Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Closing the Art Gap

It has been mentioned here before, my current 6th graders have not had a lot of Art Ed experience prior to this year.  After a bit of sleuthing, I've discovered there are a few reasons for this:

1. One of the feeder schools flooded a year ago, and was damaged beyond repair.  The displaced students did not receive Art in their temporary environments.

2. Elementary students in my immediate area do not attend Art class on a weekly basis. Instead, they visit Art in a rotation of once every 8 school days. . .This translates to having Art class approximately once every two weeks.

3.  Several students admit to not having Art since third grade or younger.

4.  I teach a lot of transient students who have bounced from schools who had Art to those that did not.

Needless to say, my sixth graders are struggling to perform tasks that most 1st and 2nd graders could do with minimal effort. And, just to clarify, I am not holding any elementary Art teachers accountable for my students' lack of knowledge; my students have simply not had the level of exposure most would expect of sixth grade students. I've had to drastically change the projects I intended to do with my sixth graders to accommodate their gaps in Art Ed.

The largest hurdle has been the fact middle school aged students want to draw realistically, and firmly believe the only "good" art is realistic. . . But, my students struggle to draw some of the basic geometric shapes!  I asked if the students had completed a "guided drawing" before, and defined a guided drawing via demonstration. . . Y'all. Not a single student had ever done a guided drawing!?

I've been spending most of the year utilizing 3rd-5th lesson plans, and incorporating "twists" to meet the Performance Standards for 6th grade Art.  One of the biggest parts of this is trust.  The students didn't know, and therefore didn't trust me at first. . .Now, they are willing to "go" with what I ask and trust that I am guiding them down the right path. For example, I might say: "I know our drawings look sort of wacky and silly right now, but trust me, that is what you want! We are going to add details and that will help your drawing become awesome and amazing!"

Having said all of that, I'm really excited to show you two projects that really demonstrate how my students have developed!

I designed a two-project unit about the Legend of the Koi Fish.  The basic version of the legend is thus:  The koi fish swim up the Rainbow River. One lucky koi is chosen to become a dragon. Koi and dragons are symbols of good luck in Japan.  My students LOVED both of these super-fun projects, and they were huge confidence and ability boosters!

What is soo exciting here is that you can actually see how much better their drawing skills have become in just two projects! Some of the koi fish look a little like manatees or some other water-beast. . But, the dragons! Oh the dragons!! They look amaze-er-ring!

Here's how it all went down: (vocab: koi, Japan, legend/folktale, collage, drawing, guided drawing, oil pastel)

Koi Fish in the Rainbow River
1. I read the Legend of the Koi Fish
2. We did a guided drawing to practice drawing koi
3. Students drew 2 koi and colored with oil pastels
4. We painted two sheets of large paper using blue and green watercolor paint
5. We invented patterns and drew them on our painted paper
6. We tore our painted paper into strips
7. We glued our painted paper together to make waves the river
8. We glued our koi into our rivers
9. We displayed our rivers on the wall

Dragons Swimming Above the River
1. We reviewed the Legend of the Koi Fish
2. We did a guided drawing of a Japanese dragon (they have three or four toes!) on scratch paper
3. We practiced drawing simple parts of a dragon face (spikey hair, whiskers, etc.)
4. Students drew their dragon on a large sheet of white paper
5. Students traced their dragon with permanent marker
6. Students painted their dragons
7. Students cut out their dragons
8. We displayed our dragons above our koi fish river

These dragons really remind me of the fabulous Ms. Phyl!


1 comment:

  1. Boy, I wrote a great big comment on my iPad about an hour ago, but it would not send no matter what I did. Hope I can remember what I said!

    First of all, THANKS! You are so sweet to think of me! The dragons are terrific; I especially smiled at the ones with riders on their backs. Too cute.

    And the koi ponds - I love, I think it's the third one? With one fish tucked behind a wave. Anyhow, with all of them, I like the contrast of color, texture, and pattern. The kids did a good job.

    But what I really wanted to write about was this:
    It's amazing you are expected to have these kids meet 6th grade performance standards without the appropriate building blocks in art education. That's kind of like their 5th grade teacher expecting them to understand long division if they lack any basic instruction in addition and subtraction first! It's a terrible burden.

    I don't know if your state has adopted the whole Common Core and everything associated with it, but here in NY, teachers are now held accountable for their students' growth on assessments. This is now a huge piece of the teacher evaluation. It's scary, assuming that any failure to show progress on the part of the student is automatically the fault of the teacher, not contingent on any other factors. (Did the child have breakfast before the assessments? Is there parent support? Is there a stable family life? What kind of stress is going on in the household? Does the child get enough sleep? Is the child someone who has test anxiety?.... You get the idea.)

    I guess the one good thing for you is that, if there is a pre-test and post-test (part of what's happening here in NY), your kids are bound to show substantial progress on the post-test. But will they meet some sort of baseline for grade level expectations? Probably not.

    Good luck, Amy!!