Preparing the community for an Art Show that might look a little different… (and calming the nerves!)

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It’s all over folks! 160+ individual artworks by our wonderful Grade 3 and Grade 5 artists came to a grand finale with the WOW Exhibition opening night. The entire community was invited to view the WOW Exhibition and peruse the artwork at their pleasure…

Our artists were so excited to show their work to the community. My dear colleague Naomi Feil and I were too, but we were equally nervous at the same time!

Everyday we guided, supported and were cheerleaders for these artists Naomi and I would share the excitement of watching these individual projects come to fruition. Also, we would lament and problem solve the struggles together (I wrote more about these processes back in an old post). As the exhibition date approached we were blown away by what was being finished. Our art teacher eyes and our knowledge of each students individual achievements made our hearts fill with pride… but what about everyone else? We know how far each student has come in their journey… but what about everyone else? In the same way art is naturally subjective so is art teaching. No matter where you are on the choice spectrum as an art teacher, your community comes with a prior knowledge based on what they have seen or have done before.

What would our community think of the changes to our programme this year?

How could we prepare them for the changes and ensure they were asking each artist kind, appropriate questions without comparisons?

Naomi and I have always sat somewhere between the moderate to abundant choice area on the choice spectrum depending on the units of inquiry or homeroom integrations. We have experimented and tried a few things here and there but this felt like first time we formally opened up to full-abundant-choice options.

So we decided to compose an email to parents that was sent out the day before opening night (see below). It explained what to expect, what to ask etc. (A big thank you to Miss L Gould, an Art teacher in Canada using the Teaching for Artistic Behaviors approach we got ideas from her art newsletter)

Also, our wonderful marketing team helped us prepare a flyer that got printed onto nice card to hand out to the parents on the night of the exhibition (fancy!). You can view it here:

WOW Art Flyer

I think it helped prepare the community and help them to understand the changes we are undertaking to art teaching and learning. Also, it certainly helped calm our nerves knowing that this information had gone out ahead of time!

As you can probably tell by the photos at the top of this post the turn out was high. What I loved observing was the time everyone took to really read the artist statements to understand more about each artwork. I overheard some great comments and conversations. The evening was about the artwork, the process, the meaning, the message, the intention, the creativity, the purpose, the journey – it was about the artists. As it should be!

The whole experience reminds me how lucky I am to be a part of this school community that gives ownership and agency to their teachers, that allows us to take risks, risks that allowed every Grade 3 and Grade 5 student show their inner artist, there was a lot of pride in the room that night!



make art and and make meaning in 3 lessons (a pre-assessment)

On my ever-continuous journey to support my dear students to feel like they are all artists and all have the capacity to create something meaningful/beautiful/special/purposeful to them – and to ensure they never leave my room saying “I’m no good at art” – because as we know, there is so much more to art education than what is behind that statement! For my Grade 5 cohort (80+ kiddos) I created a pre-assessment in the form of an art-challenge that goes a little something like this:

1. Working alone or with a partner?

2. Choose a theme from this list (or use your own idea**): Being under pressure – It’s ok to be different – Connections – My personal history – What I wish people knew about me – My hope for the future is… – I want a world without… – What I wish adults knew about being a 5th grader…

**On a side note; some nifty themes the students came up with were: “My future, present and past”, “love”, “my personality”

3. Design and plan an artwork to show your thoughts / feelings / opinions on the theme

4. Let us know what materials you would like to work with

We used this planning sheet to guide the process: G5 art challenge planning sheet

Once planning sheets where signed off this is where I stood back, observed, took notes of strengths and areas where some may need support. It is during this “art challenge” where I saw self-management skills in action, where I see their ability to really flourish with making meaning enter into their artwork – it was like a rocket launching, I could not have slowed them down even if I had tried. I made so many new discoveries about my students, fascinating to witness. I saw where support will be needed in searching for ideas/inspiration, where specific art technique/application of materials will be required and which students may need additional help to find something meaningful, to drive their creative process.

Once the challenge was over, on the 4th lesson the students entered the classroom and completed a gallery walk writing one kind/positive comment on each of their classmates artwork. Then again, quite hands off, I encouraged them to write an artist statement to go alongside their artwork, with the simple prompt “Tell me about your artwork” (thanks @Naomifeil!). After the artist statements were written these became their scripts for their flipgrid videos.

Here are some examples followed by the matching artist statement:

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Now, with the knowledge we have, we can enter into the longer inquiry of creating a WOW piece for our art exhibition under the Central Idea of “The creative process allows us to think like an artist by using the studio habits of mind”. Starting with individual goal setting using the Studio Habits of Mind. (More on this in another post).