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.