Thursday, October 15, 2015

Scheduling to Help All Students

As I have written about before, phone calls are a major way that I reach out to students in my courses each semester. Phone calls act as one-on-one time between myself and a student (or sometimes their voicemail) in an effort to connect and engage. I am guilty sometimes of focusing more of my time on re-engaging reluctant learners rather than building up my students who are engaging consistently. This year I have made a plan to help myself stay on track with giving each and every student the attention they deserve.
This schedule helps me have target groups selected to focus on throughout the semester in a way that makes sure no student goes very long without hearing from me. For the first time in a while I was able to reach out to the parents of my students who are doing excellent in my course. I also mailed achievement postcards to students with high live session attendance. This schedule has kept me on track and balanced this year and my student engagement is higher as well.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Addressing Weaknesses and Clarifying Concepts

This school year I am working on addressing common mistakes students have made during previous years at the beginning of a lesson so they can be more successful this year. I am doing this through a short weekly video announcement.

Each video presents 3 tips for the current project. I am getting a good amount of student views on these videos. Aside from increasing the quality of student artwork, these videos also serve as a weekly greeting from me that my students see when they enter the classroom. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Student Recognition

The new school year is up and rolling! I always enjoy the energy and inspiration that come at the beginning of the school year. I am feeling well rested and ready to conquer the world! One of my many goals this year is to make my students feel special. In the online classroom, the key to student engagement is to make students feel cared for and noticed. One of the ways I seek to accomplish this is by creating a weekly student art gallery. I use Animoto (which offers free educator accounts with pro features!) to create an exciting gallery video each week.

I have always posted this gallery for students to access, but this year I am also emailing students who earn a spot in the gallery video to let them know how proud they should be. I send along a certificate which they can print and hang up if they desire (seen at the top of this post). I am hoping this little bit of extra effort gets my students feeling excited about creating artwork and feeling valued in their classroom community. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Keeping Parents and Students Informed

My summer school course has wrapped up and was a very positive experience. I conducted a parent and student survey at the conclusion of the course about the efficacy of the course to help them achieve their goals and how their experience was. I received many positive results and one thing both my parents and students mentioned being helpful was my consistent communication.

Each week I sent out an email to students and parents about the subject of study for the week unit, assignments, and due dates. I have discussed emails like this in previous entries (Communicating with Students Part 1, Part 2).

The main new type of communication that I incorporated in this course was to email parents and students progress reports every other week. Because the course was only 5 weeks long, it was important to keep parents and students informed. As a policy, I always allow students to resubmit projects through my course after reviewing my feedback. Even though students had access to their grade books, sending these progress reports seemed to do a nice job of alerting students to potential issues and put parents at ease. A school may already have a schedule for sending out midterm and quarterly grades as mine does during the school year. I have found that student achievement improves when students are parents are more aware of what is going on in the online classroom. It was helpful to employ this knowledge to a summer course and to include detailed information about each assignment for everyone involved.

Click here to download the progress report template:
Word version
Pages version

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Impressionist Landscape Watercolor

I have been really enjoying teaching my summer school class so far. My students are creating wonderful artwork and making meaningful connections with the world around them. It has been awhile since I brought my Google Glass out for a spin to create a demonstration video, but today I took it on an adventure in painting "en plein air".

I am very excited to see what students create for this project and I was happy to have an excuse to go paint outside on a beautiful day like today.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Preparing Brick and Mortar Students for an Online Course

This summer, I have the pleasure of working with a group of students who normally attend classes at a brick and mortar school but have enrolled in my online summer art course. I have spent the last several weeks creating a compressed 5-week beginning art course for these high school students and I have really enjoyed building the course and experimenting with a new (to me) LMS, Moodle. I created a syllabus and a welcome letter for parents and then I took some fantastic advice from my colleague Teresa Potter (blog here), to make an introduction and planning activity to help students be successful in an online course.
While most of the year I am working with students who are already very familiar with online learning, these students may be taking an online course for the first time. And they're taking an art course at that, something that confuses even my online veteran students. So I used a part of Teresa's design and combined it with features I have always used in my courses to make a worksheet that would guide students through the freedom they have when working in an online course. Students get to decide when they will work, how they stay focused, and how to be successful in an environment that is not structured for them. 
First, I created a tip sheet for students about how to be a successful online learner, specifically in my art course.

Things you can do to help yourself be successful in this course:
  1. Build class time into your schedule: Just like having English class from 12:00-12:50 Monday-Friday, time spent learning in this course should have a dedicated time in your day
  2. Familiarize yourself with deadlines: Print a copy of the class schedule and/or mark deadlines on your calendar
  3. Be prepared: Get your art supplies early so there is nothing holding you up from completing your work on time
  4. Practice with technology early, and have a backup plan: Technology does not always cooperate with us on our time table. Make sure you test for problems and find a solution or ask for help well before the deadline.
  5. Take notes: When watching videos or completing readings in the classroom make sure you take notes and write down ideas that emerge to refer to later
  6. Ask for help: Unlike in a traditional classroom, I cannot see if you are struggling. Make sure you keep me informed of any issues and reach out to me for help-it’s why I am here!
  7. Read your feedback: I will provide detailed feedback for each assignment in this course and this feedback will be instrumental in helping you improve and grow.
Second, I put together a Getting Started Activity which students are expected to complete the very first day the class begins. This beginning portion of the sheet consists of the questions below:

1.What do you know about art?

2. What is you favorite subject?

3. What do you hope to learn or achieve in this course?

4. What is the best phone number and time to reach you?

5. Do you prefer calls, texts, or emails to communicate?

6. What are 3 things I should know about you? (interests, hobbies, learning styles etc.)

I use questions like these to help myself get to know students, learn how to contact them, create talking points for building rapport, and get a general idea of what students hope to gain from the course so I can address their needs. 

The second portion of the sheet is all new to me. It asks students to plan a schedule of when they will complete their work for class and I listed which assignments they need to plan for. 
This activity allows students to take ownership of their learning plan and emphasizes the importance of staying on top of their work. Even my online veteran students could really benefit from something like this. Previously I have offered little help in my own course when it comes to encouraging student planning, but perhaps if I encourage student planning early, students will be more successful. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Revitalizing Old Projects

This semester I decided I needed to breathe some new life into one of my projects I have been teaching awhile. The students have always done well on it, but I wanted to see them think more deeply than they had been. The project was focused on mixed media. At this point in the semester, students had learned how to use many different media in their work, and the mixed media project was meant to help them think past one art material at a time and use several including non-traditional materials like found objects to create a unique composition.
I decided to update this project by providing a new focus for the theme of their piece and adding an inspirational artist to the lesson. I chose Romare Bearden as the artist and personal culture as the focus. I included a reflective essay in the project where students explain how they represented their culture and why they chose the media they used for the piece. Below is my student gallery for the week. I really enjoyed this new twist on an old project.