Friday, November 15, 2013

Remembering Why We Do This

For the past few weeks, I have been collecting data from my post-test for my SLO. I wrote about this test earlier this year when we implemented it for the first time. At my school, this test is 23 multiple-choice questions offered through a website outside of our LMS. Students take this test during the first 3 weeks of school and the first 3 weeks after quarter 1 of Art 1. I started this journey feeling very upbeat and excited to see what my students came into my classroom knowing and how they would grow throughout the quarter. What I have found is some unsettling data.

At the moment (several hours before the closing of my post-test), I am sitting at 58.9% of my students hitting their growth targets. That puts me in the "Least Effective" category as a teacher. Throughout my young career as a teacher over these past 3 years, I have been told nothing but good things about my teaching methods by administrators. My students have given me positive feedback about what they are learning when I speak to them and I have generally felt fulfilled and proud of where I am as a teacher. These results threw a wrench into my teacher ego!

As it is, I am still not sure what is causing my students to do so poorly. I know of the barriers we have that might affect their performance; students not engaging with the content, test anxiety, students tired of taking all of these assessments (one per class, 2 times in 10 weeks), the weakness of multiple-choice questions to assess project-based learning, home environment, test questions with confusing wording, and a lack of effort to name a few. I have gone through many days of discouragement this week, feeling like everything I have learned about education is wrong and all the compliments about my teaching methods have been lies.

But then, I started to look at the data more closely. I began to see students growing by leaps and bounds! Some of my weakest performers have grown by the highest percentage. I even have students who have scored 100% on my post-test. When I was inputting the data of one of my students with special needs and saw that he not only hit his growth target but surpassed it, I jumped for joy! I was reminded why I am a teacher. It is not about crunching the numbers and hitting this arbitrary goal. It is about teaching each individual student and helping each of them grow. Maybe the data isn't showing it, but the students who have actively engaged in learning in my classroom have a wealth of new knowledge. I know this from talking to them, and from watching their work improve every single week.

I will continue to troubleshoot my assessments for my SLO and how I can overcome these barriers so the data starts to really reflect more of what is going on in my classroom. But, there are just some things that you can't quantify.

Am I a least-effective teacher? I certainly don't feel like one.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

FIPing the Classroom

As a team leader this year I have attended a training to learn about Formalized Instructional Practices as a new-ish more formal way of teaching with a focus on student growth and evidence of learning. I am still learning and have more trainings and online courses to attend but I wanted to try something new in my classroom last week just to see how this teaching philosophy might play out in my online classroom.

"Formative instructional practices (FIP) are the formal and informal ways that teachers and students gather and respond to evidence of learning. It helps to think about learning as a journey, and formative instructional practices can guide teachers and students along the way, just like a GPS. These practices include four core components:
  • Creating and using clear learning targets
  • Collecting and documenting evidence of student learning
  • Analyzing evidence and providing effective feedback
  • Preparing students to take ownership of their learning" -from the Battelle for Kids Ohio Student Progress Portal

    The week focused on Feldman's Method of Art Criticism. Generally students go through this lesson by first reading the content in the classroom (like a text book) and then writing a paper using the 4 steps. We practice using Feldman's Method in a live lesson as well.
    New setup for FIP
    To try out "FIP"ing my classroom I incorporated a different structure this week in my classroom. First, students were to read all of the content they would normally read for the lesson. Secondly, they check their understanding in 2 different ways.

    First, they take a non-graded quiz that gives them clear feedback about why they are correct or incorrect.
    Secondly, they complete a self-assessment on the learning targets for the week. They include their biggest weakness and what steps they will take to earn a 3 on all of the learning targets. This allows students to take ownership of their learning.
    From there, students have options. They may use the additional resources available in the "Expand" folder such as a structuring guide, more in depth instructions for art criticism, and the live lesson where we practice. If confident about all of the learning targets, they may go straight on to complete the summative paper assessment for the week in the "Project" folder.

