You mentioned there is a substantial amount of reading and writing in your visual arts classes. As a visual arts teacher, how do you assess your students’ written work?
I provide students with the evaluation criteria alongside the assignment. These rubrics help guide, enhance and structure their writing. When students know how they will be evaluated and what I am looking for in a written assignment they know how best construct their writing.
I do look for correct grammar and syntax, and have students proofread, peer-edit and revise their written assignment before turning in their work. By editing their work and assisting their peers in revisions, students prepare more concise arguments and have a better grasp of content. In addition, students will soon realize that the practice of editing and revision will be an invaluable skill for their college and university studies.
As mentioned, I check for grammar and syntax, but more so, I look for content, support and substance. Usually there is high quality supportive arguments within a student’s writing, but often it is overpowered by the distraction of grammatical errors. By emphasizing that students revise their written assignments prior to turning in their final drafts, most of the grammatical errors are corrected allowing me to concentrate on the content of the writing. Writing is an art form and like any art form in order to produce a final product, it must undergo a process of refinement.
As a teacher I value the instruction of technical writing and language arts; these are essential, necessary skills students need for academic achievement, future careers and interaction with online, web-based cultures. As art teacher, the focus for my students’ writing assignments is on comprehension, developing students’ thesis writing and enhancing their critical thinking skills.
What are your thoughts around the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy in lesson planning to encourage the development of students’ high-level thinking?
It is important for teachers to prepare lesson plans and questions that require students to respond in-length and move towards higher-level thinking. Longer written responses necessitates more complex thinking. Questions that simply require the need to remember, repeat or reproduce information, such as short answer, multiple choice, and matching need only the lowest level of thinking. By challenging students with more complex questions, students are prompted towards more complex thinking.
In my lesson plans I include quite a bit of reflective questions about current events, applications and lessons themselves. By having students reflect on their artworks and their artistic studies students begin to see how what they learn in class is a foundation for not only future lessons, but also how their learning can apply to their futures beyond secondary education.
In many districts primary school offer gifted programs such as SAGE or TAG. In intermediate and secondary education these students are transferred to programs such as Pre AP, AP and IB courses. What are your thoughts on working with gifted students?
Gifted students are a pleasure to work with. They are often the students who will approach a problem from multiple view points and suggest multiple solutions. These students are often the most vocal and opinionated and have the tendency to dominate class discussions. Knowing different strategies for working with gifted students is the key to challenging their critical thinking skills and encouraging them to succeed in the classroom.
Many times working with gifted students can be as simple as providing them with additional creative freedom with a project. At the AP and IB level students are focused on developing a cohesive body of work, are engaged in divergent thinking and refining their technical proficiency. For these students giving them less direct instruction and more feedback gives them independence and self-confidence as art-makers.
How do you approach the subject on tests and assessments for your students?
I derive my summative assessments or test grades from students’ major projects. Since my students apply what they learned such as new skills, application techniques or art concepts, to their final artworks, their artworks serve as lesson assessments. Students’ final artworks serve as a means to determine lesson mastery.
As I create each lesson plan, I think about what I want my students to produce and work backwards. Once I know what the final outcome will be, I think about the steps and skills the students’ need in order to produce the finished artwork. Depending on the outcome, a lesson can be relatively straight forwards or require additional pre-teaching to give the students’ additional understanding of the lesson before beginning their final artworks. Once I have determined the lesson outcome, I align the various aspects of the lesson and the evaluation criteria with the TEKS.
In each lesson, I provide my students with rubrics, evaluation criteria, due dates, written aspects such as artist’s statements or peer critiques and what the various parts of the lesson plan will be assessed as such as daily grades or completion grades, quiz grades and tests.
The other two exam grades that my students have are in the form of written essays and major research projects and I am in the process of developing written, in-class exams similar to what students will face either in the AP Art history Exam or in their college and university studies. In my university studies I experienced art courses where all grades were derived from written examinations or research papers as well as courses with project based test grades and classes that combined projects, research papers and written exams as the bases for exam grades. I am preparing my students for the realities they may face in their college art classes.
