Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In the Artroom: A Starry Night Collage and Thoughts on Teaching Art

Friends, Ima be honest with you. I've been in a funk. It started with a sinus-y head cold that morphed into no-energy-itis which developed into a bad case of nobody-likes-me, everybody-hates-me, I'm-just-gonna-sit-over-here-and-pout. I have blamed my cold and lack of energy for my bad attitude but, if I'm being truly honest, there have actually been a couple things eating away at my thoughts. And one of them has been teaching art.
So here's the deal: I recently joined a group on Facebook called "Art Teachers". And it's pretty rad, interacting with art educators, seeing the work of their students, hearing their struggles and successes. But there have also been some, um, debates. It seems that there are two camps of art teachers out there: those that teach choice-based art and, well, those that don't.

Now before I go tip-toeing into a land mine (because those aforementioned debates have gotten very feisty), lemme first say that I am not a choice-based art teacher. Nor do I know very much about the concept although I am intrigued. From my understanding, in a choice-based art room, children are allowed to work with their chosen art media to express their ideas. In a nutshell.

Here's what I love about the idea: children creating art based on their own individual interests and inspirations. In a choice-based art room, the kids are routinely introduced to new media and allowed to explore their ideas with that new material. Or they can use whatever other supplies that have been introduced throughout the year. It sounds so happy and harmonious and free. In my imagination, it looks like a college art studio filled with little people sculpting, painting and weaving their little hearts out.

But here's the thing that bothers me: a music teacher wouldn't simply show a child a room full of musical instruments, teach them a couple of the basics and tell them to then make music. Not without first teaching them all that there is to know about playing, writing and composing a piece, not to mention introducing them to both classical and contemporary composers. Because without those fundamentals, I imagine children would simply bang on the instruments, grow bored and lose interest. Is it possible the same might happen in an art room? I don't know.

I've heard the argument that if you, as an art teacher, know what the end product of a lesson is going to look like, then the work of art is your own and not your students. This really really made me question how I teach. Am I doing a disservice to my students? Am I robbing them of their creativity and exploration? Is this Starry Night/collage/painting/weaving project recently created by 1st grade actually harming the creative exploration of my students?
 Again, I don't know.

What I do know is that, like a classroom teacher giving a test to check for hitting benchmarks and understanding, I can see that my students learned the following (side note: each "Day" is a 30 minute art class. Yes, 30-super-short/very-precious minutes):

Day #1: How to mix a shade of blue with black and blue. How to use a variety of brush strokes and lines to show movement in their sky like our inspirational artist, Vincent van Gogh. How to paint the secondary color green and create a texture onto that paper.

Day #2: How to create a landscape collage by tearing the green paper and creating a foreground, middle ground and back ground. How to create a paper loom for weaving.
Day #3: How to weave. How to use collage to create a house by cutting out geometric shapes from recycled pieces of paper. 
Day #4: How to add a star to my piece (see this post on how we marbled these stars) and have it tell a story in your work of art. Is it a shooting star? A falling star? An explosion of color? What can you think of?
Day #5: How to add that house to the landscape and add other elements of their choosing to that landscape. How to brainstorm ideas for their work of art (what can go in the background? a dog house? a neighborhood? trees?).

(Houses about half finished...still working out ideas for the background and the shooting star.)

Knowing that they have learned all of this, is this lesson a bad one? I like to think not. My students surpassed my notion of what their completed piece would look like by adding animals, trees, dog houses, houses in the distance, moons, curtains in the window, you name it.
But I did have a notion what their finished work of art would look like.
Which again, brings me back to where I started. Sigh. 

Look, I've been teaching art for a very long time (this is my 16th year, time seriously does fly!) and I'm not even going to pretend I've got the answers or even a flipping clue. And I think those folks that do think they have all the answers are just fools. Or maybe cowards that are too afraid to question what they've always done. I mean, shouldn't we always be looking to do what is best for our students?

So, I ask you, honestly, what are your thoughts?

And, if I've offended anyone, choice-based or not, that was not my intention. Thanks, ya'll.

68 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, I don't have an answer for this. I fall somewhere in between! (FYI, I'm a classroom teacher that teaches art, not an art teacher, bc we don't have those 'round here...) In Canadian kindergartens, which are younger then yours, I think, we have the free-for-all approach, and it woks really really well... but we don't have the same kind of assessment goals that older grades have. In older grades, I try to teach a skill, give time to practice, then work to a set goal, then have time to experiment. I've never once done an art project as complicated as yours though, and I think it's great for kids to see the multi-step, multi-media approach that you take! In the end, my goal is always to teach kids to love learning. if they get excited about history or art or whatever I'm teaching, then I figure they can learn facts and more complex skills later on!

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    1. Thank you so much for your input! I love and agree with what you said: "my goal is always to teach kids to love learning". That too is my top priority! Thank you for reminding me :)

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    2. When my students leave my room and ask if they will have art again the next day... and if when I tell them no and the response is disappointment I have done a good job. I love leaving them hungry for more. I have been teaching 28 years and I am with you...If students are excited, interested, love learning and are willing and wanting to engage in the process then I am not so sure the recipe is all that important

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  2. I totes feel what you are saying. I agree with what you wrote completely. Here's the thing...how do adults learn to paint, sculpt, weld, throw pots, etc better? They take a class or read books or watch videos to learn how to do those things. If I signed up for an adult/college art class and it was all DIY and then let's talk about it I would feel disappointed. I learn best by watching someone do the technique and practice it. So what it not every thing I do is going to be a masterpiece completely of my own inspiration. Some of it is simply exercise and skill building. It's after you learn all these skills that you can take your artwork further. Within my projects I always allow choices and allow kids to take different directions. They also have plenty of "free art" time when they finish early. However, I respect the philosophy of choice based art education and I know some teachers do it very well. For my own sanity and limited space I don't feel like I could teach all the skills to all the kids if everyone was doing something different. What really upset me from the thread (and subsequent threads) was art teachers (on both sides) being so devisive and condescending about different philosophies of teaching art. It made me feel like a bad teacher and really we are all trying our best and face enough flack as teachers from the general public. It makes me not want to post on the group because whatever I post I know some people will judge me. On top of that, we all came from different backgrounds (my whole art schooling K-12) was very similar to how I teach and I have numerous classmates that ended up in arts related fields or even art teachers, so this style of teaching could not have stifled our creativity too much. Thanks for writing this. I've been thinking about this a lot too and was too chicken to write about it!

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    1. Thank you. I love what YOU wrote. What I didn't like about all that chatter was the negativity. No one has ALL the answers. I'm sorry. And it's not helpful to act as though you do. Like you said, we are all trying to do our best for the kids. I'm curious...as folks from both sides should be. I think for me, it will have to be a happy medium. Thanks for your comment, it means a lot!