    I was pleased with the results of this so far and am excited to learn more about FIP and new ways to help my students succeed in reaching and exceeding learning targets in my classroom.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Google Glass in the News

I apologize for my lack of entries lately. I have been busy presenting to my school about Google Glass and telling my story to the local news. Check out the story here. Coming up soon: I am trying out FIP (formalized instructional practice) in my classroom next week. I look forward to seeing how students respond and sharing the results with you!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

From Recall to Higher-Order Thinking

This year is all about growth! Both student growth and teacher growth. With common core and an increased focus on literacy in the art classroom, we are challenged to look at our weaknesses and evolve to meet new standards of learning. Last year, my team and I spent a large amount of time working on converting our curriculum to include more writing and reading. Two years ago, I went through the process of adding quizzes to my classroom to check student's ability to recall the information they were assigned to read. This mostly assured me that students were being held accountable for reading the material as sometimes they would get away with simply completing the project by looking at examples. Now, my task is to take a basic recall quiz and turn it into one that pushes students to answer questions about comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

I used a very simple and helpful guide I found on pinterest to learn more about how these questions could appear in the art classroom. Then, I reflected on my current quiz questions which included one such as this:
1. Which objects appear the largest in a drawing?
A. Objects in the foreground
B. Objects in the middle ground
C. Objects in the background
The answer to this question was simply provided in the assigned reading and it does not ask students to apply their knowledge. So I came up with a series of new questions that challenge students to apply and then analyse.
Apply: In this image, which part is the foreground?

 Analyze: Which option shows the correct use of proportion?


 And I have even added a question where students have to choose the drawing that shows the most depth in order to fulfil the evaluation question. I believe these new questions will test more than if my students can read the information and put it down on paper but if they actually understand it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Over the last week I have been preparing my classroom for students. Now, of course that doesn't mean I am putting up posters or arranging chairs and supplies. For me, it's all digital organizing. I've been pulling web content together from my Gold Course (houses all of the Art 1 curriculum pages) and making my own adjustments. One of these adjustments includes a welcome video message to my students which I hope will help ease their fears of being judged on talent in my class. A common barrier I run into with students is their belief that they cannot draw, and therefore will fail my class. I spend many phone calls convincing them that this isn't true. This year I created a video to address this concern right away, and it also let's them see my face on their first day.

I also created another Glass video about my Pattern Project. I am hoping to engage and excite students with these videos year. Tomorrow, my students begin the 2013-2014 school year. I look forward to our adventures!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Preparing for a Better Year, Every Year

I have had a long and exciting summer and I getting very excited for the 2013-2014 school year to begin. Between new technology tools, implementing common core standards, and carrying out SLO's, we are in for some big changes. I am working on bettering my asynchronous content through more varied visual examples. At the end of last school year, I surveyed my students about how they best learned in my class. The results surprised me.
I had an idea that my WebEx lessons (live/synchronous lessons) would score highly with my students, but I was surprised at how helpful they found my step-by-step instructions. Last school year only 2-3 of my lessons actually had step-by-step lessons pages. Therefore, I have big goals for this year! I know that I want to implement step-by-step guides and videos into every lesson in my asynchronous content. Google Glass continues to be an innovative and convenient way to do this. Below are two new lessons that are ready to go for my classroom. One is a step-by-step guide, and one a video, both made using Glass.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Understanding Linear Perspective Through Glass

In the past I made a video about how to draw a building using one or two-point linear perspective but I hadn't yet made a video about how to relate linear perspective to what my students see in the world around them. I attended the Ohio State Fair today and recorded a fun video about linear perspective that will hopefully engage students and help them understand that linear perspective isn't simply a drawing technique but also relates to the way they see.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Practicing with Glass: Proportion Lesson

I picked up Google Glass last week and I am eager to start making videos for my classroom. They take a bit of getting used to so I am starting to practice before I go on vacation for several weeks. Here is my first clip that I will combine with more about the lesson later on for use in my classroom. It demonstrates the basics about proportion, foreground, middle, and background. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Google Glass Lessons

I have just ordered Google Glass and I am so excited about using it in my online classroom. Here are some ideas I have come up with so far. Check in to see how they are received by my students!

