Monthly Mentor

Kirby Meng (July)
Kirby Meng has taught Art for 29 years, 12 of those in Natchez, MS and the last 17 in Georgia. She has taught in public and private schools with students from Kindergarten through College. Kirby has a BFA in Graphic Design from Texas Christian University and a MAEd and leadership certification from Georgia State University. Most recently she taught at Union Grove High School in Henry County where she had the pleasure of teaching all visual art students and courses. Many of her former elementary students come to UGHS, so she has taught numerous students for ten years of their life and has gotten to know many of them quite well. Recently Kirby accepted the position as the Fine Arts Teacher on Special Assignment in Henry County where she will support and provide resources for all of the art teachers.



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Monday 07.20.15

Student Teaching

From: Kirby Meng

Recently a colleague who will have a student teacher this fall asked me what I thought the most important things to learn during student teaching were. I have to admit, although I have had many student teachers, I never stopped to make note of the “most important” things, probably because I think everything is important! I spent some time reflecting and I thought this might be a good space to share my thoughts! Student teachers come from all walks, some come very well prepared from college programs and others might be entering teaching as a second career or by an alternate route, so what they know coming in will vary a great deal. No matter how you arrive at the job of art teacher, there is no substitute for the experiences you will have student teaching and then in your own classroom! Of course new teachers will always need to know the policies and procedures for their specific county and school. The ideas below are directed at an Art teacher in general.


First on my list is classroom management! It is so important to have procedures for entering the room, where to sit, asking questions, etc. Students learn the rules and procedures very quickly when we are consistent in our behavior. I have also found that students like those boundaries, it makes them feel safe and free to create! A very close second to this for me is materials management which is extremely important in the art classroom. Again, the students appreciate a system and are a huge help once you have them trained! I like to have all of my materials ready for the day in the morning because there is never enough time between classes. Of course this isn’t always possible, but I like to be as prepared as I can. I use lots of plastic boxes to contain sets of supplies for various mediums that I can just sit on each table and then take up at the end of class when changing course or grade level.


Along this same line, it is great to share any organizational tips you may have with new or student teachers like how to keep up with several hundred portfolios over 180 days! One of my favorite tips for elementary classrooms is to have a sharpened pencil basket and a dull pencil basket. Student helpers check the pencils at their table when they come in each class period and they exchange dull pencils for sharpened ones instead of everyone getting up to use the sharpener! It keeps things a little quieter during the day and cuts down on lost time. Students usually ask if they can come and sharpen the dull ones before school, which they love, and it means I am free to work on other things.


The next two things that come to mind are fairly closely related I think. One is to show how to differentiate for ability as well as for interest and the other is to allow for choice and creativity on assignments without creating chaos. New teachers don’t always have experience in varying their instruction to reach all students and may not have created lessons in the past that can be done at a variety of levels instead of having to completely change the assignment. Differentiation is not just for a slower learner, we also need to find ways to elevate the art experiences for those who learn more quickly or finish faster than others. This is one of the ways that choice and creativity come into play. Allowing students to choose between more structured assignments with more step by step instructions or to choose to take the assignment in another direction can help to encourage creativity. Some students need more parameters than others and some students work best with limits on what they can do or use. It actually encourages creativity in many cases!

There are so many other things to include but I will close with this. Have fun and make art every class period! Even on day one, keep the rules and procedures short, they will learn them all in a few weeks regardless and what they really want to do is make art, especially paint and work with clay!! Embrace the energy and enthusiasm of the students and enjoy having the best job in the world!

What do you think are the most important things for student teachers to learn? If you are starting student teaching in the fall, with what do you think you need the most help?

Monday 07.13.15

Sketchbooks and Visual Verbal Journals

From: Kirby Meng

Most art teachers have students work in a sketchbook or Visual Verbal Journal (VVJ) each week and I would say we are all looking for students to try new things, reach out and “be creative”! Over the years, I have tried a number of different prompts to encourage the students to think and look at things in new ways. While none of my approaches has resulted in everyone completing fabulous sketchbook entries, some have worked better than others.

