Last Day To Nominate!

Today - January 31st is the LAST day to nominate your favorite Art Ed Blog(s).  Don't assume your favorites are already nominated! 

All you  need to do to nominate a blog is click on the link below and leave a comment stating which blog you'd like to nominate and why you love it.

Click here: http://www.theartofed.com/2014/01/27/nominations-now-open-2013-art-ed-blog-of-the-year/#disqus_thread


If You're Not Prepared to be Wrong....

A very eloquent and wise man, Sir Kenneth Robinson, once said, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original".

Not only do I feel this statement is very much true - but it happened in my classes the other day.  I was working with my 2nd and 3rd graders on their piece of artwork for Young Masters.  I always do projects that are high success, but also highly original - I decided that 2nd and 3rd graders would be doing zentangles this year.  I know all my students can create with lines and shapes, but this would be one of the first times I would not be allowing pencil first - but straight to Sharpie.

To get my students creativity warmed up for this project I showed them part of a zentangle video on youtube.  I asked them questions like, "What are they drawing?" -- I would get a laundry list of answers like: scales, hills, bumps..... I then would ask the question again.  The students seemed confused.  I would wait a few seconds and there was always one kid that would see through the design and realize they are actually drawing curved lines which then remind us of things like hills, scales, bumps... 

So we go on with the video and notice they use squares, circles, dots, straight lines, coloring in spaces and leaving other spaces open.  We discuss pattern and rhythm in each section.  I then asked the students if they know how to draw straight lines, curved lines, squares, circles -- etc.  They agree they know how and are starting to get real excited.

I then explain that they will be doing a warm up zentangle on a post-it.  They will be doing it with a Sharpie and any 'mistakes' they make will need to be problem solved and pulled into their design.  

This is where it got interesting.  

At one of my school the kids were excited and ready for the challenge.  In fact I had to wait multiple times for them to stop talking so I could finish my instructions - they were so excited they couldn't wait to share their ideas!  They were jumping at the bit to skip pencil and use sharpie straight away!

So then at the end of the week I went to my other school and these kids panicked.  Full out, panicked.  They were almost arguing with me to use pencils or to get an extra paper incase they messed up.  I spent far more time with these kids building up their confidence and convincing them they would be fine.  The post it note was just practice and it was okay if they didn't like it in the end.

Whats the difference between the schools?  Socioeconomic? Atmosphere? Personal relationships?

There are many small differences between the schools - but they are mostly the same.  My kids at the school that panicked are often better at following rules and expectations, but their socioeconomic status is similar to the other school, and most of the kids, at both schools, I have had 2 or 3 years -- so our relationship is pretty strong.  I personally believe that the reason I had students in one school panic and the others not is due to the fact that non-panic school is a school of the arts.

My school that is a school of the arts is NOT a fine arts school.  We are not a school that trains kids in the arts - we have no band or dance troupe.  Instead we infuse arts into the whole educational system.  Students transfer and connect ideas between classes - they learn about texture and patterns - they are asked to compare relationships, look for symbols...etc across disciplines.  These students also have dance and drama in addition to their 'normal' special schedule.  

Kids that come to the school for the arts are continuously asked to take chances, take risks, throw out an idea, perform in a small skit, join in conversation, think about something from a different point of view, problem solve and critically think about questions.  Students at this school are prepared to be wrong, to make mistakes.  Students at this school are encouraged to take a chance, and are supported through their thinking/exploration.  While music and art provide this -- dance and drama really help to drive these concepts and ideas home.  Asking kindergarteners to act out simple fairy tales, teaching 3rd graders to do improv -- it not only enforces their reading/writing skills -- but teaches them to 'prepare to be wrong'.  In dance they are asked to come up with movements that inspire or represent a concept/word/idea.  Students at this school are asked to explore answers instead of giving the correct one.

Now, lets take a moment and realize that my other elementary school is VERY supportive of their students.  Students feel safe and get a an amazing education there.  Students are very thoughtful and take learning risks there as well -- but in a different fashion.  

I truly believe that both my schools offer an exceptional education to students and the point of this post is not to give more props to one over the other, but to try and understand why two similar groups of kids would respond so differently to the same project.

Back to the project.  As the students were doing their warm up post-its.  I had them work silently for 5 minutes.  I wanted the to really concentrate on their visual thinking and felt talking would be too distracting.

After the 5 minutes was up - I let them share their ideas from their tables, then bring them to me.  I put them on the board and we quickly discussed that when they were working on their 'final' paper that if they needed some inspiration that they could come look at their class's thinking for ideas.  

It is important to note that after the warm up both schools were ready and raring to go, and that their warm up thinking/solutions were very comparable.  The warm up provided my traditional elementary school students with the chance to be wrong and when they worked through those mistakes without an eraser or a new paper - they had the confidence to be original, just like my school of the arts kids.

