Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mind Map Self Portrait

As an art teacher I tend to remember my students by the artwork they create.  Last year I was trying to come up with an art project that would help me get to know my students quicker.  I developed what I decided to call a “Mind Map Self Portrait”.  It was a lot of fun for my students and I learned a lot about their interests.
 I had the students use a graphic organizer to map out their interests.  You could create your own and have them fill it in.  That’s what I did.  A great resource for this is Kathy Schrock’sGuide for Educators.  You can either create your own ideas or use one from the links she gives under graphic organizers.  The students then used the interests they brainstormed about to complete their self portrait.  I let them use metallic markers, colored pencils, pretty much any material that they were comfortable with for this project.  These were drawn on 9 x 12 inch paper.  Some students used dark construction paper so they could get some special effects.  They also were allowed to use an overhead projector if they wanted to have another student trace their profile.  I let them do this because some students feel less adequate at creating a self portrait.  When they created their self portrait the students had to find a way to implement many of the words they had come up with from their mind map.
My students were middle school aged but this assignment could be used from the very young to even high school students.  The students had fun figuring out how to make their self portrait meaningful and I had fun learning about my students.  As you start the new school year maybe this will help you get to know your students better!  Here are samples from my students.  They are fun to look at and they all are different!








More projects like these can be viewed on my link for Artsonia.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My 8th Grade Class Visiting the Kalamazoo Art Institute in May 2011

These are just a few pictures taken when my 8th grade class visited the Kalamazoo Institute of Art in May.  We had a great time as you can see.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Metaphorical Painting with Seventh Graders

I developed an unusual lesson plan this last spring while I was taking a course on creativity that I wanted to share here.  I’m not going to go into the details of the lesson as most art teachers can figure out how to develop a lesson like this once they see the final projects.  I’m trying to encourage my students to think deeper and more critically as they create their artwork.  In the lesson I developed, students had to create a painting that was essentially a self portrait metaphor.  Now that is a mouthful and there was much planning I had to do with my students to help them understand the concept.  By the time we finished most students had a pretty good idea of what the difference is between a simile and a metaphor.  My students also had to write about themselves as the metaphor.  These are some of the students’ paintings and written reflections.
This first picture was done by a young lady that I think is highly creative.  She created her self portrait where she became a storm.  This is what she wrote:
“I am strong and amazing.  I feed earth with my rains.  My excitement races through me with bright yellow flashes.  My winds blow through the grasses and shake the trees.  My laughter bellows out in loud clasping thunder.  No one can stop me, I go where I please.  I am wild and free just like the birds themselves.  I raise ocean waves to their highest peak and wash away the dirty earth.  I dance and clean and sway in the wind for what seems like forever, until finally my job is done and I slowly fade away.  My name is Demi and I am the storm.”

I was so intrigued by Demi’s response because she is a very quiet student.  However when she is in art class, she always makes a huge statement.  Her art statement always seems somewhat like a storm took over and put life into this very quiet young lady.  I really want to do more of these intense assignments in the future.  I think it forced my students to really think about how they could not only accomplish this assignment but make it very meaningful for them.  I know the students really enjoyed painting these projects.
Another student wrote this:
“I am wild like a lion.  I fly over the houses like an airplane.  Sometimes I am violent and sometimes I am peaceful.  I can make you chill and sometimes I can even make you freeze.  I am always here sometimes cold, warm or hot.  I am the wind.  I am Susana.”

Susana is an ESL student.  I loved the way she put her face up in the sky and created this lovely, whimsical scene.  She loved doing this project.  I think it was one of her favorites.  With the blue puffs in the sky the viewer can really see and feel that wind disrupting this simple, quiet scene.  I think that it is also a good way to describe Susana.  She is quiet and warm at times but when she’s mad at another student she lets them know it!
The next student gave another response that I think was rather insightful.
“I am bright like the sky.  I am deadly like cancer.  I come out by day and leave by night.  I am happy when others are happy.  I am angry when people are mean so I will turn around and burn you!  I am bright like the sky.  I am the sun.  I am Jada.”

Jada told me that she is a good friend but if you do something to upset her she will “burn” you.  She had so much fun painting this project in “her style”.  She loved making the statement and I know her favorite part was the bit about burning mean people.

