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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.

When learning necessary art and music skills, where can the balance between inquiry-based and teacher-directed instruction be found? (or: which instructional strategies work best)

I have found that my inquiry has changed as time changes and needs change in my class. I wanted to do stained glass with students but didn’t have the supplies at first. Becuse of this, I had to become creative in getting materials. I created a “business” for my class. We decided to sell our art to buy supplies for our class, which motivated several students that were not motivated for school in general. We decided that the students would supply thegalas for a project and I would supply everything else. We would then talk in a collaborative way on how we would maout our projects and to whom we would sell our work.

To give a better understanding I will attempt to explmanga few of the many changes that took place from inquiry and collaboration in my room.

One student hated being in school but loved art. He would not do assignments on painting because he didn’t feel he was good enough. He actually approached me about stained glass which opened up this entire thought. He had to buy glass since i didn’t have those supplies. I didn’t fee it was right to have him pay for having class so we decided to sell what he made to Supplement getting more glass for more projects.

We decided to do Christmas ornaments and sell them to the school. This raised several questions, such as what will they look like, what will we sell them for and who will we be marketing our product to. We also had to decide how we were going to inform the school that these items will be for sale. I let the student decide how he was going to get the “word out” to the school, and he came up with at first just word of mouth. Then as that progressed, he started to realize that we had a morning announcement session in our school and he could place our items on that which is shown across the televisions in every room of the school. The ornaments were for sale for 15 dollars each, which he thought was a high price and no one would buy. We ended up selling 27 or so, and even to members of his family which were not at our school. The students and teachers would have to place an order deciding what color they wanted and which ornament they would pick. they could also have them engraved with a special message or the year if they decided. They got to choose from two different things.

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These items creqated a flury in my class and this student in particular. He started to see that he could make money creating art, and he was actually getting good at it. His excitement gained momentum as he started to get more people asking for other art projects to be made for them. This once again opened up another inquiry process.

We could not fill the orders required if we did not have more students involved doing the work. This student took it on his own to recruit other students to do jobs that he felt they could handle to fill the orders. We stayed for hours after school to finish the orders and made enough money to pay for what he bought and also to buy more materials for future projects to be sold. We then had to decide what the next thing was we were going to try to market. We came up with the fact that Valentines day was the next holiday we could prepair for. The students went back and fort with many ideas and made prototypes of each piece they thought would be good to sell and how they would market these items.

We as a class ended up agreeing on picture frames with a heart on either corner. Which was in itself a great idea, but caused the students to start to think further into the future rather than just on the completion of the project at hand. They decided that the next project should be a picture fame designed just for seniors in the highschool. Which touched on the subjects we were discussion about target audiences for their crafts. They made a prototype of this frame and began marketing it. I will post a picture to follow and then discuss how they decided they were going to get the word out to the school.

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The student that did not like school and felt there was nothing in school that was going to help him started to actually come to school more often. His attitude changed in a dramatic way. He was no longer wishing to miss school, and was actually coming to my class every morning and any free time he had throughout the day. He would ask other teachers if he was caught up with his work if he could come to my room and work on his projects. He also stayed for hours after school on many occasions with me and other students to continue his “new job”.

His new way of reaching students was to utilize facebook. He posted a picture of this picture frame and tagged every senior that he had on his list. He asked that they forward it to friends that he might not have on his list and took comments for what they though of it. Which in its own way once again opened up the need for collaboration and inquiry on his, my and other students parts. He had to come up with how much he was willing to wave as to the colors of the frame, special orders and things of that nature. We talked about how it was not practical to buy every color of glass to be able to fill any type of order we may get. So he limited it to specific c0lors and a black or white tossel cap for boys or girls. The year is made with twisted metal wire we had in the class. He has begun orders and has set a deadline for them to be able to make sure he can fulfill the ruquired orders before the end of the year.

Since that he has also embarked on making different stained glass pieces which are not to be sold at the school but rather to community businesses. His biggest work is that of a chess board. NOW. With that being said. He also has spent hours getting community involvement in these projects. He contacted his aunt who owns a wood salvage business “dealing with drift wood and rare findings wood”. She gave him a very special type of wood that is three hundred years old to complete his chess board. He utilized his father who is a contractor to build the base for his work. He also did research on the internet to find cheaper project materials and the actual chess pieces. He is looking to sell this project to Nemacolin Woodlands marketing to a higher social economic demographic.