So in the end both sets of students had the same outcome - but that initial jump into a project was so very different.  As much as working at two buildings can be frustrating - moments like these, I find fascinating.  


TenThousand Hours -- Thank You Mackelmore

For some reason, this year I have often felt frustrated and tired about continually trying to voice the importance of art.  In the past it was a much more positive venture for me and this year it's harder.  Perhaps it is because I feel like I have less support - more people I'm trying to convince and show that Art is more than singing notes or learning to mix colors.....

But even though I have struggled more with this, this year - I by no means plan to give up or give in - I am far too stubborn for that.

In times when I feel this way the song Ten Thousand Hours by Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis always gives me a spark of energy and truth.  This is not the whole song, and I have underlined the parts that feel so very real to me.

(There is a verse before this part)

A life lived for art is never a life wasted
Ten thousand

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me
Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me

Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different I didn't believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential

And I know that one day I'mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone's greatest obstacle, I beat 'em
Celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I'm actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren't great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic
Just let me be
No child left behind, that's the American scheme

I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is
Ten thousand

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me
Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me

(more verses after this)


Kiddos in the CI program and I

I have been wanting to write this post for a while - but I wasn't exactly clear on what I wanted to say - or I guess more how to say it.  In fact, I am still not sure - but it keeps rolling around in my head and needs to get out, so here goes.

When I first started in the district I am at - 3 years ago - I was both excited and nervous about the idea of having CI students.  Turned out that the way the schedule fell I didn't have them - the other art teacher in my building did.  To be completely honest I was disappointed, but mostly relieved.  I was nervous about starting in a new district and I had NO idea what to do with kiddos in a CI program.

Over the years I have been itching to get time with them - but again the schedule kept them with the other art teacher.  Then, this year it happened - the schedule was changed and not only did I get them, but so did the other art teacher!!!  Instead of having art once a week for 50 min (which is really not appropriate for the level of student) - they have it twice for 25 minutes!  It's really brilliant.

So I started to think about things I could do with my new students - and I realized that I really had NO idea what I was doing.  I tried to look on the internet for things, pinterest... I looked for blogs.  Honestly, I found little to nothing for art.  I found tons of picture charts, adaptive tools for the grade level teachers - squat for me.

I dug out a textbook from college called The Special Artist's Handbook.  This gave me some actual information I could work with.  I was excited and also totally overwhelmed.

My first class with them, I was a nervous wreck - it felt like my very first day of teaching all over again (which it kind of was).  I had read quick bios about each kid, but those rarely help me until I can put a face to the information.  It is hard for me to understand that Jessica might bite if you are too close, and that Michael needs to be apart from Sally...... that is until I meet them - then it all makes sense.

I decided there was nothing more I could actually do to prepare other than to just jump in.  It was time for some trial and error.

I have had the kiddos once a week since September and here are some things I have learned.

1) Baby wipes.  Have a lot.  Buy a container and then the HUGE packs of refills.  A lot of my CI kiddos HATE being messy - even if it's just marker, they will want it off before they move on.  So - have baby wipes.  It's faster and easier than running to the sink every couple of minutes.

2) Be prepared to have a HUGE range of abilities.  I have two separate groups and even within those groups their skills vary A LOT.  In both groups I have students that are non-verbal.  In both groups I have kids who will talk all class.  Some kids can cut on their own and write their own name - while others need assistance to cut and write.

3) Be prepared to laugh and smile.  The more I get to knows these kids the more I come to really appreciate and love their individuality.  They tend to surprise me - not just in their artwork - but when they come to class in a super mood and are silly all class, or are extra helpful, or even how they communicate without words.

4) Music Videos.  I'm not talking MTV - but Sesame Street, kidsongs, Harry Kindergarten.  They love to move to the music - dance - sing!

5) Be prepared.  I am still trying to find materials and projects that are both engaging but not too hard for my students.  I often think something will take them 15-20 minutes and they will be done in 5.  Or something I think they will enjoy for only 5 minutes will keep them engaged for the whole 25 minutes.  Be prepared with a back up plan - and maybe your backup should have a back up.

6) Be Alert.  Even though there are multiple adults in the room, with the door shut - they can escape.  It amazes me how quiet and fast some of the kids are.  I always keep my eyes and ears ready for certain movements or sounds.  Not to mention some of the kiddos like to be in other kid's spaces - which often are the kids that don't like people in their space.....

7) It's a challenge.  It is definitely a challenge - but I truly love my time with these kids.  I am learning a lot about these kids, about society, about me.  I am doing my best to embrace it and learn everything there is to learn.

