Student Teacher Blog
Beginning Student Teaching
At the beginning of my first placement of student teaching, I was very excited and also nervous. I did not know what to expect, but I did not have long to worry about the “what if’s” — there was work to be done!
Right away, during our breaks on teacher work week, we got started setting up the room. I found this to be a fun and a great learning process. My cooperating teacher has a specific place in the room for everything. This is helpful as a student teacher because I need to know where the supplies are, but it is also beneficial to the students. If they know where the supplies are, they can step up as helpers or leaders in the classroom when needed. Another aspect of classroom planning that I learned about was the factor of mobility. It is crucial to keep walkways clear. While this was not my first time considering this, the way my cooperating teacher worked mobility into the everyday classroom was extremely successful. This organization means you aren’t thinking about it all the time; clear pathways are just something that comes with the classroom. She tries to keep students seated on one side of the tables when possible and also makes sure that the board is visible from all of the seats.
After teacher workweek finished, it was finally the time for the first week of school. My cooperating teacher and I were on break duty. This allowed me to start getting to know some of the students before I could see them in action in the art room. All of the students seemed very excited to meet me and to be coming to the art room in the upcoming weeks.
Now that most of my elementary classes have completed their lessons, it is time for me to assess and grade their work. To do this I created a rubric based on the criteria for each day of the lesson. Some of my lesson criteria require student reflections and self-assessments. Sometimes students can create amazing artworks that do not connect with the original importance of the big idea or concept. Self-assessments or reflections help gauge how the student personally connected to the lesson, how and why they made their creative decisions, and what they learned during and after the whole process. These reflections will provide you with the concrete information that you may need when assessing their understanding of the unit. This will also help you as a teacher so that you know what you may need to change or emphasize next time. You can check for understanding and connection in a number of ways (artist’s statements, questions and answers, etc). With assessments and grades aside, it is super important for students to reflect on their experiences and decision making as it can also function as personal closure for the unit.
Painting with Elementary School Children
Several of my units involve painting. And since I’m still in my elementary placement, that means I have less than 45 minutes to instruct and get an art activity going. That may seem like a lot of time but with classroom management and actual kids thrown into the mix, it feels more like 10 minutes.
While in my placement I have learned several things that help make painting with younger students go a tad bit smoother.
#1 Have clear rules, expectations, and consequences that both you and the students can follow.
My cooperating teacher has these very things posted on the wall. Every time we are about to paint we must go through them. This can nip trouble in the bud before it even starts.
#2 Art Shirts
Art shirts are ESSENTIAL for painting (and even for something less messy like oil pastels). They will save your life. Just one class set of large old tee shirts will do. The kids slip these on over their clothes and it prevents nasty stains.
#3 Clean Up Time
Here at my school, our schedule is PACKED. The second half of the day, there is literally no time between my classes. This means clean up must be swift and effective — otherwise the following classes will be behind, and the room will be a mess. There are several non-art supplies I have begun to love recently. In the beginning of the school year, my cooperating teacher asked for students to bring in paper plates and baby wipes. Let me tell you how fast clean up goes with those two supplies in use! The paper plates are used as disposable palettes and the wipes function for both hands and table wiping afterward. These are definitely two supplies I will be using in a classroom of my own.
Now that my elementary placement is almost over I have decided to create some displays of the student work in the school’s hallway. Because it is the beginning of the year, the hallways currently seem a bit empty. I think installations or displays of student work can be important because it can provide an opportunity other students, teachers, and parents to see what kind of learning goes on the art classroom. Below I have included pictures of a display that I made for my “Imaginary Characters” unit for Kindergarten and 1st grade.
I selected 8 images that showcased a range of creative decision making to display. I also included the Art SOLs within the display so that administration and visitors could identify the importance of the lesson. Next time, I would love to get students to help me create the installation and help curate the artwork. I would advise to make time for this at the end of your lesson!!!
Before… and After!
If you plan to install work in the hallways make sure that you install it HIGH on the wall. If artwork is installed too low, other students might accidently or intentionally mess it up! The lower 3 paintings in my display will probably have to be moved higher on the wall.
Comic Book Covers
They say that if you are really passionate about what you are teaching the students will be interested, too. I found this to be particularly true with my fifth grade comic book cover lesson. They could tell I was really excited about it so they were excited, even if they had never read a comic before.
At the start of this unit, I brought in some cheap one-dollar comics. Most were older, but I had a few contemporary ones thrown in the mix. Most students loved the opportunity to look through these books. However, I did have a reluctant few that tried to act like they did not enjoy the experience. One student said, “I don’t like comics, I’ve never read any before”. Much to his surprise, I responded with “Well that’s not true, you just looked at two of them just now” and within that moment, he asked if we could have time next class to look at the comics again.
I particularly like teaching this lesson, not just because I love comics but also because the artist I connected the unit to is someone that I’ve met twice. The students were so excited to know that their teacher had met an artist that they were learning about. This shows them that there are realistic art jobs in the world. We are teaching them relevant skills that they might need in the job market. Art is REAL LIFE work.