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  3. Thanks Cassie. I agree completely. I just realized there were a lot of grammar errors in that comment. That always happens when I type on my tablet!

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    1. Oh girl, grammar is not my friend. No worries!

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  4. Sounds like a very colorful controversy, and you seem to have outlined both sides of the issue well. I don't teach art, and I don't really make visual art very often, but I have been learning a new-to-me art form for the past two years: swing dancing. In that activity, you find some people who primarily want to express themselves, not worry about technique and do as the spirit moves them. That's cool, but I don't identify with their perspective at all. I feel that I need to learn at least the basic structure and some elements of technique and theory to even begin to have anything to express through movement. In addition to dance classes and workshops, I am also taking an online Jazz Appreciation course through edX, and all of these things are expanding my thinking and possibilities exponentially. As an art student way back in elementary and middle school, I felt quite panicky when I was asked to create art without being given some kind of framework. The constraints were, paradoxically, freeing and inspiring. I read about the projects you do with your students and I think that art students of any age could enjoy and learn from doing them. Honestly, I'm quite jealous of your students!

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    1. You are sweet. I agree, I STILL panic when I'm in some sort of art clinic and I'm just expect to "create something" -- what?! What do you mean?? Gimme some ideas, puh-lease! Is that because I'm a product of being given parameters? Or is it just human nature to want a little guidance...like a little seed that can grow? I don't know. I'm willing to try new ideas to find out though!

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  5. I think that in order to teach all the different ideas of "ART", you sometimes have to use or blend the two approaches. Switching from High School (all independent work) to Elementary school this year (with 30 min. every 4 days), I've had to change my approach. we have done some projects that look sort of like the one above that have more "strict" guidelines taking the students through the processes. What I am always pushing for in EVERY lesson, though, is that students are making their own choices about the images one their paper. if it's an animal lesson, everyone picks the animal. if we are making a landscape/scene, everyone does their own buildings/trees/animals. If we are making prints, they choose the images they will make. There is a tension in be between letting them do whatever they want, and needing to teach them skills, but in my personal teaching style, I like to take the emphasis off skills. I want to know what narrative they are representing in their image, and I want it to be meaningful to them. I want to see how they can visually communicate with me, and with others in a way that words sometimes cannot. These are the skills they will take with them, even if they don't remember what the primary and secondary colors are. I absolutely HATE to have them do anything where they are not making most of the choices, either about colors, shapes, images or SOMETHING. the only think I usually choose for them is the materials.

    Thinking about something I heard about recipes, in order to make it your own, you have to have 3 unique ingredients. I try to keep that philosophy and make room for students to make at least 3 big choices about what their art looks like when it's finished.

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    1. Oh, I love the recipe analogy!! Thank you, that is great, definitely going to remember that one!!

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  6. Anonymous2/26/2014

    I am part of the art group you mentioned. I completely understand what you are feeling. Your paragraph, "I've heard the argument that if you, as an art teacher, know what the end product of a lesson is going to look like, then the work of art is your own and not your students. This really really made me question how I teach. Am I doing a disservice to my students? Am I robbing them of their creativity and exploration? " is something I am grappling with myself as I explore more and more into choice and seeing how I can blend it into my program.

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one!! I think questioning what we do is how we grow, don't you? Let's start a support group ;)

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  7. Nice post Cassie. It is my 34th year in the classroom and I still have this conversation with myself! I think that most of us would like to be able to be more choice-based but for me reality gets in the way. Most days my little room feels like Grand Central Station with the 40 classes on my schedule! My students really thrive on having some guidance in their work - so many of them have very limited experience outside of my classroom. I try to provide experiences with multiple mediums and teach lots of techniques that can build their skills and excitement for creating art. I love your Starry Night project and try to plan similar experiences that pack a lot into one project - my time with students is so limited that every lesson has to incorporate multiple standards. My state is piloting arts testing (which will become mandated next year) so I am afraid we are headed to an even more regimented curriculum!

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    1. Testing, NOOOOOOO. That is just so wrong. I'm so sorry! Can we not just have one class where the kids can be free from the shadow of testing? Where those kids who do poorly on tests (like i always did) can just be free from it? Boo, so sorry, sistah.

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  8. I've dabbled in choice based this year because it was presented to me as an advance in art education. Perhaps I'm not doing it right, but what I've found is that when I give the power to my students they do not have the magical art adventure you'd expect. They do get bored after trying everything and I hear a lot of "is there anything else I can do? I'm bored". I also see a lot of students fail to take art class seriously with choice based. They think that's it's just playtime and they see my lack of direction in materials as an okay to not listen to the other project directions. Again, I've done this without guidance and in a few classes, but I have not been impressed with the results.

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    1. Beth! Thank you for sharing your side of things. I used to do centers in my room...and that was my experience as well. I had children bounce from center to center without focus or creating anything more than scribbles. It really saddened me and left my room a wreck. Of course, I was just tiptoeing into centers and shut it down shortly after that experience...sigh.

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  9. So many things come into play with choice based art. I guess I have never really done it and I have taught K-12. Now, with that being said. How in the world would you approach all of this? Seems like you would need more space, materials and independent thinkers. Hmm. Sounds chaotic for the children who struggle in art; sounds amazing for the students who excel. I have offered choice based art on a free art day that the kids get to earn. Some run right for the table they want and don't budge, while others skip around. I'm okay with that. I think choice based art is definitely for someone who has been taught how to use all of the supplies because only then will they have the base they need to mix it up to personalize it for them. I, for one, will not feel guilty:) If they need to be more free in their creativity I know I gave them the tools to do so. Most of the creative, artistic kids continue with their creativity when they get home anyway. Or, they are the ones who ask if they can change an assignment. To this I always say yes because I want them to explore the options within my lesson. I feel like I'm rambling. Last point, I also think open ended assignments are a good substitute for choice based because you are letting them choose their own subjects, ideas, etc. and you are continually encouraging individuality.

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    1. Thanks, Amy. I really think I would need to see a successful program in action before I would ever be bold enough to give it a go.

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  10. You are truly one of the most talented teachers! You inspire all of your students every single day and they learn so much!! I have had many students who want to be an art teacher like Ms.Stephens one day!! You amaze me with what you can accomplish with them in thirty minutes!! Keep rocking it sweet friend!!!

