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The Independent Art students presented their year-long inquiry process on Wednesday evening, May 16, 2012 with their Independent Art Show in the library/art wing of Trinity High School from 6:00pm-8:00pm. The girls were madly rushing in and out of the artroom throughout the day putting finishing touches on art pieces or repairing a piece that may have gotten bumped in the artroom. At 3:00 pm, the girls came running into the artroom to begin setting up racks in their chosen area,moving display cubes into strategic positions and hanging their artwork, “tweaking and re-tweaking” until their guests and the art community arrived. The unveiling of the installation piece, “The Spark Within”, a series of 36 panels depicting “Ah-ha” moments in the lives of these 9 talented young ladies was very well received! The girls stood proudly at their displays and discussed their artist statements  and processes with the viewers and circulated among the crowds to admire one another’s displays. This was the girls’ night to shine and so they did! At the end of the evening, 4 artists had sold artwork which I told them they are now considered professional artists!

Helping the students plan the show is a ton of work, but it was well worth it! Giving the students the opportunity to use inquiry and make their own choices regarding the creation of their art was definitely worth all the worK. What great artwork was created with the help of my cig group and AE2.0.



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.

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.

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 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!

Our April 16th CIG meeting at the IU was much more relaxed and everyone feels very comfortable about our meetings, our inquiry question and what is going on in our classrooms regarding motivation and effort by our students. We had a skype meeting earlier in the second semester and a few members of the group met at the IU on March 2 (I was attending the NAEA  in New York that weekend- what a great conference!) , so now it is time for everything to come together! We all updated our wikispace, which became the script for our movie presenting our findings in working on getting students motivated to practice music and art outside of the classroom. We also discussed other options for our presentation time (handouts/ question and answer/ visuals, etc)

How can inquiry strategies be incorporated into music and arts classes to improve motivation and effort toward students’ practice habits?

I realized that trying to work with all of  my art classes regarding our group’s inquiry question was overwhelming, so I began to narrow it down to which group(s) I thought would best benefit by increasing their motivation and drive to create exceptional works of art both inside and outside the classroom. My Independent Art class, which consists of nine young ladies, 6 seniors and 3 juniors, are higher end art students, but have been procrastinating about production and seem to be “looking for their style”. Their lack of motivation was disheartening, as these girls opted to be in a year  long, high level skill and motivation art course. I began by scheduling an “interview” with each of the girls to have them talk about what they had been doing with their concentration and what they thought they could visualize by stepping outside of their comfort zone and pushing their art with different materials and ideas. I have worked with these girls in other art classes over the years and knew that they were creative and could break “out of the box” in trying new and exciting ideas. Individual interviews grew into small group interactive discussions with a few directed questions or comments and then into question and answer sessions with little or no direction from me. The classes went from “I don’t know what to do” or “what you think that I should work on next”to“what do you think of this idea?” As new ideas emerged from students who originally kept falling back on traditional drawing and painting skills, my comments to them were “where were all these ideas and concepts hiding?” I started pushing more “research” into new techniques- mixed media using found objects, altering books not as a journal, but as a sculptural forms, trying materials that were not normally considered art materials and encouraged the girls to find other artists that were also experimenting or working with similar concepts so they would realize that they were not alone. The group went from “what should I do now?” to “look what I was working on last night” or “I found this out in the parking lot of the mall and I am going to incorporate it into this piece of art”. Direction and inquiry was no longer teacher based, but student driven and the level of motivation was off the scale! I forced the students to talk about what they were doing and how “boring” their ideas were to really exciting works of art! They stated to think about their process and began to listen to one another regarding the production of their art. The more personal the artwork became, the more motivation and effort were visible. The girls were asking one another to be critical in viewing their progress and listened carefully to suggestions and questioned reasons for the comments. They became more critical in their own thought and creative process and more motivated, spending study halls, lunch and after school time in the art room. Now I am seeing the artwork that they are working on at home! The more they explore, the more they have been motivated to create!

Success in new skills increases student motivation. Students gain confidence in an area and understand the importance of practice. This behavior became even more apparent in the Art II class. There is one particular student who has a lot of skill and potential, but did not show confidence. Because of this lack of confidence she lacked independence. She would want me by her side every step and always asked “Is this how I should do this, Do you want me to do it this way?” etc. Keeping classroom inquiry in mind, instead of offering suggestions as to what I would do, I asked her questions to guide her to her own conclusions. Like, “How do you see this outcome? What would happen if you went in this direction?” etc. Once this conversation started she went above and beyond in the assignment and finally got it. Asking students questions will lead them to their own conclusions. This student had motivation but lacks confidence, which lead to a lack in practice! With this newly found confidence she realized that she can create successful art on her own and do her own problem solving. She knows with more practice she can continue to grow.