As an educator, I believe that the majority of complex ideas can be broken down to the appropriate level for the students you are teaching. Abstract art is incorporated into the learning standards of my county, yet, my students had never been introduced to this vast artistic movement. Specifically, I focused on the abstract expressionist movement of post-World War II and the 1950s era. This lesson was introduced by a clip from the movie Pleasantville. Pleasantville is not only a visually interesting movie but showed the norms of the 1950s. As people began to rebel, their black and white persona and environment disappeared and turned into beautiful, vibrant, and colorful characters and settings. This movie also explores undertones of racism, gender inequality, and the suppression of many different people. We deconstructed the 1950s and the cultural expectations of Americans. Students were extremely interested about racial segregation, gender and sexuality requirements, and the horrendous oppression of anyone who did not fit these expectations. The first day was dedicated to unpacking the emotions of the time and how emotion is represented in the Westernized world (students were also notified that the color representations being discussed were from the viewpoints of the Westernized world, e.g., bright and vibrant colors typically meant happiness and excitement). At the end of the lesson they had one minute to list out all of the emotions they could think of and were instructed to pick two emotions and six colors which represented these emotions.
Following the first lesson, the next three days explored abstract art in both written and visual form. Students planned their monoprinting artwork through thumbnail sketches. They monoprinted two emotions of choice. Lastly, students filled out a word box worksheet and created a title for their favorite monoprinted emotion. Below are a variety of images from this lesson.
This was a collaborative activity where a group of students were given an emotion and had to translate this emotion into abstraction with markers and water.
During my student teaching experience, I have realized there are so many different ways to manage classroom behavior. Though my cooperating teacher has her own system of classroom management in place, she has encouraged me to try new strategies to manage the behavior and noise level in my classes. Sometimes this results in game-like commands for the younger grades –“Everybody freeze and eyes on me!” or “Let me see everybody’s fingers dancing in the air!” These verbal requests can direct the student’s attention away from whatever it is they are currently doing. For the older students, it has been bit more difficult. One thing that I try to do now is preventative management of behavior and noise level. Before the students come into the room I tell them what the expectations are for the art room and if they can’t get it together when they come in, we will not start the lesson until the class has met my expectations. Sometimes this will be immediate “lights out, heads down on the table.” Though preventative management may take up a bit of time, it is necessary to bring them down to a controlled, calm, and respectful level so we can continue on with the lesson without getting “out-of-control” later on.
My cooperating teacher uses an art room incentive process for classes who have excellent behavior. If the noise level get’s too loud in the room they get a “strike” on the board. If they get 3 strikes they do not receive a crayon in their class’s box for that day. If a class gets 4 crayons in their box they receive some kind of reward. This 3 strike policy also helps students understand the noise level and behavior expectation in the room.
I think the best thing for me is to continue to try out different things until I find strategies that work for me and for my students. Every class is different, every day is different, and sometimes what may work for one teacher may not work for you or me.
Action Research Plan
Drawing is a personal passion of mine, and it is something I would love to teach students when I have my own classroom, so I thought why not start teaching it during student teaching? I found the Action Research Plan to be the perfect opportunity to implement this. I wanted to see how much the third grade students would improve on their observation drawing skills by looking at their drawings pre-instruction and post-instruction.
I began by planning a unit in which students would complete several drawings. Each time I would document their progress. On the first day of class, I introduced the concept of a still life to the students as well as an artist. Then with no instruction, I asked them to set up their table’s still life then draw it on an 8.5×11 in piece of paper. As predicted, the children drew a lot of symbols as well as very small and in the middle of the paper.
Beginning the second week of the unit, I explained how we could use geometric shapes to break down larger forms. Students then went through a step-by-step how to of how to break a vase down into circles and triangles. This was also drawn on an 8.5x11in piece of paper, but this one vase filled almost the whole paper. Most of them seemed to catch on but a few struggled.
On the third week it was finally time to see if any of the information had stuck or impacted their drawings. Before their final drawing we went through a much shorter shape breakdown, this time applying it to a flower. This would help them see that the shapes do not only help with the vases but everything in their still life.
After reviewing the work it seems that the instruction did help the students to improve their observation drawing. Their drawings were much larger and contained less stylized forms.
I quickly learned that getting the students to clean-up correctly is an art in itself. The first day of of my painting lesson, I thought it would be fine for students to go back to the sinks for a sponge to clean their tables. The students were too excited for this freedom the first day — some even fought for the sponges! Some wanted the special big ones, and some wanted more than one. I soon found out why they loved the sponges so much, especially the younger ones. The students would go fill the sponge with water, and squeeze out all that water as hard as they can all over the tables while rolling around in it and throwing it at each other. Even after the sponge chaos, there was the struggle of getting their hands washed. The students would fight to be first and within minutes the sink was over flowing, and students were slipping, sliding, and falling. I ended up cleaning up most of the mess that day.
I went through a couple of phases of adjustments over my placement.
The first adjustment I made was to call up all the projects to the drying rack first and have everyone sit back down. Then, I called each table one at a time to get sponges and clean up. After each table, I had finished, I would call the students to wash their hands and line up. While less chaotic, this method ended up taking too long, leaving me with no closure time to review.
The second adjustment I tried was that I cleaned and squeezed out sponges while the students put their work on the drying racks. After they all sat back down, I went around the room, dropping 2-3 sponges on each table. This ensured there was no mess and things got finished quickly. As I called tables to line up, they would come put the sponges back, wash their hands and line up.
The third adjustment was not for every class, but I noticed as the weeks went on, behavior started becoming an issue at the end of class. I took away the sponge privileges from most of the classes and chose only two people to go around the room to sponge things up as the rest of the class stood in line. This proved to be the cure for most of the classes, and I had great students who were also willing to gather all the materials.