One way I have tired, as I think most art teachers have, is to give students a list of hundreds of prompts and let them choose which one to use each week. This has led to some very creative ideas, but more often they are literal interpretations of a word, phrase or prompt such as: “ripped”, “when I was 5…”, or “imagine you had an octopus for a pet”. I thought the freedom to choose would really help them open up and do something very different, but that hasn’t happened often. Another way that I have had student’s complete sketchbooks or VVJs is to give them something that they have to incorporate into their entry for the week. It could be a paperclip, a piece of lace, or even a mark I make randomly with ink and a bamboo brush. Students really seem to enjoy playing with the object, turning it in different ways, bending, unbending, and manipulating whatever they have to work with until they find inspiration. These entries are almost always very creative. Students are also learning to transform the object which is a helpful creative tool. In some of my classes, students use the sketchbook as a way to explain process or show me that they understand a concept, such as how to build a slab pot or how to use the elements and principles to create. They do a great job with this and it is a good quick assessment tool to see if there are things we need to go over again.

A fourth way that I have tried to keep the VVJ experience fresh for my students is to start the year by collecting a number of nouns and adjectives from the students. Then we choose one noun and two adjectives from a basket and that becomes the prompt for their first entry. We usually end up with something silly like Sassy- Polka dotted –Elephant. The students have great fun illustrating that first prompt and when they come to class on Friday, everyone places their sketchbook on the tables and the whole class walks around and “votes” for their favorite by standing by it. Once everyone has found a favorite, we count and declare a winner for the week. The winner then chooses the topic for the class for the following week. Maybe it is the fact that we all look at them all each week, instead of just the teacher, or maybe it is because the students come up with original contemporary ideas that they are interested in, but I find my students are very creative with this activity.

I have one additional observation about sketchbooks/VVJs. Students frequently think they are doing them for me. Once I help them understand that they are not doing them for me, but doing them for themselves, they begin to do much better, and much more creative work! At this point, they don’t need a prompt from me, they work in their sketchbooks constantly to develop their ideas and they are very creative!

Do you have your students keep a sketchbook or VVJ? What types of prompts do you give, or do you let them choose for themselves?

Monday 07. 6.15


From: Kirby Meng defines the word creativity this way:

1. the state or quality of being creative.
2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination:
3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability:

In my last blogpost, I talked about “thinking” in class and the fact that because we have so little class time, we really need to be able to spend that time working on the creative ideas we have already thought up! This idea and creativity are tied closely to each other I believe. Creativity is not something you can turn on when you walk in the art room at 11:10 each day. It is however, something that all art teachers from kindergarten through college want to see from their students.


What stifles creativity? I think the number one thing that stifles creativity is the fear of failure. We all, especially high school students want to be successful. Realistically we should expect failure because we are pushing boundaries and trying new things. Many creative endeavors end when they run into some unexpected turn that seems to make the project not “work” anymore. When looked at in another way, what has happened is actually an opportunity for the project to take another direction and become even more creative.


How do we encourage creativity? As a classroom teacher it is sometimes hard to set up conditions for creativity to thrive. Creative work can bring into play unorthodox materials and methods, a different use of time and space or an idea that doesn’t even resemble the original assignment. As an educator we need to support students in their creative efforts. We can do this by allowing them freedom, listening to their ideas and providing as much support as possible towards making their work successful. This might mean stepping in when they think the project has failed and helping the student see it in a different way and keep going, or appreciate the experience with the process or occasionally just put it behind them and move on. The more chances they take, the more they unlock their creative potential! How do you set up conditions for your students to be creative?

Wednesday 07. 1.15

“Thinking” in Class

From: Kirby Meng

I have found that students are sometimes stressed by some of the other classes that they take when they come to the Art room; it takes them a few minutes to decompress enough to be able to even determine where to begin. To encourage this, I have students come into the room and get their work out, get their supplies together, and get settled while I walk around and talk to them and take the pulse of the class. Once they are all seated, we review the current assignment and standards as well as what is expected from them and about where they should be in the process.  If there are no questions, then everyone starts work and I am available to help students individually.


