Sunday, 6 September 2015

Drawing the Line(s and dots)

I can't be sure but I'm fairly confident in making the assumption that ALL classes love art. My memory of art at primary school was that it involved coloured paint and cartridge paper. It was all very practical and, if I'm completely honest, left this super nerdy kid wanting more. I enjoyed it, but wanted to know more about the artists, the techniques, how to show variation in shading, about different styles and periods... Which all leads me to the Australian Curriculum's version of the Visual Arts.

The Australian Curriculum website says:
Learning in Visual Arts involves students making and responding to artworks, drawing on the world as a source of ideas. Students engage with the knowledge of visual arts, develop skills, techniques and processes, and use materials as they explore a range of forms, styles and contexts.
Through Visual Arts, students learn to reflect critically on their own experiences and responses to the work of artists, craftspeople and designers and to develop their own arts knowledge and preferences. They learn with growing sophistication to express and communicate experiences through and about visual arts. (Visual Arts Overview, Australian Curriculum, accessed September 6th, 2015.)
This actually describes exactly what I wanted as a child. Now, as a teacher, I'm excited to be working within this framework.

Our school is lucky enough to have an onsite Art specialist teacher with whom each class has one lesson per week; clearly not long enough to teach the entirety of the five subjects within the Arts Learning Area.  I probably shouldn't be so excited by this but I am. I HAVE to teach Art. Oh darn. What a shame!  *Happy dance*

Earlier this term, I  guided my kiddos through a short unit of learning in Visual Arts about line and shading.   I started the unit without telling the class what we were going to be learning about. Sounds a bit odd but just go with me for a moment.  I shared four artworks with the kiddos and asked them to pick the odd one out, and to justify their choice.  Which do you choose? Why?

All images are taken from the public domain.
There are, of course, as many different answers as there are people in the conversation. I was looking for some group consensus though about the use of line to create shading. There are a couple of very cluey (and arty) kiddos in the class who started asking questions and requesting to look at the images up close. Without much help from me the class concluded that the burger was the odd one out because it as no shading and is made from all block colours.  It took them about 5 minutes of free discussion to come to this conclusion. How fantastic!

We moved on to look closely at hatching, crosshatching and stippling as the three main ways of using line to shade (as exemplified in the pieces above). Lots more discussion, viewing images and having a go. We rounded out our first session by coming up with a definition of the technique and creating a sampler of 3D shapes using these three techniques.  Just as my personal tip to you all: the sound of 25 pencils all tapping repeatedly on tables is not for the faint of heart or sore of head. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The Art working wall at the end of our first session.
The following week we started with a 'Silent Word Shuffle' (first time I'd ever done one with my class). I didn't put any restrictions on using iPads or the working wall to work out the categories and so there was a very high sense of engagement. The kiddos knew they could figure it out - even if they had to struggle to get it. Perfect example of encouraging a growth mindset!

We moved through a range of learning activities, and then I showed the class some examples of student work to inspire them in developing the success criteria for their art piece. (I have to admit here that I have completely lost the url of the website on which I found this student work.  If it is yours or belongs to someone you know PLEASE tell me so that I can credit you, and find the website again because it was brilliant!)

We constructed this project design using a democratic
process that ensured all voices were included.
You can see how closely our project mirrors the example.
Here are some of the final projects.

The kiddos presented their finished pieces on the big screen at a whole school assembly. I'm not sure whether the big screen or the actual art itself  but my kiddos were very chuffed with the repeated 'oohs' and 'aaaahs' from the the junior primary children.

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know the students and how they learn
Standard 2 Know the content and how to teach it
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning

All Those Extra Bits Like Thinking Skills. And Ancient India. And Weebly.

I've mentioned, I think, that we're learning about Ancient India at the moment. It's one of our Ancient World depth studies as outlined in the Australian Curriculum.  We're taking the opportunity to look at a range of ideas including 'who writes history' and whether or not we can trust what we read/view. I appreciate that our team decided to leave this study until the second half of the year because it has given my kiddos more than twenty experiences of Way Back Wednesday (WBW) to develop strong historical thinking and questioning skills.  You know - those extra little bits that are rather hard to explicitly teach but REALLY need to be taught.

