The Learner & Learning

Standard #1: Learner Development. The teacher understands how children learn and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical areas, and designs and implements developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences.

All students have individual strengths, interests and needs that allow each student to advance and accelerate his/her learning.  When you have an art classroom that is full of students who don’t consider themselves artistic at all, it is very important to be mindful of this fact. 

This scenario frequently takes place in my high school Foundations in Art class, or as I affectionately call it, my “art for the credit” class.  One of the hardest things we do in Foundations in Art is figure drawing, so I choose to tackle it at the beginning of the year.  This way, I can demonstrate to my students that artistic skill, while in some is a gift, can also be taught. 

We start first with preliminary drawings.  This always provides a good bit of humor.  For these drawings, I stand up on a stool in the front of the classroom and tell my students to draw me from head to toe as realistically as possible.  No instruction is provided.  I give them about 5-7 minutes to complete their drawings and when time is up, I take a lap around the room to see what they have done.  Many students will look up at me and say, “I’m so sorry Mrs. Tyler, I don’t think you actually look like this!”  I then ask them what it was like for them to complete this activity and what thoughts were going through their heads as they were drawing. Many of them will reply, “I was thinking that I don’t know how to do this,” or, “I can’t do this!”  To that I respond, “There was a time when I couldn’t do this either.  I had to be taught, and now I am going to teach you.”  Some examples of their preliminary drawings are show below.  I chose students with differing ranges of ability to show the progress made by each.

Preliminary Drawings

From here, the instruction began.  To learn how to draw, you must first learn how to see.  Artists tend to see their subject matter in simple lines, shapes, and values.  We began by breaking the complex form of the human body down into simple shapes.  I stood in the front of the room again, but this time with my wooden artist model.  I pointed to areas of my anatomy (always fun to do with high school students) and ask them what simple shape could be used to represent that specific portion of the body.  They were to reference the wooden model for help.  While we discussed what shapes we saw, students filled out a worksheet  to have for reference in their notes and then practiced drawing their own wooden model (worksheet shown below).
8-Reeves-Artist-Wooden-Manikin-Mannequin-Setching-font-b-Figure-b-font-font-b-Drawing-bWorksheet1Worksheet2
Then we started talking about human body proportions.  This again falls under learning how to see as we observed the size and placement the parts of the body in relationship to one another.  I again demonstrated this by standing in front of the classroom, but this time with another student (usually a male for comparison).  We noted where the shoulder, hip, and knee line occur on the average human body and where the elbows, wrists and hands line up when placed by your side. 

I then demonstrated where those lines go on paper by doing a gesture drawing for the class.  I asked for a student model and taught the sighting method.  Students practiced with me by locking their elbows, squinting their eyes, and using their pencils as a measuring tool to decipher how many heads high the model was and where their shoulder, hip, and knee line fall in their drawing.  I also taught them to use the sighting method to find the angle of those lines by holding their pencil up to the line of their figure and then slowing moving it down to their paper.  

SightingMethod SightingMethod2 

With all this knowledge and practice in place, it was then time for my students to start their own gesture drawings.  I have included drawings (shown below)from the previous students a, b, and c after the given instruction.

Gsture Drawing1Already, you can see a difference in all of the students drawings.  Their drawings are more accurate due to their new knowledge on what to look for when drawing a human subject.  After we continued to practice our gesture drawings with differing models and poses, we  got to talking about their figure drawing project.

For their project, they picked a shape at random.  They then had to pose their body in a way that would fill up the space of that shape.  I took a picture of them in their pose and they used the picture as a reference for their project.  Just like with the gesture drawing, we broke the complex form of the human body down into simple shapes.  The students placed tracing paper over their pictures and traced the shapes they saw in pencil.  They used these simple shapes as reference when transferring them over to their final paper.  Examples of these steps are shown below with students a, b, and c.

a.Austin(3)

b. Angelique(3)

c. Guadalupe(3)

While their projects are not yet complete, it is plain to see the progress that has been made by each student.  By using these instructional strategies, my students have constructed knowledge of human body proportions, acquired drawing techniques and skills, and developed a disciplined thinking process when rendering the human body onto paper.  In short, they accomplished what they originally believed they could not!