At this point, I sometimes see students sitting and not really working.  When asked what they are doing, they are inevitably “thinking”. I began jokingly telling them that they need to “think” on their own time because they need all their time to work in class! I see this more in my upper level classes where they are usually working on projects of their own design with fewer set parameters; they start at different times, work in different mediums, on different grounds and in different sizes. Sometimes an idea doesn’t instantly occur to a student and “thinking” ensues. The problem is, I have found that leaving students to think alone is often not very productive, because they don’t know what to think about! If they knew what to think about, they would have an idea for the project and would have begun work. Something I have found to be more effective is to go and think with them! I ask the students questions about what their current interests are, how large they want to work, what medium they are considering, etc. and their responses usually lead to at least a direction for exploration and thumbnail sketches.


While I always tell students about assignments in advance so that they can begin thinking and researching  to start the assignment and there are always resources in the room to help them find their direction, I realize that busy lives sometimes get in the way, and students hit roadblocks even with resources present! Stepping in and helping them “think”, or even having students “think” with each other has worked for me. Do you have similar experiences? If so, what do you do? 

Monday 06.29.15

Planning for the Best Year Ever

From: Janine Campbell

Before I get going with my last post for the month, I wanted to extend a huge thank you to NAEA and especially Linda Scott for facilitating this opportunity to share ideas about Art Education through such a forum. I am flattered to have been a part of this experience and look forward to following along as future mentors share their ideas and best practices so I can better my craft in the classroom.

Being better is something all teachers strive towards as they prepare for each upcoming school year. As I get ready for the 2015/16 year, I am thinking about how I want to transform learning for my students into positive enduring experiences that will follow them throughout their lives. Memories are made every year and I want each year to be the best one yet. Although last year is a tough one to top, I have some methods to help every year be the best one ever.


Leaving a Legacy: One thing that has propelled my classroom forward over the past several years is the opportunity to look beyond the current moment of learning. Instead of only focusing on short-sighted gains, my students and I have worked through a variety of media to leave a lasting legacy in our school and community that extends learning beyond a personal project in the classroom. Whether it has been transforming learning spaces around my classroom, creating class banners that hang in our cafeteria, an Empty Bowls program that gets kids working with clay on the first day of school and helping our local food bank, or public paintings that ask students to make their marks and see where it takes them, we have created a variety of legacy projects that students can come back to years from now and see the lasting impact they have made. In addition to these physical reminders of students over the years, using a blog and documenting the accomplishments of our program has also left a lasting chronicle of growth over time for both my students and me. If you would like to start a legacy project in your school, you can start by using similar tips from the last mentor post (start with the end in mind and build it over time). My hope for this year is to work with my students and school community to finally get that sculpture garden started. As is the case with any legacy project, it is important to get others involved like your building administrator and those in charge with building maintenance. You will find that the more people you bring into the process, the better the results and more impact you can have.


Outside Learning: Strong learning experiences involve moments that help bring objectives to life. Sometimes those moments happen in the classroom, but if you can offer opportunities for students to experience them in outside venues, it can have a lasting impact. One obvious way is through field trips to local museums, universities, or artist studios. When organizing a field trip, challenge students to take over and lead the group by researching the work they will see and presenting on it when arriving to the site. This is a great way to involve students in the experience and empower them with the opportunity to be leaders outside of the classroom. Another way to involve your students in outside learning is to bring those outside elements into your classroom. Artist visits, whether in person or via the internet can have a profound impact on how your students view the work they are making and career pathways. When involving an artist in your classroom, make sure to work through expectations for how they will interact with students prior to the visit. Whether you have a workshop or demonstration, allowing students to see professionals work and discuss their process offers valuable insight that can be used in art making decisions. The same is true when you bring in an artist through digital means. Whether you use Skype or connect via Twitter, offering students the opportunity to share their work with artists in the field and get authentic feedback can transform your classroom into a much larger venue. It also reinforces to students that their work matters and is being seen by a larger audience; both can have a lasting impact on a sense of purpose in the classroom.