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  11. Gosh I have so much to say but typing on my phone...so lets see how far I get. I have my masters from Kean University in art Ed. The program is run my Dr. Joseph Amorino, who brings his expertice from Columbia U. I give you this background so you can do some research if curious.
    Both programs are under the philosophy of a child centered art educatuon which perhaps is a similie of terms for choice based art education. What it definitly is, is the opposite from DBAE (diciplinary based art ed)
    . The main difference is the introduction of the art history componant. In this method, it comes after the child has made the art. Now the question that you're thinking is how do you get the results you want? I'm going to use your example above of Vincent's Starry night. Technique is taufht quite similarly but instead of comparing the brush stroke for example like the painting, a major component is dualogue based on the students life experiences. Much like how the artist himself is projecting wind, we discussthe experience of wind the student has had. What did it feel like? What did yiu see around you?What happens to the environment yyou're in? How do the leaves react? What shapes or likes could you describe as them making? Etc. We build the conversation based on their responces..then we use that, give thwm materials like paint and paper and say "can you show me with color shape line value texture (ie. The elements and principles which are always being discussed to describe their work and in art history like any other art class) how you can make wind and have someone else experience your wind theough your artwork?
    Each technique is taught with this type of que. Perhaps a day for each as you had. Now the student is encouraged to use all the techniques learned to create a scene of a memory they've had expressing wind around them. At thia point there has been so much conversation, you've touch apon perhaps around their house or in town or in a city and perhaps at night with a brifht sky filled with stars bc again you prompt and move the conversation throufh class discussions o ver the past couple days...mqking each technique connect to a memory of their. They make art and THEN we would introduce Starry Night and have a discussion of similarities and co ntrasts from his toul their work both in technique using the elements and principles but also in image and experiences. What is Vincent trying to show us and have us experience...etc.
    Conclusion to my explination of the philosophy in a nutshell...oka very large nut! But it is two years worth of my masters program summerized..lol.

    Now I'm a middle school art teacher in NJ and have in the past taught elementary as well. Practice of the philosophy in real life is what I try to teach by but I'm not saying I dont adapt and teach a lesson sometimes like you do or meld together the two. I have to take what I was taught as wekk as what I've observed from other teacher and add in my state standards, admin and supervisor expectations als well as curriculum and even what parent and student expectations and I get the formula of hiw I teach. Sometimes ill feel out a class qnd since I'm teaching the same lesson numerous times a day, I might teach it differently and reflect in my journal the various outcomes. My teaching has a way of being fluid. Always experimenting on how I can make my teaching better where the studend gets what she or he needs to learn while expressing themselves as an artist and making a memory out of the art making peocess itself.

    I hope I've added to this conversation. I look forward to reading other responces and even collavorating on ideas. Again I apologise on the millenia of typos!!!! My thumbs are killing me.

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    1. Stephanie, I'm not an art teacher, but that techinique sounds really interesting. Thank you for presenting another side :)

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    2. I found this interesting as well. I have always introduced the famous artists work first. Discussed in some what the same manner as this. I think I am intrigued by this method!
      Thanks for posting!!!
      Christy

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  12. Love you and your way of thinking! I've been in the same funk since our state conference . 1. I am not a fan of the site even though I am a member....too much negativity . 2. There is too much copy work in elementary art created by teachers that do not have clear teaching objectives. 3. Technique needs to be taught at the elementary level. 4. Students need to have a time to express themselves in a stress free environment . I can't add more since my iPad is fighting with my spelling tonight!

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    1. Thank you, Beth! I'm glad I wasn't the only one that kinda felt funky after the debates on FB. I even thought of quitting the group...but then I wondered if it was my own objection to change that was making me upset. But I agree with your points as well :)

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  13. Here's what I know for sure....that I never had the kind of art instruction you give, Cassie, and while growing up I always wished I did. I saw techniques like you teach and wish I could do them , but didn't know where to start so I WOULDN'T start. I've watched you teach...and if I could be ANY teacher of ANY school where I have worked...it would be YOU and it's all because of how you teach. You walk in every day a walking example of creativity and "discipline" - you do the work you want them to do throughout your entire life giving permission to those kids who feel that longing in their soul to do the same but might be afraid to try. You tell them "hey - I'm doing it - look how fun this is - try it !" And you better believe I notice the attitudes of kids in art classes in other schools compared to the attitudes of kids in your art classes. Yours are so much more courageous and willing to try the things you teach. Like I said..I never had this kind of instruction until I started taking art classes in college - and it was very HARD for me to loosen up by then and find my own creative flow - because I had so few experiences to draw upon...I hadn't been encouraged to try new materials - new methods - because the goal in my public school art classes had been to do things a very certain way to end up with a very specific product. I had one art professor who you very much remind me of...she wore hand knit sweaters....she wore vintage skirts and the coolest lace up boots I have ever seen ..and she wore her hair in a long braid down her back most days that was horribly "out of fashion" on anyone but her. I started dressing more to my own personal style after that class. I started carrying a blank notebook to jot ideas like she did. In addition to all the specific techniques she taught - she also exposed us to so many artists I had never heard of - she took us to different museums and made us seriously critique very unusual art - she took us to Chicago and my life was changed seeing work of the Masters. I truly believe that teaching kids different processes helps creativity - because just knowing so many different ways to do something - is freeing. If you could only see my art room table right now due to the book study we are doing.- I have new types of graphite - pastels - watercolor crayons - paper strewn about - I bought MORE ink - I"ve been mixing materials and trying different methods. I've been TRYING things. I used to think when I worked with young children that it was better to just put out materials and see what kids would do with them. But I don't think that anymore. .I think that makes many kids freeze up. I think there are more kids who see techniques and art and they really want to know .."How did you DO that ?". . I think when they only know a few ways to do something - they are more likely to just quit and throw it out when it doesn't turn out how they picture it in their head. I compare it to how I feel about that whole camp of teachers who believe in "invented spelling". I will never forget doing a mini internship in a room when the kids were required to write stories - but the teacher refused to answer children who asked how to spell specific words instead saying over and over "just use your invented spelling " I saw kids put down their pencils out of frustration - they saw print every day and knew there was a right and wrong way to spell words. They had things to say and wanted to be sure others could read it ! I tend to think a whole lot of kids are the same way about art. They have things they want to create - but without more instruction in technique - they start feeling they are wasting their time and they give up - and what do you have then ? A society where almost every adult you stop on the street and ask to draw something will look you in the eye and say "I can't draw".

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    1. I so agree with you about the fact that they first need to feel that they can do it before some have the courage to explore all that they can do. I know that after I teach the gird method and I have many that successfully draw for the first time it gives them the courage and push to do more. Plus I love reminding them, "Remember when you told me you couldn't draw and then you did with the grid?" Sometimes we need a foundation to be the launching pad for exploration.