I would never have come up with this assignment without learning about the metaphor strategy.  I had to work hard to come up with a strong concept to use in art class for this lesson.  I love the end result.  The artwork is so fun and reading the student’s responses was so compelling.  I know my students felt “pushed” with this assignment.  They were asked to do something that they hadn’t done before.  Many of them didn’t even really know what a metaphor was.  They had vague ideas from language arts class.  I think most of them now have a good idea after this lesson.  I truly think that when asked to look at famous artwork in the future, many of them will respond to what they see and try to make connections to what the artist might have been trying to say with symbolism and metaphor.  More can be viewed at our Artsonia link
If you are interested in working with metaphors with your students this video is a great place to start.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Testing, Matt Damon, and Imagination

As the summer winds down and I am spending time preparing for the new school year, I find myself thinking about my own potential as a teacher.  I feel blessed to be able to teach art in this 21st Century where politicians seem to think the only thing of value is math and science.  It boggles my mind when I think about my own potential as a child.  I have always felt that I had a deprived childhood because I didn’t have any art classes in my K-12 education.  It is truly remarkable that I have spent much of my adult life as an art teacher.  I would never have pursued art in college, if it hadn’t been for the student friends that happened to see my drawings.  They kept asking me why I wasn’t taking any art classes.  I remember drawing pictures and putting them up on my bulletin board.  I had no training.  I just liked to draw with a simple pencil and paper.
I grew up in a large family with 14 kids.  I have always felt that when you grow up in large families with little money you learn to be creative.  Maybe you have to find new ways to play because you don’t have that fancy toy your friend has or maybe you have to fix something because you don’t have the money to buy a new one.  Regardless of the reasons, I feel my family circumstance contributed to my creativity.  In addition to that is the fact that I had good parents.  They both were teachers, but they also were devoted to their family.  The family came first.  My parents would go without many things to provide for the big brood they had.  I can remember my mom coming home from teaching at the end of a long day.  She would lie down on the couch with a cold compress on her head.  She did this almost daily, but then she would always get up and make the family meal.  Everything would be from scratch.  We never went out to eat!
From very early on, I knew I was going to college.  I’m not sure why I knew this as my two older sisters weren’t as fortunate.  Maybe because I’m the youngest, I had a better opportunity as a girl to go on to college.  My oldest brothers all went on to college.  The four oldest each went on for their doctorates.  The fact that both of my parents even had gone to college was quite remarkable.  They didn’t come from wealthy families and they were born in 1909 and 1911.  Education, obviously, has always been important in my family!  This is one the reasons I find the current turmoil in education about standardized testing so ridiculous.  As I grew up in a family of 14 children, we were as different as the day is long.  We weren’t clones of each other.  We all had remarkably different personalities and interests.  Some of us were probably better “test takers” than others, but taking a test could never really determine who we became as adults! Some of us might have even been considered “late bloomers”.   I don’t think any of us ever would want to remember our K-12 experience in school as being about testing!  However, today students are spending much valuable time preparing for “important” tests.  Much of the school day is designed and structured around that yearly test.  Each school has to make adequate yearly progress.  This test taking business is just going to get worse.  Recently, here in Michigan, the governor signed a new bill into law that will eventually require 49% of a teacher’s evaluation to be tied to student test scores.  As a parent there is no way I would want my child subjected to this kind of education.
My son is 27, so he isn’t part of this craziness.  I look at my students much like my child.  Since I had my son so many years ago, I have always felt that I should treat my students the way I would want my son to be treated by a teacher.  I always wanted my child to dream big and be creative.  I wanted him to see possibilities and use his imagination.  I worry for the students of today.  Are we doing everything we can to make them into compliant little test takers?  Is that really what a teacher is supposed to be doing?  As an art teacher, I know my job is a big one in this high stakes testing time.  I have to give my students wings so they can access their creativity and play with their imagination.  So much of time in school is spent with the constant pressure in the back of everyone’s mind to improve test scores.  Now, it will even be elevated as teachers discover that their jobs may be on the line, if they can’t get their students to pass the state test!  Now, most of you reading my blog probably have some reservations about all of this test taking and what it really means for the future.  However, some of you may think teachers are just not doing their jobs today, because you keep hearing about how we have fallen behind in the world!  Truthfully, politicians have chosen to go after teachers because many of us belong to the last strong union standing.   Do you really think it’s the fault of the teacher if a student can’t pass a state test?  There are a lot of reasons students don’t pass tests.  One thing we know for sure is poverty plays a part in test taking.  At our school and probably many others we make sure students have a snack before they take the “big” test!  There are many factors that can affect test scores.  These are everything from poor nutrition, to lack of sleep, to inadequate test taking strategies (Yes there is a strategy for this!), attention problems, distractions, to even daydreaming!  Some days are also better than other days.  Maybe you just had a bad day that day.  Who knows what’s going on in a student’s head on any given day?  I remember a young lady that came into my art room that seemed out of sorts to me.  I asked her what was wrong.  She first said nothing and then she told me that she had been in an accident that morning.  The point I’m trying to make here is that teaching shouldn’t be about just taking a test and yet it seems like that is all the politicians care about.
If you think back to your favorite teacher, I bet you don’t think about the fact that he or she taught you how to take a great test!  You probably think about the day when you felt special, like your teacher really cared about you!  I hope I make students feel special when they come into my art room.  I really do care about them.  The other day I was at the Three Rivers’ Meijer store shopping and an older woman was so upset because of some “screaming brats” in the store.  She thought she had an ally in me.  She thought the parents were terrible that couldn’t control their children!  She also thought they didn’t care that other people were annoyed by them.  I told her I was a middle school teacher.  It was obvious she wouldn’t want that job!  She told me she likes dogs but not kids.  She could tolerate her own children but even her grand children had better behave or she’d give them the boot!   I let her know that I like all of my students even the ones that frustrate me.  So many people that criticize teachers would not ever want to be stuck with thirty middle school students themselves.  Most of the teachers I know really care about their students just like I do.  We realize that at the middle school level students can bounce around with their behavior.  They have good and bad days.  They need adults around them that really care about them and can help them transition into adulthood.  If teachers are left worrying about test taking it gives less time for teachers to really spend caring about their students’ individual needs.  We are not all clones of each other and the students we teach are as different as my brothers and sisters were from me when I was growing up.  At the middle school I always think it’s interesting because there is no one student that can show us what a middle school student is, as they come in all different shapes and sizes, and interests!  So, I’m left asking myself the question why we have a government that insists on a test where one size fits all.  Matt Damon gets it and I really hope you take the time to listen to his full speech from last weekend.  It’s not that long but at one point he says, “None of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested.”  Truthfully, none of the qualities that I bring to my art classroom as a teacher can be determined and evaluated by a student test score either.

