Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Awesome End-of-Project Evaluation

Have you seen this evaluation form over on "The Bees Knees?"

It is, quite possibly, one of the best evaluation forms I have seen. The fact that is aligns to Common Core is just a bonus!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dispensing Materials and Clean Up in the Middle School Art Room

My classroom
My day by the numbers:
980  # of students taking Art yearly
245  # of students taking Art quarterly
035  # of students per class (approximate)
006  # of classes I teach daily
004  # of preps (2 6th grades, 2 7th grades, 1 8th grade, 1 honors)
003  # of minutes between classes
090  # of minutes of daily planning (during 3rd period when students each lunch)

My days as an Art teacher incredibly busy and I bet yours is too.  The Connections teachers (Art, PE, Music, Business Education, and Drama) at my school teach six periods a day; the so-called “academic” teachers teach four periods a day.  While I would like to bemoan this fact, I’m also proud to offer Art to as many students as possible. . .And, am not interesting in complaining overmuch lest anyone think cutting “that annoying Art teacher” might be a good idea.

My methods of dispensing materials and cleaning up aren’t flawless, but I like to think it is an area of strength.  Strangely enough, I honed my materials management while teaching at the private school.  If you remember, I was sometimes teaching two classes of elementary students and one class of high school students at the same time in the same classroom.  While the total number of students in the classroom never exceeded 45, the various levels forced me to teach a bit of autonomy.

classroom at the private school with third graders and high school kids working
 Yay Autonomy! I love thee so much.
I have an open shelf system in my classroom wherein I store all sorts of materials that are “open use” for students.  “Open use” means the students may go and grab a basket of those materials anytime s/he may wish (as long as movement around the classroom is allowed).  It saves me a lot of time and trouble as we are all familiar with the litany of requests for markers, crayons, pencils, erasers, etc. etc. etc. It also teaches autonomy, as the shelves and the baskets are labeled.  When we clean up, I just say: “please return all materials to their proper shelves,” and typically that happens. Magic!

open use area at the private school

open use shelves in my current classroom

labeled shelves with baskets
glue in the open use area

Storage bins/baskets are your friends.
The baskets I use for my “open use” materials were donated to my classroom. You can use old Tupperware containers etc. etc. I got lucky. The restaurant my husband worked at ordered a bunch of plastic baskets for serving food. The restaurant decided they didn’t like the baskets, and my quick-thinking husband asked if he could have them (knew I married him for a reason!). I have over 100 different colored/sized baskets.  I have eight tables in my art classroom, and I have eight baskets of any material in the “open use” shelves or that I hand-out. 

When we use special materials, I have different ways of dispensing those materials:
  -If I have worksheets and/or paper based items to hand-out, I prepare folders with those materials and have an early arriving student put them on each table.

-If I have a special mark-making material to hand-out, I make it part of my warm-up. As students walk in, they see my projector, and I will have something like “Come in, please get a [material] from the [location], please sit in your assigned seat, what is the definition of [art term] in your own words?”

-If I am handing out a “controlled material” like Sharpies (I’m insane about them), X-Acto blades, etc. I usually wait until the class begins and walk around and assign those items to students and/or have them visit me to check-out those materials. 


glue guns and sticks

-I don’t hand out final draft sheets of paper for any project. Instead, I keep a large cardboard paper box in the back of my classroom. I place final draft paper in the box for students to get when they finish sketches. You know they don’t sketch if you give them the final draft paper first! My students are used to this procedure and almost never ask me about final draft paper (hallelujah!).

The friggin’ pencil sharpener!
Oh Lawd Help Me. I hate (HATE!) hearing the sound of the electric pencil-sharpener!  I know they make quiet electric sharpeners, but they are expensive and Art students kill/overheat/insert-crayons-into sharpeners so fast. At the private school, I had two X-Acto pencil sharpeners; they were the best I’ve ever had.  If you are going to go the electric pencil sharpener route, get X-Acto and avoid Bostic (I have killed SO MANY Bostics!).  Anyway, I’m done with the electric sharpeners; I prefer the old-school wall-mounted ones. So, I went around my school and collected (with my Stanley drill) all of the unused/unloved wall-mounted pencil sharpeners. Then, I had my husband (again, love that guy) re-install the sharpeners in four corners of my classroom. Each table has an assigned sharpener they are to visit. It keeps the sharpener line down, and it prevents all the “socializing” that seems to accumulate around the sharpener. 

how I dealt with pencil sharpening in the private school (no wall mounts available)

 Clean-up (is hard to do).
The best clean-up starts with a little bit of prevention. Whenever I introduce a new material and/or use something like paintbrushes, I review how to clean and store those materials. I also warn against misuse by explaining it will lead to a more rigorous clean-up. That way, when it comes time to clean-up there isn’t an exhaustive explanation (that kids won’t listen to) about cleaning up; I just remind the students (“Remember, store paintbrushes bristles-up!”).

I typically allow for 5 minutes of clean-up in 7th and 8th grade, and 8 minutes of clean up in the 6th grade.  Clean-up in my classroom looks chaotic. It also seems as if every time an administrator wants to observe me, it is clean-up time.  Once, I nervously explained to an administrator that the kids were on-task, and the admin said: “Obviously! It is busy, but good!”