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    2. Cynthia, thank you for your amazing comment. And your kind words. I think I'm very much like you in the creativity realm, I need guidance or I'm just simply stumped. I need an idea, a foundation (Oh, it's Hat Day? And we're learning about Japan? Okay, I'll make a Sushi Hat!) to get me motivated to create. Just "paint a picture" doesn't do it for me. Which is another reason the book club has been great, it offers guidance, materials and an idea. I loved what you wrote, I'm gonna have to read it again and again :)

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  14. I totally feel you!!!! I feel the same way...I feel like I'm limiting my kids, not really being a creative teacher, and trying to be to much of a control freak for not allowing full choice based art in my art classroom. I also struggle with the fact that while I'm certified in art, I do not hold a degree in art (my degree is in Secondary ED Social Studies...which makes me feel like a poser). So in my search for more info about this subject I came across this great blog http://awakened-artist.blogspot.com/ by Kateri Tolo. After reading her blog I sent her this email to ask a few questions...here is just some of the email:
    So I've been thinking a lot about switching over to a choice-based classroom but I have to be honest...it freaks me out a bit!
    I teach 9-12 grade art in a small school. I am blessed to have small classes, I have a cap at 18. But my kids do not get any art till they get to me. There is no art in any of the lower levels and many of the kids I get have no idea of even the primary colors!
    I do get to pretty much do what I want when it comes to my curriculum. I teach an Art 1- an intro to the Elements and Principles of art, Art 2- an expansion of art 1 with more choice and input from the student as far as project direction medium, Art 3 which is a pottery class, and a Fine Art class.
    This semester I'm teaching Art 1 and 2 only and they are mixed. I teach on a block schedule, have an amazing new classroom, and a lot of support from my administrators.
    I guess looking at your classroom, organization, and centers really have inspired me but I'm still not sure how this would work in my classroom??
    I want this and think that this summer will be a time to really try and make it work. What would you recommend to get me started?
    How do you asses your kids when they are all working on different projects?
    Doesn't this require a LOT more work for you...like multiple rubrics, etc?
    How do you deal with the students that really don't want to do the work and just try to "get by"???
    How do you create lesson plans when you have no clue what the students will choose?
    I have to create SLT's...right now mine is focused on the Elements and Principles. Do you have these how does it work with this?
    Part 1 of 2 :)

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  15. Part 2 of 2 :)
    She was super great and sent this reply:
    First of all, I am so happy to hear that TAB is catching people's interest around the country. I have been so happy to find so many resources that allow me to discover myself as a teacher. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have stuck with it these last couple of years!
    I want to also recommend that you read the two TAB books that are out there.
    Engaging Learners Through Artmaking
    The Learner Directed Classroom
    I bought these on Amazon and read through them during the time I set up my studio center classroom. They were amazing and answered just about every question I had about the TAB method.
    I also want to say that I have found that I have been able to take the ideas from these books and blend them with the ways that I already do things. I usually started off the year with a kind of "project" in the drawing center to get my kids into the mode of planning, organizing materials, engaging in their work, and FINISHING something. I wanted to transition their thought process as well as the classroom because I knew they wouldn't be used to so many choices. They each got to select an animal that they wanted to draw from the still life area and got to choose whatever media from the drawing center to complete the drawing (markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc.). I did a similar thing with my 4th grade class by letting them paint a picture of their favorite part of the summer.
    You, of course, have a different age range than I do. I don't have to grade children based on their artwork, but only on their behavior. I know that in the TAB Yahoo group there are a lot of teachers that have experience with this age range and with grading their students. You can join the group by emailing them at tab-choicearted-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
    However, I do want kids to reflect on their work. I have a little section on my blog that address how I do this. http://awakened-artist.blogspot.com/2013/10/art-assessment.html . You could probably create something that allows students to do this in a more comprehensive manner.
    As for the kids that aren't usually motivated... I find that kids usually get motivated when they have the option to try new things. Students can bring their laptops to class to obtain images for drawing. I introduce a new center every other class period ( I have mine once a week). If I see that a center is being neglected I try and bring out a new material to spark interest again ( I just introduced calligraphy pens and ink to the drawing center for some classes.) Ha, I find that there are some kids who try to "get by" no matter what we do in art, so I do the best I can with them and don't stress out about it too much.
    I teach in a private school, so there is not as much paperwork required on my part. I also have 450 students' work to keep track of, so I am grateful for that. Really, I think that you can find ways to work choice into your own style. You will design your own classroom that is unique to your school and your students. You will find things that work for you.
    I am sorry if there are any questions I haven't fully answered, let me know if there are more specific things you would like to know. But seriously, if you get those books and read through them and make notes, it will clear up a lot of confusion and make the whole thing seem more clear. Also, there are a lot of resources and Pinterest pages that have studio center menus (signs) that you could borrow from so you don't have to start from scratch. A lot of things in my classroom are someone else's brilliant idea!
    Good luck!
    So SUPER SORRY that was so long (and had to be put in two comments!!! haha) but I thought it may help. A choice based classroom is something that I'm going to look at more over the summer and it just may happen in my classroom next year, but in some way that works for me and my kids.

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    1. Wow, how kind of her to write you back!! And thank you so much for sharing this, I'm so intrigued. I'll definitely be checking out the blog you mentioned. Because that's the kind of thing I need: ideas, resources, an understanding! Thank you :)

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  16. I started teaching in 1998, and had never heard of TAB at the time. I started reading about it when I returned to teaching in 2010 after staying home with my children for awhile. I like the idea of teaching kids to think like artists, but, um, I just don't get how it works, really. I think I would need to be in a classroom. My high school art teacher had probably never heard of TAB, either, but he was always talking about not stifling our creativity. His "philosophy" was: Here are the supplies, go make something, but be quiet about it. I certainly didn't learn to think like an artist or anything else, really. I realize that he wasn't a TAB teacher, but, first reading about it certainly made me think of that. I attended a presentation on TAB from someone who was just starting out in TAB, an didn't have a lot of information, really. I would like to learn more about it over the next year, though, maybe some at NAEA.

    I also think about the amount of paper and other materials that are wasted when I let students have free draw. I just don't think it would work for me. (And, I hope that I haven't offended any TAB teachers, because, yes, that discussion was rough.) I do feel that I give students many choices within certain parameters, more on some projects than others. I also want students to experience many techniques and media. I wonder if there are very many students who never do one particular thing. I also just wonder how much crazier it would be than I already feel like my art room is. I am really just rambling now. Good points. It is always good to rethink how you teach.

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    1. Oh yes, I want to attend some sessions at NAEA as well. We should go together! (okay, that made me sound like a total dork). This is slightly off topic, but you mentioned free draw paper waste. I recently go this idea from Art Teachers Hate Glitter: pick up a dozen of those cheapo dry erase boards at walmart (mine were about $3 each). When my kids have even 5 minutes, they have been using the "dry erase board free draw" with my drawing books and they think it's the best thing EVER. AND they've yet to complain about erasing away their drawing at the end of class. Now I'm rambling!! Thank you for your comment -- I think your high school teacher was not TAB just kinda burnt out!

