Sunday, September 18, 2011

6th grade Passports

My 6th graders are an odd "in between". As of 2 years ago, they are no longer considered elementary; they are now part of the middle school (which is pretty simple in my school, since we are all in one building). Even though they are now "middle school" for most else, they still have art class and music class with the elementary art teacher (me) and the elementary music teacher. They are scheduled just as they were for elementary art - two 40 minute classes in a 6 day cycle.
But now I have to put a number grade on their report card, which is a real challenge. We tend to do rather large projects in 6th grade, and so I don't have much completed when grading time comes around, since over a 10 week marking period I may have seen them 15 times. So my solution was to use the passports for grading.

They had a set of requirements (yup, written on a BLACKBOARD) for getting the best grade for their passports. They will have a similar list for every project they do. They know their grades are based on following directions, completing their work as required, using best craftsmanship, using materials appropriately, cleaning up their messes, positive attitude, participating in class, and using best effort. I suppose this should all be on a rubric, but since they are only a small part of my student load, I feel I have to leave it a little open-ended because of the time it takes to grade. Maybe the person who becomes the next art teacher will have a better idea, a better way.
We assemble the passport with "half holes" punched on the spine of the pages. The pages and cover are stacked together open, and a rubber band is threaded from the center of the book, up through the holes, and a cut-off meat skewer gets slid through the ends of the rubber bands on the outside, as you can see on the passport below. You could sub string or yarn for the rubber band, and a pencil or a twig or a drink stir stick for the skewer. It's such an easy construction and works so well!

I like to always give the kids ways to earn extra points - so I have given them the opportunity to add a picture - they may bring in a photo, or draw their own. Last year a couple of kids did humorous drawing of themselves that were a wonderfully creative solution.

When each project is done, the passport is filled out first by the student, then written in by me, and finally assigned a letter grade and a "stamp". I convert the letters to numbers to average at the end of the marking period.

I must admit, I was terribly spoiled by last year's 6th grade. These kids radiated, they sparkled, and I swear you could see the creative genius bubbling over. They are the kids whose altered books I showed you last year, plus their tooling foil African inspired masks, and especially their plaster bandage sculptures of people in motion. They are an immensely talented group of children, smart, without any snarky attitude or chips on their shoulders. This year's 6th grade however is different. They are also sweet, loveable kids, with lots of enthusiasm, but they lack the creative "zip" of last year's group, and they struggle academically. They think they are doing a fabulous job on their passports; I do not. I think their lettering is slopppy but boy are they trying hard. I am going to have to pull back my expectations a little, and then I think they will shine. They all LOVE art. Anyhow, the passports are just the beginning. The kids could come a long way this year, right?


  1. I just checked my own post and I don't like the new way you see photos when you click on them in blogger. You used to click on the photo and enlarge it; now it doesn't enlarge as far for you to see the details. Now you can scroll through all the photos on the post rather than viewing them one at a time. I preferred the old way. How about you?

  2. Hmmm. When did this start?? I, too, prefer the old way. But once I noticed that you can close the enlarged picture window with the X in upper right corner to go back to the blog text, I didn't mind the new way so much.

  3. I know every group is so different. As long as they don't have the attitude you can still do a lot with them. The attitude groups you always have to win over with "cool" projects which are not messy usually and no fun. It's hard to adjust after a fabulous group though!

  4. I like your passport idea, Phyl, especially the way you assemble the books! I may try combining this with what I already do, by having them glue their rubric and grade sheet inside. Teaching is always a "work in progress" for me!!

  5. Glad you like them, TeachKidsArt. Putting the rubric in is a great idea; I just don't feel like I have the time.

  6. I noticed sloppy lettering as my older students began designing their portfolios this year so I revamped my plan and started off the year teaching block lettering styles and variations. Took care of that problem!
    Now we're working on designing a graffiti wall.