Saturday, March 3, 2012

Teaching for Artistic Behavior

Hello all,
This is the third time I have re-written this post!  I guess I am still trying to figure out what I want to say...
I am changing: Changing my classroom, my instruction style, and my expectations for my students. Let me explain.
Last year when I was working at the international school in China I had the opportunity to co-teach IB Visual Arts (went though the training in Hong Kong and everything).  The independence the IB curriculum gave its students was inspiring.  Students chose their medium and content with little to no impute from the teachers.  At first, this was a real struggle for them.  They kept asking us what we wanted them to make, and were creating rather shallow works of art.  Nevertheless, by the end of the year I was blown away by the stuff they were making.  Visually striking and conceptually challenging, this artwork would fit in at any gallery of young artist's work in the world.  I was hooked.
Fast forward to the start of this school year and I am now teaching K-6 (eventually it will be K-8 as the school grows) at a school in Aurora, Colorado.  I enjoy working with my students but feel a sense of frustration every time I lesson plan.  Why should I be telling my students what to create?  Why should I force clay on someone who loves to paint?  And all the artwork ends up looking so similar!  It was frustrating...
That is when I discovered (or was introduced to) Teaching for Artistic Behavior, or Choice Based Art.  I will not bore you with the details of what TAB entails since there are much better resources online and in text.   aThe students have the power to choose the medium and content of their own artwork working at various centers around the classroom (drawing, painting, clay, weaving, etc.).  My role as a teacher is to give a five-minute demo at the start of each class discussing different techniques or how to care for various centers, and then roaming the classroom giving one-on-one or small group instruction to students who want/need it.
I have been working very hard the past few weeks getting my room set up (lots of posters, menus and visual reminders to make!) and have been slowly introducing it to each grade level.  Yesterday was the first day that all ages had choice, and it went surpassingly well!  I will continue to teach and refine for the rest of this school year to assess if it is something I wish to use next year.
The biggest benefit so far has been I do not feel as tired.  I am working just as hard, but my frustration level had gone down so much that I still have mental energy at the end of the day!
Things I am still worried about:
·      Quality of work:  I worry my students artwork will not be as visually striking.  What about the sense of pride students feel when they create an awesome looking work of art?
·      Wasting supplies:  I think this will be an ongoing challenge. 
·      Classroom discipline:  So far, this has been going very well.  Most students (even the “difficult” ones) seem to be really engaged in their art making and take seriously my little, “you are artists now so you must act like one” speech. Is this just a honeymoon phase?

1 comment:

  1. This is a really interesting concept, and I imagine there is probably a happy medium between offering lots of choices and having enough structure to nudge children into exploring mediums that they might not have freely chosen... I'll be following with lots of interest to see how this goes for you!!