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