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  I decided to read three modes of dialogue about works of art by Olga M. Hubard.  The reason I picked this was very simple in my head.  Students walk through the hallways and say “i love that, I wish I could make that”, yet when you ask anything deeper they look at you with a blank look.  I have tried to have open dialouge in my room about all the works of art created by students and by masters alike. I have found that they are very limited in their ability to have a conversation about artworks, even their own. 

  Trying to get a student to critique their own artwork is where I am going to begin with teaching art dialogue.  I will be asking questions of both predetermined and interpretive natures. This should be a setting in which the student will be able to describe colors, movement, balance and theme in their artworks.  I want to help the students understand they are not just creating a picture without meaning.  This should be a way to help the students take ownership of their pieces.  If they are comfortable and able to talk about their works, they are more likely to respect the processes they are going through to create them.  Then they will not create a project and say, “please dont hang that up”!!!

One example i am working with now is dialogue about color.  We worked on a project dealing with color, and i gave the students simple directions to pick three of their favorite colors and use them in the project.  I gave  no further instruction on what colors to use or why.  They used the colors to create a pattern and glue to a white sheet of paper.  Once they are done, I place the pictures on the wall and they students gather around for our conversation.  I begin by asking what they see on the wall. Of course the first couple answers are OUR PROJECTS.  I then ask, ” look at the wall for 30 seconds.  I believe I will be able to pick out what most of you will chose as your answer to :what is the one or two projects that stick out the most to you?”.  Usually there is one or two projects that really stand out because of the color choice.  And usually they are similar in colors, making this set of questions very important.  We start to talk about how they use of complimentary colors in those projects mamkes them brighter.  How they work beside one another to create a more impressive work.  We then show an example of what it is like to mix those two colors together and get a darker color.  The Dialogue continutes with the students deciding why this happens and how other colors will work with one antoher. 

  I as the teacher ask, how does color influence you in your every day life, what is it in that you come into contact with every day.  They again start with small answers and move to more creative dialogue.  We discuss why fast food places have yellow and red as main colors.  Why Olive Garden is purples, blues and greens.  Why is the bad guy dressed in black and the hero dressed in white in many movies.  The great thing is they never really think about color in its use in every day life.  So when we start this conversation they are quiet.  Yet once we get into asking questions, they perk up and begin to give answers that are relevant to their lives and how they see the world.  It becomes a really amazing process.  This dialogue also leads us to our next process in making tie dyed shirts.   How if they put yellow and purple next to one another it will cause their shirts to be brown and probably not the best looking colors.  You can see the processes in their eyees when they are thinking about why this would happen. 

There are times when you have to redirect the conversation.  I will always have those students that like to see what they can answer with and get away with.  Usually a teacher will yell and make a big scene about that.  I find that in dialogue, i can simply ask another quesiton that is pertinent to our discussion.  I call on those students that answer in an appropriate way, and sooner or later that student decides to answer a questoin correctly. Once this happens I jump on giving them praise for their efforts.  They seem to be happy for the attention and then start to give more appropriate answers wanting me to call on them again.  This also solves behavioral problems, because they know i will not answer or even address them if they are not giving solid helpful information to the class.

I have also found that this type of teaching dialogue is better retained by the students.  They remember more information longer when they are an active part in the creation of the discussion.  They remember what other students said concerning any issue.   They are even able to point out what is wrong with projects that they are looking at, which is very impressive when they discuss why something is not correct.  This impresses me because I alwyas get the same answers when i ask who is an artist.  “I can not draw Mr. Nick.  I can not do art”.  I follow that by saying, you already can point out what is wrong with things and what is correct.  Artisticness is already in every one of you.  Your hands are not the reason you can not create art works.  Your eyes are your problem, and once you can see what you are missing your artwork will come alive.  They begin to see exactly what I mean with this when the dialogue is from them and not from me alone.  They can see that they are coming up with the solutions to problems which shows they are not completely blind to the arts.  Once this connection is made, even in a simple way their projects become more creative and expressive.

I am sure I am not the only teacher that works like this, and do not expect to be the last.  I am learning new and better ways to have these discussions with my students, and find it ever changing with the different types of students that enter my classroom every year. As long as society changes I believe that the conversations will also evolve.  They will give me new answerws that I have not heard before, and I will have to come up with new ways to reach them in their lives.  I can just say I believe using the three modes of dialogue together create a well rounded lesson, and give me the tools to improve on lessons i have done for years.

August 2017
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