I am so excited about this new school year, not because my students will be great test takers, but because I can’t wait to work with my students and push their imaginations and creativity.  Just like any other year, I have a thousand things racing through my mind.  I’m filled with ideas for lesson plans for the new school year.  I can’t wait to share my ideas with my students, so they can take the seed of an idea that I begin and create something totally new and different from any other person.  As the government has us all “race to the top”, I’ll have my students all chart a new path for their own creativity and learning.  They will learn from each other.  They won’t run over each other racing for some golden imaginary ring devoted to test taking.  My students, for the brief time they are with me, will hopefully have an opportunity to access their imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.  These are skills that will serve them well in this 21st Century!

*The artwork shown is from two of my students from last year.  The 2011 painting was done by Annalissa.  I allowed her to explore her creativity.  The open door painting was done by Cleanna.  I think teachers should create an environment that truly opens the door to the imagination.
** I also posted this at my other blog.  What's on Katie's Mind?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sturgis Middle School Spring Art Show 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Importance of Art in Education

I came across this video at Teacher Tube and it is really great.  I just want to share it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Create a Poster for Your Art Room

During the past school year I took a classroom management class. At one point I created a simple list for my students to follow and I posted it in my room. I have had lists before for rules and they were usually ignored. However, this list showed my students exactly what they needed to do to get a good grade in my class. I went over the list with them and I discovered that I didn't have to explain things as often. If a student was acting out, I could usually just look at the list at then at the student and they'd improve their behavior. I decided for this school year to put my list on a real poster. So, why am I sharing this simple idea? After over twenty years of teaching this has been the single most effective management tool I have ever used. I use the words "Successful Art Students" because most students really do want to succeed! That has been the key for this management procedure. I ended up putting this altogether at Vistaprint.
I ordered two and will laminate them when I get them in. At the beginning of each class this year, I will go over the poster several times so students understand why I created it. In my opinion if you want your students to be successful you just can't make success look like some big mystery. Here is a picture of my poster!

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Beginnings

This is the beginning of a new blog for me that is just about art education.  I’m a middle school art teacher from Michigan.  I’ve been teaching for many years and I believe that creativity can save the world.  I feel my job as an art educator is a noble one.  I have an opportunity to work with young people and help them be the change for the future.   Contrary to all the hoopla over test scores, I view today’s youth far more optimistically than the constant testing suggests.  Most adults past the age of thirty have no idea what’s really going on in education today, unless they are an educator.  These adults make assumptions based on politicians’ blathering about how much our children have fallen and how inadequate the teachers of today have become.  I just want to point out that when the economy isn’t good, neither is much of anything else for the working class!  However, I have been working with young people for many years.  I find them enthusiastic, creative, and ready to work with me in the art room.  I have students that stay after school because they want to work with art materials, just hang out, play on the computers, or just do their homework.  I work with teachers that are dedicated and caring professionals.  Over this next school year I’m going to bring my classroom into Katie’s Corner for Art Education and share it with the world.  School doesn’t really get started until after Labor Day but I will begin my posts this summer.  This year I will be infusing more technology into my art curriculum.  I will share what I’m doing in that regard as well.