to make a face." There are as many ways to do that as there are artists. The same goes with the "correct proportions" of a human figure. 

For some, this information is useful, for others, less so. And that got me thinking - It might be interesting for students, and help drive home my point, if they saw a variety of approaches used by artists to depict a human face or figure. Here is what greeted students the next day:

This sorting game is one I learned from Professor John Crowe, at the Summer Teaching for Artistic Behavior Institute in Boston. We later agreed to change the categories to "Realistic," "Less Realistic," and "Not Realistic," to avoid confusion (and thwart the clever ringleader who put all in images in the "real" pile, because, you know, they are all '"real" art...."

The following day, I swapped out the word "Realistic" for Realism, "Less Real" became Impressionism or Expressionism, and "Not Real" became Abstract. (Using abstract in this context helped to convey the information that "abstract" is artwork based on a subject, as opposed to "non-objective, or "non-subjective" artwork, which is not. 
(I also pulled out a lot of drawing books for students to use for more information, or for those interested in going deeper or practicing.)
At work at the easel is "N," Grade 7
I am curious to see how, when, where, or if, students use the information shared over the last few days in their own work going forward. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

How could we resist?

There is something irresistable about a sunny day in Vermont  - We just had to get outside!
5th-graders drawing at the pond
The two artists above have selected a set of drawing pencils and are comparing the numbers and letters on the pencils with resulting marks. "B for bold," one told me - "H" for hard. 

On nice days like this, it is a wonderful treat to open the studio door and expand into the great outdoors. Students take drawing boards and their preferred drawing tools to draw from observation, imagination, memory, or simply explore mark making with different tools.
The rules are:
1.  Stay where I can see you and you can see me
2. When I check, I will find you working
Two rules are enough.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ready for Art

These artists are all suited up and ready to use the clay center, starting on day 2! After a day of portfolio-making, we are ready to roll. 
7th-graders are starting their year with a challenge: Choose one of "100 Artistic Behaviors" and make an artwork by using, interpreting, illustrating, or responding to, that behavior. 
The list was compiled by art teachers at the 2107 Summer Teaching for Artistic Behavior Institute in Boston, and added to by my students (so now it is more like 118 Artistic Behaviors)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


The Important Thing
5th-graders considered "what is important about art" today in preparation for tomorrow's reflection and share day. Every two weeks we stop the making to consider both artwork and creative process. So today, to get ready for reflecting tomorrow, I asked "What is the important thing about art?" Can you read the responses above?
     I'TS ODD
     IT'S YOU
     IT'S LIFE

I think this is the most unique list students have generated over the years that I have been asking this question. Are kids getting more creative?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

6th Grade Animation Project

A team of 6th graders is working on the whiteboard to create stop-action animation. The whiteboard is a good solution for easily making changes in their progressive drawing. 

Today we had a world premier to share their work with the class. Enjoy. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Power of Mistakes

"It's okay to make mistakes." How often have we heard teachers say this, or at least give lip-service to the idea. I know in our school the idea has gotten a lot of play - educators know that it is important to move away from the 'one right answer' model of teaching and learning, to allow for and even celebrate mistakes. Is the message getting through to kids?

 My question to 7th graders: 
"How did having no grades in art affect you and your work?"

One answer (by the artist who created the above oil pastel painting): 
" I thought it meant that I could make mistakes in my art and not be punished for it."

If my math is right, to this learner, 

Here is another: 
"It felt that I didn't have any limits."


Okay, one more and then I'll stop - this one from a 5th Grader:
"It made me feel like I could be myself."

Wait! Wait! I have to add this one too (Grade 5):
" I think (having no grades) affected my work in a very good way because it makes me feel like I am good at things."


In our art program, we have transcended grades and grading in favor of more authentic assessment and evaluation of learning and creative production. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Effect of No Grades

I always look forward to collecting students' final reflections at the end of the term. I get a lot of good feedback to help shape the program, gain insights about what is working and what is not, and usually a surprise or two.
Our first trimester ended this week. Here is one 7th-grader's response to the prompt: There are no grades in art - how did this affect you and your work in art?

"In art we aren't stressed as much as all the other classes. In art there is still a task, but no grades. Knowing this makes us put all our effort into a piece of artwork as to when and where we work. On other class projects we don't give our all because of time limit. In art we can spend as much time as we need to. "

I am especially interested with the last phrase in this student's response. "...as much time as we need to." Not "want to," not "can," not "get to." Need to. In a choice-based setting, learners are provided with the time, space and stuff they need. 

e-Portfolio Header Image
It is interesting to me that we started this trimester together by pondering Olivia Gude's question adorning the entryway of a high school in Chicago. A mosaic tile banner over students' heads, as they enter the building each day, asks: "What do you need to know?" On the first day of this trimester, I handed out index cards and asked students to respond to Gude's question. I wanted to provoke students to take an even more active role in their course and to realize that here, in the studio, they can pursue those things they need.