Of course, as many of you will know,  my units of learning never stick to one content area and so we're looking at Art, Civics & Citizenship, Geography, Maths and, of course, Literacy as well as History.
I created this meme at
If I'm completely honest, until this year I knew next to nothing about Ancient India. I've been learning alongside the kiddos and have, on more than one occasion, said "I have no idea, but I'm sure you'll be able to teach me!" before offering whatever help is needed to get started.  The idea that they can teach me has been quite a powerful thought for many of my kiddos. For much of our school curriculum it's quite clear (and appropriate) that I know more than them, so it can sometimes frustrate a couple of them when I redirect their questions. "Why do you ask me to figure it out for myself you could just tell me how to do it?"  When they can see and believe that I'm just as new to this as they are they're SO much more motivated to do it themselves. (This raises some interesting questions for me about how we can achieve this in everyday learning when it's quite clear that in my role as teacher I DO know the material.)

Slightly off topic... Sorry.

I've taken the opportunity to get the kids involved in helping me build a website about Ancient India as well.  We're using the Weebly platform which makes it super easy.  At this stage we've only created landing pages and resource collection pages. We've also embedded our brainstorming pad lets.  We'd love for you to have a look (here) and send through your feedback.
If you've never used,  I suggest you have a look because in the time it would take me to explain how easy it is you will be able to create your own website.  True story. Check it out. (And no, I'm not getting any kickbacks - it would be lovely if I did because I send a lot of people there!) I've already raved about but seriously... Go look at that one too.
See! I can do it! (Or rather that linked website can!)
This is a screen grab from our Weebly site.
This is a fantastic opportunity for me to really push the  importance of crediting any images we use.  (Another one of those extra bits that need  to be learnt.) I'm not always the best at this myself so I'm hoping that the process will help me develop some better habits.  Creative Commons Australia website has a great guide, and here is a nifty little attribution builder.

It's a bit unit of learning with lots of extra bits on the side. I'm a little overwhelmed trying to keep it all coherent for the kiddos. Their mid unit reflections seem strong so I think they're doing well, but with 25 different inquiry questions and just as many varied 'learning products' I'm scared I've missed something/one.  Watch this space to see how I/they/we go. (And by this space I really mean the weebly website (here)).

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 1 Know the students and how they learn
Standard 2 Know the content and how to teach it
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
Standard 4 Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments

Saturday, 5 September 2015

QR Code Trail Update & Reflection

I'm super tardy in posting this update on my book week QR Code Trail (the original post is here). Sorry! All I can say is that during book week I found a whole pile of new YA novels that I wanted to read before releasing into the wild my classroom. I finally reached the point of being ready to read Divergent. (Gotta say that I'm loving it way more than the movie, but when do bookworms ever enjoy a movie more than the book.)

The codes went all the way around the school.
Parents had to visit many classrooms to find them.
Back to the topic at hand: here's the update.  We had a small but significant number of parents participate in the trail on the first day of book week.  Some others came back the next day to do it. (Yay!) Some of my kiddos met them, with their iPads, and acted as tour guides. Thank goodness they did! Not all parents had wi-fi, and some didn't have QR readers.   Our school internet connection decided to play hide and seek for most of the afternoon too which didn't really help.

However... The parents  enjoyed the experience. My kiddos were able to talk them through both the process and the literacy concepts that each video covers.  From what I could gather, this aspect of the trail was particularly appreciated. Pretty proud of the kiddos for stepping up like this. 

What did I learn from the process on the day?
In terms of the videos themselves: my learning journey continues. I need to improve the sound quality and reduce background noise. The best comments came from children who were guided through very specific - almost leading - questions rather than allowed to freely discuss the topic.  You're welcome to view the videos on the school's YouTube channel.  We've set them to 'no comments' but I'm keen to hear your feedback through this blog or via twitter (@markeetarp).
In terms of the logistics: iPads don't have the world's loudest speakers. I need to provide headphones, especially if it's windy (as it was). 
In terms of the 'entry form': people rarely carry pens these day so I needed to provide those (which meant my kiddos had to run back to the classroom to grab them). I think a better option would be to set up a google form but that would reduce the drama of pulling a winner out of the hat when we choose the winner of the book voucher (to entice participation). Having said that, it would certainly give us another opportunity to demonstrate another of the e-tools we use in the classroom (random name selector).

I'm inspired to build on this experience in the classroom - both the videos and the QR codes.

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 3 Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
Standard 4 Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments
Standard 6 Professional engagement
Standard 7 Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community