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AND YET ANOTHER CHANGE IN INQUIRY!!!!  Now other students that are not totally on board with stained glass started wondering how they can make their art known to the school as well.  So they decided to start going out into the school to find what was needed.  Some stuck with the ceiling tile and teachers requests and other started other projects.  more to come in the next blog.  Have a great day and comment please.

I have had some interesting developments in my class’s inquiry into student practice and the rewards system. For the first playing test I assigned two short excepts that the students were responsible for being able to play. Both were excerpts that the students had seen before and had been practicing for several weeks. As a result, the scores for the first playing test were overwhelmingly good….which was my plan and hope. All of the students received either a 50 cent band coupon or a 1 dollar coupon, and all students received their weekly star. The students were happy, I was happy, all was well in band land.

The next week things changed….which was my plan and hope. In addition to the rewards system, the students had requested on the pretest that we move more quickly through our weekly playing assignments. They indicated that we were spending too much time on certain pieces (which I did because they were not practicing enough and thusly were not ready to move on). On Thursday I assigned two new pieces in their band books. I spent the entire Monday class rehearsing the pieces and doing my best to make sure the kids understood the rhythms, pitches, and finger positions.

Thursday came (we only have band class twice a week) and I told the students we would be warming up, reviewing the two pieces, and beginning the playing test. “But Mr. Bruno, we’ve only had a week to work on these songs! We can’t play them yet!”  “But,” I told them, “you all said that we needed to move on, and not spend so much time on the same songs.”

After the dust settled on he final playing test only two students had received band coupons and only half of the entire class earned the required points to receive a star on the board. They were crushed.

I explained that the band coupons and the possibility of a party at the end of the year where meant to be REWARDS, not something they would get for showing up and giving it a good try. I told them that I wanted them to all to get the 1 dollar coupon every week, but that they would have to EARN it through practice.  It seemed to be a real wake up call for some of the students. I just hope to see evidence of better practice habits next week.

            I began this year’s foray into inquiry with a pretest regarding student practice, that my CIG designed. Upon reading the results I learned several things about my students. One, they are not practicing enough. I knew that already, but I now have written proof. Two, they felt that some kind of reward system would motivate them to practice more. I hate this idea, as a musician, because I feel that improving your skills should be the ultimate motivational tool. But, my goal is to motivate students to practice more and I will do what I have to. Three, many indicated that they wanted to be “pushed” more and “challenged” more.

            After taking some notes, I spent the next class period going over the results of the pretest with the students. We discussed each question, the results, and what those results mean in terms of improving the collective motivation of the class. The two points we discussed at length were the rewards system and the class’s desire to be challenged from week to week.

            At the end of class I talked to the students about inquiry. I told them that I would like them to form a line of inquiry that we could use to serve as the basis for a research project about student motivation and inspiration. I gave them some examples of inquiry questions, and after several suggestions we settled on one that I thought appropriate for our class, “How will giving us rewards for practice make us better at playing our instruments?” I revised the language slightly and we are now operating under the following inquiry question, “How will implementing a proficiency rewards system impact individual student practice habits?”

            Our next step will be to define the particulars of the rewards system and implement the system into our weekly routine.

Quote #4: “Inquiry requires teachers and students alike to take up multiple roles and responsibilities within and across classroom activities.”

 I don’t think you could sum it up much better than that. I feel like this quote speaks to what collaborative inquiry is all about….moving away from the practice of teachers standing in front of a room and spooning out information that the students are expected to regurgitate, and toward a classroom setting in which teachers lead, but the division of power is such that students are able to assume that role when appropriate and promote peer teaching and self learning.

That said I find the goal this year extremely interesting. Taking group inquiry into the classroom is one thing, but giving students the reigns to shape and mold the line of inquiry, even create it themselves, is quite the other. Relinquishing power in this manner, even for the most liberal of teachers, is a bit scary. Then again, I guess it’s the logical next step.

With regard to my particular CIG, the discussion question that I kept coming back to when I read through these ideas was “What ‘problems’ to you encounter with your students that could stimulate a shared inquiry as an active quest?” Our CIG is centered around this question. We want to find out why so many students refuse to practice their craft outside of a classroom setting. We also want to learn their motivation for taking an arts class (to fit in, to create art/music, to get an easy A) and how we can motivate them further.

