To motivate adolescents, teachers must develop lessons acknowledging the interests of students, present lessons offering opportunities for choice, honor the knowledge and experience students have to offer, build on students’ prior knowledge, treat students as competent and capable of learning material, respond appropriately to students’ behaviors and frustrations, foster a sense of community in the classroom, demonstrate care and understanding in all interactions, and listen carefully to what the students say and do not say. —
Karen L. Cummings (2012), Motivating Urban Youth: Honoring the Experiences of Adolescents
I’m currently reading through one of the recent NAEA Art Education publications (from November 2012), and came across the article quoted above. It describes the experiences and reflections of two art teachers from an urban secondary school. Their observations and struggles are specific to their school and location, but also can be applied to the experience of working with adolescents, in general. The quote, above, really resonates with me, as does the general teaching approach advocated for in the article. As a substitute teacher in a rural school district, I’ve had the opportunity to observe many different classrooms environments and to (attempt to) teach many different high school subjects. I feel that the approaches described above could be applied across the board, not just in urban art classrooms. The author emphasizes the importance of developing rapport with students and exhibiting a positive attitude, as a teacher - not always easy tasks! I highly recommend this article to all you high school teachers out there!
When young people learn about art, they learn about DaVinci or Botticelli. These artists are important but they do not suffice for representing life in the present. Not many high school students know about contemporary art. It should be known by every student that there are thousands of people out there trying to better our society - now and for future generations- through their artwork. —
R. Francis (1996)
Yes! This is a great quote, and something that I feel very strongly about. I only learned about a few contemporary artists as a high school student - but their artwork is forever etched in my memory, and it had such a huge impact on my life.
(Source: arts.unco.edu, via msoartclass)
Seattle Mini Vacation: My Favourite Things tour of Elles: SAM
I returned last night from a fabulous 3-day trip that my husband and I made to Seattle. We planned this little get away to explore the city, and to visit the current exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou. We went to the museum on Friday evening. I’d expected the galleries to be jam-packed, as it was cheap night, but it turned out that visiting the art gallery isn’t a particularly popular Friday night activity. The galleries were remarkably empty, which was quite a treat.
One of the highlights of the visit was a tour that we attended of the Elles: SAM exhibition, which is an extension of the travelling Pompidou exhibition, featuring over 30 modern and contemporary women artists. The tour was part of SAM’s My Favourite Things series, which are tours led by visual artists, dancers, curators, critics and others, that offer “fresh interesting and highly opinionated” takes on SAM exhibitions. Our tour was led by a Seattle-based poet. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name, but she led the most compelling and quirky art museum tour that I’ve ever taken part in. She read us poetry that she had written in response to specific artworks in the exhibition, and she also shared poems by other writers that she felt related to works in the galleries. It was wonderful to hear her personal and creative responses to works of art.
Our tour guide led the group in a writing activity in response to Lee Krasner’s painting Night Watch (pictured above), which I thought was very effective. It was a nice take on the standard writing response activity, often used by museum educators (in which participants each write a word in response to a given artwork, and then form a poem using all of the words). Our guide had prepared little slips of paper with the words “This eye” typed on them. She asked us to count the number of eyes we saw in the painting, and to take the corresponding number of papers. We then filled in each slip of paper, writing what we thought each eye was expressing or doing. She then collected the slips of paper, and redistributed them. Each person read aloud about 6 responses written by someone else. The exercise really helped me to enter the painting, and to spend time looking closely at it. I’d love to lead a similar activity with a group of students.
I always find it helpful to pay a visit to the Smart Classroom Management blog, to get me thinking about my teaching practice. I really like the most recent post on this blog about the impact that pausing can have on students, when presenting lessons or giving directions. This is a good reminder for me to slow down and give students moments to reflect and take in what I am saying. I do, at times, find myself rushing through discussions and directions. I’ve definitely observed that skilled storytellers and public speakers use pauses effectively, to add drama, suspense, and emphasis to what they’re saying. It makes sense that well-timed pauses would be an effective tool to utilize in teaching.
According to the writer of the Smart Classroom Management blog, these are some of the benefits of pauses:
Anticipating answers and outcomes improves learning, and when you pause, your students will instinctively predict what you’re going to say next. You can use this instinct to your advantage by pausing before revealing important ideas, words, theories, or points of emphasis.
They build suspense.
When used strategically, a pause creates suspense and curiosity in the listener, causing them to sit up straighter and lean in closer. It can make the most mundane information seem interesting and worth listening to—making easier a critical skill many teachers struggle with.
They add depth and drama.
Pausing can be as important as content when presenting lessons. With the right timing and pace—and a bit of attitude—it can infuse your words and the visualizations you create with depth and drama, flair and emotion. It can help bring your curriculum to life, giving it the punch and energy it needs to matter to your students.
They discourage misbehavior.
Speaking without intentional pausing sounds like droning to students, who are quick to lose interest, grow bored, and misbehave. An occasional two or three second pause breaks up the familiar tone of your voice, keeps students on their toes, and helps them stay checked in and on task.
They allow you to adjust.
A pause gives you a moment to quickly assess your students’ understanding. It allows you to make eye contact, stay in touch, and make adjustments to your teaching along the way. It trains you to be sensitive to their needs and attuned to their nonverbal reactions to your lessons.
They help your students retain information.
An occasional pause, if for only a second or two, breaks ideas, theories, and directives into chunks, allowing them to sink in before your students are rushed along to the next thing. This improves memory and understanding and gives your students a framework from which to build upon more learning.
I really like this idea from DavidTMiller’s Art Classes blog for a collaborative exploration of the Formal Elements and Principles of design. I really appreciate the way in which Miller ties a material and formal exploration to a conceptual discussion about collaboration, authorship, and curation.
The following text is from the DavidTMiller’s Art Classes blog:
We began with a discussion about politics and the effects on art education. We questioned how certain decisions are made and implemented as laws affecting the mass population. I asked you to consider legal decisions as collaborative endeavors aimed at benefiting the general population. We began our own collaborative adventure in the Room BO5 studio.
Some guiding questions:
- How do various processes affect authorship in politics and art?
- How might a group begin a series of collaborative pieces of work in such a way as to insure equal collaboration?
- How do we determine when a work of art is complete/finished?
- How might the language of Formalism be used to critique non-objective abstraction?
- How might the concepts of Formalism be used to curate an exhibit of work?
- Recognize how collaborative decisions impact the individual, politics and art.
- Recodify notions about the artistic process of one person starting and completing a piece of work.
- Render new works by working on each others’ works anonymously and intuitively in a call and response method to the point where all pieces have transitioned from the process pool to the complete pool.
- Reconnect the language and concepts of Formalism to critique individual work and to curate an exhibition.
- Reflect on how collaborative decisions and processes impact the individual, politics and art. Contemplate the many participants in a collaboration who do not get their names considered as authors.
- Cut or tear paper into 10 approximately 9″ x 12″ pieces and sign one side.
- Begin a non-objective painting/drawing on each piece.
- Place pieces into a common location – the “process” pool.
- Embellish at least 10 pieces from the process pool.
- When pieces from the process pool appear complete/finished sign the back and place into the “finished” pool. NOTE: The artist cannot determine a piece to be finished if they were the last person to embellish it.
- Mr. Miller curated a one panel exhibit of 20 pieces to use as a basis for a discussion of Formal Elements and Principles of Design as a way to have a dialogue with the work and each other.
- Students each curate an exhibit of at least 20 pieces on a panel in the room and photograph the installation.
- Students post their photograph on their WordPress sites along with a typed rationale of approximately 250 words.