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    2. We SHOULD go together! Once they release the app for the conference, we can decide which ones sound most interesting/informative. You are my art teacher clothing hero, though I am more of a t-shirt and jeans kinda gal. I bought dry erase boards for the same purpose (though you can buy shower board at Lowe's, have them cut it to size, and get much more for your money,) but, they really killed the dry erase markers, too. For free draw, I pull paper that is good on one side (goose) from the recycling bin for my students to use, so at least it isn't costing me anything.

      Back on topic, I just joined the TAB yahoo group to learn a bit more.

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  17. This is why I love you! I've kept myself completely out of that thread on Facebook, because I just get tired of arguing,arguing, arguing. I'll admit that I'm older than most of the participants in that thread, and have way less sophisticated an education. (My 1970's college education was what I call a 'hippie education', with education texts such as - and I'm not making this up - 'Teaching as a Subversive Activity'. I learned very little jargon and educational philosophy, and I was permanently certified to teach art in NY State K-12 with 36 grad hours and no masters degree. And my grad hours were not all following a single thread. But I digress.)

    But anyhow - I think, after 36 successful years in the classroom, including every level from K-12 at some point in my career, my experience counts for as much as all the degrees and training and whatnot. So here's what I think. I think it's fine and dandy that this choice stuff works for some people, but it would not work for me, nor would it work easily in a school environment such as mine. Not to say I don't have choice in my classroom, but the choices are within the parameters of my assignment. So when my 6th graders build plaster bandage sculptures of people in motion, they all followed the same basic proportion and structure guideline for building the body. They all followed the same rules about how a person bends and moves. But what their person was doing, and how it was embellished was up to the individual artist, so there were ninjas and ballerinas ,and a scuba diver and a hiker, a weight lifter and a cheerleader, etc. That's choice enough for me. I could give a zillion more examples, but I think you get it.

    Nowadays, in many states, with new regulations and assessment responsibilities, choice based education such as TAB seems like it would be exceptionally difficult to manage. How do you do assessment rubrics or create any other sort of assessment tool when everyone has done their own thing? How do you explain to parents and administration that everyone is not learning the same basic info? How do prove your value as a teacher? How do you manage the materials? The cleanup? We are expected to develop curriculums. How do you do that?

    Am I making sense? Your lesson to me seems to have been educationally very rich. The kids learned a lot, and had a lot of choice within the parameters you set. The finished products are not all identical. But you can display them in a unified exhibit, and say what the kids have learned. And the kids can use the various skills they have learned and build on them in subsequent lessons.

    I love the music education analogy, and heck, you make similar comparisons with any other discipline. How in the world do you teach phys ed if one group wants to play basketball while another group is doing gymnastics and another group is doing calisthenics?

    I think you, and Marcia, and several other commenters have said it very well.

    One last thing - work your way out of this funk, sweetie, because I am so looking forward to spending some real time talking and sharing with you in San Diego!

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    1. Man, you are the best. Thank you for your thoughtful comment (as always, you are so good at leaving thoughtful comments!!). I do think I need to open up more choices...and I'm curious to attend some choice-based sessions in San Diego. But I'm more excited to get together with you! We need to set a day/time, pretty please!

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    2. Yes! Hey, are you going to sign up for the dinner/hat making thingy in Saturday night, that they sent us info about a day or two? I need to contact Rina and see what she thinks, since I'm staying at her home, so am at her mercy transportation-wise. But I attended the hat party in NYC two years ago with Erica and we had a blast!

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    3. Oh no, I missed the hat memo! I'd love to go, I'll look on the NAEA website for more details. Sounds fun. I didn't realize you were staying with our drawing buddy Rina!! How fun is that:) Oh, I'm getting super excited about san diego, yay!!

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  18. Hmm I, too, have been feeling the art teacher funk. I wonder if it is related to the core issue that art is so subjective and there are so many layers involved? As art teachers we work with huge challenges- space, time, supplies and on and on. I really think it is part of the creative process to have these ebbs and flows as both teachers and artists-everything really. I try and keep an open mind when it comes to approaches in teaching and I have done some choice based learning and to be honest most of the time it turns into a shit show. but I am not in a choice based environment. I have very high expectations for ALL my students- many of which are recent immigrants, homeless, etc and haven't had much exposure or experience to the arts. My goal is to make access to the arts an equalizer and I have to run a tight ship for that to happen. Most need that structure to feel safe. I do projects some integrated some theme oriented but I consistently remind them to make it their own and QUIT THROWING ERASERS UGH!! Cassie you are bringing experience, joy, and great inspiration to your students and to those of us who admire your posts. The individuality shows in their projects. Thank you for putting yourself out there for us and your students!

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    1. Okay, I love everything about your comment...but when you said "shit show" I totally laughed out loud. Thank you for your kind words. I had not thought of the "kids needing structure" side of things...especially for the little folks at your school that lack structure otherwise. Interesting point of view, thank ya!!

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  19. Wow! That got every bodies attention! First off gorgeous collages by your kids! Those are the stars that just keep giving! Let me start by saying more power to you, whatever style of teaching works for you and your students. Personally, I don't see myself as going the full out choice based route, there has to be some kind of structure. My students do get choices with in the parameters of our lessons, but just saying here are the supplies, decide what you want to do with them doesn't work for me. I work with kids K-5 ( and if you work with the same age you know...) they need direction! yes, they create some awesome pieces sometimes when left to their own creative choices but part of being a teacher is giving them direction so they can make those choices. Once in a while I will put different materials out and tell the classes to create, simply create. Some students do really well this this and some can't decide what to do and some waste the supplies goofing off...(sigh) Does it make me a bad teacher because I give structured directions? I don't think so. I even sometimes will give a tracer for something ( I know! The horror! ) I even have papers that I draw up and put into my activity center for the kids to color ( another horror for those you of you that think coloring books are an artistic travesty! ) Seriously, some kids just like to color, what's the big deal? I know there are some that will think that it doesn't give the kids enough " artistic freedom " but I make sure that there is always an artistic decision/choice the students have to make on their own. I'm sure this could be debated ( and is ) forever but we all know what works for us and our teaching situations. Look around your art room when your kids are working... Are they involved? Are they creating? Do they understand the art process they are using? Most importantly,are they having fun? If you can say yes then I say, " YAY!!! " for you and your kids! :)

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  20. I'm not an art teacher; just a simple homeschool mom, so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. The first thing I thought of as I read this blog post was that the great artists learned their art by copying the great artists who came before them. So is it technique first followed by creativity?

