Sunday, September 13, 2020

Studio Art Process

 I teach an art option class in addition to my Humanities teaching load. I love teaching art. It's such a relaxing pause in the day, when I just get to help kids create.


This year, Covid has thrown a bit of wrench into option scheduling. Typically, students rank their option choices and get placed in courses they're interested in. Because we need to keep kids in their homeroom cohorts, we've moved to a wheel approach - the students stay in their homerooms and cycle through every option, spending about eight weeks in each one.


This made me reconsider how I taught art. Typically, I'd teach it in a project-based way, so everyone would work on drawing or pottery or printmaking at the same time, though they'd have choice in what the drew or made or printed. But now I would have students in my class who don't consider themselves artists, and very likely, some who are actually very anxious about making art.


I'd been considering the Teaching Artistic Behaviour (TAB) approach for a while, and this was just the push I needed to jump in. I read Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom (TAB) by Katherine M. Douglas and Diane B. Jaquith (Alberta teachers, hot tip! I borrowed this book from the ATA library!), and once I learned more about the practicalities of this approach, I was ready. I knew this approach would help everyone find an artform that felt good to them, regardless of their past artmaking experiences, and would meet them where they're at.


The TAB approach can be summarized in three sentences:

  1. What do artists do?
  2. The child is the artist.
  3. The art room is the child's studio.


Being a teacher who lives every day and thrives in student choice, I'm starting at the far end of the choice spectrum. I am planning on having each student create at least one 2D and one 3D project over the course of the eight weeks, knowing many students will do more than this. Allowing them so much choice, I knew I needed to scaffold them through the idea-getting phase, experimentation and learning of the medium, creation, and reflection phases of a project. So I created a graphic that will guide them through the process, which is a morphing of studio art practice, creativity, and design thinking theories.


My plan is to have students conference quickly with me before they move to the next phase of the project, giving me an opportunity to guide their practice, and give feedback.

I know my students will need help with the inspiration phase, as well as learning new techniques and skills. In my Google classroom, I have assembled some resources they can use for Drawing, Pastels, Watercolour Painting, Acrylic Painting, Printmaking, Calligraphy, and Collage & Mixed Media. I'll work on doing the same for 3D artforms as well over the next couple of weeks.

Students are not restricted to these media. If a student has a digital tablet and wants to get better at digital art, sure! If a student wants to make comics, go for it! However, I want every artist to improve regardless of where they're starting from, and to do this, we'll be learning the Studio Habits of Mind vocabulary and what it means. This will play centre stage in assessment, as well.

Every day, I'll do a minilesson to teach a skill or technique. I'm thinking that 

My biggest worry is that many students will need me at the same time, and with Covid precautions, we're avoiding movement as much as possible. So I'm making each kid a set of three cards, which I'll laminate. They'll leave the "Happily working" one on their desk unless they need me, in which they'll replace it with the "I need a conference" or "I need help." I've created a little form called "I need something," too, which they can fill out to let me know what they need.



As with anything, I'm sure this process will become refined in the hands of my students, so we'll see what happens!

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