Working with Purpose: This last point is something I have begun to focus on more and more over the past several years. When I first started out teaching, I focused on students learning skills I deemed important. It was very teacher-directed and resulted in very similar outcomes for students creating works that were heavily influenced by a specific artist or focused on demonstrating the understanding of the elements of art and principles of design. There is nothing wrong with that, but reflecting on my journey in education has helped me refocus my purpose for teaching and how I want to frame my classroom for students. Instead of having predetermined projects directed by me, I am working towards a more student-centered approach that offers them the choice to voice their interests using their unique approaches to materials. Instead of being a director conducting every student down the same journey, I am working towards empowering students with the skills and understanding to find their own creative pathways. My purpose in the classroom is to help cultivate artists in the classroom and their purpose as students is to create work that reflects and effectively communicates their point of view. As I prepare for the upcoming year, I am excited to share this sense of purpose with my students and see them elevate to excellence time and again. I would like to challenge you to think about the big picture instead of the daily grind; that will help you discover what purpose you want to have in your classroom. Once you find that, you can begin to work towards those goals with clear objectives and plans.

Although this post completes my time as the NAEA Monthly Mentor, you can still follow along in the artventures through my blog, classroom blog, and my Twitter account. In addition to regularly posting online, you can see me present in a variety of venues. I will be presenting at the K12online Conference and the Michigan Art Education Association Conference in October; I also plan to attend and present in March for both the Michigan Association of Computers Users in Learning as well as the National Art Education Association National Convention.

If you are interested in any of my presentations or would like me to come and present for your school or association, you can find more information on my website. I look forward to hearing from you and would love to know what plans you have to make 2015/16 the best year ever!

Please share ideas and comments below.

Friday 06.26.15

Transitioning to Technology Integration

From: Janine Campbell

This upcoming school year will mark the fourth year I have worked with a Learning Management System to put it all online. And when I say all, I mean all. Lesson plans, examples, presentations, quizzes, as well as the way students turn in their work has all been facilitated through online means; I use Schoology to facilitate this. My school is a 1:1 environment and students have access to their computers all day, everyday.

In order to make the most of this resource and to ensure it works in a Visual Arts classroom, here are three considerations as your classroom or school transitions to more technology integration.

Start with the end in mind: Backward design is nothing new. Art teachers do this naturally because we often start our work with an understanding of how we would like it to look in the end. This ability to visualize end results before starting is an advantageous tool to employ when deciding to put your class online. When starting, I was most concerned with students being able to access information when they were absent or need remediation. I was also focused on student publication through Artsonia ( and wanted students to be in charge of taking pictures and uploading the work on their own. Using online tools not only help students by empowering them with information and access to tools, it also gives me a chance to keep a pulse on learning by monitoring activity in a different way. Having a clear vision for how you want your class to work before you get started will help you select the right online tools and use them to build your model.


Build up to it: I have been using a blended method of instruction through technology for years. I did not arrive at my current method overnight. It started through the implementation of Artsonia, then the use of a website to keep resources and tools, and it has lead up to my current use of Schoology to organize all of those pieces in one place. I am not sure I would have been able to do all of it overnight, or even in one year. By selecting one or two tools each year to implement and building off of those experiences to introduce new tools and methods, I allowed myself the opportunity to explore ideas without being overwhelmed. There are so many different online platforms and tools to work with, do not feel like you have to learn them all at once. The key to making it work for your classroom is to give yourself the space to explore and adapt.

Have a backup plan: One thing you can guarantee about using technology in your classroom is that there will be a moment (or two, or three) it will not work. As planned as you may be as a teacher, the lesson you spent all weekend on may not work due to a network issue or blocked website. Having a backup plan is important. I would also recommend checking your posture towards any technology problems that arise. I strive to model appropriate calm behavior when something is not working because it is a life skill all students will have to learn as we become more and more dependent on a variety of technology tools. Teaching students how to behave in crisis is just as important as how we behave when all is well and can translate to almost any situation.

