I figured that I should wrap things up with a “this is what I learned” post. My CIG has been examining inquiry strategies that may or may not increase motivation and determination in our classrooms. My strategy involved the implementation of a rewards system for my students. Initially the system was a success. The students wanted the reward (band bucks toward school store purchases) and where willing to work for it. As the weeks progressed, however, I saw less and less motivation to do well on the playing tests. At first I determined that this was not a reliable method of motivating students. But recently, something funny happened. I’m seeing more and more kids in my room in the mornings and an increased motivation to play/perform well. I think that it just may have taken more time than I thought it should. And, during several weeks in which there was a lull in student motivation the students were in the middle of PSSA testing. As a result, I am beginning to believe that a rewards system can be a point of motivation to students. But, it can’t be the only thing. Students have to make a personal connection to their art in order to keep them coming back. Things like a reward for hard practice can help move them in the right direction, but ultimately they have to see the value in what they are doing and want to get better.

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Our skype meeting was held on Wednesday, May 16, 7PM. We discussed some final technical questions about our CIG spotlight presentation. I have completed the large visual for our group the Balancing Act. This visual states our inquiry question and will hopefully unify the entire display. We agreed to be at the IU at 7:30 because we are the first group presenting. I’m very pleased to know the Superintendent from my District; Mrs. Jackson will be in attendance on Friday. She as always been a great supporter of the Arts in my district. I will be proud to show her the growth and accomplishments I have made during my 3 years of participation in AE 2.0.

I’ve been asked to join the science teachers and write a grant for an outdoor learning space. Does anyone have any ideas for something that that I could benefit from? The outdoor space alone will be great, but I’m not sure if there are any art specific elements I could focus on. Help if you can, please!!

During the project this year I have been focusing on just the older classes (4th and 5th grade) for the most part. To further work on the project I began using the same techniques with some of the younger grades. It was actually my first grade class that surprised me. The class seemed handle the simple patters with the boomwhackers well and picked up each set quickly. I did notice however that they became less successful as the patterns became longer. I was then curious as to if they they would take the knowledge and transfer it to the other instruments. I then took an orff instrument and told the students that they only needed to use the bottom three keys. (In this case they were Do, La and So) One of the students who volunteered to go first was actually able to play the correct pattern in only two tries. I then asked for others. None of them was able to accomplish the task as quickly, but most of them were able to play the pattern. When a student had trouble with the pattern I would then play it on another instrument, ask the student to sing it back to me, just as we had before. After that I would then ask them to sing the pattern as they played. If the pitch matched I would let them continue on, if it didn’t match, would ask them to try another note.

I then began to feel that if the first graders could do this then I should be able to have my older kids use the same process. However, when I actually tried I found a different result. The older kids “want” to be told exactly what to do. It was almost if they were afraid to make a mistake, even though I have always tried to keep my classroom an open and judgment free environment. I then realized that they actually were afraid to make a mistake and felt that if I told them exactly what to do they would not “fail.” It made me realize that if I did not start encouraging the students to use their ear, apply what they know about pitch and how it is related to instrument size and to not be afraid to “make a mistake” at a young age they would have some difficulty with the process as they grow older.

I am struck by the differences from class to class, 9 weeks to 9 weeks, period to period, semester to semester. I wonder how much it is related to the time of year. It could be the mix of the group. It could be me.

The 2 sections of art 1 that I had first semester were so creative and self-motivated. Posing the big inquiry question to them “How can you influence the story of our school through your art?” felt risky, I guess because I had never done anything like it before, but the response was unequivocally powerful and prolific. Although there were some days of confusion as they sorted out whether to work in groups or alone and then began their planning, soon the classroom was a buzz of art making, problem solving, and collaboration.

Fast forward to second semester and a new group. A big one-30 students, same as first semester period 1, but now it is period 4, the last one of the day. The group was not cohesive, very cliquish, some students who just downright do not care to be there, and filled with early dismissals and other disruptions. All factors that played into the general ennui. Was I less enthusiastic? Possibly, but certainly not consciously. The end result? I did not pose a “big” inquiry question to them, like I did to the others. We did make lots of cool art, all my lessons, units, projects, are posed in the form of inquiry now, and even the “too cool for school kids” were somewhat won over in the end (they love the altered book project). I can’t help feeling like I failed somehow with this bunch by not giving them the same experience the others had.