Virtual Field Trips
I would stream field trips to art museums around the state through Glass. Students would be able to “attend” the field trip by logging into a live session and could ask questions and participate in the field trip while Glass acts as their eyes and ears. Sections of the field trip could also be recorded for watching later in the asynchronous classroom.

Demonstration Videos
I will make a large collection of art demonstration videos to be used in all 4 sections of Art 1. These videos would show students how to use drawing techniques, what to look at when drawing from observation, and how to set up a still life scene. I would like to have one of these videos in each week of our semester course that students could access any time in the asynchronous classroom.

Interviews and Artist Studios
I would visit local artists in their studios to discuss what it is like to be an artist and I could use Glass to show students the artist’s work. Students would get a taste of a “day in the life” of an artist.

Perspective and Proportion
I would use Glass to teach students the difficult concepts of perspective and proportion. By students being able to view the world from my eye level, I can show them how objects get larger as you approach them and the objects in the background are smaller and how to capture that concept on paper. When I teach student about linear perspective they can view buildings through my eyes and see what a vanishing point looks like if they were to stand right in front of it. Many concepts in Art 1 involve students looking at the world in a different way. These lessons could help give students a more authentic experience that will help them understand the content better.

Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What We've Accomplished

I love graduation day. We as teachers get the distinct pleasure of seeing our hard work come to fruition once a year in a beautiful celebration. Today is a day I'm proud of my school and my students. Again we graduate the largest single high school class in the nation. Watching a video of our highlighted students: a professional musician, a race car driver, and an anchor for our weekly news show who is graduating at only 16 years old, I am reminded that online education allows these students unique opportunities to achieve their dreams NOW. But it's not just the "celebrity" students this type of program helps. Thousands of other amazing students received their diplomas today. Many graduated early or with honors. Today is a day I feel honored to have the pleasure of meeting and congratulating these incredible students in person. Congratulations Class of 2013!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Motivation Frustration

It is the last week of school this week and I am finding myself wishing I was a motivation super hero for my students. With a current pass rate for the semester of 58%, I am scrambling to motivate 42% of my learners to pass my class. In online learning, student motivation is the biggest challenge I face. If a student fails my art course, it is solely because they have not completed enough assignments to pass the course. It is easy to get sucked into my own frustration this week rather than continue to do everything I can to let them know it is not too late and I have not given up on them.

Here are the methods I am focusing on this week:
  • Passing instructions: I started my mission to save my failing students with an email that listed all the assignments they could choose from and how many they need to do in order to pass my class. Sometimes it is a little disappointing to know students want to do the bare minimum to earn their credit, but as teachers we all know this is true sometimes and it is easier to motivate a student when they feel the goal is within their reach.
  • Phone calls: Reaching out to students over the phone is sometimes the make it or break it in their motivation. It's easy to forget they are more than just a overlooked name in my classroom if I do not reach out to them. As I have spoken with my students who are failing this week, many of them have been thankful for my call and already working on the assignments they need to submit. 
  • Personal emails: Not all of my students answer me when I call, and sometimes their numbers do not work. At this point I turn to emails, but they still need to be personal. Now, instead of many options for passing I have moved to specific assignments for each student to complete that will push them to a passing grade. I look at the number of assignments they need, pick the ones I want them to do, and send out the message with a read receipt. I have found that for some students, a specific list is more motivational than many options. To remind students that these emails are personal I put in the subject line "Passing instructions for (student name)" or if they are only one assignment away from passing it will say "(student name) you are ONE assignment from passing". 
  • Offering extensions when possible: Deadlines are important as they give procrastinating students a reminder that they really need to get it done. However, when possible, offering extra time gives students the extra push they need to know that you care about their success enough to grant extra time. I never offer this extra time until the very end so as to not promote more procrastination.
In addition to these end of school year efforts, I send out midterm and final grades through the mail, contact legal guardians and students regularly, and send out weekly emails of tasks to complete. It often feels like we are fighting an uphill battle as online educators but each time I see a student work hard and earn a passing grade (even at the very end), I am reminded that my efforts have all been worth it. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Getting Prepared for Graduation