How do you approach art instruction in non-accelerated art courses?
At the high school level, I have found that students in non-accelerated art courses fall mainly into two categories, they are interested in art or they are fulfilling their fine arts requirement. The students that are interested in art choose not to enroll in advanced art courses because their academic pursuits are focused on another endorsement such as STEM courses or courses in Business and Industry or they may be focused on athletics; all of these focuses require a substantial amount of time commitments and so it is understandable that these students choose to enroll in non-accelerated arts courses.
The other group of students are those who are not interested in visual arts and are simply meeting a graduation requirement. What I have found is that these students may not be interested in the traditional fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture; however, that does not mean that art cannot be interesting. For these student I create lesson plans that are focused more on cultural arts understanding and the aesthetics of what is considered craft or cottage arts. In these courses I emphasize students appreciation of the art making process and of global diversity. In doing so, even if a student fulfills their fine arts requirement, he or she will develop an appreciation for the artistic process and an understanding of aesthetics.
With all my classes, Pre AP, AP, IB and non-accelerated courses, my goal is to encourage students to develop their critical thinking skills, have the opportunity to voice their decisions, understand multiple perspectives, build their artistic vocabulary and build self-confidence. I provide all students with structure and guidance balanced with flexibility and creative freedom to facilitate their artistic voice as they explore personally intriguing subject matter and so connect with the creative process.
What are your thought about teaching English Language Learners in the mainstream classroom?
During my alternative certification program there was extensive course work focused on instruction for English Language Learners. What I found surprising was approximate length of time required for students to develop basic communication skills, three years, as well as develop their academic language proficiency, five to seven years. It is misleading to based academic language proficiency on observable, interpersonal communication skills. Seeing ELL students actively participating in classroom activities gives a false impression of the their academic language proficiency; this language is often more complex than simply interacting with one’s peers. Another false assumption is to assume that ELL students are under-performing in content subjects because of a lack of interest or motivation. More often under-performance teachers is due to insufficient time to fully develop students’ academic language proficiency. With increased preparation of activities, lesson plans that connect concepts to prior knowledge, providing visual aids and content related key vocabulary, teachers can better facilitate the learning for ELL students.
Special education students are provided with the least restrictive environment as often as possible. This means you may encounter special education students, with varying needs, in your classroom. Can you discuss your experience working with special education students?
I had the opportunity to substitute teach for one of the high school art teachers who happen to also teach a Partner Art class. During my position, I had the assistance of the teaching aids while working with the special education students. What I found different about art for special education students was that the lessons were less about technique building and more about building life-skills. The students still have the opportunity and enjoyment of painting and working with clay while building basic life-skills such as time management, cooperation and classroom etiquette. The students were all encouraged to “do things for themselves.” The student were given directions, shown where materials were, where to turn in work, where to place artwork for drying, and once shown these procedures the students developed independence in preparing for in-class work time, cleaning up after themselves and signaling for help when needed. It was a wonderful thing to see these students develop the life-skills they need for their futures beyond the classroom walls.
Professional educators go through extensive education courses, student observations and practicum teaching prior to entering the classroom. Through these experience what has benefited you the most? What so you feel most confident in? What areas do you feel can improve?
The most beneficial experiences during my alternative certification program were my classroom observations. I was able to ask my mentor teachers questions about curriculum, lesson planning, classroom management and most importantly I had the opportunity to work with the students on their projects, ask the students about their creative thought processes and their subject matter. Beyond my student observation hours, when I have had the chance to substitute teach for art teachers I receive a wealth of real-life experience.
I improve my teaching by consulting with my fellow colleagues is the art department. I am still a new teacher and look to those who have more experience than myself. I know at some point of time, my long term plans include pursuing my master’s degree and possibly my PhD. For now, I am still developing my skills in the classroom through research, lesson development school sponsored staff development and through professional teaching associations.
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