The care and feeding of a website is a big, lovey, terrifying, time gluttonizing thing. My friendly neighborhood geek in residence added the capability to add to the "articles" link above today. To celebrate, I'm posting a couple of planning aids I use. Lesson planning has come up frequently in conversation lately on the TAB Yahoo Groups list. They consist of a list of Washington State arts standards linked to individual studios in my classroom and a list of possible/probable/potential mini-lessons for a studio like mine. Feel free to ask questions if you have them!
If you're one of the lucky souls who can't tell the difference between playing and working, you'll know exactly what this post is talking about. If you're not, stop by for a visit. I'll share some of the short people that make this place such a hoot.
1) Kinderpeople have the coolest hats.It's not just that they're cute and five (or six) and wearing something endearingly kid-like. It's that they are still brave enough to know that a silly hat is a GOOD thing and, if they've made it themselves, a badge of doublecoolness that simply doesn't require any explanation. (Note: if written in "kid" doublecoolness would be replaced by "awesome!!!" Yes. Three exclamation marks ARE required and yes - it's an all- purpose term in serious vogue right now and is to be used for general cool stuff, store-bought school lunches, Spiderman logo anythings, and reviews of any current kid movies.)
2) People notice when you're gone.I am rarely sick, due to the cumulative accumulation of antibodies that living in close proximity to 500 of one's closest friends affords me. This week was a (thankfully) rare exception as I spent last weekend and most of the week home being a poor patient. When I came back, little people and big ones alike made me feel really welcome.
3) My kids know the difference!I had the world's best sub this week - one of those saints of our profession who, by her very presence creates little ripples of beautifully behaved children in her wake. Kids stand a little taller for her, form into gently polite lines, and simply beam in the glow of her steady love. She retired last year and subs for us "just to keep busy." This sweet tornado swept into my room, looked at my plans and chose "Plan B. - in lieu of the nutty intensity of TAB Central, you're welcome to let the students draw a topic of their choice or to use your favorite art lesson." When I heaped praise on their heads (because of the flood of post-it notes she left insisting I do so) they smiled and said, "Yes, we were good, but we're glad you're back. We did coloring sheets yesterday and marched and sang cool songs but today we want to do ART!"
4) If there's anything sillier than fifth graders early in the morning, I'd like to know about it.We meet for art club on Thursday mornings at 0'dark-thirty. The number of kids varies between just a few to a table full and they're responsible for getting themselves there on their own. A few have a sweet parent who drops them off on their way to work but several of them walk. They come for the long span of unfettered art time, for the conversation with kids from other classes, and for the giggles. Appropriate giggle topics are legion: silly parent tricks, video games I'm good at, alien clay trophies (think mighty hunter den,) Hannah Montana (soooo last year,) NFL teams that want me, my new fashion statement (catch the tie outside the t-shirt outside the white dress shirt) do you like my (insert description of artwork here)?, NBA teams that want me, my new fashion statement (neat color statement, huh?) head banging puppets (this one bears a classmate's name) my gigglegiggle clay gigglegiggle!
5) The wisdom of the artists in this studio humbles me.Today's best example came in response to my explanation to a first grade class about why subs do other things when the art teacher is absent. I'd just finished the part about the noble art teacher coming in early to get things ready for class every day when a fully indignant (see his arms folded defiantly across his chest?) first grader pipes up, "But Ms. J. We do our OWN set up and clean up. Didn't you tell her?" I love it. He owns the independent artist thing! (And I won't bother him with any drudgy old details about what art teachers do to set the stage for that independence. Shhhhh.)
6) Visitors.We have a university student who's absorbing the art of teaching from the fifth grade team. Eva is energetic, curious, and loves playing with art and kids. She comes by to talk teaching, lichens, nudibranchs (google them - you'll love the images) and school. It's refreshing to see my profession through her eyes and I love the way she interacts with the kids.
To be continued...
Better than the anticipation, happier than we were when school let out for the summer, cooler by far than we remembered, the first set of artists hit the studios. Finally. Kids are a little strange the first week or two, because the shoes are all so new (and clean!), the school clothes all match, and there's enough happily nervous energy to start our own wind farm. Since it's been a while since I "looped" to the next grade with a group of kids, I'd forgotten how lovely it is to begin on day one with familiarity. One of my first graders, trooping in with his class on their first day stated loudly, "Hey! I KNOW you!" I laughed but understood. He was in a different classroom, the kids in his room had been shuffled and there was a new teacher guiding him down the hallway. Here, though, in the art room, something was the same. He doesn't know that I'm even more pleased about that than he could possibly be.
Two questions were repeated, class after class throughout the week. "Where's all our stuff?" Hmmm. I might need to rethink the earlier plan to slowly, patiently re-introduce our centers. I was amazed at the number of kids who hit the doorway with plans for what their first projects were going to be. The silly art teacher had the idea that the centers needed full intros just like last year's first year of using choice. I'll see what I can do about adding more centers when I go in on Sunday. I'm eager to get more things going, too, so I'll work on some streamlined instructions and depend on my students to remember the details and share with our new kids.
The second question (surprise, surprise....) was, "What did you do with the snake?" They were equally startled with the news that I'd taken Jezebel home over the summer as they were the fact that I don't actually live in my art room all the time. It's a little like the shock of a small face when we bump intoeach other in the aisle at the grocery store. Mz. J! You buy food!?! I promised the return of the boa next week, of course. Several kids said they couldn't wait to see if she'd grown for their already planned drawings.
I'm tickled to hear how many of them drew all summer long. They're bringing in sketches they're proud of and making valiant attempts to introduce me to characters from their video games. Children don't really believe me when I tell them there are no video games in my home and that I don't know their favorite cartoon characters on a first name basis. It's a great excuse for me to encourage lots of drawings and stories so that I can be cooler in my old age. The topic of censorship has already come up, too. In giving direction for decorating their portfolios for the year, I asked for artwork that, "wouldn't embarrass your grandmother, wouldn't frighten the principal, and wouldn't hurt someone else's feelings." With the exception of some grandmas who shall remain nameless that list covers most things. Sure enough, a couple of characters from mythology appeared on folders to the accompaniment of the classic, "Ahummmmm- he's making a ____, Ms. J!" We applied the standards, checked to see if the pictures were within bounds, and decided that they could stay. Kid wisdom - you can't beat it.
Quandaries for upcoming weeks include:
- How do I convince first grade D that her pictures are wonderful so she'll stop shopping around for another child to decorate her portfolio?
- How will we get by without the back-ordered heavier construction paper that we need for painting?
- What is the best system for assessment that balances the need for work to display in the hallway with the urge to take everything home to adorn the fridge?
We'll just have to see what magic this week brings!