Project Proposals

About halfway through last year, I switched to a choice based model of Art Ed or what many call “TAB” or Teaching for Artistic Behavior.  This means that the students are in control of what they make, rather than the teacher.  If you want more information on this movement, I suggest you check out their website, the yahoo group, TAB-Choice Art Ed and this article by TAB educator, Nan Hathaway   (I will warn you, this article has caused controversy, but I think it paints a pretty good picture of why a lot of teachers have switched).  I thought about it for about two years before making the jump but now that I have, I really like it.  It does however, come with many new challenges.  One thing I am working on is that my kids really love the “scribble stage” of studios or basically that point where you experiment and go all out with reckless abandon.  Who wouldn’t love that…but this year, I wanted them to start thinking more.  Our vision is all about thinking and problem solving.  Though experimentation is important, I wanted to push them further.  In a conversation with the high school teacher in my district, she brought up that she sometimes uses pre-planning worksheets for her regular projects.  She talked about having them do a thumbnail sketch and answer a few questions before getting started.  She e-mailed me her template but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for so I started looking around Pinterest and the TAB yahoo group.  Finally, I came across this worksheet that was made by Nan, the same woman who wrote the article above.

Project Proposal Form

I decided to have students use this before getting started in their choice studio.  I also started giving them unit challenges.  That way, there would be a plan and a purpose.  My Unit 1 Challenge was based on the book “Not a Stick” by Antoinette Portis.  Last week was the students’ introduction to this new system and, as expected, it was met with mixed reviews.  The kids didn’t love the extra paperwork they were being expected to do, but I do think it gave them a bit of an opportunity to think through their work before getting started.  Below is an example of a proposal from a sixth grade student.


That last part is what I fill out as I look at them to let them know if this is a solid plan or if they need to do some work.  He doesn’t have quite everything in the right spot but for his first one, this is pretty good.  Not all were quite that thought out, so I want to keep encouraging kids to go into more detail.  I think if I were to re-do the sheet myself, I would have them draw their project first, then think about materials, and after that match them to a studio.  On this particular sheet, studios come first so I think the kids think about where they like to work rather than what they are making.  So, we’ll be having talk about how to choose your studio(s) next time we do it I think or designing projects to fit the studio you want to work in.  Also, his idea was one from the book (although, knowing this kid he may have come up with it anyway…) so I also want to be encouraging students to think bigger and with even more of their own investments and personal style in mind.

Choice is such a new process to me and there are so many variables, that I think every year will be a bit of an experiment.  Hopefully with this method, I am pushing at least most of the kids to put a bit of thought into their work!


The Many Faces of Mona

We all know that teaching is a tough job.  It is hard work that comes with many stresses. In the end the reward is great, but sometimes it’s tough to see on a daily basis.  In order to keep myself sane and crack a few smiles on the faces of those silly little children that walk through my door every day, I like to do a little something that puts a personal touch in the room once in a while.  My subject, Mona.

Mona picstitchShe gets dressed up for holidays, seasons, testing, and any other excuse I can think of.  Above are a few examples of Mona from last year.  There is no real reason for doing it other than it makes me happy and it makes my kids happy, which therefore, makes it absolutely worth it.  I highly recommend finding a way to put a smile on your face each day.  Whether it be Mona or grumpy cat (yes, I now have this as a poster in my classroom…) the more you have fun, the more enjoyable you will find your job. Grumpy Cat

October’s a tough month people, go into it prepared.

P.S. If it’s one of those days where you are really struggling to find the joy, just watch Kid President.  That boy is amazing.


I figured before I share anything else, I better share the guiding force behind the workings of my classroom.  That way, you have a clear foundation for what my students and I are aiming toward in the coming year.


So, there it is folks.  It is a work in progress every year, always being tweaked and changed to share a better picture of what I want my kids to really take away from their time in my room.  As you can see, this year I went with the theme of, “Be in your right mind!” (even though they decided to put out new research about the holistic functioning of the brain like a day after I put this up…darn scientists. Anyway…) Since switching to TAB, my focus has really turned away from product and is very much grounded in planning and process.  I just want my kids to believe that they have really cool ideas. Because they do. And it’s awesome.

“In art class, we will be in our RIGHT MINDS!” We will create original works of art with confidence but we will know that art is not only about making things.  It is about learning how to think in new ways and explore new solutions to problems both big and small.  In art class we show respect to each other, to our space, and to our time because we know that to waste time means to waste our potential and no one in their right mind would risk that!”

I have contemplated adding, “We will be able to lead ourselves and will take ownership of our minds and actions”  to the end. Like I said, it is ever-changing.

This student friendly version was whittled down from this document outlining the nuts and bolts of what it is I want my students to be able to do and say.  2013-2014 Vision

As an added bonus, I really love the overall picture for humanities classes that Jacob outlined this year.  His thoughtfulness and holistic approach has been really inspiring to my vision and the content I plan to teach in my classroom this year.  See part of his humanities vision below!

As Humanities teachers, we cultivate students who are…

… confident participants in their cultural and historical context that can articulate and explain the significance of their own as well as others’ identities and believe in their voice within their community, state, nation, and world.

… creative thinkers that can express their own thoughts and ideas in new and original forms, arguing and advocating for their own perspectives. They make decisions that demonstrate strong intellectual opinions, expressing their unique point of view.

… critical thinkers that can problem-solve around challenges and mistakes, and can make deep analytical statements. They uncover the implicit themes, arguments, and ideas within and across cultures, texts, artworks, performance pieces, or languages, and determine how – and why – these are being conveyed.

… life-long scholars that express constant curiosity about the world and people around them. They hunger for continued growth, seeking opportunities that further their development, challenging themselves, taking risks, generating original and creative ideas, demonstrating outstanding technical skills, and learning from mistakes.