8) Absent.  At least with my kids - they are absent a lot.  The kids are out for doctor appointments, or are kept back in the classroom because their choices and behaviors are too wild and inappropriate to venture to art..... Kids will be absent.  I try and do one day projects because of this.  It is hard to have 3 kids working on something from the week before while 2 others are doing something else.

9) Ask questions.  I asked a lot of question up front.  I asked about personalities, I asked about sensory, I asked about abilities - ask questions.  Let people know you are open to suggestions.

10) Play.  Take the chance to play.  Today we were done drawing and danced around the room to What does the Fox Say?  They loved it and so did I.

11) No Control.  Be prepared to feel like everything is wildly out of control - even though there are many adults in the room - prepare for a Murphy's law day.  Anything that could go wrong, will.  When it happens - remember safety first, then clean up the mess.

12) Rely on a balance:  Keep a balance of your own intuition and those of your para-educators.  The paras are with the kids all day, so I tend to lean on them with communication or how to get kids to respond to certain directions.  I perhaps lean on them a little too much - but they are teaching me how forceful I need to be with my voice, or what words/commands the kids know, what signs they know or what particular grunts mean.  It also helps when one of the kids is 'off' - whether its a kiddo that has extra energy, no energy, doesn't feel well, or keeps squawking.  The paras almost always know what they need.  One of our students one day who isn't verbal wouldn't stop crying/yelling -- took off their leg braces and the kiddo almost sighed with relief.  There happened to be something in their sock that was uncomfortable.  I would have NEVER thought of that -- but I will now!

I hope in the future to find someone or something that will help me on this journey.  I feel like there is a whole ocean of information I could be using - but I haven't found it yet.  I often feel like I am shooting in the dark - hoping things will work.  I'd have to say, more lessons have worked than haven't - but I also don't feel like I am doing enough.  I figure each class teaches me something new - don't give crayons to Erica (she eats them like carrots), Joseph likes to be in Abby's space - but Abby bites.  Karley can use scissors on her own, but Brian needs help.  Cathy likes to manipulate small items, but also likes to stick things in her mouth.  Sally is always eager to share her ideas, and Riley doesn't talk or watch but somehow always know what to do.  I could go on and on about the differences between my kiddos - it's great.  They are great. They teach me more and more each class.  I will continue to plan lessons and watch which ones work (puppets and bleedable tissue paper seem to be the biggest hits so far) and which ones don't.  I will continue to learn about their abilities, their personalities, and how the communicate with the world.  One class at a time.


Arts Integration vs. Arts Infusion

I just got back from a Arts Integration Seminar/Conference thing.  The day was helpful, but perhaps not in the way the presenters expected or hoped for.  I left the conference today with a love-hate relationship of arts integration and a further understanding and passion for arts infusion (which my home teaching building is based on).

Today was all about arts integration - how to integrate core subjects into art.  While this sounds amazing and something that would benefit everyone, there are a few drawbacks that weren't discussed today - or perhaps others don't see them as drawbacks.

When it comes to arts integration, I have a love-hate relationship.  Which comes from the fact, or my interpretation, that it is all about connecting core subjects into the arts - but not the other way around.  Rarely are there grade level teachers looking to find art standards to fit into their subjects - if anything they look at their core subject and try and add art.  The presenters today stressed that true arts integration would hit standards in both the core subject and the art subject at the same time - making them equal partners in the project.  Don't see an issue with that?  I didn't at first either - I thought "Great- I love this! - Kids learn about pattern and texture in my class anyway, why not teach it through the african animals unit the 1st graders are learning about in class."  Then is slowly started to sink in - the hate of arts integration.

So wait, the core teachers teach what they teach and then I bend my ENTIRE curriculum around what they teach.  That doesn't seem right, but if it is better for the kids - then okay I can get past that.

Then I started to think more about how I would have taught patterns, with out integration  - perhaps the kids are missing out on a bigger world and a bigger picture if I teach it focused on African animals.  Perhaps I was going to teach pattern and texture through famous artworks and illustrations like Vincent Van Gogh and "Where the Wild Things Are".  So now the kids don't know about patterns and textures in other contexts - but they know A LOT about African Animals.

I suppose you could argue either way for which one is better.  Do they master one subject or have knowledge of many, but mastery of none?

But wait -- maybe we are missing the whole point!!  Was the point that the kids learned about African animals or was the point to learn about patterns and texture or both?

If the point was to learn about African animals - then the arts integration did it's job just fine.  If the idea was to enhance and learn about texture and patterns then arts integration failed the students, because it pigeon-holed their learning experience.