This assignment she was working on during this discovery was a sculpture. Students were assigned to use their own cast body parts to create a thought provoking sculpture. She knew right away she wanted to use her feet. After going through the long process of casting her feet, she set them on her desk and asked, “Ok, now what?” Which was her usual question to me. So my response was to figure out what to do with these feet. I asked her and the rest of the class, “What do you think of when you see these cast feet sitting on the desk? What are they doing? Where could they have been? Who do they belong to?” Each student had their own sculpture to create but they were all involved in each others projects, which I loved! So the class discussed possibilities in an in depth and sometimes funny discussion. She decided that some of the imperfections of the casting process could be used to her advantage and looked like scars and blisters. Like that of a person without proper footwear for everyday use. The scars and blisters looked sad and tired and worn, like that of a homeless person. Then the ideas came flowing! The outcome was a sculpture of the sad, distressed, dirty feet of a homeless man.

Gaining confidence and realizing they are capable is how to continue student motivation and realization of practice actually helping them.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep ~ Scott Adams

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up ~ Pablo Picasso

Sometimes you need to spit into the wind and see what comes back to smack ya ~ ME

I have been able to continue working with inquiry and with different things in my school to promote arts to the district and other teachers. The one lesson that I have discussed in small ways before on this blog is the ceiling tiles done by students for different teachers. They were able to personalize paintings for every teacher eithe by their “teachers” personal likes, or by the subject they are teaching.

Well, I knew how it was going from my end of things until i was pleasently surprised today by another teacher. I went into her room knowing that students painted many tiles for her. When I entered the room there were many more done. I asked who had completed more tiles and she stated a student that I had in class the year before. This student didnt have the chance to have my class again, so decided to do art on her own to beautify another room. It was amazing to see her work, which she had to take home to complete since she does not have art class. I just didnt know what to say. I didnt know how to even react other than proud that the arts are still living in the students even during the times where schools are wanting to dismiss the arts as a budget problem.






The life skills class has even been able to expand their classroom by art tiles. 



At the suggestion of one of the other members of my CIG, I opened up the concert programming to the students. I was very nervous about that since so many of them generally only want to sing pop songs. So I decided to open up the programming with some parameters. I preselected a variety of pieces that would fit within different genres I wanted to see represented in the concert. I opened the day by saying that we’d end by taking a vote and the simple majority would win. Any of the choices for each section were appropriate and ones that I would find acceptable. Taking one or two genres a day for about a week, we looked at a small segment of the music and listened to the recordings posted on the publishers website. There were some that I was secretly hoping they would pick and they did not.  Pieces that I never thought they would like that they raved about and request to sing each day. Without a doubt it has changed rehearsals for the better. Obviously not every person likes all of the pieces, but the students are starting to recognize why some of them were chosen and seem to be excited about singing. A certain piece really works on our blend and dynamics, another works on more complicated harmonies and diction. Previous they would get to a phase where they were disinterested in singing or bored with the music. Now, they’re complaining that I’m not there because of festivals or other events such as this and they can’t sing. Hopefully this trend will continue as the rest of the year progresses.

Our meeting got off to a rather slow start. New group, new ideas, no one really sure who’s going to take the initiative. Plus, without a facilitator we needed to rely solely on each other to figure out how our project was going to work, who was going to do what, when we needed to start and finish, what data would need to be collected, and how we would show our work in the end.

After throwing around some ideas during the morning session we decided to start with a pretest that would help us to gather some information about our students’ practice habits and their level of motivation toward individual practice. We talked about what questions we could include and how we could compile the data. This was interesting because we needed to figure how to word the questions so that it could be given to both art and music students.

We also set up a group wiki space so that we could collaborate virtually and view the work and progress of our CIG mates throughout the course of the project. Each participant was given a page in which to post material related too their particular class and line of inquiry. We included a page for the pre/post test and a page for reading material related to student practice habits and motivation in the classroom.

In the afternoon we spent the better part of the time discussing the method of presenting our work at the sandbox. Several ideas were posed and we tentatively decided on making a short movie to show our results.

September 2020

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