As the year comes to a close, I have been spending a lot of time getting ready for my students' graduation. This is a very exciting time for everyone at the school as our graduation is always a big event! Last year our graduating class was the largest in the state. Many of our students are some of the first in their families to graduate high school and we work hard to make it a special occasion for them. This year we have some innovative things going on such as a "Twitter Party", an Instagram Photo booth, live stream of the event, and (my part) a Senior Art Slide Show. I have spent the last month going through artwork from art classes that seniors have created. This means going back 4 years in some cases. It was fun to go through all the artwork I have collected last year and this year to put together a show that recognizes our graduating artists!
Check out a snippet from the show (names have been removed):

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SLO's in the (online) Art Room

Since December I have been working with my team to prepare for next year, the first year that teachers will be measured in the art classroom based on assessments that (hopefully) show student growth. A Student Learning Objective (SLO) will be created which shows goals for students in your classroom based on certain data (example from ODE). The way we will measure if students meet these goals are assessments called Student Growth Measures (SGM). More information about SGM from ODE can be found here
As you may know, I have given a pilot assessment to my students to see what a pre-assessment and post-assessment could look like in the Art 1 classroom and what issues may come up. The pre-assessment was given to 4 different sections of Art 1. Two sections gave a test with multiple-answer, multiple-choice, essay, and short answer questions. The other two sections gave a pre-assessment with multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions. I did this to see how different types of questions may or may not show student growth. So far, the data has been helpful to seeing what students already know and don't know when entering my classroom. More about data collected here. However, we did run into a few issues along the way.
One of these issues is collecting reliable and objective data that tests student knowledge. I mentioned we used essay questions on this pre-assessment. Though this is a great way for students to explain their knowledge, it was difficult to grade the content opposed to a student's writing style/skill. Even though we had a rubric, grading was subjective and the results varied in a large way between different teachers (see above). Since we are being evaluated on this data as teachers, it is important that our assessments provide reliable and valid results. 
Changes have been made to the test since we first gave it to create one solid version that does not include essays or short answer. This is the version that will be used next year. We included multiple-choice (making sure every question as 4 choices) and multiple-answer questions. To create the final (for now) version of the pre-assessment and post-assessment, we looked though the scope and sequence of our course, the existing questions on the test, and student results. The assessment includes at least one question about each topic in the course.
3. What kind of drawing is a quick sketch that captures what the artist sees?
A. Portrait
B. Point-of-view
C. Gestural
D. Linear Perspective 

I am also currently working on a SGM for my Art 5 class but because this course is so independent it is difficult/impossible to create a multiple-choice type of assessment for it. Therefore, I am considering reviewing student portfolios as they enter and at the end of the course. If graded by an unbiased source (someone outside of my classroom) using a rubric, perhaps I could get reliable and valid data from this method. I will also be able to see where students are coming from and what their strengths and weaknesses are before I begin working with them. 
I look forward to the weeks to come when I will be giving my post-assessment and be able to see if my students have grown. I will continue to post my results from this assessment journey I am on!

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Experience as an Online Student

It is a bit embarrassing to share with you that until recently I had never taken an online class. Throughout high school and college, all of my coursework has been in person. Though I feel I’ve done a good job of learning about effective online curriculum and teaching strategies, I obviously only knew one side of the story. There are many things I wonder about when it comes to my students. Why did they do this assignment, but not that one? Why don’t they make more of an effort to stay on track? How can you be this far behind? Why on earth would you do 10 assignments in one night?! Thus, I conducted an experiment myself of what I would be like as a student in their shoes. For this experiment I used free online coursework provided by in conjunction with the Open Learning Initiative. “The Open Learning Initiative offers online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach. Our aim is to combine open, high-quality courses, continuous feedback, and research to improve learning and transform higher education,” (Carnegie Mellon on OLI). I enrolled in Spanish 1 in late December, a course where a grade and certificate is received by participants. In my Spanish class there were over 4,000 students enrolled (makes my 260 students seem like a small number!). I was ready to begin.