For the second reading I chose to read “The Creative Music Strategy, A Seven-Step Instructional Model” and was pleased with the content. Not only did I find it helpful and insightful, I was able to relate to and connect with the material being presented. Last year the Yellow CIG designed a unit of collaborate inquiry in which the students would be part of a large scale travelling art project. The students of music teachers in the CIG were charged with composing music to accompany the visual artistic works. To that point in my teaching career I had conducted basic composition lessons with my classes but nothing on the level that we had discussed for the project. As such, I sat down and brainstormed some ideas on how to create a unit that would teach the students about the elements of composition, while insuring that they were able to creatively engage in group composition that could be recorded and used in the project. The list that I came up with was staggeringly similar to the seven steps listed in this essay.

The first step, “Springboard for the Strategy” was the first thing our CIG decided upon. Earth Day became our theme. Step two, “Develop an open-ended musical question” was my first lesson. I spent the period discussing the history of earth day and the elements of composition, and in doing so had the students develop questions to accompany the lesson. Step three, “Large-group brainstorm” was the natural third step. Let the students dig in and give it a try. Doing it on a large scale allowed students to give and receive ideas without the fear of giving an “incorrect answer”. I somewhat skipped step four, “Personal Exploration” because my students created their compositions as a group, not as individuals. Students were placed in smaller groups to allow for additional rhythms and melodies but not to the level of individual students. In that sense, we kind of skipped to step five, “Small-group planned improvisation”. Once the students had created the parts of the composition and agreed upon the form we moved to step six, “Record for Reflection”. And when the project was complete we were able to reflect upon our pieces not only as single entities but as par t of the entire travelling art project.

I enjoyed this article because it not only gave me some new ideas for future composition lessons but it also lent credibility to the lesson I had already planned. This article outlined a much more comprehensive look at creative music making, but the process was very close to the model that I had already created. I really look forward to conducting this lesson again and adding the strategies mentioned in this article that I overlooked the first time.

I wanted to share with my fellow AE these 2 videos made by a group of students in Art 1. These are the responses of this particular group to the inquiry question; How can we re-tell the story of our school?

I would appreciate your feedback, especially any help with editing out the sound noise on the final rap video.

 

Preview of Sunshine video:

http://vimeo.com/33917005

 

THE Sunshine Video:

http://vimeo.com/33917437

 

 

 

Please check out my classroom blog, it contains photos and a short video.

http://uhsvisualarts.blogspot.com

On November 17, 2011 the Art 1 students of UHS held an exhibition of their current works. Teachers, parents and administrators were invited and light refreshments served.

I was delighted with the enthusiasm of these art students as they selected and displayed their work. This was an excellent formative assessment for me as we are 1/2 way through the course. I can see much more clearly how far we have come and in what direction I am interested in us going. What a great experience. Feeling grateful for the position I am currently placed.

Adolescent Themes and Contemporary Art Practice  Hafeli, Mary      Art Education; Mar 2008; 61, 2; ProQuest Education Journals
pg. 59

additionally:
Shifting the Curriculum: Decentralization in the Art Education Experience   May, Heidi
ART EDUCATION May 2011; 64, 3  pg.33

As I reflect on my classroom experiences since my first post, I am struck by the shift that has taken place. The statement that Heidi May makes in her article on page 39 might have been made by any observer in my classroom this week.

“There is potential for the art teacher to become a facilitator of critical inquiry among active participants, encouraging multiple viewpoints, within a curricular model that invites self-reflective practices.”

Since my last post was an actual practice about to take place in my classroom, it only seems righ to follow up with what has transpired since. A timeline might be the most expedient method to describe what has taken place.

October 20-23 I attended the Keynote address: “Dedicated to an Unfinished Artmaking Practice” by Sidney Walker at the PAEA in Gettysburg. In this presentation I saw student artists re-telling the story of the newly renovated Library on their campus. This gave me an idea for my Art 1 classes. It seemed most timely, since our school is under going renovations right now.

Week of October 24-28

  • Watched with students the “Identity” episode on Art 21 (PBS)
  • Facilitated brainstorming session on the “story of our school”
    • What stories we tell
    • What stories others tell
    • What is the “official story?
    • What story would you re-tell? would your imaginary/mythical self image be a part of it?
  • Full choice of media, collaborative partners, installation spaces (with administrative permission), etc…
  • Each group/individual shared their ideas with the whole group-other students asked questions and offered suggestions and ideas began taking more shape. Many students were encouraged by Kerry James Marshall (from Art 21) and his description of an artwork going through its ugly phase before it became the final product.
  • Studio Bulletin board Collaboration-this idea came from another keynote at PAEA “Classrooms Dedicated to Conveying Pedagogy” by James Rees where he showed us the classrooms of many highly effective art teachers.