Technology has transformed my classroom into a more student-centered environment and has given me the opportunity to work with students in many new ways. Although I have enjoyed this transition, it is also important to regulate the ratio of screen time and hands-on work time you are giving students. I have a specific place in my classroom where computers are stored so that they are safe from messy materials like paint, clay, and the like. Giving students a clear space for how and when to use computers is just as important as any other material being used in the classroom.

And although new digital tools can be great, integration is not about the technology itself; it is about what you do with it. By having a clear vision and building up a strong pedagogy of how it can be used to push learning further, you and your students will find reward and success along the way.

How do you incorporate technology in your classroom? What are some ways you have made it work to best serve you and your students?

Monday 06.22.15

Pointers on Video Production

From: Janine Campbell

Years ago I started using video production as another art making tool in my classroom. Inspired by Elementary Art Teacher and friend Tricia Fuglestad, I put together materials and equipment to add this to the curriculum. I started by applying for several grants and a pilot program that allowed my students to create a whole host of videos for entertainment, to teach others, as well as reflect on their own learning. I have been using this tool in my classroom for the past 8 years and each year I find new and better ways to get students to think about storytelling through the moving image. Here are three things I recommend for successful video production in your classroom:


1. Focus on Process: In the Art Education community the debate of product versus process is one that can be argued at length. When it comes to video production, I find that the process makes way for the product and giving students tools to help them clearly plan can make all of the difference. When creating videos, I have students select their groups of no more than five to a group. Having students select their groups allows them to show their ability to make effective choices and I am trusting they will be able to handle it. Before students even pick their topic or theme for their videos (which can range depending on time of year and focus), they are given the six steps to film-making (Brainstorm, Script Writing, Storyboarding, Filming, Editing, Sharing) that have been compiled from a variety of sources as well as experience. When students have selected their topic, they are asked to brainstorm possible ideas about how they might tell their story. They think about possible characters, settings, as well as a basic story. Afterwards, students write out their script. They usually use Google Docs to share their script and work on it collaboratively. Even if there are no talking parts, they are asked to describe what is happening within the frame. Storyboarding follows this step; using the American Film Institute’s video to illustrate, students are made aware of a variety of important elements to composing their film before they get to work. They are also asked to use their storyboard as a key for creating a production schedule of what gets filmed when (since movies are rarely filmed in order). Once they have an idea of how the scenes will be framed, they use our video equipment (which includes 5 Canon PowerShot Cameras and tripods) as well as their own cell phones or even web-cams. In some cases students use Photoshop, or other means to create animations. To keep track of their progress, students make sure to cross off which scenes are filmed on their storyboards. After filming is complete, they edit it together using iMovie (although students have used Movie Maker and Adobe Premiere Elements) and then export it as a video file to share with the class. By having a clear process for students, they understand that there is more to movie making than just the final product and it allows them to prepare and adjust their plans as they work through the steps.


2. Give Students Control: I mentioned how I allow students not only to pick their topic for their videos, which can range from bullying to personal growth, but how I also allow them to select their group members. As a middle school teacher, both can sometimes be scary. I worry that my students will pick a topic that they cannot handle and I worry that my students will not pick partners that are the most conducive to being productive. Although I worry about these things, I have been proven wrong by students time and again. For the most part, students appreciate the trust that is offered when given choice over what they get to say and who they get to work with on the project and their work reflects that. In the end, no one wants to make a terrible movie and because they know their work is shared (not only in class but on our blog), they want it to be good and will put in the work do it. In addition, daily conferencing with groups and checking their progress through their production schedule (which is a calendar they create to keep track of what work needs to be completed by when) can also help keep them on track and ready to share the results with others.