This is where my deeper understanding and growing passion for Arts Infusion comes in.  If the idea was to teach kids more about the concept of patterns and textures than about African animals - then using different world experiences to explore this concept is better.  For example when they come to art and they look at Vincent Van Gogh they can use that prior experience with the animal print to understand texture in a new way.  They will read the illustrations in 'Where the Wild Things Are' and have another understanding of pattern and visual texture. - it will help them understand quicker but also deeper.  Perhaps then when they go to music, in a month, and the word 'texture' and 'pattern' shows up there they will be able to expand their thinking even further - deepening this concept that keeps popping up.  THEN, what if when they are learning long division they recognize that there is a pattern - which helps them learn long division faster and deeper because they understand truly what patterns are.  Once you learn about African animals, you can compare them to other animals - but that doesn't translate to math very well.

This, to me, seems like a better use of my time and my student's brains.  Could I do projects that coordinate with grade level curriculum - sure could, but not a normal basis - (there are times for integration, more on that later.)  I will, however, provide opportunities for my students to connect concepts and ideas across subjects and ideas.  This, I feel, will deepen my students learning as well as enhance their own education - it provides the students with the control of their learning as opposed to me telling them what they should learn.

In other words - which might be more concise than my reflective ramblings above.

Arts Integration: Art Subject = Core Subject  Standards in both should be equally met and explored.  This is planned by the teachers, it is quantifiable.  The arts are USED to enhance core subjects.
"Arts Integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form" -- (Defining Arts Integration by Lynne B. Silverstein and Sean Layne)

Arts Infusion: Art Concept or Core Concept is taught in a way that provides an opportunity to connect to another subject for deeper understanding.  The opportunity is planned - but the connection is up to the student.  This is far more organic and non-quantifiable.  Arts are not used to enhance - but rather both subject areas are providing equal compliments and connections to each other and the real world. "Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form and another subject area that meets evolving objectives in both." (Defining Arts Integration by Lynne B. Silverstein and Sean Layne)

While the quotes from above are from the same "Definition" of arts integration - I feel they mean different things, thus why they are split for me.  Often times people use "arts integration" and "arts infusion" interchangeably and I don't believe they are the same thing.  Arts infusion can be arts integration, but arts integration is not arts infusion.

I feel arts infusion allows the arts to be as they are - to be honored as their own curriculum, their own history, their own specialized field that has something to give to humanity.  Where in arts integration I feel the arts become second to the grade levels - less important, and used as a tool.

I strongly feel that the arts have plenty to offer and can stand on their own --- they don't need to be watered down and attached to math problems.  Visual art, music, drama, and dance connect us as humans - all the arts have been with us since the beginning of man.  There is no reason why the arts can't be important on their own and still contribute to core education.  I believe it should be done through connecting concepts (pattern, categorizing, visualizing...) instead of connecting subjects (african animals, pilgrims).

The world is so much bigger than subjects and it seems to me that students would be stronger thinkers and problem solvers if they learned to see connections between events rather that a specific event.

Now, don't get me wrong learning A LOT about a specific event is valuable and needed, but, I believe, in moderation.  Arts integration does a fabulous job approaching a specific theme/event from different perspectives - which, in the right context I love (back to that love-hate of mine) and find valuable.

 For example - we do a HUGE 5th grade production.  Students help us from the beginning to the end.  They brainstorm settings, character, plot, endings - you name it.  The drama teacher writes the majority of the script, but takes student suggestions.  Then later the kids get jobs they audition/sign up for.  Students can be actors, set designers, dances, or musicians.  Then for 8 weeks students go to those jobs and learn about them in relationship to the 5th grade production.  The set designers do the sets, dancers choreograph, musicians compose, and actors learn their roles (voice inflection, blocking... etc).  This is arts integration at its finest - the kids learn all about one subject from different view points.  It's AMAZING (and a lot of work).  So I totally understand and appreciate the value of arts integration, but i also feel that arts infusion, as a general rule -- has
more to offer to students.  Arts infusions asks students to make connections and be present with their learning - where arts integration lets them be more passive.

Overall - both arts infusion and arts integration provide kids with deeper experiences surrounding their life.  Neither is bad nor good - neither is right or wrong.  Do I think one provides more opportunity for deeper thinking - yes.  Does one do a better job mastering knowledge of one event - yes.

I feel arts infusion helps "students make meaningful connections, become agents of their own learning, take risks through exploration, develop flexible thinking skills, envision different vantage points, and respond to new possibilities." (Studies cited in Changing Education Through the Arts: Final Evaluation Report 2005-08)


Art Education Conference!!!

Have you signed up yet for the Art Ed Conference through The Art of Education?!?!

 If you haven't - why not?!

You get to go to as many sessions as you want in your pj's (even sipping wine if you dare)!

Can't be there live - its okay, Jessica has made all information available for a year after the conference!

You can't find more relevant PD for art teachers - you even get PD credits!

Check out all the extra amazingness here: http://www.theartofed.com/aoeconferencewinter2014/

Yours truly will be presenting on WEAVING successful projects!