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  21. I totally agree with how you likened it to music, you can't make an informed choice if you don't know how to use what you choose. I love all the techniques you teach your classes and wish, as a classroom teacher, I had enough time to do the same with my class. I think I might let the children create a final, more free choice piece at the end of a topic after having learnt various techniques, perhaps that's the compromise between the two ways? A good teacher always questions what they do and how, you are a brilliant teacher, never forget that. I sometimes feel this job is an impossible one because there is no way somebody can do it perfectly. We just have to accept that but it's hard when you want to do it perfectly for the children. Evaluation not revaluation, a little at time.

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  22. I believe it is important to expose children to a wide variety of art materials, techniques, art styles, etc. Young kids and those with less "rounded" general backgrounds don't often have enough experiences from which to tap. For example, I recently introduced weaving to my fourth graders. Some of the boys (including some sporty types) became strongly passionate about their weaving experience. Without the deliberate exposure, they never would have tried it out. I'm not even sure that placing the weaving materials in a center would have enticed these boys on their own.
    I try to design projects and activities which lend themselves to a wide variety of personal expression - NOT cookie cutter art. As you and others have mentioned, Cassie, students (including adults) do crave for some guidance. Maintaining that fine balance between creative freedom/experimentation and guided instruction can be a very tricky one. Continually monitoring this and questioning observations will help move your art program forward.

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  23. Hey I'm am low, low down too! 18 years of teaching. I am not disappointed with my students, they are excited to create but with some administration they are taking the whole teacher evaluation to a point where it is basically breaking the spirt of the teacher. In Ohio, It seems that the role for our schools is to produce ROBOTS- teachers and students. How fitting for my space them. :(

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    1. That is my space theme. :)

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  24. Hi Cassie,

    I understand your mental debate. I am a 47 year old woman with a BA in art, about to get my certification to teach art full time. Currently, there is a focus to train upcoming art teachers to develop and understand what it means to offer a choice based classroom. In one sentence, let me say - it is all about balance. I do not think you can conduct your classroom in the "choice-based" style on a daily basis and offer your kids those learning experiences that simply require listening, following directions and seeing results - somewhat predictable results if they may. Choice based may be an option on occasion and I think vary in degree. Full blown choice looking like - pick a material and make something (Yikes! can you imagine the clean-up). Personal choice based maybe offering choices in a medium or two or three, color choices, paper orientation choices, subject matter choices. The problem I have found with giving students a full blown "choice-based" day is that some kids need focus and direction to perform. Most kids, especially elementary need boundaries and guidelines to perform confidently and safely within, and especially to feel successful. In the end, I think like my job as an art teacher is to provide a safe space for kids to explore, learn, make mistakes and feel good about the creative process.

    Questioning and reflecting on what we do as art teachers is valuable and everyone should evaluate what and how they are doing things. From an outsiders perspective, I can say that what I have seen from your blog postings and from your piece on the Art of Ed video conference, you are an outstanding teacher, who provides a rich and visually abundant environment for your students to work in - If you would have been my elementary art teacher - oh the places I would have gone! Seriously, you are one of the rock stars - know that.

    Just felt compelled to share those thoughts!!!

    P.S. Love your emails and those woven houses ala Van Gogh are super cute and filled with solid instruction plus creative choices and options.

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  25. As educators we are constantly constructing, adapting, and refining the learning environment for our students. Having a mental picture of how the end product is going to turn out does not strip students of their ability to be creative. Rather by giving parameters for the work it allows for creativity to happen. I like to think of the example of bringing a kid to an ice cream parlor with 50 flavors. You enter the velvet rope queue and say "Pick the ice cream flavor you'd like" and proceed to creep your way towards the case. It takes about 5 minutes and when you get to the counter the child still hasn't made a selection because there are just too many choices. However, if you say "They have chocolate swirl, peanut butter cup, strawberry cheesecake, and cookie dough today. Which one do you want?" the kid will be able to make a selection of HIS/HER choice. There is some great research to back this anecdote up about how narrowing the selection field can help students make choices. You are setting the parameters which allow for student success. I love reading your blog. I don't teach art but learn so much from your management routines, your enthusiasm, and passion for helping students express themselves. When an English teacher gives students the opportunity to write haiku poetry that is considered a creative expression. This despite the haiku form having very rigid rules. Keep doing what you're doing. You are exposing students to the methods and means of creativity they can then use elsewhere in their lives. And most importantly you are doing it in a way where they are successful. They remember that success of completing the project in a beautiful way. They remember choosing the colors for their houses, stars, etc. They remember being able to decide the placement of items. Those memories and many more are all pieces of the creativity they remember. I sincerely doubt any student (and that's who you're doing it for) would say you have stifled their creativity. As I said earlier... Please keep doing what you're doing.

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  26. I think each person has their own style of teaching and must constantly revisit and refresh their goals. What is my true purpose for teaching? What do I really want to focus on? What gets me and the students inspired? There are so many variables involved with teaching and they continually evolve. So how to know what is best for you and your students? I find when I am unsettled about my work or students, I have to give myself the time and space to journal, meditate, walk or whatever -to clear my mind of all those never ending thoughts!! When I am centered and come from the space of the heart, I am able to feel revitalized and more confident to make the best decisions. Not saying that there are never self-doubts or questions or that it is easy-it does take constant practice and effort and gratitude that I even have the opportunity to teach -but a routine (discipline) gives me a freedom to find joy and meaning on my journey 
    I love your blog, your creative style and classroom and your funny way of looking at things!
    I teach adults and kids and they definitely need some structure and guidance to stay interested and inspired.
    Just had to add...what is this universal thing about breaking apart and throwing erasers? I recently hid all mine for 2 weeks after sweeping up crumbles all over the table and floor-

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  27. Have you read anything about the development of "flow" states? (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the authority, has a nice TED talk online.) Very influential in the business-creatives world, where I was an building-type architect, and now I'm a mobile apps developer. I've taken lots of art/architecture/graphic design classes, and come from a musical family.

    The idea is getting 10,000 hours of "perfect practice" under your belt in order to then be able to execute creative work in a "flow" state - without getting distracted by details like counting out the notes of a chord, or remixing a color to match. The distinguished psychologist takes pains in his research to point out that any practice won't do, it needs to be done with "intention" for the brain to build meaningful connections. Also the 10K hours isn't something you can effectively shortcut. Childhood offers time to start accumulating those hours - it's much harder to adopt new practices under adult time pressures. I think the challenge any instructor faces is balancing requirements for intentional practice (dexterity exercises, assigned pieces, theory) with exposure to the great variety in any discipline that would vary the direction of intentional practice. I have found in my own life that good foundational skills transfer well to new directions. I don't think any direction is better than another to the student; except that a direction that **appeals to the teacher** will benefit from the teacher's passion for that subject.
    tl;dr: You're doing great. Teach what gives you joy, because joy itself inspires. Be not afraid. I'd put my kid in your class any day.

