Student Teacher Blog
In my high school placement I have an Art I exceptional ed class. After getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of students in the class, I came up with a project that would challenge them while also giving them independence in the process. Most students in the class are on the spectrum and have some impairments in fine motor skills. I picked a weaving project so the students could work on their basic sewing skills using big plastic needles, yarn, and plastic canvas and burlap. Plastic needles are easier for them to hold and use independently, and the canvas with pre-determined holes allows the students to have more structure and control over their designs.
The students are along a wide spectrum, ranging from low-functioning to high-functioning, so I wanted to add in some conceptual nature to the project while still keeping the project accessible to all. I introduced Kuba textiles to the students via PowerPoint and showed how weaving can incorporate shapes, patterns, colors, and improvisation. I also talked about how these textiles inspired jazz musicians, and had the students pick a music station to listen to while they worked. This framework left the students open to make art expressively and use music to inspire the work. Most of the students could work fairly independently, while others needed some hand-over-hand assistance. All in all, the students enjoyed the project and some engaged in art for the first time during this class. It was exciting to give the students a new skill that they could improve on while also working on their fine motor skills. I loved seeing what each of them would do with minimal prompting.
Photos of work:
When using clay with kindergarten students, it is very important to be as prepared as you can be. Here are some discoveries I made while teaching a clay lesson to the kindergarten students. Kindergarteners do not have very long attention spans, so be concise with directions. If you explain the steps for making a pinch pot and then do a demo to repeat that information in a different way, they will not be able to sit through all of the instruction. The students came into the clay day excited that they will actually be using clay that day, since the week before was an introduction and they planned out their animal designs. This excitement and their already short attention spans was not a good combination for a longer introduction. I learned that I had to go straight to my demo, where I showed the students how to make a pinch pot and attach pieces onto it. While doing the demo, it is helpful to use metaphors to explain the steps. For example when explaining how to open the pinch pot, tell the students to use their “alligator mouth hands” to pinch the clay. I also learned it is important to make the demos as interactive as possible, so you keep the students focused on your instructions. After I told the students they will use their “alligator mouth hands”, I asked them all to show me their “alligator mouth hands”.
While the students are working, I walk around and make sure they are making pieces that will not break in the kiln. Many of them need help with the pinch pot, so my first priority was making sure they all had a pinch pot. It is also important to keep repeating the directions because they will not remember all of the steps at once. They need to be reminded how to score and slip, or “scratch, wet, and wiggle”. They also need to be reminded to make short and fat pieces to attach, since the long and skinny pieces they wanted to make will break.
The students painted their animals with tempera paint. The students loved this project! They really enjoyed the experience of working with clay, since it was something they had never done before.
I felt pretty proud of my units at the elementary level. For the artist examples I chose a mix of women and men (1/2 and 1/2) and all of my artists were of color which was important to me at the school I was at. However, although all of them were contemporary, none of them seemed contemporary enough until I wrote my fifth grade unit.
Curtis Talwst Santiago
I, like many of my fellow student teachers, follow a lot of artists on instagram and one of the artists I follow is Curtis “Talwst” Santiago. After seeing one of his pieces on my feed I knew I wanted to introduce his work to the kids and was wondering how I could make it even more valuable to them.
So I wrote him an email asking if he would talk to them. He said yes! This was an amazing experience for both me and my kids. We skyped with him from South Africa where he was currently working.
Having my students realize that there were artists that are still alive, currently making money making their art, and willing to talk with them was such a special moment in my student teaching. Always reach out to artists; you never know who will collaborate with you!
With my fourth grade classes all too ready to become fifth grade top dogs, I decided having them do a self-portrait project would be the best option. They’re at the age where they are beginning to discover themselves and learn about their individual identities. We discussed as a class what an identity is; what it’s comprised of, why it’s important to recognize, etc. Self portraits in and of themselves show a lot about an individual, but I wanted to make sure the students could also see how their portraits gave away more detail than just their physical appearance. In their self portraits the students had to include something that was absolutely vital to making them who they are. Some students included their family members, others drew themselves as what they wanted to be when they grew up, but they all explored what their identity is.
One of the coolest parts about this unit for me was having them write artist statements at the end. A lot of students had difficulty with formal writing, so I asked students to write as if they were explaining their artwork to a friend, what they included and why. It was the first time they got to explain themselves and really talk about themselves as an artist. They had a few prompting questions to guide the way, but overall it was great to read what they wrote!
My third grade class was very squirmy. They are at an age that kept them right in the middle maturity-wise. Starting to become social, but still needing structure, they are at a wiggly age. The students had a hard time staying still in the lessons I observed, so I decided a hands-on kind of unit would be best. I wanted to involve as many materials and different techniques as possible, so I had them paint their loom plates before we began weaving.
The biggest challenge was definitely explaining how to tie a knot to continue the weft string, but once we got past that hurdle it was smooth sailing. The students really enjoyed this because it was so new. At the end of the project I had a little extension project for those who finished early, teaching them how to use a piece of cardboard to create a loom. They loved having something to bring home and continue working on outside of class!
I have a lot of students who need the classroom to be quiet in order to work, so talking and talking loudly (like many Kindergartners through 2nd grade do) can be a bit of a challenge. I don’t like the idea of a silent art classroom because then there is no social interaction among students. So, I decided to play a game with my students, I would put soft, quiet music on when independent work time started. When I turned it off it was a silent signal that it was time to clean up. The table that cleaned up the fastest would get an “art pencil” as a prize.
