Friday, October 3, 2014

Prompting Our Students to Write about Art

Reflection is a very important component of the creative process. As we look back on the work we have created, we find aspects of it that are sometimes surprising, make connections to what others have done, and discover ways that we have applied innovative approaches to our process. We learn to think like artists by thinking about how we get our ideas (generating), how we interpret ideas (interpreting), and how we put those ideas into action (conceptualizing). These words are in bold because they are intrinsic to "creating" and integral to the new NCCAS standards.

In my presentation for the NAEA Virtual Conference, for Elementary level, focused on "Creating," I shared a way that we reflect in the art classroom. Using an "exit slip" as the tactic, students write a reflection prompted by a set of questions that I post.

We want to use essential questions: questions that direct students to aspects of strategy not a specific skill, about their thinking, and how they approached the problems in an original way. If we are trying to get students to reflect upon how they came up with ideas, how they interpreted those ideas, and how they conceptualized them, we can simply ask those questions:
Where did you (the artist) get your ideas?
How did you come up with a way to solve the problem? (or create the work?)
How did the medium (watercolor, collage, etc.) affect the process?
How did you communicate your ideas? Give examples.
How effective were those methods (technique, media, process) at communicating your ideas?
Depending on your group of students, they may choose one or more to answer. We can also encourage our students to find their own questions. By engaging our students in the conversations about art and art making, they will develop an ability to generate their own essential questions. Using an "Admit One" slip at the start of class, we can encourage students to write a question to ask of the artists during their work in class. These can then be posted and accessible to students while they create.
What are some ways you encourage students to reflect on their work as they work?
A great additional resource is the book, Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, which can supplement the enduring questions and essential questions found directly in the NCCAS standards.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Is a Divergent Outcome?

Younger students may not fully understand the word "divergent" when it is used to express the multiple possibilities in our thinking and our work. Often, responses (in other classrooms) are expected to be exact--it's either right or wrong. However, in an art classroom, we have the opportunity to explore the range of responses by individual artists while still providing the structure we need to assess their progress and process.

In my recent presentation for the NAEA Virtual Conference, held September 27-28th, 2014, I shared different scenarios for TASK at the elementary level. In this scenario, we are demonstrating how the same constraints can create diverse outcomes with different artists. Here is the TASK, presented to my 3rd grade students: (I read it to them as they applied the constraints to their work, then posted it)

1. Draw a wavy line from edge to edge
2. Draw a zigzag line from edge to edge
3. Draw a straight line from edge to edge
4. Draw a circle
5. Draw a square
6. Draw a triangle

This exercise is one many of us have used to determine our students' understanding of vocabulary, and application of concepts in their work. Here I am using it to demonstrate to them how we can all interpret information in different ways, and conceptualize ideas for divergent outcomes. We are also using it as part of a bigger project, for our Pinwheels for Peace event!

In progress work:
Completed work:

We did a gallery walk at the completion of this project, so that students could see what "divergent" means. While we applied the same constraints to the work, each artist conceptualized those constraints in different ways.

How do you help students understand what the expectations are?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Exploring with TASK

Students love the open-ended opportunities found through TASK. Created by Oliver Herring, TASK is a participatory, action and exploration experience for all ages, which nurtures creative thinking and divergent outcomes.

This example made by a 4th grader was prompted by the TASK: Score a point for the Spurs! She created a full mini-basketball court with an interactive ball for others to "play" basketball too.

This birthday cake was prompted by the TASK: Celebrate with a friend! 
Here is an example of a student's response to the TASK: Perform a magic trick! We didn't necessarily have a magic set in the classroom, but he adapted classroom supplies, applied some science, and performed a "magic" trick for others. Problem-solving, and innovative thinking through "creating."

Students had access to specific materials which served as one of the constraints, the other constraint was time, as this took place in less than a full class period, allowing time for presentation and reflection.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Constructing Art Education: A Global Lens

Why teach art from a global perspective?
Engaging our students in this way facilitates their developing awareness of the world around them, in which they can play an active part. Their perceptions and understandings are framed first by their local experience, directly with their family, its history and traditions, and then with their local community. By unpacking art with a global context, we can broaden our students’ understanding of humanity. “Schools provide dialogical environments where students can discuss with adults the meaning of their experiences and begin to see their experiences in wider cultural contexts” (Duncum, 2001). Their inquiry into global issues and shared societal concerns provides a framework for learning about the world.

