Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Write Success Criteria with Students?

Hello friends,
In this post I was hoping to explore the idea of constructive feedback between students. While it is something I felt I addressed in my reading, writing and maths programmes, working in the area of visual arts over the past year has really highlighted this need.

Within the first few weeks of art lessons in my specialist role, I must have been asked "do you like mine...?" A hundred times as one little person after another (one class after another) offered their work for inspection. 

It quickly became apparent that we needed to develop a culture of constructive feedback within the classes. However feedback is only constructive if it is based on a  framework of shared understanding, ownership and language.

So....we needed to write shared success criteria as a class. This is often neglected at the start of a unit by teachers for various reasons - time pressure,  they themselves are not sure where the unit may be headed or what final outcomes may look like. Teachers may then introduce an assessment rubric at the end of the unit, once the students have completed their inquiry. Hardly seems seem fair, does it?

During the past 6 years of teaching in the IB programme, this at least became clearer for my planning team because we found that with our yearly programme being foundationally consistant (units, central ideas and lines of inquiry, planning, learning outcomes, etc) but improved on as each successive year as we made more connections across the multiple learning areas.

1. class analysis of Modigliani portraits, 2. success criteria for 'selfies' photos to be used as the model for their self portrait art work, 3. class developed success criteria for their pastel portrait artwork.

Discussing outcomes and success criteria with students during the 'finding out' stage makes sense because they are starting to accumulate new knowledge that they want to share or use/apply and can start to envision or require peer/teacher guidance on how this might be done. Building success criteria together leads to greater ownership of the learning by the learners themselves.
These were written by the students for their portrait work following on from Modigliani and now looking at pop art portraiture.

The next steps of course is to lay out the learning steps to get there.  Here it is advisable that an Areas of Responsibility chart is drawn up with the class. I have used a time-line format and place markers along the way with high level actions that need to be taken either by me as the teacher/guide or by the students as the learners. By using a time line that can be coloured in, a student can colour the line as the days/ weeks pass to see how well they are tracking. 
They (or I) can add new actions to their timeline as needed or as these evolve, e.g. teacher conference, peer conference, site visit, action taken, even illness or absence from lessons. By the end of the unit, each students timeline will be unique as their particular inquiry has developed. With younger students this may be a class wall chart and with older students this should be personalised in their workbooks. I recently saw one on a classroom wall where students wrote their current actions on post- its which they placed beside their name under 1 of three headings - to do, doing, done.

I came across this superb Vimeo the other day that really summed up the dark before the dawn we experience in an inquiry journey and I really wanted to share it with you all. Please share with your students too.
The Learning Pit

Success criteria can be written by any age group for any learning action, no matter how small. In fact by doing it for the small things, like the example below, they get really good at it and you'll find it easier when it come to the more complex, rubric type success criteria.
Year 1 students (age 5) establishing what makes for 'good' colouring-in.
 I'll write about how this leads naturally into constructive feedback in my next post.

With love, as always

Thank you for visiting,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Teaching Children to Draw

Hello friends,

So today I thought I might try to de-mystify one aspect of art teaching that, on the surface, may appear to be a mystery to most of us teachers. Particularly for those of us who find the skill of drawing accurately to be a personal challenge too.

Here is what I do with my classes.
Step 1 is to have a shared understanding and acceptance that we are each unique, therefor our drawing style will be personal and unique too. It won't look like that of others. As long as we have attended to our work with care, it is of value because it is something we created. This does not preclude us from liking and appreciating another person's drawing style. Students also need to be taught how to constructively comment on the artwork of their peers (more about this in another post).

I also stay away from the idea of 'talent' with young children. All young children start off thinking that they can draw well and love the experience. Its only when they start noticing that other people have opinions too (and that these might differ from their own) that they start to question their abilities. If not managed, very soon they can be using their "lack of talent" as an excuse to quit practising and improving. One's ego can be very closely linked to what one produces.

Instead, I focus on observational drawing. While we equally value imaginative drawing, something I call 'drawing from ideas in your head", in order to improve our accuracy, we need to spend time "drawing with our eyes".

Year 6 student - observational drawing
A great way to prove this to your students is to have them complete a drawing / sketch of an item from ideas in their head. Below are 3 examples:
Next, I give out images or run a drawing tutorial - modeling my observations and thinking aloud as I draw on the whiteboard.

The second set of examples shows this result. Each image is a before and after by the same student.

Year 6 student - Poppies

Year 3 student - Dragonflies

Year 3 student - Panga / Fern Tree
When students see the increase of accuracy in their own work, you have created a teachable moment that gives them back their confidence to keep practising.

For their artistic work, I then take them to the next step where they combine their creative ideas with their  accurate drawing in order to make something unique from everyone else around them.
One technique we might use for this is S.C.A.M.P.E.R. (see

Year 3 students - Truffula trees
I hope you try these ideas the next time you have a drawing lesson with your class and let me know how you got on.

With love, as always

Thank you for visiting,

Eric Carle Art Club Part 3

Hello friends,

As promised some finished work from my Y2 Little Hands Art Club. Sooo... cute !!!

 With love, as always

Thank you for visiting,

Friday, June 5, 2015

Eric Carle Art Club Part 2

As promised, I am posting about the blossoms we added to our trees this week.

I bought a box of pre-cut squares of tissue paper that comes in assorted colours. Students decided on a blossom colour first, then we selected 3 sheets of tissue paper in the colours that would work for their preference.
For pink we used white, light pink and dark pink, for orange we used white, yellow and orange, for red we used yellow, orange and red.

Lay the coloured squares on top of each other with the darkest value on top and the lightest at the bottom (sorry about the white square in the top image being almost invisible - it is there :). Glue them together in the CENTRE ONLY with a glue stick. Cut a disc from black paper and glue that in the centre, on top.

Now cut a wavey edge around the perimeter through all 3 layers together.

Run the glue stick over the black disc in the centre and working around the edges, pinch the tissue paper up toward the centre. Now simply (and gently) arrange the petals as you like before glueing the blossom to your tree. Use wet glue for this last bit.

It took all this session for these Y2 students to master the process so most only got 1-2 blossoms made. We'll do the rest next time and then I'll post finished images of their birds for you.

With love, as always

Thank you for visiting,