About Evergreen Art
Teaching elementary art is a grand experiment for my kids and me. Although I've been an educator for over twenty years, (grades two through six, a smattering of sixth grade band, a bit of administration, and a couple of years of substitute teaching in all kinds of settings) this is only the second year I've had the pleasure of teaching art full time. The position is in a well-designed little elementary school that uses a dual language model. Half of each child's day is taught in Spanish and half in English. It's an exciting place to be - enthusiastic, beautifully educated teachers, top notch professional development (much of it shared by professionals on staff), and a wider learning community of families who are devoted to the success of their children.
Our team of "specialists" includes library, music, physical education, and art. The schedule is designed in such a way as to provide each class a forty minute session (we do two days in a row with each of our classes in a 4-way rotation) during which their teacher has some planning time. Essentially, the cycle takes eight days and I see my first group again. Our school is Pre-K - 5, but specialists see K-5 each day.
When I first took over the program I used a fairly traditional model - whole class instruction with everyone working on the same project - for about three weeks before I started searching for an alternative. I've always taught thematically, used integration to weave the arts through the content areas, and required a high level of responsibility on the part of the student for his or her learning, so stumbling across TAB - Teaching Artistic Behavior was perfect timing. I found a Yahoo TAB list, blogs by experienced professionals in the field, and lots of related sites that support all my favorite bag of tricks: differentiation, inquiry, choice, and student-centered learning.
Following the guidance of the experts who have used TAB in their classroom for years, I began slowly, with a single drawing center. I began offering a short (five to seven minute) mini-lesson at the beginning of each class period on topics related to our standards. I was deliberate and direct about the reasons for setting up our own work stations and cleaning up with care. As I added each new center (painting, collage, 3-D construction, printing, and fiber arts) students gained more control over the media they wanted to work with as well as the scope of their own projects. It's an amazing amount of work and I'm busier than a professional cat herder with allergies, but the quality of work our artists are creating gives us joy. Students choose what they would like to display in our public areas, write thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) artist statements, and are intensely proud of the results of their labor.
If you're curious about some of these processes, feel free to follow the links you'll find on the top menu bar beneath, "Resources." I trust you'll find them as intriguing and helpful as I have. Enjoy!