The Curriculum Goals
We can achieve this global framework by implementing curriculum with specific goals: first, interaction with others beyond the classroom, sharing ideas in a variety of formats; second, introduction to works of art of many origins and points of view; and finally, connection: a self-directed interest in the topic raised by the art, the process and the societal concern. As the "basis of learning is inquiry" (Lin, 2009, p. 201) we can help our students construct their learning through others via different forms and media. These interactions demonstrate how different people view important aspects of civilization, and document them through artifacts. Because culture is a "process" (Chung, 2009, p. 186) we need to conceive of our global interactions as part of that "mobile, constantly adapting, evolving, and seeking new outside influences and ideas" (p. 186) -way of creating our culture, be it in our art classrooms or out. Students are constructing their understanding of the world through their interactions. This dialogue, through which meaning is made, “is a collaborative process of negotiation in which participants interpret and construct the meanings of information in myriad ways” (Duncum, 2001) and is thus participatory in nature. As such, social communication is “not tied to a particular technology or platform, new media is embedded in a network of social interactions” (Delacruz, 2009, p. 15). Collaboration facilitates participatory culture in our art classrooms and elsewhere as a form of public engagement. An example of such an interaction would be the use of Padlet, through which participants can post ideas, videos, links, questions and responses. This can effectively engage them in thinking through a variety of forms of expression, multilayered with media, exploring inter-disciplinarily through these ideas. This creates a hybridization of forms that evolve into something new, connected to critical issues and realities in a global context (Marshall, 2009).

Understanding Grows with Awareness
Specific works of art serve as springboards for exceptional discussions about globalization and its negative and/or positive effects. Ai Wei Wei’s Coca-Cola Vase (2007) creates a perfect framework for evaluation of the impact of globalization. How has advertising affected our perspectives on which products to purchase? How does visual culture, as demonstrated via logos and motif, attribute to our collective associations with certain products over others? How is Ai Wei Wei addressing culture, art history and the value of works to society? El Anatsui’s work, Earth’s Skin (2007) addressing the impact of colonialism, and globalization, how does it demonstrate power? These questions among others would provide the basis for a lesson on visual culture, material culture and advertising where students would evaluate the impact on their choices. Their work, in 2D or 3D, could juxtapose their needs and wants in the context of global influences through collage and mixed-media.
Do Ho Suh, through his work, Seoul Home/LA Home/New York Home/Baltimore Home/Seattle Home (1999) explores the transient nature of society, and how he personally responds to his displacement. What is home? There is a population within our schools where a transient experience is the norm. How can we share that others face this experience as well, especially as we look at the global tradition of crossing borders? How do we establish our own space--what aspects of our experience would we replicate in a new one? This lesson would explore our own traditions, ways of making a personal space and call into question how we determine what our home is.

Self-Directed Connections
Self-directed inquiry establishes a personal perspective from which learning evolves. Our collective goal is the virtuous cycle of learning, where students construct their experience (Gude, 2004). They have to care about what they are doing. It goes without saying that as art educators we need to demonstrate care in regards to our students’ interests, fears, concerns, joys and successes, as it establishes a culture of caring of other peoples’ experience and situation (Noddings, 2005). We validate their effort, by allowing them to speak. This facilitates the evolution of their personal voice through their art which in turn, demonstrates the importance of discourse with a global mindset.

In the context of socially-relevant experiences, connecting the art classroom learning to environmental and ecological concerns provides students with the opportunity to do something for the collective good. By incorporating works by Vik Muniz, for example, which use out-of-the-ordinary materials for the creation of appropriated images, as well as works by Aurora Robson, which transform materials into ethereal sculptures, we can cause students to look at materials and waste in a whole new way. Their ability to thus transform materials, taking them out of the context of their original purpose, and delegating them to a new meaning, develops students’ ability to question, interpret and justify their work. It also moves them to discuss our impact on the globe through over-production, over-consummation and our throw-away mentality. It makes them look at their own localized actions, determining what their global impact could be if they took action.
Teaching art from a global perspective informs students of the variety of influences upon society. Their interactions help them develop an understanding that they are part of a greater, global community to which they can connect and contribute to culturally, visually and intellectually in socially-relevant ways.

