I sat down with our AP for my pre-observation conference. He asked me, "When I come for the observation, which of the standards will you be covering?"
"I am the standards", was my response.
Actually, I didn't say that. I thought it. But then I answered to the best of my ability. "All of them."
That wasn't the answer he was looking for so he asked again, "But which one, specifically?"
Well now, that was a good question. As an admin, he wanted to know what he should be looking for when he did the observation. This got me thinking, did we actually cover all the standards in one class? Or at least, in one unit? I decided to take a longer look at the Standards, in this case, the NAEA National Visual Arts Standards, and see if we indeed, did cover all of them. I made a surprising discovery.
My first impression of the Standards is how disjointed they appear. There are four Anchor Standards representing Creating, Presenting, Responding, Connecting. Creating and Presenting are rather obvious. Making art and presenting art at at the core of every art program.
The other two anchor standards, Responding and Connecting seemed separated. Almost a throwback to the DBAE days. Looking at art, interpreting art, connecting at some level with art... I imagined an art teacher is a room holding up a poster of Van Gogh's Sunflowers and asking her students to look, analyze, interpret and judge the art.
Visions of Robin Williams addressing his class filled my brain...
"Gentlemen, open your text to page twenty-one... Understanding Poetry, by Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D."
"To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme, and figures of speech. Then ask two questions: One, how artfully has the objective of the poem been rendered, and two, how important is that objective. If the poem's score for perfection is plotted along the horizontal of a graph, and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness."
Out of Order
However, I made one very importantly but seemly overlooked observation about the Standards.. they are out of order. One doesn't make art, present art and then look at art for inspiration and meaning. Rather, we look at art, are inspired by art, and then create and present art. instead of Creating, Presenting, Responding, Connecting consider this:
Responding, Connecting, Creating, Presenting
When we consider the standards in this order we notice how well they align with the artistic process for creating art. Through the artistic process we are first inspired by art, we then develop and idea to convey meaning, we then plan and create, and finally we reflect and present.
To be clear, these are the anchor standards and more concise learning targets can and would be addressed through the unit or on an individual basis. However, in this manner, every student that is inspired, designs, creates and reflects on a work of art should be meeting all the standards.
The Final Word
One of the first parts of the process where we began looking at alignment with the standards was actually the last part of the process. That is to say, the final reflection. One of our goals this year was to increase student participation in written reflection. Earlier in the year, as part of the Art of South B Tool Kit, we updated our list of Question Prompts which students use when completing written reflection on Seesaw.
To complete our alignment between the artistic process and the standards, we rewrote our List of Prompts one more time, and arranged them, including color coding, by the standard's categories.
the Art of South Brunswick High School, NC
Imagine an entire high school art program, fully ingrained in the TAB philosophy, scaffolded to explore the same artistic behaviors. That's what we're working on here at the Art of South B. To kick off the year, each class will be exploring the concept of observation. Here's a look at how we're approaching that at each level.
Art One: The beginner students are starting with the first of The Nine subject-based themes, the Object. Through this theme, the art student will explore how artists use observation as a source for creating a work of art.
We will throw in a few technique tutorial mini lessons so students gain a basic understanding of how to utilize some of the media available to them. We'll also present a few challenges to help students gain a better understanding of the concept of observation.
For example, day one we challenged the Beginner students with creating a work of art that was tantamount to an actual object. Observation at its best and a lot of fun too!
Art Two: Our intermediate students are kicking off the year with the Artistic Behavior Unit, Artists Observe. We'll be taking a look at artists and artworks that explore this foundational concept.
However, this isn't your mamma's observational unit that only explores still life's. Sure, we'll check out nature artists such as local NC wildlife artist Ryan Kirby as well as the pastel genius of Zaria Forman but we will also see how contemporary artists such as Nathalie Miebach and Lenka Clayton handle this same subject.
Above: A collection of texts sent turned into sculpture
Advanced & AP: Everything returns full circle as our Advanced/AP students begin work on their first Breadth piece, playing off the subject based theme, The Object. Of course what they decide to create is entirely up to them but we're reviewing some of the basics; creating high contrast, black and white images and taking into consideration magnification.
Observational sketch of a Christmas light
These three words show up rather often in the art room. It's the basis of artistic thinking, but how do we help students work through the process? Moreover, what tools can we provide to ensure students are successful? Furthermore, how can we present these tools to not just the singular art class, but to every student throughout their high school art career? Here at the Art of South B, we have a few ideas...
Most teachers can appreciate having their students document the design phase. We already know the "what". Sure, we're going to present new artists, skill and techniques to our students. It also wouldn't hurt if they found a way to visually plan their ideas before they start development.
The "how" on the other hand, can be a bit more tricky. Sketchbooks, notebooks and even altered books are all considered when trying to decide how students should keep track of this information. We took all this into consideration this year at the Art of South B and, with the help of the printshop, developed the Art Journal.
The Art Journal, free to each student, is a spiral bond 40 page book with art history, skill development, and planning pages built in. We're even printing out thumbnail images of the art we show so the students have a visual reminder to go with the notes they scribe.
Since we are running a TAB program, we believe the student is the artists and the art room is their studio. However, this doesn't mean the student is alone in their artistic journey. We are here to present the student a full range of choice while presenting artists, ideas and concepts the student may have never heard of.
For the Beginner, it's the Nine. These are subject based themes to get the wheels turning. The intermediate students will explore Artistic Behavior Units. These units cover the way artists think and work. For our Advanced students, we'll layout a framework to guide them successfully through the Breadth and Concentration sections of the AP Portfolio. As teachers, we present the information. At that point, its up to the student to decide what they're going to do with it. We're here to help facilitate their vision.
John Dewey said, "We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience. Obviously reflection is important but it's got to be more than simply capturing artwork and posting it to an online portfolio. However, that's a great start. That's why every student at the Art of South B post weekly to Seesaw. It's a great way for the teacher to see what the student has accomplished but more importantly, it's a great way for the student to see what they'd have accomplished.
Now what about reflection? We're helping out here too. This year, each student at the Art of South B has been provided a list of question prompts they can consider when writing a caption for their Seesaw post. In fact, the questions are printed right their in their Art Journals! How tight is that? They can also find the prompts online here and we also had them printed out in poster form that are hung up in each art room. Sweet!
Art of South B
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