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  28. Okay, I am not an art teacher. Nor do I consider myself artistic. I AM creative. I believe there are people who are naturally very artistic and those who aren't and those who enjoy creating but need more guidelines to "help" them along. I do believe that no matter what your talent level that you need to learn basics. For those of us that enjoy creating but aren't especially gifted learning new techniques is a great way to start out and then build on what we've learned to create our own "spin". I've noticed that your students are really great at taking the same project and making it their own. Some of them are VERY talented and really detailed but ALL of them walk away with a project that they can be proud to say is "theirs"!
    If you were teaching college-age students then yes flower child sessions would be appropriate. But YOU are at the AMAZING stage of teaching them the basics and by doing so letting them feel the pride, joy, and awe that should be felt when you've created something! I think by having specific projects that you know will turn out you are instilling in them the love and appreciation of art just as much as you are teaching them how to create it. And those are lessons that will always be used in life whether one becomes the next Rembrandt or simply a housewife who dabbles in crafting. :)

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  29. I think there is a BIG difference between knowing what "the end product of a lesson is going to look like" and knowing that the end products are all going to look the same. Teaching step-by-step instructions is a great way to learn a new skill and leaving wiggle room for creative detours is what challenges the students to be more creative. The pictures you post are always extremely varied even though they are the same project. That is a mark of a creative classroom!

    There is a reason open studio is a classroom style usually reserved for college or advanced high school. You have to know the rules before you can break em'.

    -- artwithmsk

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  30. My motto is "Freedom Within A Framework". So we might be working on landscapes, with each artist choosing a different source photo for inspiration. We might all be working with oil pastels. And I might teach a few techniques for using those pastels, or about focal point, or warm and cool colors, etc. So I have some objectives for sure, but lots of freedom to make individual choices. I went to college in the early 70s, and I can tell you that all freedom does not a quality education make, even with adult learners. I've learned so much more from some structured opportunities- not cookie cutter, but classes with some clear objectives and a little direction from the instructor. And as students are given more skills and tools, they are given more ways to express their artistic vision and express their own ideas.

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  31. Secondary art teacher: What I believe, and what I tell me kids, is that when we are in the classroom I am teaching them to become consciously aware of the choices that they make when creating art. By doing this I am giving them the tools to later create work with purpose-choose methods and techniques that will help improve their vision. Each lesson is based on elements and principles, and I think that it's important for students to have an in depth understanding of all of them. This requires structure. Once they have those skills they can be creative and express themselves with their own work. I understand the concept behind 'un-schooling', but I think that for me personally, that doesn't work in a classroom setting with 25-35 kids, not all of whom *want* to be there. I am not saying I don't allow creativiity-the kids who excel in art already, or the kids with different visions of the project, are always welcome to approach me with new ideas and proposals for revision.

    This might change if I were teaching an advanced study, or AP course with High School. But for intro to art? They need to learn the basics, so that they can be informed about the decisions they are making. You wouldn't throw a kid into an English class and say "GO FOR IT!", and I won't do that to my kids either.

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  32. Anonymous2/27/2014

    That's like saying that requiring students to use English words in grammatically correct sentences that relate to the assigned subject is stunting their creativity! Phooey! I am an ESL teacher and your lessons about "breaking things down into manageable chunks" resonates with me every day--whether it's grammar, vocabulary, parsing out a difficult piece of writing, etc... You are giving them tools and a structure in which to practice using them. Would anybody like knitting if they tried to knit a Shetland lace shawl right out of the gate? Carpenters don't learn by building a house--they start with a stool or bookshelf. Doctors don't learn by trying open-heart surgery to see if they like medicine, they work their way up the ladder. And so on. You go, girl. Your teaching and your writing are spot-on in my book! --Aldona

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  33. Cassie I don't know how to write this without obviously choosing a side - so I'll just politely say that I don't get choice based. I LOVE your students artwork and IMHO not one of your students' artwork looks like another and all of them are getting a wonderful art making experience and a chance to make something personal. I don't think everyone will fit into one mold, including us art teachers, and variety is the spice of life. Keep on, keeping on!! :)

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  34. I feel the same as you, as well. The connection between a music teacher and an art teacher was one I had thought of too. I tried TAB one year because it sounded so wonderful and a great way for the students to become more creative and make their own choices. I've said it before and I'll say it again. The students' artwork was plain slop. They didn't try to become better artists. They just had playtime with the materials and then wanted more so they could make more slop. It lasted until Spring Break, but as I walked back into school after the break I decided I couldn't do it anymore. That day I started teaching them guided lessons, leaving plenty of room for individual choices, and we were all much happier. The students are so proud of their artwork now, instead of just cramming it into their backpacks like pages of returned math homework. The visitors and parents LOVE the art displays that fill the halls because I"M so proud of the work I always put every child's finished artwork up at the end of each project. I'm thrilled to know I'm not the only one who feels this way about choice-based art!

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    1. I was doing a google search for choice based art and came upon this discussion 2 years later. Thank you for giving imput as someone who has done this! I'd like to think that I already offer lots of choice within parameters. After attending the NAEA conference recently in Chicago I was just about to jump on the bandwagon. Thanks for this response!

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  35. Cassie- I swear we may be kindred spirits... I began hearing about the choice-based or TAB about 2 years ago. I became very interested, but shrugged it off thinking it was for middle to high school level students. I stumbled across more and more articles and blogs discussing this way of teaching... soooo I gave it a "controlled" shot! I had my 3rd graders do a Mayflower Ship drawing with me. We only did the drawing together. I then introduced the "new" mediums that they were not familiar with. and then I let em go!!!!! I really enjoyed it and so did they!!!! I really saw some sides of students that I had not seen before. Did they all turn out like master pieces? no... but I think the students learned more about themselves, and even watching other students use media that they were not, was a learning experience for them.
    Now some will probably say that since we did the drawing together, I stifled them as artists. I disagree. At their age they need a base when trying new things. and I wanted them to start with something successful (and ALL of their drawings were amazing!!) Not one single ship looked like another.
    I am still up in the air if I want to give it all over to Choice Based. I just really feel that at their young age they are still learning sooo much and we are the ones that need to feed/build their confidence!!! I think that base needs to give them the boost and feeling of "YEAH! I am good at this!" and their confidence and excitement is contagious!!!!
    Thanks for bringing this conversation on here... it has given me a lot to think about and build on... I say give it a try with baby steps... give them 2 different options to use for adding line, or color to a project... maybe marker or paint...both are exciting to youngers!
    Still looking forward to a "professional Day" with you... riiiight!!!!
    Art Rocks!!!