Chung, S. K. (2009). Art education and cybermedia spectacles in the age of globalization. In E. M. Delacruz, A. Arnold, M. Parsons, and A. Kuo, (Eds.), Globalization, art, and education (pp. 186-192). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
Delacruz, E. M. (2009). Art education in the age of new media: Toward global civil society. Art Education, 62(5), 13-18.
Duncum, P. (2001). Theoretical foundations for an art education of global culture and principles for classroom practice. International Journal of Education in the Arts, 2(3). (Online journal) Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
Gude, O. (2004). Postmodern principles: In search of a 21st century art education. Art Education, 51(1), 6-14.
Lin, C. (2009). Beyond visual literacy competencies: Teaching and learning art with technology in the global age. In E. M. Delacruz, A. Arnold, M. Parsons, and A. Kuo, (Eds.), Globalization, art, and education  (pp. 198-204). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
Marshall, J. (2009). Globalization and contemporary art. In E. M. Delacruz, A. Arnold, M. Parsons, and A. Kuo, (Eds.), Globalization, art, and education  (pp. 88-96). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
Noddings, N. (2005). The Challenge to care in schools: An Alternative approach to education. Teachers College Press, New York, NY.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Globalized Perspective: Awareness, Participation, and Conversation

One of the greatest assets of globalization is the connection across borders between people. How would those who speak different languages, whose limits on travel or sharing of experiences connect with others? Certainly, aspects of globalization demand us to question motives of commercialization, capitalism, and autonomy. However, in view of the connections between people and ideas, globalization offers the opportunity for awareness-raising and for learning about issues, ideas and ways to participate on a world-wide front.
The emphasis is on the individual's "self-initiated, non-hierarchical participation" (Castro, Danker, Delacruz, Fuglestad, Roland & Stokrocki, 2011, p. 38) that establishes a place from which communication, collaboration and connection can occur. The act of putting one's self out on a network, be it Twitter, Facebook, online websites such as Art Ed 2.0, one's own website, or creating a wiki through which others can connect and share, requires an element of risk. Will anyone respond to my ideas? Will anyone really care? Or, even care enough to respond and share their ideas? Establishing communities of practice requires more than just a lurking presence on a site. Engaging means asking questions, adding feedback or additional resources to a thread of conversation, allowing others to learn from, and question our experiences. The dialogue that ensues is essential for participation in communities of practice.

I would say I have learned almost everything via Twitter--or more specifically from the amazing educators, thinkers, artists, scientists, researchers and compassionate givers on the network. I follow more than those in education, as I see the links to big ideas and questions that reside in multiple avenues of thought. How can I limit my thinking, if I demand a greater perspective from my students? How can I best provide them with the wealth of resources that are available, if I don't access all that is in the world "at our fingertips?" It requires of me a certain multi-tasking, strategic process in order to keep these learning tools available--thus the "hashtag" and the notes to self! I communicate via Instagram in order to document all that is happening: my goal this year is to create a mini-book that visually documents our journey. However, the images share my process with others that spur conversation and ignite other possibilities for my students as well as others'. Just as this process of documenting our learning on "e-Learning" via the University of Florida network, we are capable of collaborating through our shared postings on Facebook (UFArtEd) as well as on Art Ed 2.0. My collection served as a tool for a prior class, but I continue to access the annotated links and share with others in other networks (

How can we best demonstrate the respect that enables people of different backgrounds, experiences and aspirations to come together and learn in a positive, constructive manner? The conversations we have enable us to think in broader terms and share best practices in order to improve the quality of the education we provide, as well as build on the practice of art education on a global scale. The most important part of this process is remembering that while we share the same network, our value and cultural systems may be different. That's what we teach to our students as they build on their experiences with each other through art.