I started very motivated about doing well in this course. I completed all the assignments I could in the beginning, which to my surprise included watching several videos and completing a written and spoken assignment. At first, I hoped Week 1 would include a quiz rather than the written assignment because to me that felt like a quick and simple way to accomplish something in my class. Aha! First realization: students often do all the open quizzes in my class before attempting an art project. Why? Perhaps it is because they also feel like a quiz is a quick way to accomplish something, to fill something in on their grade book, and to see how they are doing. However, the projects are worth more of their grade and focus on students putting their learning into practice by demonstrating mastery of a concept.

The next several weeks went well. I found myself logging in once a week to complete my homework. This of course meant I was spending quite a bit of time all at once getting things done, and I was only taking ONE course. Many of my students take 5 courses at once. It would be smarter for me to login multiple times a week to get my assignments done in smaller chunks, but it takes a lot of dedication to find the time during my busy week to do this. Second realization: Online learning takes dedication, time management, and self-discipline! This is really no surprise to me, but it takes more than I once imagined.

In the beginning I received feedback from every assignment I submitted, usually a couple days after I submitted it. As the course went on, the number of assignments that the grading team had to look through became much higher and the feedback I was receiving seemed to drop off completely. A week went by, two weeks, and still no grade for my recent assignments. Finally, it had been a month since receiving any feedback or grades and I also stopped submitting work. Without feedback or contact from my teacher, I did not login to my class for 4 long weeks! I thought to myself, “I am my worst student.” If even a motivated person like myself was capable of blowing off classwork for an entire month, of course my students could. Many of them have distractions like myself: full time jobs, family issues, and whatever else life throws at them. However, I do always make sure to give timely feedback. Realization three: It is easy to get more behind than you realize and timely feedback is essential for student motivation.

At four weeks behind, the option of giving up and just retaking this class later (or not) sounded pretty good to me. But wait! How on earth can I encourage my students to be successful in this online environment if I myself choose not to succeed? Realization four: giving up is easy, but it is not the best option! So I got back on. I worked over spring break. I buckled down and got it done. In the end, I was able to come back and catch up. I took the quizzes and re-took the quizzes. I studied and worked on the assignments until I got it all done. As behind as I was, the system was quite forgiving in letting me catch back up on what I had missed. This is a plus to online learning, and perhaps even required in this environment.

Through this experience I have gained insight and empathy for my students. My “why’s” have been answered, and I have learned some Spanish along the way. I will use these insights when speaking with students and working with them to help them login and succeed. It is not as easy as you would think, but that just means we all need to work on our self-discipline and use the tools at our disposal. Together we can do it! 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Experts and Virtual Field Trips

This week students in my class are working to creative an advertisement about an art museum of their choice. We talk about design elements and how to create an effective layout. I really wanted to bring this lesson to life for them so I used a very special video and a web tool to create more interesting virtual environment. 
Interview with an Expert: The notion of bringing in an expert to your classroom to act as a guest teacher or speaker on a specific topic is not new. However, this is something I haven't physically been able to do in my class. Because I am talking to them about graphic design I thought it would be neat to "bring" a graphic designer in to speak with them. While it is easy to find a video online where a graphic designer talks about what they do (this is what I used to show), I wanted something more personal. So, I created a video just for them with the help of my mom (a graphic designer). Students responded very positively. In their notes for the day, they all seemed to recall information the expert had shared with them in higher frequency than the information I lectured about.
Virtual Field Trip: At the beginning of my class, I asked how many of my students had ever been to an art museum. Many of them hadn't or if they had it was a long time ago. I wanted to start the lesson with something neat and also help remind or show students what visiting an art museum might be like. Thanks to Google Art Project this is possible. Students were able to virtually explore the MOMA and share their reactions. They were excited and had so much to say about what they saw! This tool has many great applications in the art classroom so I encourage you to check out all that it has to offer.
New ideas are what keep my classroom exciting for students and this lesson was really fun to teach. I hope these ideas help spice up your classroom (virtual or not) as well!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When it Doesn't Work

