Where Do I Even Start? Pt.2

So after my first post ,  much time spent continuing to work on my plans, and loads of feedback from a variety of teachers – there’s definitely a need for a follow up post. Some of the questions have been “soooo, where does the choice come in?” “when will students actually take control of their learning?” “how does all this work with standards make things less standardized in your mind?” Each of these questions has made me think hard about my process and where my students go during each unit and what makes my process different.

I’ve looked at other TAB and choice high school teachers curriculums and units – and I can’t wrap my brain around them logistically. They all look fantastic but I just can’t figure them out for me and my kids. I also can’t fully jump on board on just assessing a student’s blog post or reflection – I think those things are incredibly important, oftentimes more important, but what if someone’s work is their “writing” or their ability to show growth? What if words don’t come easily to a student? I dip into a bit of everything in terms of assessment and how I do it – I’ll certainly show some of that stuff at some point too.

So I’m going to show the flow of things as clearly as I can – bear with me as I literally go through each 5 week unit, as I share some of the resources I have used in past years and how I may tweak them. If you do use any of the resources I post, please give me credit or send folks my way or just think of me as you use them. 🙂 I am going to share as much as I possibly can but I also won’t get into each of the protocols in this post – some of them you may be familiar with, some you may not be – I will do another post about protocols.


The First 5 Weeks

These are the trickiest and most exciting weeks of the entire schoolyear. Schedules change, classes ebb and flow in the first few weeks – but it is VITAL to be setting the foundation of all things you will use, teach and prepare students for during this time. Although it would be “easy” to wait till class lists to get settled to actually begin the meat of the content – waiting loses kids interests. If you start the first day of school with something interesting – thought provoking, value digging, and question asking – the students will be ready for that sort of work moving forward. So this year my plan is to set that stage in a really deliberate way. I am going to start by doing a Post-it conversation about “What is art?” and look at art and design and calibrate students’ understandings of what art is to them. We will do the Question Formulation Technique about the course itself to frame their understanding and what they want to know. We will then begin a series of books created using one sheet of paper folded using the Elements and Principles of Design, Compositional Techniques, Studio Habits of Mind and Ideating/Mindmapping Tricks and Ideas. These would be student directed and researched – and to be honest, I haven’t completely thought these through. But once I do, I’ll share! Also during this time, we will practice our Restorative Circles using them in a variety of ways and creating classroom Communication Routines, Expectations and Norms. We will also watch Austin’s Butterfly and practice feedback in order to elicit growth. Whew. That’s a lot of front loading…oh yeah. I will also administer (sounds so sterile haha) two different Common Assessments that as a district we use – one using the Create National Standard and one using the Respond National Standard.

AND I hear everyone as they read this… Lizzie! WHERE’S THE CHOICE? Honestly, there’s not a ton here. It’s the beginning and I want to ensure students know HOW to choose in their own ways. I want them to have as much information as possible. I want them to get into the routine of working hard and thinking hard – that art isn’t ALWAYS about creating something, but it’s also about researching, practice, feedback and discussion. Students are also figuring out the studio space in general – what materials are useful, what materials they like – they are doing all of that during the creation of those mini books, which I hope will become tiny (or not so tiny) helpful tools as kids move forward in the year.

The 2nd Five Weeks – 2D Design

So now, the expectation is that students have a pretty decent idea of routines in the classroom. We will do a material exploration time – where I show some different things that haven’t been available like ink and collage. We will do a specific collage workshop around the progress report time – I have some really interesting methods of collage using Nevr Dull, altered National Geographics and text. Students have some great success with these methods and they practice composition – which is always important. We will begin our large unit moving towards the goal of creating a piece demonstrating an understanding of 2D Design – which is an INCREDIBLY large, open goal. And I pull that goal in a bit giving some options for artwork – Option 1: Design your own logo; Option 2: Illustrate a mental disorder; Option 3: Create an Advertisement for a Feeling; Option 4: Share and Illustrate a Fear. Each of these options fulfills the goal – and using the smaller workshops and explorations of typography, animals, figures, facial expression, illustration, design deconstruction and design elements – students will use their understandings and synthesize their knowledge to create. Although I have given 4 specific options, I ALWAYS provide the option of “You don’t like any of these, come up with your own and pitch it to me.” And occasionally a student will take that path.

My workshops vary, sometimes they are teacher led, sometimes they are youtube led, sometimes they are explorations of ideas, sometimes they are traditionally done – sometimes I have ALL of these as options for students. Most of the time there are at least 3 options and students utilize each of them differently. I ALWAYS post at least one video – either that I’ve found or that I’ve created of a demo or method in case students need to see it more than once or are absent – I put each of these on my website that all my students have access to.

Students will have about 2 weeks (maybe less, maybe more) to work on this piece – with Fridays being dedicated to Feedback and Mondays being dedicated to Artists (more info on these days later!). The final day of the assignment students will write Artist Statements, write a reflection and self assess using a rubric (but within this – an Artist Statement can also be videotaped or scribed or recorded as can any of the other writing assignments.)

[Last year, I kept this unit pretty tight –  I used this amazing unit that I learned about at the National Conference in Chicago – students shared secrets “secretly” and then chose one and illustrated the secret using text and their understanding of materials and 2D design. Here’s the Secrets Overview PDF – this has QR codes to the Post Secret Ted talk and a bunch of lettering examples. This is pretty much the routine for each large unit. Here’s the Self Assessment Secrets Rubric that is also pretty routine (but I will most likely tweak this year). This is how I framed the unit before we began secrets presentation . And here are a few of the results just to give some frame of reference.

I learned a lot from doing this and realized I definitely needed and could offer more choices within and around this unit – which is where more this year has come from.]

And with that we are done with the 1st quarter! Whoa!

I’m going to do this in a few parts, showing the remainder quarters in a few posts. I think it’ll be easier to see and my brain will be able clearly convey my thinking (hopefully).

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