Castro, J.C., Danker, S., Delacruz, E. M., Fugelstad, T., Roland, C., & Stokrocki, M. (2011). Do-it-Yourself professional development through online personal learning networks as a 21st century form of self-initiated, non-hierarchical participation in communities of practice. Canadian Art Journal, 9(2), 38-53.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mining Creativity in Our Students

I wrote and shared this post with my colleagues in my University of Florida MAAE program, Contemporary Issues in Art Education course with Dr. Elizabeth Delacruz (@emdela on Twitter) as a response to a prompt. I was provoked, I suppose, to share it here, as we are seeing such a blight of creative teaching and learning in our schools... it does not nor should it be this way...
Imagine a town-meeting about education:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you so much for this opportunity to talk tonight about education.

Let’s reflect on Kindergarten. Think back to that time. Wasn’t it fun at school? The things we saw, we explored, we touched, we mixed, we played. School was cool. We made friends, learned how to treat others well, learned our letters, and numbers, and how to color (in the lines or not) and we were excited about every experience that we could uncover, discover and turn over. Our bodies kept moving too: we were jumping, running, tumbling through new stories, adventures and ideas. We talked about lots of new things: we read stories and drew pictures about what happened in them. We made map books so that our mommies and daddies would know how to find us and our homes. We covered pine cones in peanut butter and seeds so that the birds in our backyards would have plenty to eat too, learning about taking care of the environment in a very hands-on, and sticky way.

What happened to that creative enthusiasm when we turned 9, or 10, or 15? Why are we, as educators, taking the stickiness out of our teaching and our learning? Why are we making paper-pushing our teaching strategy, rather than allowing our students to mine for ideas and find the questions we want them to uncover, just like they did when we were their teachers in Kindergarten. Rationalizing as we do, we determine that the teaching must prepare our students for the tests. What about the teaching of creative learning? That stuff is messy and interconnected--just like Kindergarden! We built towers and roads for our toy cars and discussed pollution, and urban planning (though we didn’t know the name for it then.) We cleaned up our messes to learn responsibility and caring. We washed our hands before having our snacks so that we learned about hygiene and good eating habits. We dug in the sand and made castles, then watched the water travel down, taking parts of the sand with it--that’s erosion, right?

Watching all the wonder of the world on a power-point or a video is not the same. We have to engage our students in the making of messes, in the discovery of new possibilities of ideas, and allow them to make mistakes so that they come up with the solutions. Isn’t that our hope--that our young children will make better decisions than we ever have? Young Adora Svitak, in her TED Talk, shares her vision about what adults can learn from kids: “In many ways, our audacity to imagine helps push the boundaries of possibility” (Svitak, 2010). And isn’t it Sir Ken Robinson who shared how schools are killing creativity? His view is that “creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status” (Robinson, 2006). And yet, how are we nurturing creativity in our schools? How do we ask questions? Or more importantly, how do we provoke our students’ thinking in order for them to find the questions to ask? Do we allow our students to dig in the sand, literally and figuratively, in order to uncover ideas about how things work, interact or connect? What about when things don’t work--like their science experiment or an art project, or their relationships? Do they understand perseverance, tenacity, or grit? How do we teach them that in order to learn more, to test themselves more and to engage with the world more, they need to mine for ideas and develop the skills for digging for alternatives, possibilities, prototypes and solutions? (Gude, 2010; Tharp, 2003; Hetland, Winner, Veenema, Sheridan & Perkins, 2007)

The answers to these questions are not on the power-point presentation, they aren’t in the textbook either, nor are they on that multiple-choice test. We have to engage our students in an exploration of their world and not give them the answers. They need to develop the creative response to the questions they pose, where we act as a guide, so that we ensure that they are learning all that they can possibly learn with no glass ceiling. They must learn to see that there sometimes is not one answer to a question, or that an answer is more gray than black or white (Eisner, 2002), and another reason for more questions.

Isn’t that what education is supposed to be?

Thank you.


Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the creation of mind. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Freedman, K. (2007). Artmaking/Troublemaking: Creativity, policy, and leadership in art education. Studies in Art Education,48(2), 204-217.