So, well, sometimes, chaos works.

wash yo' hands!
 Here is my very general procedure for clean-up
1.       I clap out a pattern and/or use another “attention getting” strategy
2.       Once I have the attention of everyone (no sinks, sharpeners, etc.) I address the class “When I count-down you will. . .”
3.       I go through 3-4 specialized commands according to the task at hand (put all wet artwork on the drying rack, all dry material on your storage shelf etc. etc.).
4.       I assign “helpers” to make sure special tasks are accomplished (collecting worksheets, return of water-cups, making sure no fingers are smashed in the drying rack etc. etc.)
5.       Always save hand-washing/personal-grooming for last. “I will not spray your table until it and the floor around it is bare; you don’t want to wash your hands and then clean the table!” I also shame those who try to wash first and give them some really unpleasant clean up task (pick up all the trash!).
6.       The last command is always: “I will know you are cleaned up and ready to go because you are seated.”
7.       Then, I walk around the room and supervise the clean-up.
8.       I tend to do a lot of talking, loud-speaking, and reiteration during clean-up. That’s okay. 

I do not perform any part clean-up (when kids are in the room) unless there is some overwhelming circumstance. I do walk around and spray tables with a diluted soap solution, and students know to dry it with paper towels (it is a general class procedure).  I always tell the students: “These are your supplies, your tables, and your room; if you want them nice, you will participate in keeping them nice.”

When the bell rings, I dismiss the class according to the table who finished clean-up first. Students do not leave until their table –not just their mess- is cleaned. If a student sneaks past me (it happens!), during the next class, s/he responsible for the entire table clean-up alone (tablemates love this rule, and love to help enforce it).

Those darling little outliers who refuse to clean-up.
There are always a few outlier kiddos who just don’t want to clean-up, won’t participate, and/or who have issues with clean-up that extend far past the moment. For instance, I had a student who refused to clean-up because, “a white lady telling a brown skinned kid to do labor is slavery.”  Honestly, I don’t have time for that (ain’t no body got time for that!).  The first time a kid refuses to clean-up, I give a consequence (cleaning up the table solo next time). If the student continues to refuse to participate, I do a lot of avoiding.  The last thing any teacher needs is to get into a power struggle with a teenager. Teenagers will do anything to win a battle of wills; I am only allowed to ethically do so much.  I also don’t want to lose ground with the rest of the students for not addressing defiance, and I don’t have time in five minutes of clean-up to deal with active, rude, defiant behavior. 

So, when kids habitually refuse to clean-up, I do one of two things. I ignore students who refuse to clean-up and are not disruptive; I take their non-participation out of their conduct grade (and call home to alert the guardians). If other students complain, I tell those students, “Yes, Student A is refusing to clean-up and his/her grade is suffering.” If a student habitually refuses to clean-up and is disruptive, I dock their conduct grade, and assign them a serious escalating consequence (call home, detention, administrative referral).  I’m continuously surprised at how friends will often encourage a non-compliant student to get on board, “c’mon bruh, we got a game Friday! It ain’t worth it!”

What kinds of methods do you use during clean-up in your art-room?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Falling in Love with Teaching (Again!)

Organized Chaos
 This has been an overwhelmingly difficult, exciting, and AWESOME school year.

Every year we teach special kids, and have groups that really reach out and touch us. . .But, this year? My second period 8th graders simply blew me away.  In all my eight years of teaching, I’ve never taught class that has been so fun, challenging, creative, and awesome.  I love (LOVE!) these kids.  I’ve been mourning the last day of school for months because that will be my last day to have this group all together. Individually, they are all so amazing. Collectively, they could start a revolution (and just may have).  

I haven’t shared as many lesson plans this year because my 8th graders have changed the way I will teach forever.  They have, in short, taught me a better way.  I’ve been reluctant to write about this here, as I am submitting narratives about this experience to journals and conferences.  But, I’m working on a sort of picture narrative that will (hopefully) be shared here soon.

It has been an incredible and exhilarating year with these kids; these awesome, special, life-changing, brilliant, funny, inventive, creative, enduring, trying, and exhausting kids.

To my 8th graders:  “Magical Faery Chairs Forever!”

The Road to Awesomeness (is paved with provocative pedagogy)

Here is a pictorial view of my year with the most amazing 8th graders ever. We average about 1.5 projects every 2 weeks. . .So this is not an exhaustive list, but it is the high-points.

1. We started with an Oliva Gude-styled project wherein students looked inward to create an artwork about a personal experience.

2. We made artwork in the style of Kandinsky. . .And painted what we heard.

3. We worked on value portraits, and practiced our understanding of value and shape.

4. We reviewed watercolor technique and painted Fall leaves.

5. We worked on realism and drew animals.

6. We completed a study of David Hockney, and made inspired photomontages.

7. Inspired by GISHWHES, we forced a little perspective.

8. We had fun (SO MUCH FUN).

9. We created batiks about an identified "world issue."

10.  We made anti-bullying photos for the ADL "No Place for Hate" campaign.

11. We eyebombed the school (and the principal's office!).

12. We learned about social justice, made "graffiti walls" that were so controversial the whole school had to define social justice (I'm saving these images for their own -very interesting- post).

13. Inspired by our own project, we investigated social justice further.

14. Unsatisfied with the social justice films that defined the term in adult words, we made our own video.

15.  We demanded to explore "new techniques" and chose our own subject matter.

16. We went "off the map."

17. We re-visited portraiture to witness our developments.

18. We made an anti-bullying video. . .Because we were inspired by a classmate's poetry.

19.  We had fun. We had so much fun.