|source - https://pixabay.com/photos/school-back-to-school-school-starts-4398499/|
So how have your first couple of weeks back in your classrooms gone? Did all the prep you had done in your summer break pay off, and have you been able to make essential observations of, and connections with your students during these first weeks, to inform your planning and teaching going forward?
As a General classroom teacher of many years (and more recently a Visual Art specialist), I know how daunting the start of a new year can be. These days I have as many new starts as I have classes that I teach. However, most specialist teachers have the added advantage that they see all the students, all year, so they can simply roll over their systems and expectations from year to year, with minor modifications and improvements. They already know most of their students needs and abilities through year-on-year observations and interactions.
My timetabling is a little different.
I see most students for 1 term a year, and teach between 2-3 year levels in that term. I teach K-6.
The positives of this timetable is that I only teach around 1/3 of the school each term. This means remembering names and families, assessing and writing reports, and manage the work product and resources for 1/3 of the school rather that the whole school, all at once.
The drawback is that students get a solid burst of Visual Art for max. 18 x 45 min lessons in their term and very little for the rest of the year, unless they are independently motivated, join art clubs or attend private tutoring. They also forget the Art Space systems and routines or some may have changed since they last attended. I also need to re-evaluate what progress they have made since I last saw them almost a year ago.
For this reason, I set up exploration stations for the first week with juniors, teacher guided skill sessions for middle and teacher themes for senior primary students.
Year 1-2, Kindy and Year 0:
Depending on the size of the class, I introduce between 2-4 'open-ended' stations for these first lessons. Some of these change over the term based on the class interests and skills / media I want them to explore independently before I take a guided lesson. But most will stay out and available as exploration stations all term. This gives me opportunity from week 2, to start with a whole class skill builder session and students can peel off to familiar stations as they complete the skill. I can also pull out small groups as needed. But most importantly, I can make observations in that first week that will inform my planning going forward and build relationships with students through availability and communication that will support trust going forward.
|Hand made, scented playdough|
|Chenille craft wire and polystyrene recycled from packaging|
|Simple drawing guides|
|Modelling clay with image prompts|
|Wooden building blocks|
|Large format weaving|
Year 3 and 4 are ready for more complex (teacher guided) skill builders that go over several lessons. The stations above will also be available to them, with some slightly levelled up if appropriate. Mostly, these stations are so open-ended that students create and explore at their own level anyway and develop through learning from each other as they explore collaboratively.
I like to focus on 3D skills at middle primary level and introduce papier-mache, clay and cardboard construction. Where possible (due to time constraints) the aim is for a teacher guided skill buildr to be followed by a student choice exploration with that media.
At Y3 the skill builders involved ceramic slab work and papier-mache pets. While the art techniques are teacher guided, there is differentiation built into the content and shapes built by the students. The decoration phase is also completely open to the students. The connecting transdisciplinary theme was Exploration.
Year 4 have a dedicated ceramic focus on complex figure building due to the time constraints in my timetable. Students create a cat through a guided skill builder session and this is followed up with a fully independent clay session where they build a self portrait and demonstrate their learning from the skill builder, while aiming for a unique and personally representational sculpture. They are also introduced to glazes. Due to the time consuming, messy and expensive nature of ceramics, I have strict protocol around using clay which becomes an independent media station in Year 5 and 6.
By Year 5 and 6, students are mostly independent but also more aware of their abilities and that of others in their group. In my experience, the more agency they have and the more unique their work, the less potential for direct comparisons and defeatism rarely rears its head. Exploration Stations are no longer just physical but also virtual, and they independently explore concepts of personal interest as related to Art. Here I start with a research theme: What are the main elements of art, choose 1 that you are interested in and create a piece of work that communicates your understandings to an audience.
We have an art show every 2 years and then this inquiry has the added constraint of forming part of a collaborative piece e.g. feathers on a large wing, flower in a large bouquet, house in a large village etc. Students also select a media of choice for 2D work to explore with this assignment.
Self-directed inquiry is easier at this level as these students all have iPads which they bring to art at every lesson. They are also expected to reflect on their learnings and thinking process is most lessons through the Seesaw app. These reflections inform their grade for the Responding to Art strand in IB PYP. All work product, complete or not, informs their grade for the Creating in Art strand in IB PYP.
Some samples of the assignment are below, on displayed in the art room for the term, then glued into their sketchbooks:
This assignment also re-establishes the expectations and routines in the art room. Year 5 and 6 then go onto their personal artwork based on their current inquiry unit. They ideate using the Design Thinking Process (DTP) for content, message, originality etc. in their skethcbooks before creating their final artwork.
|The Design Thinking Process phases 1-3|
|The Design Thinking Process phases 4-6|
Some time ago, I wrote 2 resources for starting art/creativity/fine-motor exploration stations in your own classroom or art room. These it right in with the play-based philosophy too. These are available on both my TPT and HML stores for $5 each. I just know that you will find exploration stations as wonderful as I do !
|View this product on TPT and HML|
|View this product on TPT or HML|
Thank you for stopping by,
With love, Te Aroha