3. Share the Results: One of the most important parts of my job as a Visual Arts teacher is showcasing the work of my students. Sharing student work is one I take seriously and do so through a variety of venues. When it comes to video production it can happen in a variety of ways. We will have a viewing party to celebrate the end result of a process that students worked through to get to their final videos. I will select several to showcase on our blog and highlight the process we worked through to get there. In addition, there are a variety of competitions student videos can be submitted to and be juried by professionals in the field. This last way of sharing allows students to get feedback from another set of eyes and in many cases can spur an interest in using art as a means to tell stories through moving pictures. An extra bit of incentive this year was the Michigan State Film Festival through DAFT.  One thing that made this competition so worth while was the direct feedback from the judges that allowed students to take their suggestions and use it when they get ready to make their next film. Another competition students can enter is The Scholastic Art Awards, which allows you to see previous winning work on their online gallery. When you share student work outside of your school, it reaffirms to students that their work matters. Make sure you have permission to post any work before you do so.

If you are interesting in adding this process to your classroom, there are many Art teachers out there doing all sorts of things with video. Do your research and find what might work best for you and your students. If you already do incorporate video production in the classroom, what has worked best for you? Please share your videos and resources below.

Monday 06.15.15

Get Involved! Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

From: Janine Campbell

Like many teachers out there, my Summer really hasn't started yet. Sure, I am on Summer break, but the break from thinking and working towards a better classroom is always ongoing. I have spent my first week away from students working on lesson plans, material lists, purging past projects, and getting things ready for Fall. In addition to these tasks, I also had the honor and privilege to spend the end of last week in New York City for the 92nd Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

For those of you not familiar, this program honors young artists and writers throughout the country. It starts with Regional Adjudication where students works are blind juried and assessed based on Originality, Personal Vision, and Technical Skill; they are either not awarded or receive Honorable Mention, Silver Key, or Gold Key status. Gold Key works are then sent onto National Adjudication where they are blind juried again; this year’s National Medals were earned by 1% of those who moved to this level, including two of my students.

One thing that I noticed as I made my way through the collection of student work was the level of personal voice and choice. As a somewhat seasoned Visual Arts teacher, I can look at many student works in various shows or competitions and figure them out. Like a forensic scientist, I can see the artist of influence and how many steps the teacher may have used to get their students from start to finish. I can see all of this because I have used them at some point, too. At the Scholastic Show, though, it is a little tougher to figure out.

Each work is unlike the rest and many are completely different than pieces I have seen before. One of the reasons I think my students did so well in this year’s competition, both at the Regional and National Level, was because I have transitioned my classroom into a choice-based inquiry space where students are asked to investigate larger topics in their own way, using materials and methods of their choosing.

Using TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) as a source of inspiration, I decided to change my methods of classroom practice to give more options to my students. I was nervous at first because of the unknown elements at play; questions about what kids will make, how they will make it, and how to manage so many different pathways were prominent in planning for this change in curriculum. I have had a successful program to that point and I was worried that engaging in this type of classroom practice might negatively impact that. I was wrong to fear the change.

And as I listened to the keynote speakers from last week’s Scholastic Art and Writing Awards ceremony as well as viewed the pieces on display, I realize that offering students the space to be creative and enact ideas I may never think of is the mission for my classroom.

Engagement Exhibit

When Whoopi Goldberg walked out on stage and started speaking to the audience to kick of the Scholastic Awards Ceremony, her words of encouragement filled Carnegie Hall with the understanding that these teens have the power to change the future with their unique vision. When deciding to move my classroom to a choice-based inquiry space, I was worried about the engagement of students and their ability to focus on self-prescribed projects. As the year went on, however, I found that students whom I allowed to be in control of their learning were more engaged and self-sufficient than those who still leaned on me as the primary source of information. I also found that students became more eager to experiment with ideas and take routes I had yet to see in my years teaching pre-planned outcomes.

By allowing students the room to engage with materials in their own way, I am empowering them to enact their unique voices and tackle issues they deem as important.




During the final moments of this year's Ceremony, Chelsea Clinton encouraged the young adults to use their talents to envision solutions yet imagined. She explained how each generation has the opportunity to imagine new possibilities, reaching beyond established horizons and impacting the future. When I think about these ideas, I think about the importance of fostering creativity in the classroom and allowing for play, experimentation, and ultimately divergent thinking. For both of my National Medalists, their works were done in the process of play.

