Student Teacher Blog
I often find that many students bring their outside experiences into the art room. These experiences tend to be the building blocks and inspiration for their artwork. Along with their outside experiences, societal norms have also helped shape the way they perceive and react to the world. At my secondary placement in High school, I wondered what they could take from art room and bring into the world with them. What life skills could I embed into their art lessons that can be used both practically and psychologically that could prepare them for a successful future?
I came into the class prepared to teach really amazing lessons before I realized that my students were never exposed to information they needed to create the resulting product. I believe that the process of making is always more important than the product itself so I decided to focus on the “how” and the “why” of the process. I encouraged my students to critically assess the importance of representation in art and prompted them with questions about museums and art mediums. As a prep for the introduction to the lesson, we reviewed various mediums of art and discussed what subjects we were accustomed to seeing in portraits, movies, and TV. I tried to keep it current and discussed the importance of movies such a Black Panther and artists such as Kehinde Wiley. In doing this, the objective was to strengthen their critical thinking skills and encourage them to look beyond what they see on the surface. Moreover, I created classroom precepts that they could adjust to spaces outside of my classroom. For example, rather than telling them “don’t do this or that,” we talked about the value of taking accountability and acknowledging moments where they could have used better judgement (“I” over “Why”). Or encouraging them to expand their vocabulary instead of resorting to profanity in the art room. I want to build an art room that is safe, inclusive, and promotes student voices. The goal is to encourage them to think (and learn) about life through art and art-making.
As a new teacher, I often felt myself feeling overwhelmed by the numerous responsibilities
I had to take on. Lesson plans, projects, and grading crowded my mind as I strove to be the
most ultimate teacher ever (which will come in time)!
But be sure to take part in any school activities that give students a chance to see you in a different
light. Not too long ago my middle school hosted a college door contest and I was able to adorn
my door in black and gold (go Raaaaamsss!)
I was able to make connections with students who had visited the campus,
had relatives living in the area, or were considering VCU as a possible college
choice. Show your school spirit!!!
These may be a couple of months too late, but I couldn’t help but share these amazing
drawings done by my 8th graders.
Too often, some art teachers discourage and demote free drawing for the purposes of
completing a project or covering a SOL—but free drawing is VITAL in the art classroom.
Free drawn assignments allow teachers to glance at their students’ interests.
I had no idea of what my some of my 8th graders were capable of until after this assignment!
I was amazed by the versatility, creativity, and variety of these projects.
So once in a while, try letting your students take a breath of fresh art and free draw!
I was completely thrilled to do a project centered around culture. And with the
current popularity of the mythical nation of Wakanda, I was even more so excited to take my
3rd graders on a trip to Africa!
They created African sunset silhouettes that showcased their knowledge of value
and warm colors. We also discussed various types of animals that live on the savannah
and students, sketched, colored, and cutout their animals to place on top of their sunsets.
This project not only taught students about African wildlife, but they were able to connect this
project with something current.
And it’s no surprise that students want to vacation in Wakanda…
As a new art teacher who has never taught clay, I was a little ambivalent about how the
process would go – middle schoolers are full of surprises after all.
Nonetheless, with only a few techniques, students can create a successful 3D project!
With this project students learned about the nature of coral reefs and did research about
the types of corals they wanted to make out of clay. Students learned about the pinch pot,
slip and score, and attachment methods.
I’d say their projects turned out pretty “coral.”
Teaching art in a secondary environment has been an extremely rewarding experience! Although, working with a developing middle school population can have its challenges. For many new teachers, keeping control of the classroom is the greatest priority and many equate this with confining students to their seats with little movement as possible. Now a successful classroom must have management but that does not mean students have to be “chained” to their seats- at least not all the time 😉 Some students need movement to allow their ideas and cognition to flow freely- especially in the art classroom. One lesson my sixth graders thoroughly enjoyed was inspired by the pop art movement and highlighted pop artist, Keith Haring. After describing the life and art career of Haring students were thrilled when they heard the assignment- life sized body tracings of themselves. Students chose a pose that was unique to them and were traced from head to toe. Afterwards they used colors to fill in those tracings. Not only did students enjoy the funny poses their classmates chose, but they were internally motivated. As I walked throughout the class I could hear laughter, students making suggestions to other students, tables sharing supplies, and so much more. Projects like these not only allow students to move, but the art classroom to come alive.
I heard the muffled groans of my 8th graders as the words “self-portrait” came out of my mouth.
I knew I had to do something.
So instead of pulling out the dreaded mirrors or having my students draw grids, I told them something different…
“Pull out your cell phones.” Students were given the opportunity to use snap chap filters to add a contemporary element
to an otherwise extremely conservative project. This resulted in happy students and self-portraits!
The students imagined, designed, and created their own underground creatures, along with individual underground houses for their creatures to live in. Their houses were made on large paper, and were then collectively and collaboratively combined into a large class city. This city was than experienced and lived in as the students played through each of their connecting homes.
4th grade created class quilts that involved many steps and different concepts!
They practiced thinking critically to come up with a symbol that represented a character trait that they identified with, created a monotype on cloth using a gelli plate, and even weaved their cloths together.
To begin with, I let them know that I had a huge project for them that was going to take many steps. I broke the lesson down into 3 sections, and as we started the next one I introduced the concepts that went along with it. One step at a time to avoid bombarding them with information! We began by discussing symbolism and what a symbol is. It was very important to include an example of symbols that represent a trait because if not, students will turn to drawing their favorite sport or video game. We looked at Adinkra cloths, which originated in Ghana, Africa. We talked about the simplicity of the symbols but also how well thought out they are (chart with Adinkra symbols and their assigned traits, above). They went back and sketched out their symbol and then cut it out to create a stencil to print with. Session 2 was gelli printing and I made sure to demo with my own stencil. And finally we talked about quilts as art and as materials for story-telling. I used the American flag as a symbol, and for fun, we looked at Byron Kim’s “Synecdoche”, and debated on if this was some type of contemporary quilt or not. It was a very interesting conversation, some students spoke on how it isn’t because the materials aren’t the same, and some students focused in on how both quilts and this piece are similarly composed and bring individual ideas together into one piece.
Once we had discussion on quilts, I demonstrated how to weave a row of cloths to begin with at their tables and that once they were done, we were going to weave the rows together. Many students were eager to help contribute to their class quilt and the results were impressive.