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!


Diagnostics and Tracking

Soooooo I HATED the idea of testing and tracking elementary students’ work my first few years in teaching. I refused. I was told I had to. I whined about it. (500 students, how am I supposed to track 500 students?!?!? And a diagnostic in art? Please, I see them once a week. I am not wasting my time giving a test.)  I was a pain. But, I’m going to tell you a secret. This year, I did it voluntarily.  Whaaaaat? I know.

If we go back on over to my Things to Consider Fixing list, you will notice that I wanted to be better at returning work and having the kiddos more aware of their progress.  Which means…I need to be aware of their progress. Like, solidly.  So, I buckled down and created a skills-based diagnostic and stole some individual trackers from the great Jacob Carroll, that I altered to meet my needs, and voila, a system is underway.  I figured I would share a few of my new documents and systems with you in case you too have been a skeptic and need a little boost to get started.

So first, the diagnostic(s)


Third Grade Diagnostic

For my first day, I gave these to the kids after I went over expectations.  But then I realized that did not work and they left a ton blank (which you can see in the tracker later).  So, I switched up my game plan and decided to give it to them as Do Nows over the course of the first month.  I had the third graders do the drawings on their own and then read through the bottom 3 questions.  For the 4th-6th graders I had them do page 1 on week 1, page 2, week 2 and will continue on with that next week.  I was hoping to have them out of the way sooner but this seems to be a more effective way to get actual answers so I’ll go with it…

Once they have all of the questions done, I will go through and grade them, recording each skill in my classroom tracker.  I use a pretty basic one that I just manually do all kinds of stuff to because that is what works for me (see below) but there is also one found at that is really wonderful if you like the visuals.

2013-2014 Tracker1

After that, I am having the kids record their diagnostic score (3rd is only recording their drawing level which is based on this cognitive growth rubric 2011.ECEArt.CognitiveGrowthRubric and 4th-6th will be the actual number of points they got correct on the test) on the top section of their personal growth tracker which is stapled into their portfolio.


Stuff is given back to them through this little system that I developed (student helpers pass out the papers in their teacher’s clip) and progress is recorded once a month as a Do Now.


Finally, they will also use these personal trackers to keep tabs on their project scores once we get started with TAB stuff and will take the same test I gave at the beginning of the year as a summative so they can see how (hopefully) awesome they are growth wise!

Phew. That was a lot. But hopefully a good look at how I am tackling a widely misunderstood but helpful-once-you-use-it classroom strategy.