Most often when I write in this blog, I am writing about the positive things that are working in my classroom. But let's be honest, not everything we try in our classrooms is successful. Yesterday I taught a lesson that I have taught before but I received very different results. In this lesson I have students critique a piece of art for the first time using Feldman's Method of art criticism. They then use what they have practiced to critique their classmates' portrait drawings. I have written about critiques in my classroom before, and I had grown to believe they were always exciting for students because that is what I have experienced the last 3 semesters I have held them. In previous cases I had students come to class on optional days, beg me for more critiques, and stay over an hour in class just to discuss the work as much as possible. Yesterday, this lesson was a flop. I asked prompting questions and heard crickets. Students were exiting my classroom left and right. The thirst for discussion was non-existent, polar opposite from what I am used to seeing. What went wrong? Is it just a different group of students or it is something more? I looked at the factors that have changed since I last tried a critique. This semester I give students credit for attending my live lessons by completing guided notes. This has increased attendance and seems to improve student performance on quizzes and projects. For this lesson I did not require students to complete any guided notes because I wanted to free up their time to be immersed in the discussion. For some this translated as no credit=no reason to participate or even stick around! This semester I have been teaching Art 5 lessons during the time slot so I have not done my weekly optional critiques for students this semester. These had previously been a very popular time for students to meet and it offered them a social outlet and opportunity to make friends with their classmates. Perhaps these optional critiques showed students that discussing art can be fun, and even something they look forward to. I never realized these small changes could affect the culture of my classroom in such a strong way. The guided notes I have added seem to encourage more students to attend my live sessions and watch the recordings of them, but has it discouraged those students who attend my lessons for social opportunities and the pure pleasure of learning? Too often in our educational system are we focused on the grade and away from what we have learned. How can I both hold my students accountable and remind them that the learning is more important than the grade? An age old question I can't answer, but if you have ideas please share.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Show it off: Literary Magazine Online

Many brick and mortar schools have literary magazines, a publication that is produced monthly/annually that displays the best of student written work and visual artwork. We also have one as an online school. Each school year the teachers in the art department save the best student artwork and submit it at the end of the year for entry into our literary magazine, titled "Keystrokes". The English department collects written work from students. We create printed versions of the publication (limited) as well as an online version that students are able to share with friends and family. One of my Art 1 students from last year created the painting on the cover for 2012. For those of you who have requested to see more examples of student work from my school, check out the 2012 issue of Keystrokes for a closer look! 
Click the image to download Keystrokes

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Preventing Plagiarism in the Online Art Classroom

The risk of plagiarism in the classroom is not a new concern. However, we are used to seeing it in the form of writing. In the online art classroom because I do not see my students completing work, I am vulnerable to the risk of receiving plagiarized work from the Internet. Especially with sites like DeviantArt, students have many places online that they could find amateur artworks to pass off as their own. So how do I make sure students are submitting their own work? Part of what I do is pay attention to style and quality of work submitted. If I have a student submit something that is clearly above the level of previous work they have submitted, that is a red flag. If I receive a drawing that has very low resolution (especially 72dpi) this is also a red flag. However, just because I think it is plagiarism does not mean I can prove it. For this, Google image search is a wonderful tool so I have created a step-by-step guide you can easily use if you are ever suspicious about student work.

