Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Choice Questions from other Art Teachers

Unrelated image done by a fourth grade girl earlier this week.
I have been teaching choice based art for almost a year now, and I really cannot see myself teaching any other way.  This morning some of the district K-8 and Middle School teachers got together and we were talking about TAB and my classroom.  Most of them seemed very interested in my class and choice art, but had many of the concerns I had this time last year.  They are totally valid concerns when considering if a choice based studio is right for you.  Here are some of their pressing questions:

There are so many different supplies out at one time!  Isn't cleanup chaos?

Since I only open centers (stations with different types of art supplies: i.e. drawing, painting, clay) one at a time, we spend a lot of time talking about how to care and clean the supplies at each center.  I only open new centers when students have demonstrated they can take care of the open ones well.  If a center is not cleaned properly I may close it for a class or two for "repaires" and only reopen the center after we review cleanup.  Is cleanup always perfect? of course not, but I feel it is very similar, if not a little better, than when I taught in a Teacher Directed style.

Sorry for the fuzzy photo.  This second grader
thought it was hilarious to dress this man in
a pretty pink dress.  Why not?
Do you have trouble with kids stealing supplies?

Not really.  I think all middle school art teachers run into some issues of theft, especially pencils and erasures,  but fortunately I have not had any major issues with other supplies so far (fingers crossed!).  I try to be carful and not leave out expensive materials, or will only pass out by hand tools that disappear a lot (like sharpies).  Sometimes I cannot find something and will think, "Oh man, some kid stole it!"  But, sure enough, it usually is floating around the room because I did not put it away in the right place.

I heard that a lot of principals hate choice based art and will not let you do it!

I have heard that too.  I have been so lucky that my administration really supports me and believes in my program.  I think a big part of it is educating your administrators, coworkers and parents about the merits of choice based art.  I have a school website that discribes choice based art and what we do in my class.  I also print the same text onto brochures that I hand to every adult that walks into my doorway.  I have to admit, the webpage info and brochure were written by another TAB teacher on the Yahoo Groups Page (hi Cynthia Barnes!), but appropriation is a part of art, right?  Right?

Two middle school girls worked on this BIG mixed media
piece for weeks and I never noticed the yellow ninja until
they help it up at critique.  Blew my mind.
Many problems I have heard with administration pushing back against TAB has to do with an old fashion view of what art class does.  They think students should be creating things to decorate the school and home, provide teachers with a plan hour, and learn how to draw a little.  It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact the 99.9% of my students will not grow up to be studio artists.  So what is my role?  What do I provide to my students they can carry with them to other classes and the outside world?  That is why I love  Project Zero's Eight Studio Habits of Mind.  It is a lost of eight thinking habits students learn in effective art classrooms, and most (if not all) are not specifically art related, but part of being a functioning successful adult.  It shows how the arts can teach students to engage and persist, reflect, stretch and explore.  It goes beyond simply saying art teaches kids creativity.  Because of my study fo the Eight Studio Habits I no long assess finished works of art....but I should save that for another post.

Is a TAB classroom right for everyone?  Probably not.  But that is something I love about art education.  There are many right ways to go about teaching art.  What matters is what makes sense to you, your personality, your students, and your resources.  Just remember:  Who has two thumbs and has the best job in the building?  This guy!

wow...only look slightly insane.

How would you have answered those questions?  Do you (did you) have any other apprehensions when learning about TAB and a Choice Based Art studio?


  1. what is TAB? to see another dude out there! ha ha

    1. Great to hear from your Mr. E! I have been reading and loving your blog for long time!
      TAB is Teaching for Artistic Behavior; also known as Choice Based Art. there is a lot of great info here:

  2. Thanks for the link! E-me any time man!