Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm still here...

Don't worry, I'm still here.  Choice-based is still very much on my mind.  I'm taking some time to regroup and re-assess all that I learned and observed from my attempts this past school year.  I'm going to chew on it for a little while and then re-attack at the start of 3rd quarter (end of January, 2013).  I really want to make this work, so I want to really take some time to think.  Hope everyone is doing well! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Occurred to me today...

It suddenly dawned on me today that one of the biggest hurdles I have to overcome or one of the "things" I am having the most trouble with in attempting to do this CB model is that I do not have the time or the opportunity to teach the finer points like I used to.  For example, rather than being able to show more specialized or intricate methods of construction on a paper mache project, I really only have time to give the bare bones basics before the kids get started.  There are so many different things going on at any given time, that I flight and flutter from one media to the next, drawing, collage, paper mache, etc.  If I really look deep and stop to think about it at length, I think that part of me feels I am doing a disservice to the students in not having a chance to teach them the finer points, but it's a struggle because I see how glad they are in having a choice...perhaps I will be able to figure out some type of happy medium somewhere?  Hopefully. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Drawing...can we take our time please??

Okay, so I'm back in full swing in the room now.  4th quarter has begun and I am getting back in gear after having my second student teacher of the year.  I was feeling a little disconnected from everything, but not anymore!  I have started CB back up, and I've modified it from the model I chose to employ during 2nd quarter.  I've changed quite a few things and added some more structure.  I have implemented set due dates, in an attempt to give the students a goal to work toward so they won't feel so panicked and rushed during or even at the end of the quarter (hopefully).  I have required each student to work in each of the five categories, clay, drawing, painting, sculpture/3-D and collage/mixed media.  I am also implementing supplemental worksheets on the side to verify and enhance upon categories to make sure concepts and ideas are understood.

So far things seem to be going pretty well, we're just at the end of all the demos and informational Powerpoints that I have been giving them to get them educated and set up for the rest of the quarter and soon they will be set loose.  But....

Students have had a fair amount of time to work in class already on the categories that have already been opened, namely drawing and collage.  The problem I'm starting to notice is that they seem to be working at warp speed to get their drawing projects done.  Mind you, this is the majority of them, and not all of the students, but enough that I'm certainly getting concerned about it.  I have given them the 5 categories to work in and there are 7 work days between each project deadline.  Some of these students are finishing their projects in a day or two and just can't be prompted, encouraged or bothered to go back and work on them longer to be developed more.  I'm not quite sure what to do about that, other than to make note to myself that I should probably assign more than one drawing project.  This is a big problem across the board with all grade levels...the lack of fortitude and wherewithal to imagine and develop an idea and really stick it out to the end even if its "too hard".  (which is a common thing I hear from students, and which is totally annoying to me!)

So I'm not sure, maybe it's unrealistic to me to think that they would spend more than 2 days working on something, but I don't think it is.  When I go the traditional classroom model route (where everyone is doing the same project at the same time), I do have multiple work days in a row for a project and the majority of students will use that time to work.  I'm sure it has to do with pacing and the fact that because I'm teaching only one thing at a time I'm able to go more in depth and "peer pressure" may force the students to spend a little more time than they would have as they watch other students work.  That's my best guess. 

I just wish that I could successfully encourage more students to work longer on to do that, how to do that....?

Friday, February 3, 2012

What to do? What to do?

Okay, so my first quarter of CB is under my belt, and while it went pretty well, I still feel like I have so many questions to find answers to and so many methods of "things" that need to be changed.  At the end of the quarter I gave the students in each class a survey to get some honest feedback about what they thought of the CB classroom.  Overall, and hands down, they really liked having the choice to determine their time in the art room each day.  And because they liked it so much, it's not something that I really want to see go away.  I honestly cannot see myself happily returning to traditional methods (everyone does the same project at the same time and moves on to the next at the same time)  As mentioned in a previous post, I noticed that students started to peeter out with what they could think of to do about 2/3 of the way through the quarter, so I want to fix that somehow.  Currently I'm thinking of presenting the option for three or four different projects with any given media and allowing them to choose which one from that shorter list that appeals to them.  I think this might be the way to go as they still get a choice, but they also have the guidance of a list of projects that are worthwhile and developmentally and age appropriate.  A lot of the projects that I was getting toward the end were not at all well developed or thought out and were done only for the sake of earning points.  On that note, I'm pretty sure that the points system is going to be gone this go-round and instead I'm going to have the segmented lists for the media and have students choose one from each list to complete.  Definitely a little different from last time because I want to see what type of response this method evokes in the students and how well this system will hold up for the whole quarter instead. 

But overall, by far, the thing that is pressing on my mind the most is how do I show/explain each of the stations/media/materials to all of the students BEFORE they begin working on things?  I have such a limited time with them (one quarter) that I don't feel that I can take too many days doing the set up and explanation with them.  Nor do I feel right in letting them just jump in and then backtracking by let's say demoing paper mache building when a number of students have started already and they realize that the work they've done already could have been done better or maybe needs to be restarted.  If I had shown them ahead of time, that loss could have been avoided, but how can I possibly show everyone everything before they get too involved in any one thing?  How can they make the choices about what they want to do if they don't know what is available?  How do I show them all of this and not take weeks of the quarter away from their work time and bore them to death as they wait to get started with projects?  This is my big dilemma.  Any suggestions?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller? 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm noticing...

