But here's the thing - some of us are 'helicopter art teachers' and might not even realize it. (I'm sure you know someone like this) So - in case YOU are a helicopter art teacher, I want to give you some things to think about.
First, a little disclaimer: This is not a TAB post. If that's what you came here expecting to find, you may want to look somewhere else. But I'd love it if you'd stay!
I'll start with the story of a student, a sweet but immature 5th grade boy whose baby-like behavior kept him from forming many friendships; he was an easy target. In 5th grade, students were working on a surreal perspective hallway. Windows and/or doors were to be cut open with X-acto knives (after a demo on usage and safety), and then magazine images were added to create surreal elements. The boy told me that he wasn't allowed to use a knife. He told me his mother still cut all his food. I knew he was a Boy Scout, but when I asked, he told me he wasn't even allowed to use a jackknife in scouting. I knew he had an obsessively hovering overprotective mom, and an IEP, so I decided, after a discussion with the special ed chair, that since it was only a few quick cuts, I would just do them for him so he could move on to complete the project.
(*warning!*) that the students were frequently getting out of their seats to get what they need. *An aside here - since this means the kids were often walking with scissors, my rule was this: 'points down, hands around'. And obviously no running in the art room, ever. We chanted the 'scissor rap' together, with hand motions. The kids knew that the was the only way they were allowed to walk with a scissors was with their hand wrapped around the point.
Certainly you can (and should) set parameters. For example, while doing collage projects, I might have put all the materials on the counter. Or while weaving, all the yarn might have been in bins on the round table. Or while doing a painting using many pre-mixed colors (such as in this recent post), I might put a large tray with all the pre-mixed colors of paint on the round table. Students could get up, get ONE color (or ball of yarn), or THREE collage items, and bring them to their table. When they needed a new color or yarn, they'd have to return one color, and exchange it for another. Or when they needed more collage materials, they'd simply get up and get three more. All scraps were immediately placed in the recycle box.
Now, on to the topic (which I have talked about before, particularly in this post written August 2010). The topic is the use of tracers/templates/stencils. Now I'm NOT going to say there is never a time and place to use a tracer; I'd be wrong. In particular, I have used tracers for geometric shapes (I often use everything from bottle caps to rolls of tape as circle tracers), and occasionally to serve as specific means, when the shape might have been incidental to the product. And I know some of you, particularly those with 30 minute classes, are working with serious time constraints, and need to find ways to get things done very quickly. What I however DO object to is the use of tracers in lieu of a child's drawing because 'it will look better'. What if the 3rd grade child below had used a tracer for her magnificent elephant, and if everyone in the class had also used elephant tracers? They would have lost the absolute magic of each piece of artwork being an original child's interpretation.
|grade 2 texture monster|
For the two dragons below, made by 3rd graders with tin foil, clear contact paper, and Sharpie markers, we began by brainstorming and writing on the white board what kind of features a dragon might have, and why. Is it going to fly? Then it might need wings. And so on. In the end, each dragon was created based on the unique vision of the artist who designed it, rather than a bunch of matching dragon shapes designed by me and simply filled in like coloring books. (To see more of the dragons created during this lesson, with a description of the process used, look here.)
Again, for the 2nd grade 'texture creature' on the left below, or the 3rd grade alien portrait on the right, we brainstormed the many possibilities. And in the end, each student had a unique product. To see more work from either of these projects, or the kindergarten one below, follow these links: texture fauves, alien portraits, blob monsters.
below, kindergarten 'blob monster'
6th grade, or plaster bandage, or sculpture, or people in motion, or people in action. You'll find them through various searches!!
My point is this: we should offer students the opportunity to become independent thinkers. We need to let them gain a level of independence to make them confident about their work, and less dependent on copying or tracing that of someone else. We need to prevent ourselves from being helicopter art teachers, hovering over our students and making all their decisions for them. Sometimes, yes, they will fail. And that, broadly, is the topic of my next post. Until then, I hope everything goes swimmingly well!
|grade 2 texture shark|