Week of 1October 31-11/4 Media exploration

  • Facilitated an exploration of creative videos, PowerPoints, slideshows, stop motion, etc from the internet, including Boyerstown”s Art is My Life Advocacy video (also seen at the PAEA)
  • Use of technologies such as projectors’, cameras and various editing software made available thanks to ArtsEducator 2.0
  • Plaster craft for sculpting
  • Some projects beginning to take shape
  • Also, some students felt inspired by the plaster craft and began making sculptures of their choosing not related to the “re-telling” project.

Week of  November 7-11

  • Midterm essay (in PSSA format) each student given a passage about one of the 4 Art 21 artists with the following prompt: Read the passage provided. Explain ways in which an artist may attempt to re-tell the story of a place, an idea, an everyday object or interaction. Use at least two examples from the passage to support your explanation. overall, I was pleased with the paragraphs, they demonstrated an understanding of the concept.
  • I, as studio facilitator brought in an artwork I had done which was similar to the last work that they had created (A likeness of themselves as an imaginary mythical creature-see previous post). I then told the mythology behind my artwork (in a bit of a dramatic fashion). Art students then created a Spark page, which was the story of their mythological self. I explained their mythological self and its story needed to be in a form ready for exhibition by November 14, as artists always have deadlines and usually they are related to an exhibition.
  • Began creating invitations to the “The Untold Story of Us” Art 1 Art exhibit which will take place in our art space during parent/teacher conferences (November 14). At this exhibit all the re-telling projects will be presented in whatever state of readiness they may be. As well as other works that student artists have created during the 1st 9 weeks.

This week coming up we will be busy preparing for the show, which will include refreshments and musical entertainment. I hope a few parents come. We get notoriously few who attend at our school.

I have a sense of awe about the re-telling stories in general. I purposely did not steer them to take a positive spin on our situation at our school, which can be quite negative. But, all their projects do have a positive leaning. To say to a kid, “If you could have people start to think of your school in a new way, what would it be? If you could re-tell the story of this place in some small way, how would you?” and they take it seriously. I don’t think they even doubted that it would be possible. I am very inspired by them!

As I reflect on what has been happening I am struck by the way the art space has become exciting and  collaborative. The periods go by quickly with students questioning, trying, failing, trying again. Asking me questions, and I encouraging or asking questions right back. Any “downtime” also seems to be productive as it involves conversations with their groups, or sketching, or working on a side project completely student directed.

I so related to Hafeli’s statement  on page 11 of her article, that we need to “direct our gaze more locally to focus on our own art worlds going on in our art classrooms.” Sometimes I doubt myself, that maybe I am giving the student artist too much credit. After all, some of them are only 14 and this is the first high school art class they have ever had. Yet, they truly are sophisticated beyond what I was at 14, surely due to this visual culture all around us. Where every other TV commercial is a work of art. And Youtube videos are watched for hours and admired for their message, absurdity, or technical skill. Yet, I am  I feeling a sense of comfort in this role. After all, I have been teaching for 12 years under the philosophy borrowed from Picasso, that all children are artists, and my job is to help them not forget this when they grow up.

I believe the most important point in this article is summed up at the end when the author says, “..until art teachers consider students’ ideas and experiences as valid content – on par with those of artists “out there”- we are at risk of operating under dated assumptions about what constitutes authentic and contemporary studio practice.”
The article lays out a very smooth scenario based on one student’s artistic process and behavior through journal reflection. Although it’s portrayed with an idealistic tone, for example the students seem to be older and more mature and they have computer and internet access making it easier for them to independently research and remain intrinsically motivated, I do think that teachers need to constantly remind themselves or make it a point to listen to students. Basing lessons and projects around things that inspire or relate to them should be a main focus in the classroom.
This article allowed me to reflect on my own approaches in the classroom. Typically behavior is an issue, leaving me always on edge with giving the students “too much down time”. I also find myself shortening reflection and journal writing time more and more because I am nervous that my students aren’t actually thinking about what I want them to. But is that such a bad thing? What if they are instead thinking about a conversation they had with their friend at lunch that’s way more interesting to them than, ‘How does weather make you feel?’ or ‘If you could have one super power what would it be?’. I don’t know any teacher who wouldn’t want to tap into something that would motivate a student more or enhance their learning. It’s figuring out the balance of when to step in to guide and when to trust that a student will make a discovery on their own that is challenging me. Art is just as much a social subject as it is physically creating. Of course art class can’t just be gossip hour, but perhaps more often a time when students can find a way to channel what will naturally be on their mind and using that for deeper learning, expression, and motivation.

June 2017
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