This worked out well because it kept chatter to a low volume since the students needed to be quiet enough to hear the music in order to know when to clean up. It also encouraged other students to help each other clean up because the whole table had to be ready in order to win. It didn’t work great with the Kindergartners but did with first and second grade. They also knew that if it got to loud than I would turn the music off altogether and no one would win the prize for the day. The classroom remained at a quiet volume most days and everyone who needed the calmer environment didn’t mind the music as long as it was slow and soft. Everyone cleaned up quickly on most days as well because they wanted to win the art pencil and I didn’t have to repeat clean up directions multiple times because students didn’t want to clean up or stop working.
I also tried this with the third, fourth and fifth graders but they didn’t really care about the music being on or off and it didn’t work very well to keep class volume low, just added to it since students were talking louder because of the music.
Towards the beginning of my experience with an inner city elementary school there was a shooting across the street that forced the school into lockdown for about 3 hours. Unfortunately, this is not very uncommon so I wanted to give my 3rd graders a project that focused on community and tied into the architecture they were learning about in Social Studies.
We started off by talking about Greek and Roman architecture, what they had been doing that week with their classroom teacher and then explored how it has influenced US architecture and looked at some more modern examples of buildings. We then talked about the community and surrounding neighborhoods and problems that they had. Many of them listed needing places to hang out and places to get necessary items like clothes or food. After our brainstorming, they set off to become architects and design a building that they would want to see in their neighborhood.
When they completed their sketches, I broke them up into groups and we talked about murals, specifically the Richmond Mural Project and then turned their building designs into a city scape. If I were to do this again I would definitely pay closer attention to who is in what group, I did it by combining tables and there were a couple students that could not work together. Not everyone got a chance to finish either because of all the half days and time missed from school while I was also trying to wrap things up early for NAEA.
Despite the murals not being quite finished, their concepts for their buildings were really interesting and was eye opening for me to see what they think should be changed in their community.
One student designed a vegetable farm so that not only would their community have more food (99% of my students were on free and reduced breakfast and lunch) but so they also had healthier options.
Another student created a building that would be a safe place for kids to hang out after school. She titled her building “The Center Studio” and you could do anything you wanted while you were there. She also said that it was great place to hang out with friends because there would be a lot of things to do.
A couple other building ideas ranged from a football field to play sports in, to a cellphone store that would give you a free phone so that you could talk to your family if they were somewhere else as well as a clothing store that gave clothes away to kids that needed new clothes or really didn’t have enough clothes to wear.
This could also be a good perspective lesson with older students as well. I was having my 3rd graders focus on using a ruler to draw straight lines and how to create the illusion of depth by using foreground, middle ground and background.
My fifth graders recently went to the Science museum and learned about how animal characteristics are related to the environment the animal lives in. This class was the only class to have earned the privilege of clay so I really wanted to do a science tie in to their field trip with the clay.
We started by recapping on why some animals look the way they do and how it relates to their survival in the environment they live in. We then talked about how scientists and artists used to observe animals and try to depict them as accurately as possible because the camera or ability to travel great distances was unobtainable to most people at the time. We then pretended to be scientists exploring a place no one had ever been before and finding an animal or creature no one had seen. Students then drew their own scientific illustrations for their new discovery, the only catch being it could not be an animal or creature that already existed, whether real or fantasy. For the ones who were “stuck” they combined multiple animals together to make a new creature.
After we finished our scientific illustrations and learned about VCU’s medical illustration and CommArts program, we talked about how to translate something that was 2D shape into a 3D form. I also introduced the concept of different types of sculpture, in-the-round and relief. I then challenged them to make a 3D model of their creature, trying to make it stand up and support its own weight, like an in-the-round sculpture. We also experimented and played with the clay to figure out how to make various textures and details that would be more realistic. Some were more successful than others, and the air dry clay was impossible to work with and broke frequently. But in the end, everyone had a sculpture! I think most of them turned out pretty well!
I introduced collograph printing to my second graders, and it was so much fun! My project was about landscapes of places from which students had memories. Many students chose places that they went on family vacations. The students drew out their designs, then started gluing materials to make their printing plates. The students used various materials, including beads, cardboard, foam, burlap, buttons, and yarn. It is important to make sure that you tell them to use a lot of glue, especially for the beads and buttons, or else pieces will fall off during the printing process. Many students asked for specific colored materials to go in a certain place (for example: green yarn for grass) so it is also important to explain how the printmaking process works before starting to glue. The color of the materials does not matter since ink will be rolled on later. The students had fun gluing on materials, but were anxious to start printing.
The photo below is of a student gluing materials onto his printing plate.
The printing process was a bit chaotic, but that was expected. The students worked in stations at their tables, instead of having each material for every student at their seats. There were two brayer stations and two printing stations at each table. The students took turns rolling out ink with the brayers at the brayer station, then they moved to the printing station to rub the paper onto their inked printing plate. Once they made a print, they went directly to the drying rack so the finished prints did not get messy from staying out on the tables. It took the students a little bit of time to get used to sharing the stations, but they all got the hang of it and were successful. The students made some amazing prints! During the first day of printing they all made at least four prints. During the second day, I showed the students how to double print on top of their print from the previous week. They also had the option to print on colored paper. Another important part of a printing lesson is making sure you give the class enough time to clean up, since there are many supplies that need to be cleaned up. Overall this was a very successful lesson, and I will definitely be making collograph prints with students in the future!
The photo above shows the printing stations- two brayer stations at the end, two printing stations in the middle.
The photo above shows a student holding their print next to their printing plate.
The following photos are finished work.