Journal Reflections

Lesson One: Before I Die…


As part of developing her Drawing unit, my coordinating Teacher Julia, decided that she wanted to incorporate more “play” into the classroom. Her idea for how to integrate this was to have “Fun Friday” studio days at the end of the week. On these days she would introduce something that had to do with the lesson they were learning that was more about building creative confidence. I really liked this idea as a way of introducing something new and playful that maybe integrated as part of a motivation or skill for a later lesson.

After seeing one of her works at CSU, I decided to have a Candy Chang themed Fun Friday. I wanted to push students towards think about how art in public spaces evokes a different audience and particularly with Chang how it invites a different narrative. Since I was focusing on the Comprehend and Transfer aspects of the lesson, I wanted to leave the Create part more open; in thinking about how to do this I realized the Artist Trading Cards also create creative community. I demonstrated some inventive drawing techniques that students could use for their ATC. They had to chose one to use and on their other card could use a different media of their choice; on both cards they had to finish the narrative the Candy Chang proposes in her public works: Before I Die I want to… I found that students responded having choice in how they wanted to make their cards. But I learned with the second class of the same lesson, that by giving them first a “set” technique and then allowing them to choose they felt more comfortable making their own creative decisions.


The second day students were given time to finish their cards and answer the “Exit Ticket” assessment questions on the back of the ATC: How do artist’s create community through public works? What narrative does she pose in her work? Students answered things like “she used a space that would otherwise be empty” and she “made a different kind of art with people”.

Then, students were given time to look at other students ATC that had been created over the class period. We put up a presentation of their cards in the hallway similar to how Chang sets up her kits. We decided to use the phrase “In my life I want to…” rather than “Before I die I want to..” because it would be more appropriate for the school setting. I went to this lesson hoping that the students would engage with the transcendent power of art to break barriers between people. Although, retrospectively after the lesson I realized that many students, especially in middle school, are apprehensive towards sharing the hardest parts of their lives and selves (like anyone). However, I think have projects that incorporate culture and specifically student’s culture help to create pertinence in the lessons. And more importantly, I felt that I got to know students more after the lesson some students shared things like “Before I die, I want to be the most important person in someone’s life because I’m not at home now” and “Before I die, I want to travel to Australia”. It was reminder to me that students have more going on than just the classroom and now matter how seemingly trivial these are the things that are important to them right now. Its part of who they are as a learner. In the future, I might have students create theses as a warm-up to another culminating project because I think it forced them to think about things ahead of time.

Reflections on: Traditional Drawing Skills in the Classroom

DAY ONE: VALUE On this day we talked about Leonardo Di Vinci and the history of the usage of value. Students then shaded a value scale and practice creating value with words for their micography. In writing this lesson for their following portrait with micography, I noticed that a lot of the projects we have been doing have been a similar format. Many times my coordinating teacher with give an example of line and then they have to use that format in a pre-perscribed outcome. For example they did expressive line drawings with trees, owls, bones and then flowers. After a while, I feel the students get bored with the same format and lack of pertinence to their lives. Then, classroom management becomes an issue because they aren’t as invested in their project. In my future teaching , I feel that I would use those same progression of skills but rather than choose the objects for them or the materials, the students would have more power in the way that they want to implement the knowledge of what they learned.

DAY TWO: Michography After, printing out their pictures and finding lyrics/words that were meaningful to them, students used words to create value and shading. It took a few times to explain the process of using words to create lights and darks.  With the middle schoolers, I have really learned the importance of demonstrating and repeating expectations. With this students were afraid at first of messing up and many times started my traditional drawing skills like outlining parts of their face. By sitting down with some of the students that were struggling with the concept, I was able to show where specifically on their picture they would want to use light and dark, after starting writing some words students began to get the hang of the process and enjoy it. One thing that I struggled with in terms of this lesson was how to “censor” appropriate songs and word choices. in saying that the songs should express themselves it was difficult then to tell them what was and wasn’t appropriate. With the school climate of a K8 school, it is especially important to think about considering you have a range of young and older students.


