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).






Giving Feedback in “the thick of it”

We are a week out from our Grade 4 Exhibition. A week out from trailing the first ‘Spotlight on the Arts’ with Grade 4 as our guinea pigs. Our artists will be presenting a final work based on this stand-alone unit:

Central Idea: Artists use traditional materials and techniques (2D & 3D) to remix their subject matter (Lego) in new, unusual and original ways.
Long story short… I’ve taken the students through a series of traditional observational drawing techniques focusing on tone and value, using Jim Dine as our inspiration etc. etc. the usual stuff… as I am always in the pursuit of student-choice / self-directed artworks / student ownership / whatever you like to call it, I wanted them to enjoy producing something for the Exhibition that is theirs. So, handing them this planning sheet with the premise of remixing all they have learnt and enjoyed in this unit into a final work (more on this crucial step another day). Letting go of the reigns and following their lead; I am their supporter, cheerleader and sous chef. But its not all sunshine and roses, as we are so close to the deadline everyone is under pressure. In this pressure cooker my TA is working tirelessly, students are helping  and encouraging each other, and I, well, I feel like a chicken with its head cut off. Its exciting but I am going crazy! So, the reason I am writing today is because I have had a major break through! On a solitary Saturday morning in the art room, I laid out the student work for Monday morning and strolled through each one in silence, in peace and calm… it is what my wonderful art teaching colleague Naomi Feil and I are always harping on about with our kids, creativity needs time, space, and quiet to work. So, I wrote some last minute tips, questions and prompts on post-its that are otherwise quite hard for me to do “in the thick of it”. The idea is when they arrive on Monday morning they can have their art teacher right beside them in the hopefully make and not break last session. I have planned the rest of the week with spaces to do this again for each class with zero interruptions – I may even lock my door!