Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Back 2 School - no fuss first week art centres

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:
Exploring Colour
Exploring Form

Exploring Line

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
 Their only constraint is the time-frame. They can pick any media from the following menus:

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

Monday, 7 October 2019

Learning environments - APPROPRIATE MATERIALS (Part 2/9)

Learning environments that enhance Creativity 2/9. AVAILABILITY OF APPROPRIATE MATERIALS

Research shows that making a wide range of appropriate materials and tools available to students can enhance their creativity (Gkolia, Brundett, & Switzer, 2009, cited in Davies et al., 2013).

I divide the materials in my room into 4 zones:
1. Wet
2. Dry
3. 3D
4. Digital

WET media includes: anything requiring water or liquids: acrylic paints (matt/metallic). tempera paints (liquid / cake), liquid water colours (water soluble powdered artist dye), water colour paint cakes, aquarelle pencils and aquapastels.

DRY media includes: sketching pencils and charcoal, coloured pencils, markers, oil pastels, chalk pastels, fibre and collage.

3D media includes: clay, cardboard, wire, papier mache and plaster of paris.

Digital includes: Osmo, photography and editing apps, clay/stopmotion.

There are bulletin boards in my room with images of students creating with these media
Dry Zone

Digital Zone

Wet Zone

3D Zone
Wet and Dry media resources are stored and located centrally, students collect what they need and take these to their work area.
Some training is required and classroom routines need to be established at the start of the year/term.

Because my students self select media, there is never a rush on anything in particular and because I don't have limited seating centres, there is no limit on how many students can choose a particular medium.

Students are encouraged to test out how media performs before applying it to their work. For younger classes I introduce different media every few lessons to ensure experience and exposure to a variety, but older classes no longer need this.
When introducing new media, I tend to focus on skills and techniques and leave students to create their own piece as they experiment with it.

Some media are modelled on videos in a 'flipped' style so that students may review these independently. I tend to observe regular mishaps or questions and turn these into video tutorials that I slowly add to our school art resource page. Some I have made available to everyone on my Youtube channel (see link at top of page)

I buy a selection of art paper for a range of media. I cut these down to A6 sized pieces and have these accessible to students for prototyping so that they understand how the media performs on the right paper. Larger formats are only issued once students have a plan and a prototype and they are aware that they only get 1 sheet. We talk about being eco-warriors in our room and conserving both paper and resources, limiting waste.
Prototypes are glued into student sketchbooks for future reference.


Sculpture media is teacher directed in the lower-primary years, transitioning to student choice in the mid-primary years and issued on request in the senior-primary years. This is due to special storage requirements (like clay) or preparation (like Papier mache paste and stripped paper) - as well as cost and time constraints. Sculpture is also restricted to a particular are due to the clean up that it requires and the mess that it creates. Dry construction (like building blocks, armature making, etc) can take place on the mat area or floor when it's just small groups but wet / messy phases are limited to a covered table. Work-in-progress is stored as required between lessons.

Student working at the clay table on a choice art piece
2 students working on the floor on their choice piece papier-mache armatures
Y2 teacher directed ceramics stored in cardboard trays to air-dry before kiln firing
Y3 teacher directed papier-mache sculptures drying on my store-room floor between lessons

Y4 Clay figures in plastic trays waitng to be fired in the kiln

I have 6 Osmo kits available to students to use and a wall display of preferred iPad apps displayed in the digital zone. Exemplars of student work is also available to them for reference.
Y6 stundent using Osmo Masterpiece

2x Y6 students teaching each other to use a drawing app

Students are expected to clean up their own materials and then to re-store the classroom ready for the next class. When a class clean up does not meet expectation within the allocated 5 minutes, I make a note and they are packed up 5 minutes earlier in their following session. They hate losing on-task time so this motivates them really well.

Each class has a labelled drying rack to store wet work 'in progress' and a class folder for dry work. they also have book bins for their sketch books and folders. Students are expected to manage and store all of their personal work.

I'll finish this post with my opinion on ERASERS.
I have not provided these since my first year as an art teacher and the learning benefits for students have been huge. These include:
1. more focus at drawing time
2. closer observations and looking for details
3. reduction in pencil pressure sooner
4. develop ability to estimate and approximate
5. develop risk-taking and perseverance despite challenges
6. problem-solving and innovation
7. more freedom in thinking (less rigid), open to modifications on-the-go

I could go on, but lets just say - no class-set of erasers in my room. I do keep a couple of 'teacher erasers' in a 'secret drawer' and only a few students know about these - usually club students who have been with me for years. But these are only for emergencies or for technical use.

Thank you for stopping by,
With love, Te Aroha

Flipping Media Centre Instructions

One media that I find myself repeatedly explaining are the coloured markers.
I made a short video for my students to watch prior to prototyping with it (trying it out).

You can watch it below:

It made a big improvement to the quality of work produced using this media, from what students were doing prior to watching the video.
Here are some samples of work by students from across the levels that chose to use it for their Wall / Wow Work.

Year 1 Feathers for the giant wing mural (collaboration)

Year 5 Shark - Sharing the Planet (conservation)
Y6 My favourite destination - How the World Works (systems)

Y6 My favourite destination - How the World Works (systems)
Year 2 Feather for the giant wing mural (collaboration)

Year 2 Feather for the giant wing mural (collaboration)
Y6 Prototype in sketchbook

When you find yourself repeatedly reviewing particular skills with a certain media, consider making a short demo video that you can play again and again to new groups of students  or for students to use independently for revising skills. Focus on the basics and maybe include 1-2 tricks but keep it short so that students don't get bored and lose interest.
Have you made any demo videos yet?
Would love to hear how you get on.

Thank you for stopping by,
With love, Te Aroha