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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.

My new group of students are – shall we say, challenging. When I saw the group I was working with, I thought twice about my planned project. When I did, I decided to approach it in a different way. Instead of saying, “This is what you are going to do,” I said, “I think we should cheat on the social studies project.” Their response was immediate – they were actually paying attention!

Every year the 7th graders have to make and present a project about an assigned memorial or museum in Washington DC. Some of the students don’t get to go on the field trip to DC, so they get very resentful about doing a project on the subject. Often, they fail the 9 weeks because of their refusal to do the exploration project that is to be completed at home. So, I decided that this would be my inquiry project. I would give them the tools, they would research and make the project in collaboration.

I gave them examples of different applications on the iPad, different web tools, and examples of ways to present. They have been going fool tilt ever since. They have found ways to use the tools that I did not know existed, of course, so I am learning from them. Yeah!


iPad – PuppetPals HD comic life, Popplet, Kromath3


Popplet, Moviemaker

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.

I just found a great article with ideas and apps for assessments.

So, Are They Really Learning?

So, I think they are learning, but how do we evaluate this? I’m really looking for understanding of plot, character, setting, and literary devises. How about comparing Romeo and Juliet to a more modern take off? I decided to have them view West Side Story. While watching, they fill out a comparison analysis sheet. It is very simple, lists of the characters of Romeo and Juliet, the setting, and main plot ideas. All they have to do is put the comparison down next to it. Example – Romeo is now Tony. Verona is now the streets of New York City. Now the Independent learning part – They are heading up the discussion during the movie – they are arguing about who is who and why they should believe them. They are providing the proof from plot ideas, character analysis! Oh, yeah! They even started discussing the slang used in the 60’s like the difficult language of Shakespeare and what it means today. Of course, there are still a couple of stars that don’t want to play with us, but the rest are finally ignoring them and pushing on with what they want to do. Now, to push the independent learning further – what next for these last couple of weeks of the 9 weeks???

Do You See the Light?

Well, I think I do see the light at the end of this very long tunnel! Acting out Romeo and Juliet was pretty traumatic for some of the students. Of course it is difficult to read, especially if you have a hard time reading on grade level. But, we pushed on with my 4 stars refusing to shine. Once we read through it once, and I was sure they understood the plot, we moved on to video. This gave the students who refused to participate so far a chance to actually do something. I offered to let them do the taping. I purchased a new ipad tripod mount and this let more students see what was actually being taped.

As we continued, I added the green screen technology with the Kromath3 app. Now the kids were dying to see how they looked in the camera. I was getting more and more participation.  We would review the “daily’s” and the students would self evaluate – and discuss how things could improve.   More actors were giving it some character and increased volume. They were beginning to come up with ideas for new backgrounds for the green screen! Yeah – they cared about learning!

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. 



Today, we started our work session discussing our progress to date. It seems that some of us are in a stall with the blog. I shared the experience that with my High School Orchestra students, about one third of them are “heavy posters” on or Fiddle File blog. The students who respond to prompts are the ones who have now begun posting topics for discussion.
The wiki is drawing some interesting exchanges. One of the HS freshman posted this last week:

Myelin Sheath

Feb 22, 2012 11:49 am
SK – I’m reading a book right now and it is very interesting. The book is called the Talent Code. It has to do with the statement “you can do whatever you put your mind to”. In the book it is scientifically proven that this quote is true, this all has to do with myelin sheath. The revolution of myelin sheath is built on three simple facts. (1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons- a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become. This is related to anything we want to become good at and of course… ties into perfect practice. Here is a video of myelin just to give you a slight visual and if you are interested in this subject, check out the book Talent Code.

re: Myelin Sheath
Feb 22, 2012 12:01 pm
ZZ – Very interesting! I thought you make very strong points in your 3 facts. I also strongly agree with you in that practice makes perfect

re: Myelin Sheath
AMC – Feb 22, 2012 6:28 pm
I partly agree with you, but I also partly disagree. I want to change your statement to PERFECT Practice makes Perfect. This is because if you practice the wrong way, then your movements become more fluent, but you are playing the wrong way.

re: Myelin Sheath
TT – Friday, 1:10 pm
“Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown.”

I’ve been moving through art history recently in my teaching, we’ve dreamed with Rousseau blending with oil pastels, Now we have been looking at self portraits while discovering facial proportions… trying to teach a child to draw what they see is a much harder then it sounds. I was pretty impressed with the results of many of my students. Students in grades k-2 created their self portraits in one class period and colored with skin tone crayons as well as regular crayons. I will be finishing up self portraits next week for grades 3-5, I wanted to hit value and shading with my students…If anyone has any effective way of teaching this I would like your input…These self portraits are jumping off points for more student centered inqury in which I would like to highlight Picasso, cubism, and possibly collage. Creativity with the younger students (k-2) seems to escape me and by the end of this CIG meeting or at least this weekend I would like to plan/frame my lesson . I’m looking for resources and ideas and I am welcoming suggestions.

September 2020

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