Step 1:
Go to and click on Images
 Step 2:
Once in Image Search, click on the camera icon

Step 3:
Click upload image (make sure you save a copy of the image in question)
Step 4:
Click browse and find the image on your computer
Step 5:
Once submitted you will see one of several things. Google may provide you with a best guess of what the image's search terms were (you would then click on the link for "sketches of rooms"). It also will provide you with visually similar images and sometimes the image in question is present right there!
Here is another example of what you may see. Sometimes you won't see the image in the list of similar images but Google will provide you a list of websites where the image is present. If you have the option to click "All sizes", make sure you do as this will widen your search and help catch students who are clever and re-size the image before submitting it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Aligning to Common Core in the (Online) Art Classroom

As the 2012-2013 school year continues to tick by, we continue to align the Art 1 classroom to meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which will be mandatory by 2014-2015. Though it seems far away, my teammates and I are already working towards 100% alignment. Of course we all still have many questions. We spent last week together in PD brainstorming ideas for aligning our Art 1 curriculum to the CCSS. In many cases we are adding small written assignments to accompany drawing projects. This has lead to some shifts away from reading quizzes and towards short writing assignments. We also have changed some projects to incorporate more ideas of visual communication as a form of writing. As far as CCSS, I am continuing to follow the idea that art is a text meaning students can read artwork as a text and write artwork as a text to meet these standards. 

One of the lessons we’ve changed is the still life lesson. Before: students are instructed to choose 3 objects, set them up in a still life scene, and draw them using 7 different values. After CCSS changes: students are instructed to look at examples of still life paintings/drawings that tell a story. They will choose 3 objects that tell a story (drawing instructions are the same as before) and they must title their still life drawing something that describes their story. A rather small change not only aligns with CCSS but also incorporates more meaning and excitement into this project.
In addition to artwork as a text, it is helpful to know what your school offers in the way of textbooks or online resources to provide students with readings at grade level that go along with your content. 
In the texture lesson, students currently learn the differences between simulated (2D) and tactile (3D) textures and create a texture study by drawing out 4 different textures. We thought this would be a good opportunity to have students look closer at sculpture through an article in Scholastic Arts Magazine. For teachers who don’t know about this resource, it is an amazing way to align to CCSS. It provides articles, images, videos, and even written and multiple-choice assessments for grades 4-12! Right now, all the digital resources including issues of the magazine are free, though at some point will become viewable only to subscribers. We are going to use the section on sculptures from a recent issue to have students write about the role that texture plays in whichever sculpture they choose.  
 Looking at our lessons to align them with CCSS has allowed my team to focus on changing lessons that have been weak in the past. A lesson many students have trouble with is our Cubism lesson. Students learn about the style of cubism and about Picasso and Braque. With this knowledge, they create 2 pieces of art, one that is realistic, and one that is a cubist version of that same subject matter. We discuss the differences and similarities between analytic and synthetic cubism but students still have trouble with this concept, especially when it comes to making their cubist artworks. Thus I have added a reading and sorting activity to this unit to help students spend time looking at synthetic and analytic cubism more closely. Students will get their reading from Encyclopedia Britannica and use the reading to guide them in arranging characteristics of analytic and synthetic cubism into the correct categories.  

Whatever lessons you teach in your art classroom, aligning to CCSS does not have to mean big changes and extra work. Small changes and additions can make your lessons more meaningful and help students succeed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Making Students Proud

When I speak to many of my students for the first time, they are nervous about taking an art class. They feel they're bad at drawing and that I am going to judge their work on standards set by other students who are "much better" than they are. One of my missions as an art teacher is to help my students become more confident in their work. When they feel confident, they work harder on their drawings which sometimes even translates to work in their other classes. As a student who struggled in the beginning of high school, I didn't really believe I could achieve good grades until one of my teachers showed me I could by helping me earn my first A. After that, I worked very hard to keep an average of A's and B's for the rest of high school and got into my first choice of colleges.
I see many of my students feeling as though they can't succeed and I am striving to find ways to help them feel confident in what they do so they can use this confidence in all aspects of their learning. A couple ways I have done this in my classroom are giving detailed feedback and posting their work for others to see.
When I give students feedback, I make sure it is detailed and includes both positive comments and ways for them to improve (growth-producing feedback!). Because I don't always have the opportunity to talk to every student about each project, my written feedback is where they get this information. 
Some examples of feedback: 
"-------, this is a great start. It looks like you used linear perspective correctly here to create a complex 3-dimensional house. However, your drawing is very sketch-like and looks unfinished. Please spend some more time on this drawing to complete it for an A. (Think about what you can add to the setting, darken up lines, straighten up lines)."
"------, your use of detail is fantastic in this drawing and your house looks 3-dimensional. However, it does not look like you used a vanishing point as your guide. Remember, the vanishing point is always on the horizon line. Please review my corrections and submit a quick sketch showing me you understand how to use a vanishing point in your drawing for an A." For this feedback I also gave the student visual feedback as well to help him improve (see below)