Anna’s “NeckNib” was the result of taking old calligraphy nibs I had offered her when cleaning out the supply room and her seeing them as wearable art in the form of a necklace. Before committing to a design, she sketched out ideas and placed the pieces in various configurations. Her classmates and I gave her feedback along the way and she would continue to play. This act of fluid response allowed her to find the most elegant solution while engaging with materials and others through the process.

Jordan’s photograph also started out in a process of play. She was creating a window cling from puffy paint with no intentions of having it be “a final project.” I gave her the suggestion of creating a photo-series of the image placed on various windows. After many different solutions, she submitted her work and the rest is history. In both scenarios, students were able to experiment with materials in ways they envisioned because I was no longer limiting them by my imagination.



One of the most profound moments for me as an educator during the Ceremony happened during Tom Otterness and David Lipski’s presentations. As former Scholastic Award Winners, they spoke to how the awards changed their view of themselves as artists and helped propel their careers as sculptors.

When viewing the work displayed at the National Show, I could not help the amazement and pride I felt to have students in the same elite group as the two artists above as well as Andy Warhol, Richard Avedon, Robert Indiana, and many more former Scholastic  Award Winners. I cannot help but think of how these artists carved out their own visions for creating work and how winning that award may have helped embolden their ability to do so. It is this thought that most excites me about offering choices for students to engage with materials on their own terms and experiment with ideas using their own imaginations.

If you have not participated in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, I encourage you to start. If you have, what is your Scholastic Awards story? How has the program shaped your classroom, students, or teaching practice? Do you engage in choice-based practice for your students? How much control do your students have in the process of their making?

Monday 06. 8.15

Writing Across the Curriculum

From: Janine Campbell

Writing across the curriculum is nothing new; in fact, it is something that I have tried to tackle differently each year since I started teaching in 2004. In my classroom, my main focus is art and making time for students to authentically interact in with art and art-making processes. I have been to many professional development workshops that show the importance of writing in all subjects so students gain reading and writing skills. I would enthusiastically try them out and disregard the complaints of students, in hopes that I was helping students improve their writing skills; however, I was always left feeling like I was missing an opportunity to advance that learning in the understanding of art when doing so. The strategies were often one-and-done, which proved to be ineffective. Instead, I had to rethink how to better incorporate writing as a tool to foster the exploration of art rather than supporting another subject area. It was not until I deployed these three literacy strategies as a routine part of the classroom that I was able to find results in art learning:

1.  Artist Statements: My students are asked to write artist statements for each of their works published on our Artsonia gallery. Using my State’s Visual Arts Standards that are embedded in rubrics on Schoology, I give my students clear guidelines for what to include in their statements so that others can understand their thinking and learning as a result of the work being presented. By giving them a clear, student-friendly rubric using “I can” statements to outline expectations for their writing, students are able to reflect on what they have learned and use art terms and ideas to accurately describe their intent within their works. This strategy supports learning in my classroom through their ability to reflect the standards being assessed and it also supports literacy strategies in other subjects by asking students to use their artwork as evidence when supporting their claims. It is a strategy that works seamlessly and has become an expectation for students to the point that they will even provide statements when I don’t ask for them. Here is an example rubric and student statement:

8th grade Student example:

Nolan1533 said this about his/her artwork ...

My choice of using printmaking to make an image of me writing my name withe a pencil helps me express my ideas about objects. Since a pencil allows you to complete your work and graduate school, in a way a pencil changes the course of a person’s life. We all know that how well you do in school will determine what jobs you can get and how successful you are in life. Also, there was a purpose for using printmaking. Pencils are used time, after time, after time. This is similar to how a stamp can be used multiple times. I feel that this connects to me because I take school very seriously. I often find myself stressing about school and getting my work done on time. Without a pencil getting through school would be very difficult. One artist that I used as a reference when making this image was Jim Dine. In one image he used printmaking to create an image of a robe. Our images are similar because they both use bright colors to make a simple image of an object. Overall I think that my image of me using a pencil to write my name represents objects in many ways.

