Monday, June 14, 2004

Here are some responses to a survey I was sent by a colleague...
1. What techniques or activities have you found to be most successful in sparking creativity?
Offering a safe creative space, telling students EXPLICITLY that their ideas will be the content of their art work and that I am there to offer techniques and materials that can help them say visually what they need to say. You have no idea how engaging that can be. Also, the celebration of mistakes and false starts as an INTEGRAL part of the art process: no fear! Art work is made more difficult when students fear making a mistake; much more so when they are graded down for it.

2. What techniques or practices do you use to increase student thinking skills?
Choice teaching gives broad responsibility to students. It is much easier to be told what to do all the time: choice students must access their inner resources to a much greater degree. As each work is quite unique, offering unique challenges, the students are more challenged to solve the problems inplicit in the work. Students also see and discuss the problem solving which takes place in the work of their colleagues which may differ enormously from their own work. There is relatively little problem solving in an art room project in which the students follow the teacher steps one by one--the teacher has already solved most of the problems and the students merely duplicate her methods.

3. What teaching techniques have been most successful in your classroom for reaching a variety of learners?
Choice teaching encourages students to leverage their unique strengths in deciding about their art. Even the most disabled students who have been in my room over thirty years have had places where they were the most comfortable. Gaining confidence working in areas of their strengths often gave them the courage to work in areas more difficult to them. Independent work is often not available to children having difficulty in school; choice teaching offers this important practice.
(among my students since 1972: legally blind, deaf, cerebral palsy, brittle bone disease, hemophilia, wheelchair bound, Asperger's syndrome, Austism, emotionally disturbed, PDD, fetal alcohol syndrome, low IQ and numerous ADD and HD students, students who could not read, etc.) I have students who work well in self created collaborative groups, students who must work alone, students who work quickly, students who work slowly, students who are impulsive, students who are fanatical planners, and so on and on. Peer teaching is also enormously helpful to our students.

4. how does the physical organization of your room help to spark creativity and address a variety of learning styles? The room stays the same year in year out. Bulletin boards are not decorations, but serve as permanent references of vocab., menus of materials, procedures, color wheels, etc etc. Students know how to find their materials, how to put them away. They know what is available before they arrive so that they usually come knowing what they will make for their art idea.

5. Is your classroom more student centered or teacher centered? Absolutely student centered; however as teacher I create a strong structure of the room set up, the sequence of demonstrations and the art making spirit necessary for the room to function. It is not chaotic.

6. Taking into account the six national visual arts standards, which do you think are the most important? (rate from one to six, one being least important and six being most important)

Let me say that from what I observe, #s 6 and 4 are the most important in many school systems as they are the easiest to "do" if one is not connected to personal art processes. They are also easier to grade. They are the parts of DBAE that I saw many art teachers grab on to. They frequently result in what Peter London calls "secondhand art". Someone else has had an aesthetic experience which students must then duplicate. And the study of art history, timelines, etc is a great domain but it is a left-brained occupation, quite different from art making.

1)Understand and apply visual arts media, techniques, and processes. Number one: I still say that with younger students they must DO first before any of the rest of it is of particular interest.

2)Use knowledge of visual arts structures and functions. Nuumber four: Students will use these elements and principals in the course of their work and if teachers high light those

3)Choose and evaluate a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas. Number two if it means that the students will actually be choosing. Very few art programs actually do this.

4)Understand the visual arts in relation to history and culture. I put four and six together, but the info is seamless; we are always making connections--measuring, using math, being inspired by writing or film to make a painting, dancing the brush over the paper...and students learn about architects, political poster creators, illustrators, industrial designers as part of the teacher comments on their independent work.

5)Reflect upon and assess the characteristics and merit of their work, and the work of others. Number three: and with all students it MUST begin with their own work, that reflection. Artists must constantly evaluate and reflect in order to work through each piece; it is internal and ongoing. When students have chosen the work they reflect and speak about it easily; next level is looking at artwork of peers, then on to the work of others. Students will connect to master artists who follow lines of thought which are interesting to them.

6)Make connections between visual arts and other disciplines. see #4

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