Gude, O. (2010). Playing, creativity, possibility. Art Education, 63(2), 31-7.

Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., Sheridan, K., & Perkins, D. (2007). Studio thinking: The Real benefits of visual arts education. Teachers College Press, New York, NY.

Milbrandt, M., & Milbrandt, L. (2011). Creativity: What are we talking about? Art Education, 64(1), 8-13.

Tharp, T. (2003) The creative habit: Learn it and use it for life. Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.

Zimmerman, E. (2009). Reconceptualizing the role of creativity in art education theory and practice. Studies in Art Education, 50(4), 382-99.

Robinson, K. (2006). Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. [Video on TED Talk Web site]. Retrieved from

Svitak, Adora. (2010). What adults can learn from kids. [Video on TED Talk Web site]. Retrieved from

Author's Note:

Another great resource is the NAEA publication: Learning in a Visual Age

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Finding our voices: art and advocacy

Youth Art Month is a fantastic opportunity to get art out in front of the community. It is these stakeholders who make decisions throughout the year for the best for our students. However, it isn't the only time to showcase our students' exceptional work, and thus our art education programs. It is a springboard to creating partnerships for special displays and exhibits. We are fortunate to have established a wonderful rapport with our local hospital. Last spring, we exhibited a huge collection of 4th grade watercolor "Wildflowers" which were invited for an extended stay at Seton. Our newest exhibit, all still-life paintings by our newest artists, our 3rd grade, are up and already getting attention.

The works represent my philosophy of their process--no works are the same. Each artist's voice is clearly apparent, and their individual choices in regards to the still-life view and the painting style are celebrated. The still-life of 3 vases full of flowers was set up on a round wooden table in the middle of the room, with the students' art tables arranged in a circle around it. Students were instructed to sit in one seat and draw the view of the still-life in front of them. However--we added a little pizzazz: imagine the concept of musical chairs... When the music starts, students stand up, and move around. As soon as the music stops they find a seat, and draw the view from there. They aren't supposed to sit in the same seat twice, thus providing them with a collection of views from which to choose for their final piece. The next time they come to art, the display is exactly the same. They are instructed to look through their studies and determine which one they like the best. They will redraw that view with more attention to detail. Some students work faster than others, so the next step would be to provide them with the drawing/painting paper (we used 12" x 18") on which they will draw their still-life again. This time, they draw it bigger: we use the word, magnified.
Students then trace over the pencil lines with permanent ink pens, select the color of tempera for their backgrounds, and start painting. The process took several weeks. After the pieces dried, students did use permanent marker to define the still-life paintings. For many, this was the first painting experience! They were so excited at the variety of styles and color, as well.

Here, we present our Youth Art Month Celebration, brought to you by some of our 3rd graders!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reading, Writing and Art! The 3 R's...

March is Youth Art Month!

We launch this month's post with the celebration of reading through Dr. Seuss--with his birthday today, the nation is also celebrating Read across America, a push for reading experiences for every child. This great poem says it best:

You're never too old, too wacky, too wild,
To pick up a book and read with a child.
You're never too busy, too cool, or too hot,
To pick up a book and share what you've got.

In schools and communities,
Let's gather around,
Let's pick up a book,
Let's pass it around.

There are kids all around you,
Kids who will need
Someone to hug,
Someone to read.

Come join us March 3rd
Your own special way
And make this America's
Read to Kids Day.

In the Fine Arts Studio, we make the connection to reading every day, when we look at a work of art. We are essentially "reading" the work as text, making observations and deriving meaning from the artist's intent. As we share our observations, make connections to the ways of creating art to the ways of thinking, we can determine how different artists create artworks and in turn, learn about the ways we can create work too. The works of art tell stories, make connections to history, and develop an appreciation for different cultures and ideas. If you are a RJR parent, please ask your children which works of art they looked at over the course of the last few weeks, they are sharing their learning with others through the use of Venn Diagrams.
As we look at and discuss art, reading and writing, we see how important all of these activities are for the education of the whole child. What are some ways you tie in reading and writing in your art classroom?