With consistent practice the students realized they can improve and they became determined to create and to experiment. So it’s not necessarily the cutting-edge concepts, but having some success in a new skill that enhanced their motivation. As the students began to “get” throwing a pot on the wheel, they were more than willing to help other students. Together they would problem solve and show some independence. I interviewed a student who seemed to fall into this category. His name is Logan and he is a junior in a Sr. High Art Class.

Interview:
Do you enjoy ceramics and working in the potter’s wheel? If so, why?
Logan: Very much! I like doing it because it is something I am good at.

During the ceramics unit in art class, how often did you come to the art room to work?
Logan: As often as I could! Up to three periods a day if I could.

So how did all of this practice help you?
Logan: It got me to where I am now. I can center the clay in like 10 seconds and the rest just comes naturally. It’s a good feeling to finish a nice looking pot.

What do you recommend to other students who are less motivated than you?
Logan: They just have to get past the hard stuff and don’t get too frustrated. They will get it, and then they will love it.

On March 2 our CIG met at the Uniontown High School to help out with a program taking place.  The Invisible Children program came to present their video Kony 2012. IC has been presenting an assembly at the Uniontown District for the last 5 years. Their non-profit organization raises awareness for the plight of children in Uganda affected by the 20 year war. These children are constantly threatened with kidnap, torture, sexual slavery and being forced into fighting. Each year as the students see the new informational video and hear from the young Ugandans who share their stories in person, they respond with compassion and generosity. This compassion seems to manifest itself through art. This year the young people have planned a 5K run followed by an art and music festival.  Many times students respond n a very emotional way through their art making. These pieces are then part of the festival and may be experienced and purchased by the attendees. I have seen first hand how art making answers the deep seated question “Ok, I see this terrible need on the other side of the world, but what can I do about it.

So I am here trying to get my last blog post together and I feel that I have made a lot of progress since my last post, but I have not been able to completely accomplish the project that I set out to do this year.

After my first attempt at getting students to create and edit their own music was not successful, I re-worked my approach and I have had some successes since!  Students researched song that were either written for protest or historical perspective.  The kids picked quite a variety of songs, from Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Country Artists, Hip Hop Artists and  Whitney Houston.  The themes the kids focused on were racism, teen violence, child abuse, self image and patriotism.

I then charged the students with the task of making a decision about what they believe in or stand for, or to describe an event in their own perspective.  Students worked in groups and all of them were able to poems, phrases, and lyrics to make their statements.  Today, students were working on recording their statements and manipulating the sound files using Audacity.  Most of the groups were able to really contribute and create something, but one group who really had something to say and share “lost” their work and now I am worried that they will not get it recorded before Friday’s meeting…

This had really been a great year and I feel that this has really touched on our question: “How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world?”

On our final work day at the IU the M and D CIG decided to put our research into a digital story. In 3 minutes or less each member of the group would tell their own part of the story. After the script was complete we each made an audio recording of our own portion. It was decided that Jen Joyce would put the story together and that we would need to send her the pictures or videos we wanted included. This past Thursday we all got together in Sherry Knight’s room at Trinity High School to see the finished project and discuss how we would conduct our presentation the following Friday. We were blown away by what Jen had put together. She really did a great job and had obviously put a lot of time into the project. It is so nice, and has been nice, to work with such creative and smart people. People who take the initiative to get something done and then come through with a product that goes beyond expectations. I feel very fortunate to have worked with the members of my CIG as well as member in years past. Looking forward to Friday!

Today I asked a student if I could record them explaining how to do stop motion photography.  I told the student that it would be for teachers who have not done stop motion before.  This student reassured me that he had learned the important steps to creating a video.  Originally, I thought I would be in control and tell him what to say- but sure enough we only did one take and I felt what he said was perfect.  I couldn’t have done it better myself, he kept it basic and right to the point.  He did it in a manner that the participants in our spotlight next week will understand what to do.

I feel my students in 4th grade had the most success with stop motion photography this year.  They had the basics taught to them last year when I used a more teacher-directly instructed approach.  This year, I encouraged student collaboration and inquiry.  The students were very successful, however I don’t feel they would have had as much success if they didn’t have the teacher-direct instruction as the ground work.

If the students only had the teacher-direct instruction I don’t feel they owned their work, nor did they enjoy it as much.  On the other hand, if the students went straight into an inquiry approach I feel they may have missed some of the basic steps of how everything is to operate correctly.

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