I'm starting to notice something that is a disappointment and let's be frank, an annoyance.  The students that have not utilized their time wisely this quarter are definitely starting to feel the crunch.  The quarter ends next week and there are some students that are shocked with how much work they have left to do.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I have implemented a points system in my classroom.  By the end of the quarter a student should have earned 15 category points.  The more complex projects are worth up to 3 points, and range down from there.  Those students that are lacking in the amount of points they should have at this point are scrambling to find "quick and easy" projects to do.  However, a "quick and easy" project isn't going to be worth 3 category points as that value is reserved for projects that take a fair amount of time and work.  Enter the annoying trend now, students are thinking up this "quick and easy" project and coming to me asking "How much is this going to be worth?"  Sigh.  I find this annoying AND disappointing because now they really have no vested interest in the project, but instead see it as a means to an end which definitely causes the quality to suffer and I'm seeing an influx of projects that lack a strong concept.
     Which leads me to my next point.  I am in serious need of changing some of the fundamental ways this classroom is designed and running currently.  The first 2/3 of the quarter was great, all were engaged and working (yes, some at much slower paces than others), but now those that have "finished" their 15 category points early are searching for things to do and those that are in danger of not finishing in time are having a less than optimal experience, in my opinion. 
      I'm thinking I need to get rid of the points system and instead set out 2 or 3 projects for each station and have them choose from this limited menu.  That ensures a worthwhile and properly educational experience while still allowing each student the choice of something that appeals to them more.  So I will be implementing an even more modified version of true choice based.  Unfortunately I'm realizing, (too late maybe?) that the majority of students have not received enough opportunity in their educational experience to MAKE CHOICES ON THEIR OWN and learn the consequences of these choices therefore, they are certainly struggling with this new model presented to them.  It's actually quite sad...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pros VS. Cons

Okay, so now that nearly a whole quarter has gone by in this modified version of Choice Based, I have a list of good vs. bad, or pros vs. cons that I've compiled.

-Students have a choice in every aspect of their experience in this classroom.  They are the masters of their fate in here and have no one to blame but themselves for not enjoying their experience.
-Students that do not like a particular media (clay, for example) do not have to work with that media at all.
-Attitude has been so much more enthusiastic about the projects and the possibilities available to them. 
-Discipline has been so much easier as typical behavior problems are greatly reduced due to a greater level of interest in what is at hand. 
-Students have at times thought of their own independent projects or brought in work done outside of the classroom that have spurred ideas for myself, thus the student is inspiring the teacher and keeping things fresh for me.
-Requiring the students to write artist statements for each project causes them to really think about why they made something (concept) and how they went about making it (process), a reflective exercise AND also helps to strengthen their writing skills. 

-Some students that may be un-inspired tend to see another project being done and decide to copy it/do the same thing.  While imitation is flattery, having the end result of seven projects that look nearly identical can be a bit blah. 
-Because there is no limit to what students can do, materials seem to get used up so much more quickly.  For example I am almost out of glue for the year.  I mean really what art teacher doesn't have glue?  Well, in about two days it will be me!!!
-Ideally, while I would like to see students do the best they can to rotate around the room to the different stations, sculpture seems to be the big draw and everyone seems to want to do multiple projects there.  This quarter I did not set a limit of what could be done (other than with a limit of 1 clay project), I really think I'm going to have to rethink this for next quarter.  Sculpture/3-D is a seriously heavy user of materials and my budget and current reserve of supplies cannot keep up with the pace. 
-In all the hustle and bustle of just getting everyone what they need each day I feel that some of the basics are getting left behind and not getting relayed to the students.  I think next quarter I'm going to have to take a day here and there to have skill and knowledge building days.  Trying to relay this information individually as the student confronts a problem isn't being productive with the time and opportunity that I have available with them.  Sometimes I feel I am constantly repeating myself day after day, hour after hour, and I am because the students are all tackling the same basic ideas at different points throughout the quarter.  I did the basic setups and knowledge building for everyone at the start of the quarter, but realize now that I need to revisit and expand on these ideas multiple times throughout the quarter.  Students are only concerned with the station they are planning on working at at the time and let everything else pass through their ears it seems. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


So where have I been?  Buried, that's where.  Things are going well, but I am still trying to adjust to getting everything taken care of (really just grading) in a timely manner.  Because I am using a broad rubric that will work for each project, I am taking the time to give written comments and feedback for each and every project.  I knew going into it, it would take a fair amount of time to do this, but it is taking more time than I thought it would.  Which is fine, it's just something I need to get a streamlined process for...I've made a list of changes I plan on implementing next quarter that I'm certain will help, but it's just a matter of having to wait until the start of next quarter to do it.  Overall the students still seem to be responding very positively to this new format.  In fact, I just had a student today tell me that they did not like art last year, but  this year they are really excited about it because they get to have a choice and a say in what they do.  Hearing things like this just absolutely reinforce all of the work I'm putting into this and make it totally worthwhile.