In Art Kids Want Challenging Work

I was really hoping to have more time to reflect on my new adventure as an art teacher but, as I am also a novice I have a plethora of small parts I am trying to figure out. This scrambling has made it hard to sit back and appreciate the moment. From organizing materials to getting a firm grasp on my standards I feel like I am constantly behind the curve. I am reminded of what I felt like when I first started 20 years ago and I would go into school at 6:30 in the morning to prepare. I am truly feeling more of the Novice part than the Advantage part of The Novice Advantage.

What I learned so far…

  • I like teaching a variety of ages

  • The act of making art is inherently satisfying for students

  • Students often only hear the first part of directions

  • Kids like to do challenging work

Here are a few activities we did the first two weeks.

We created “Community Drawings.” In these crayon drawings on long pieces of paper my Kindergarten – 5th grade students drew parts of their community together. In this activity that expected students to work together it was only the older students who has a problem sharing materials of figuring out how to make their individual ideas fit together. I documented these students pictures with my phone and turned them into the video below. Now we are editing the drawings but cutting out pieces we want to keep for the future.

I decided to do an activity with tangrams to assess spatial reasoning students. It also helped me to know where students were in identifying shapes. I was pleasantly surprised that when offered the harder puzzle of fitting the tangram pieces into a blank square vs. a square with lines drawn for the pieces my older students all chose to do it the hard way. When they finally figured out how to put the pieces together and I told them now you can do whatever design you like they exclaimed, “Yes!” This happened multiple times. The reward of autonomy reinforced the innate reward of reaching a challenging goal.

After figuring out how to fit the traditional tangram shape into a square students were free to use shapes to make any design they chose.

The major realization I had this week was that I want to adopt the “Teaching for Artistic Behavior” approach in my classroom. This approach creates community art space feel in the classroom where students define their own learning goals while learning new processes and connecting their work to art history and culture.

I have a bunch of work to do to make this approach viable. I will fill you in as I go along. I am excited that my students seem to be learning even with only two hours in my class so far. Below are Kindergarten students described learning in The Learning Studio.

All photos: @jmholland

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