As an online teacher I don't have a bulletin board to display student work so instead I use digital tools. In the past I have used simple HTML pages to display images of student work but I have found a new, exciting tool this year. I use a website called Animoto to create videos of student artwork. As a teacher you can get a free education account if you are a teacher which gives you more video themes to pick from and does not limit the number of videos you can create. This tool makes viewing their artwork and classmates' work fun and engaging and I have had wonderful feedback so far from students and administrators.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Perks of Data

Pre-test grades earned by students
I am beginning the second week of my semester this week and learning a lot about my students. As I have talked about in previous entries, I have students fill out an “interest inventory” or get to know you assignment at the beginning of my class. This semester, I am also piloting a pre-test that measures what students already know about art. At the end of the class they will take this test again (with some different questions on the same information) to display the growth they have made in my course. My interest inventory has always told me much about what my students wanted to learn and what they already knew, but the pre-test has taken it to a new level. I am now able to gage the level of understanding for specific concepts. I put a question in the pre-test asking students if they had ever taken an art class before, it turns out that 55% have prior art experience while 45% do not. Almost half of my students are completely new to this subject so depending on their interests, they may have never drawn realistically before. I analyzed the data from the test to see what concepts students were widely familiar with and which they were often incorrect about. Students understood foreground, pattern, texture, portraits, primary colors, mixed media, and abstract art, or they were at least able to guess the correct answers for them. I was surprised to see how much they already feel comfortable with coming in. This tells me that when I get to these concepts in the curriculum, students won't need as much time in the lesson to focus on the terms, but perhaps we can spend more time going over examples and brainstorming for their projects. On the other hand, students were often incorrect on the questions about linear perspective, value, art criticism, and cubism. This data seems to match up with what are usually some of the most difficult lessons to teach. Having this information early will help me focus in on these lessons and provide multiple ways of learning. I added a question to my interest inventory that I found to be very helpful in understanding what methods I should use to teach these lessons. When asked which method students preferred for learning a new technique, they preferred demonstrations most often (see below).

Now I know what my students feel more comfortable with, what they will most likely struggle with, and how they learn best. With a class of 260 students, trends in data are very important to pay attention to! I will use this data to guide my instruction and look forward to seeing student growth at the end of my semester. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Collaboration Between Students

Last week we closed up the first semester and I said farewell to my students. Two of those students are particularly special to me as they created an experience I didn’t expect to see in my large course of over 200 students. These students met in my class and became close friends. Every week of this semester I held an optional art sharing and critique day and the students who attended really gained a lot in their discussion skills and many of them created art outside of class to share during these sessions. Nearing the end of our class, I presented a project about Cubism in which students create two pieces of art, one being realistic and then a version of the first piece that reflects Cubism. The two students who became close friends asked me if they could work together and instead of changing their own pieces of art to reflect Cubism, they would like to change each other’s. The students met in our art critique sessions each week and shared in progress work while myself and their other classmates gave feedback. My students were able to collaborate and successfully completed the project, working off of each other's pieces of art to change them. It was a very positive experience for myself as a teacher to watch these motivated students work together (without the ability to speak with each other outside of class or in person). Next semester, I am planning to work with my Art 5 students to collaborate on a virtual class art show and I have high hopes for them after seeing these students use the tools and time we have to work together. Below you’ll see their finished pieces. 
"Realistic" by Barbara
"Cubist" by Bowen

"Realistic" by Bowen
"Cubist" by Barbara