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Half Past Summer

I have just spent a glorious day sifting through photographs from the past two years of TAB instruction in my classroom. In addition to being part of the natural cycle of reflection, sorting and filing photos of artists at work helps me to focus on improvements that need to be made in our art studio. In a traditional art program one would find benchmarks and references to projects in textbooks or teacher-made folders of projects. Lesson plans could be collected and consulted and standards and benchmarks would inform the art-making over the space of a year. By contrast, the studios at Evergreen Elementary reflect the kinds of artistic expression that begin with children. Artwork is generated by students who answer their artistic questions by exploring a variety of media and technique. Each clearly designated studio offers up menus of techniques that have been covered in tightly constructed demo lessons at the beginning of class periods. Menus might include lists of necessary materials for a watercolorist, short examples of line and texture for drawing, illustrations that detail how to warp and weave on a small loom, or details about how to attach materials to each other in a 3D construction center. The idea is to offer collective wisdom on the walls in such a way that inspiration is easily accessible. Menus, in tandem with the powerful influence of previous artwork from fellow students on display, offer concrete support for artists as they grow and create. They also help classroom volunteers and visitors negotiate the complexity of a TAB studio. Since this is a dual language school, I make sure that text is available in both English and Spanish.

From the collage center - how about a hat?From the collage center - how about a hat? One of the ideas that was shared this summer on the TAB list (thanks, Anne!) was to include a binder in each studio with ideas specific to that particular media. As a dedicated constructivist, I work hard to avoid providing examples of adult work for children. Rather, I prefer to share information about techniques and let children define their own process and product so that they don't spend their art time trying to makeHmmmm - something in a princess look?Hmmmm - something in a princess look? their artwork look like mine. Watching children who enthusiastically share special techniques they've discovered is a joy and it doesn't take long before the value of sharing is seen as a great tool by creative artists. Student artists are much like their adult counterparts - they'll find something interesting, replicate it carefully a couple of times and then change or add to the technique to make it their own. In a school that practices cooperative learning, innovation is celebrated. One of my primary teaching goals is to nurture the sharing and the support only found in a healthy cooperative group.

Now THIS is a hat!Now THIS is a hat!A binder of examples from other children is a grand idea and should lead to a wide variety of approaches to media. I've gone through my files to find examples of technique and am thrilled with the diversity the photographs show. I'll use my Open Office word processor (this is a Linux/open source household) to share the photos and some text with children and then drop the pages into plastic sleeve protectors. We'll add to the collection, of course, and I'll spend some time with my short artist friends linking our binders to a sort of pictorial brainstorming tool for them to use.

My new hip is just about ready for prime time and I'm itching to get into my classroom to begin getting things organized. I can't wait for school to start again! There it lies - squeeky clean and just waiting for short artists and a new year.  I can't wait!There it lies - squeeky clean and just waiting for short artists and a new year. I can't wait!

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