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Standard #2: Learning Differences. The teacher uses understanding of individual differences and diverse communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that allow each learner to reach his/her full potential.

While I am currently employed as a high school art teacher, I could not pass up the opportunity to speak about a student I met as a long-term elementary art substitute. Good instruction must be designed, adapted, and delivered to address each student’s diverse learning strengths and needs.  During this first professional teaching job of mine, I am ashamed to say I was terrified when I learned I would be delivering art instruction to a second grade boy who is blind. 

The art project in discussion was actually suggested by the boy’s classroom teacher.  In science, her student’s were researching animals and their habitats. She suggested that they continue their learning in the art room by depicting their animal and habitat through a picture.  I was planning to teach them about textures in art so we decided on an Eric Carl style illustration that I would later compile into a shutterfly book for the school library. 

The students were researching in pairs in their classroom, so I decided to keep them in pairs for their illustration.  I had been working very closely with the student aid to adapt projects and lessons for my student who is blind. Generally, his projects were three-dimensional and could either make noise or were full of textures.  For this project though, I thought that it was important for him to produce something that was very similar to what his peers (and his partner) were making.  I wanted him to have an equal part in creating the book that the rest of his classmates were so excited about.  The problem was how.

Luckily, I found texture blocks used for printmaking in the back closet.  His aid went back to his classroom to get the plastic alligator (he and his partner’s choice of animal) so he could compare the texture of the alligator to the blocks.  Once he found a block to his liking, he used it to stamp texture onto his paper. 

alligatorIMG_8516

Once he had a large area of color and texture, I drew out an alligator shape within it. His aid then traced the alligator with puffy paint.  She helped him with hand over hand cutting by following the raised line created by the puffy paint.  His partner created his own alligator and then began painting their habitat.  The two student’s discussed in depth what should be included in their landscape.  To my surprise, his partner was not upset at all to work with a student who is blind.  In fact, he brought in stickers from home for his partner to put up in the sky, gently guiding his hand in the correct direction.  Their collaborative effort is shown below.  I also included another page of the finished book.

Nick Page 2

Cover

Page1

Although it was difficult to find the time and the know-how to make these adaptions for this student, his always positive attitude and willingness to try new things made it more than worth it.  The modeling of his classroom teacher, his aid, and myself, made it so this very special student was respected and valued by all- as clearly demonstrated by his partner’s gracious and ingenious use of stickers!

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Standard #3: Learning Environments. The teacher works with learners to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, encouraging positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self motivation.

The use of technology in the classroom is a great way to engage students and motivate them to take ownership of their own learning.  www.schoology.com is an online education learning management system with an easy to use interface that operates similarly to the popular social network site, facebook. 

I give my students their first Schoology assignment in the first week of school to set the mood for how both in class and online discussions will be held throughout the year.  The question given was opinion based, as many of our following discussions would be, so it was important for me to also facilitate a discussion on conducting appropriate responses.  I started the conversation by asking what kinds of responses students might expect to receive on their posted opinion. Students replied that the responses should either agree our disagree with their opinion.  When prompted further, students answered that both types of responses should explain the writer’s reasoning by providing an explanation as to why they agree or disagree.  All students decided that responses should be polite as well as professional.   

An example of this assignment, given to a Foundations in Art class (a beginner level course) is shown below.  The student responses directly follow.

Quote Question

Quote Question Response1

 By using schoology in my classroom, I have created a learning environment where students are able to promote each other’s learning and establish peer relationships in a way that is both very familiar and comfortable to them.  You can tell by their responses that they are not only able to communicate understanding of important concepts in art, they are also excited to get to work on their projects as well as see their peers succeed!

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