2.  Artist of the Week: For the first ten years of my teaching, I was the one in sole control of which artists my students were exposed to in my classroom. This year, I decided to incorporate a practice of inquiry, where students would use their computers to investigate and report on artists of their choice. Every other week, I asked students to go to Scholastic Art Magazine Online and use our classroom code to access the archives of magazines. Students would then select a work and write about it using the standards-based rubric. Because this activity became routine and focused on arts learning, I found the writing was more meaningful and the students used the rubrics to hone their abilities to interpret works they deemed both interesting and relevant. Below is a student working on the website, an example rubric, and student response.

7th grade Student example:

3.  Sketchbooks: This was the first year I have used sketchbooks as a routine process in my classroom. Just like the above practices, the key to implementing new procedures in the classroom is to make them a part of the routine. Often when thinking of writing, I automatically think of traditional essays or sentence structure. This does not have to be the case. Students can easily write and draw in their sketchbooks to communicate ideas and plan out projects, which will help reinforce literacy skills. When starting new projects or demonstrating materials in the classroom, I asked students to use their sketchbooks to take notes on vocabulary, experiment with media, as well as plan out ideas and set production schedules. This use of writing is also effective at supporting habits of inquiry and experimentation through art making. Having students document their thought processes through sketchbooks also which helped me better understand their learning and also got students thinking more about the how and why behind their making. Below are examples of students using their sketchbooks.

The key to making each of these methods work for my classroom was letting go of notions I had around writing in the art room as a way to support other subjects. Instead, I embraced the power writing had to support learning in the art classroom and leveraged its’ ability to further engage students in comprehending why and how we create.

What are some strategies you have used in your classroom to engage students in writing? Have you tried any of these methods and how have they worked for you and your students?

Monday 06. 1.15

Assessment and Student Growth Progressions

From: Janine Campbell

This week is the last week of school. We are wrapping up projects, cleaning classrooms, and measuring student growth. The issue of assessment and documenting student growth has become more pressing as of late due to legislative changes in the way teachers are evaluated. In my state, student growth is a significant part of the teacher evaluation system and up until a few years ago, I was very unsure of how I could document such a thing in ways that those outside of Visual Arts would fully understand. As a result of my work with the Michigan Art Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project as a writer and Visual Arts team lead, I have a better grasp of how to evaluate and explain this.  

Here are a few methods that have worked for me without putting me (or my students) over the edge:

1. Online Portfolios: Nothing demonstrates growth better than the comparison of work over time. This can be especially significant if students are working with similar media, concepts, or methods. My personal favorite is Artsonia. I have been using the site for eight years and have been amazed at how efficient it is for carrying over pieces from one grade level to the next. You could use blogging to document growth as well. This online documentation helps account for what is being made over the course of years without the hefty storage of the physical pieces.

2. Ask Your Students: One thing that has helped me stay sane during the documentation of student growth is to ask students to reflect and respond to their own growth over time. You can have students sort their current work into piles that are their most effective and least effective works and then write about it. You could also have students select works from their online portfolio and create a video that explains how they have demonstrated growth over time. Getting students involved in the process allows them time to pause and reflect on how far they have come as artists over time.

3. Give a Test: It seems counterproductive to give an assessment that offers clear right or wrong answers in the Visual Arts; however, if you are looking for another measurement of student growth, there is nothing wrong with giving a test. You can test students’ ability to recognize artists’ works, their comprehension of art concepts, or even identifying the types of tools they have used in the art-making process. The best part of these types of assessments is that they can take little time if done online. When created on websites like Schoology, you can create the test so the program will grade it for you. This gives you and the student instant feedback. These types of assessment are not the end-all or be-all of measuring student growth, but they do offer a chance to see what your students learned in a different way.

If you would like more information or resources about how measure or document student growth in your classroom, you can check out the tools offered on the MAEIA website or my classroom blog.

What is your go-to method for documenting student learning in your classroom? Do you use these methods or something else to help your administration understand the process of growth in the Visual Arts?