Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Tuesday 10.30.12

Finding Our Words

Often, in the midst of our teaching, we realize that we have to go back to beginning in order to fully explain the words we, as adults and as practicing artists, use with regularity and familiarity. Of course, building vocabulary is part of what we do as teachers. We hope the words stick. We want our students to be able to explain what they are doing and how they are doing it. As we are writing lessons, the standards are met by our objectives, but do our students fully understand what is expected of them when we ask them to critique or “describe intent” as stated in standards across the country?

Wordle of Standards vocabulary
One way that we can provide support for the vocabulary used in our lessons is to provide the definition within our rubrics that we share early in each project. If we are assessing craftsmanship at the end of the task, do students understand that it deals with the neatness, and concern for quality work? Taking the time to explain the words we use will help the students meet criteria on lessons, help them in the long run to make connections across the curriculum, and develop literacy skills.

General lesson rubric
The conversations with students about art can capture their aesthetic development over the course of a school year. They learn to use the words they hear and see. Word walls are great resources for artistic conversations as well as reflections. The words that are in the project rubrics could be there, as well. Theresa McGee, of the Teaching Palette, shared her idea for a Magnetic Word Wall.

The words can be moved around by the students to use as reference for their artist statements, as well as a means to building on prior knowledge for newer projects.

Teaching Palette word wall example Oct2012
Sometimes, deeper understanding of what art is comes in unexpected ways: consider using a video camera to capture artist statements or dialogue about a work of art. In the limelight, students often find the words to make powerful, short statements about art. When they see themselves on video, it validates their thinking and empowers them to bring more to future conversations.

Here we used the Face Talk app on a collaborative project with Theresa McGee’s students. The students shared their reflections about art, collaborations and sharing ideas.

Hand the video camera over to the students to video-tape each other! Their excitement to be interviewed will overcome any nervous jitters, and provide many future entry points for conversations about art, artists and themes.

Also, check out this great Live-Binder, via Theresa McGee: Literacy in Art for many other ways we can exchange “art” words with our students.

What are some ways you enable students to find their words?

~Samantha Melvin

Wednesday 10.17.12

Admit One!

Admit One RJRGetting our students to write in our art classrooms is not necessarily the easiest task—writing in art? Yes, of course! We write in every class, and as artists we need to be able to put words to paper to explain our process, our philosophy and our inspiration. Not only will our students develop the language of art in their writing, but over time, they will transfer their ability to dissect a work of art as text to other classrooms. They will learn to draw conclusions about the artist’s purpose, process and thinking just as they do for an author’s. This is exciting when they are the artist, and they are analyzing their own work.

One way to get them started is to use the “Admit One” ticket. Handing each student a copy of the ticket at the beginning of class, one can explain how they will look at a work of art that is the focus of the lesson. They will use the space on the ticket to describe what they see in the work, how the artist organized the work, what the artist expressed through what is included or not included in the work. This can be used to assess their understanding on many levels: prior knowledge about the language used to describe work, the ability to infer meaning, as well as their ability to connect ideas between artists, themes and art. I am not concerned about spelling and grammar, I want to see them express ideas, think about process, and make connections to what they have experienced.

As part of a cross-curricular focus for my students last year, we looked at how we could tie in our study of American presidents with art and technology. We used the iPad app Face Talk to photograph portraits created by the students. Students researched their subject and took notes in their art journal. From this information, they composed a biography which they recorded using the app. The biographies had to be short, which forced the students to edit the information to fit in the time allowed. Our Presidential Portrait video shares a few of our outstanding interdisciplinary works.

One of the greatest challenges in art classrooms is making time for reflective practice. Our schedules are packed and our class time is too, yet from reflection comes a greater understanding of our process. It gives students an opportunity to think about how they approached their work. An “Exit Slip” is one way to have students write about the learning that just took place. They need to complete it before they leave for the day, providing the art teacher with a synopsis of that student’s progress in class.

Exit Slip RJRHere are some suggestions to use as prompts:

I learned that I…
I was surprised that I…
I discovered that I…

Or written as questions:

What ideas did I connect with today?
What questions do I still have?

What are some ways you use writing in your art classroom?

~Samantha Melvin

Monday 10. 1.12

October is National Arts and Humanities Month

October is recognized as National Arts and Humanities Month. President Barack Obama issued a proclamation celebrating the arts and humanities of our great nation. His words illustrate the power of the arts and the humanities to engage individuals and communities. The arts and humanities challenge us to think. They spur us to respond critically and creatively. The arts and humanities inspire us.

A major reason for the recognition of National Arts and Humanities Month is, of course, the advocacy for arts education. There are some fantastic resources available on the Americans for the Arts toolkit, which can be shared with students’ families as well as with the stake-holders in your schools and districts. Make your presence known by sharing art work and art critiques with your school board. Ask your district to issue a proclamation. Display art work in hallways at school with signage making the connections to archeology, literature, languages and culture. Ask your students how we express ideas about our and other’s heritage and history through music, dance, theatre and visual arts. We make those connections every day in our arts classrooms. Share them with the community at large!

Using a tool called Voice Thread, my students have explored the concepts of freedom and responsibility, guiding principles for our country, through art. Here is our Freedom Project. With another group of students, we explored poetry, and more specifically, Haikus for another Voice Thread project. By collaborating with my fifth grade students’ language arts teachers, we engaged the whole school in a focus on literature and creative expression through art. Here are our Fall Haikus.

How do you connect the arts and humanities in your art classroom?

-Samantha Melvin