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  36. Anonymous2/28/2014

    I think that choice based art is fine and dandy at the upper levels and with kids who are already adept and talented - I have a friend who teaches in this type of situation and she gives her kids a topic and basically sets them loose. I know I will get in trouble for saying this, but it sounds a lot easier than all the prep I do every week. I teach a group of kids with special needs, it is true, and they NEED the structure of a defined project. They all do their own thing within the framework of the given project and I try to emphasize to them that they have to make certain individual choices during the execution of the art work - I love every single thing they do - they amaze me with their ability to inject their own style and personality into a formatted project. It works! - and they are learning and applying their knowledge. They usually enjoy the process and are proud of their work. What else is there at this level?

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  37. Well I am a first year art teacher so I am pretty fresh. I teach Prek - 5th and I def see the need for more structure with my kiddos. They need to learn color missing and basic things. While right now they just an A for being here and doing the work, once in middle school they will be really graded and there will be things they need to know so I def want to try my best to teach these things. With that being said they get fun Friday where they can choose what they want to do and be as creative as they want. Most of the time tho, they are much more creative when I give them a little structure to start with.

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  38. I have taught the last 18 years as a DBAE trained art teacher, and switched just this year to choice-based art. It has been the most humbling and amazing experience ever. Do I feel like a 1st year teacher again? Yes! Has it been frustrating at times? Yes! Do my students love art! Yes! Are they learning as much as they would have in my DBAE classroom? Yes! I have just finished my observation with my principal and she thinks it is amazing! She said it is not too often that you see kids running to start their projects after a 8 minute mini-lesson because they are so excited to get started. She was also so impressed to see all students engaged in their artwork, from kids with special needs to the highly gifted. Personalized learning at its best!

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  39. So glad I found your post! I am struggling with this issue, as it seems my principals and supervisor want me to teach more along the lines of Choice Based Art. Personally, although I feel it has SOME merits, I don't agree with using it full-time. I hate to enter into the argument, but I do believe that kids learn a WHOLE lot from the techniques and thinking processes involved in creating art when I choose the project. All of my projects are carefully chosen to provide a foundation for my students, so that any time they have free time, they can create their own art, making their own informed decisions. To me, Choice Based Art should be what they can create any time they want, when I am not around - when I am teaching them, I want them be learning a foundation of art techniques, skills, materials and processes so that they CAN make creative, artistic choices on their own. Perhaps in high school, especially in more advanced art classes, that would be the place for students to develop their own concepts and ideas. But before they are ready for that, they really need a solid foundation and I feel that my guidance in helping them complete a project I've chosen helps them to create a successful project. Choice Based Art sounds like the way art was taught years ago, when I was a child, basically the teacher taught no projects, just gave us a bunch of materials and a lot of freedom - I can honestly say, I didn't learn very much!

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    1. Amen, sister. It's interesting to hear that your principals seem to think you should be doing this...they are not the art education specialists with an art ed degree. So...why are they telling the specialist how to do their job? You are the expert in this department, you do what you know, based on the pyramid of learning, that one must first learn before they can explore. Silly administrators ;)

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  40. This is my 22nd year/elem art. I started researching CHOICE 11 years ago. I was extremely intrigued by it. I had lots of conversations - my A. Princ. at the time LOVED the idea. When I moved to a brand new elem. school I started to implement it. I loved it/ the students loved it. A few were lost - needed some specific projects to do. But the majority of art was truly student created/inspired art. It was amazing to see what was created. 1 group of boys did a WWII sculpture - they borrowed a book from a teacher and 1 boy donated his army men. The boys worked on it a long time - it was great! I also noticed that the artwork was becoming more sophisticated - especially with the found object sculptures. I saw one of my boys self esteem absolutely soar with a printmaking project. He was just messing around and ended up with a spectacular, sophisticated work of art. He didn't have the pressure of making it look a certain way or following specific steps. It did wonders for his self esteem. In fact, his piece went to the county art show.
    The 2nd year the program was stopped by the Principal -I guess he didn't like it. The a. princ. told me he liked everything to look good. Student created/inspired art isn't necessarily that way (my take on it). Our elem curr. person was in our school the year I did CHOICE. She was checking out a student art display. She loved it and told me to do a write up on it (didn't get around to doing it - my mistake). I was crushed when I was told to go back to the old way of teaching. My students were crushed too - some of them suddenly had no ideas - it was depressing.
    I still miss CHOICE - although it was a huge amt of work - whew! I had decided the 2nd year that there were some changes I would make. For instance - I was going to have some required projects that the students must do during the year - portrait, etc. The cool thing about CHOICE is that the student can choose the medium for the portrait - drawing, sculpture, fiber art, painting, etc. I think I would have also required them to try certain centers at least once during the year.
    What bothers me about the non-CHOICE method of teaching is that the students work looks pretty great - because I'm showing them what to do and I've already done the project myself and worked out all the problems. I got a lot of compliments on these type of projects. Also, it pretty much all looks the same. There is validity in learning a technique or concept- so I understand that.
    So, how to compromise. I still believe in giving the students as much choice as I can - I think it is extremely important. For instance: after learning how to draw the face - the students are to do a self-portrait showing the correct proportions - they can then choose how to execute said self-portrait. Only a few "got" it this year that they were free to draw, paint, sculpt - whatever their portrait. (during my CHOICE year the students would have jumped at the chance to decide what medium to use - pastels, oil pastels,colored pencils, watercolors, fibers, found object, etc)
    Another example - when I was more "choice" based - I introduced complementary colors - one student chose to do a necklace with a complementary color theme while others did paintings or weaving.
    I now have different materials available through out the year. I have found object sculpture items (tp tubes, paper towel tubes, egg cartons, recycled items) in one area, a variety of paper in another, yarns, fabric strips (donated), ribbons, recycled cards - stuff, stuff and more stuff. I also have units with little drawers (from the hardware section - holds nails, screws, nuts, etc). I have sequins, foam/wood shapes, stickers - whatever. The students love all of this BUT I limit when it is available for use.
    So - think it through - see if you can incorporate some "choice" opportunities.
    I hope this helps a little!
    I LOVE your blog, outfits and enthusiasm!!!! Keep up the great work with your students!

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  41. Hi Cassie. This is a HUGE issue in our district as we move forward implementing our new standards. I'm somewhere in the middle. I already use both teaching strategies in my curriculum. What it comes down to is: what do I want students to learn, how will I teach it and what do I do when the know it?
    I watched your presentation this Summer on the AOE webinar and your thought filled perspective on technology resonated with me. I know that you are techie, however just by what I see on your blog.
    On another note, I am participatibg in a district initiative to use "flipping" in my art room. Would you mind if I used some of your presentations (with full credit going to you) on my website? They are so well done!! How do you do your filming? It is professional looking. Just like everything else I see on your blog.

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  42. Hey there! Just found this post today as I was searching for new K ideas for our Van Gogh unit. Got to love Google images! This is perfect and it ties in wonderfully with weaving which is next on my to do list!

    You're the best! Thanks!
    Susie

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)