CAEA Conference: Empathy

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Colorado Art Education Association Conference in Breckenridge, Colorado. A friend, a peer and a mentor was there with me, along with her colleagues from the high school, Araphoe High School. After the tragedy that happened at their school we talked a lot about how you teach empathy in the class. How you teach failure. How you teach emotional skills.

So much of schooling is about knowledge, content, skills and intelligence. But if students don’t have the appropriate emotion skill sets to handle the content we teach how can expect them to succeed. by getting students to know each other greater and find the value of similarities and differences students will begin to empathize and cross boundaries within the classroom. Just providing the space to listen. Is to teach empathy.

One aspect that was discussed that I hadn’t previously thought about was that students today have never faced failure. In their case, the student at Arapahoe had come into contact with failures that he had never anticipated nor dealt with. It is important to teach that through failure your successes become sweeter.

“To perceive is to suffer.”
― Aristotle

“It’s like when you’re excited about a girl and you see a couple holding hands, and you feel so happy for them. And other times you see the same couple, and they make you so mad. And all you want is to feel happy for them because you know that if you do, then it means you’re happy, too.”
― Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and, therefore, the foundation of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”
― J.K. Rowling

Lesson Two: Joyful Rememberance

DAY ONE: Introductions/Aligning to Identity/Glue Outlines

On this day I introduced students to the new project about their Dia de los Muertos calaveras. Typically, my mentor teacher creates sugar skulls for students as a “holiday”project but she was going to be out of town and let me think of a lesson I might want to do instead. I decided to do a dia de los muertos sugar skull piece that was tied to thinking about identity in terms of the people around you that influence your identity. This way students would still get an experience with sugar skills but in a more conceptual manner. I introduced the different ideas and histories of the holiday as well as contemporary inspirations (The Book of Life).  Then I demonstrated how they will create the outline of their skull and relate the decorations inside to the person that they are dedicating their mask to. Students then outlined their masks with the glue and I surprised them by showing that it was glow in the dark.

For this lesson, my mentor teacher was out of town and it was just me and the sub. There were definitely some hiccups– for example, that my mentor teacher moved all the rubrics that were going to be in process assessments and when the computer didn’t allow me to download my presentation. However, I learned that sometimes you have to roll with the punches and show the presentation through Google docs instead and save the rubric for the end. I think students struggled the most with thinking of someone in their life that makes a positive impact on their identity. It surprised me. Many students asked if they could dedicate it to a celebrity in their life or to themselves, this question surprised me and made me reflect on why specifically I was having them dedicate to a person. After thinking about it I realized, that many of these students may not have someone who is clearly a mentor in their life and by thinking about someone (who they MUST hopefully have) whether at school or in their community who helps them is then very important. Further, I told them that it is important to think of how these people interact with us, not just how we perceive celebrities to be in their lives and values.

There was one student that struggles to work and pay attention with out disrupting the class. He is constantly battling with why we are doing something and being disrespectful. I learned that he has some home issues that are becoming problematic and is going into the counselor to talk about. After sitting down with him on an individual level about he was going to dedicate his piece to I was able to help direct his work ethic and he began to discuss how he had an individual, Bill, that he walked dogs and played video games with. After more one on one questioning, I learned that Bill was his brother through the Big Brother, Big Sister program and he has begun to really enjoy spending time with him and look up to him. Although, it took that individualized conversation, this student eventually came to think and reflect on a person that has had an impact on the person they think of positively impacting their identity.

Looking back at how I framed this lesson in my own classroom I might have extended it to more than two days (the available time we had before lessons my mentor teacher planned). I say this because I think students struggled with understanding how to take a person and all of their personality traits and transform that into symbolism in an artwork. Some students understood the idea of concrete symbols asking if they could draw wheels for eyes because the person was paraplegic or the cancer symbol because they were a survivor but some student shad trouble thinking about what they could put in about their mom “that would make it about her”.


On this day I introduced students to different types of color schemes and then we looked at different master artworks that had these type of color schemes. They then picked a color scheme that they wanted to do from the different types: analogous, complementary and split complementary. As many of the students came to me with questions about the color schemes I realized that I didn’t explain them very well. I tried to back track and explain it in a more visual way (analogous-same side of color wheel, complementary-across and split-complementary- triangle). I feel like this helped to clarify it for some students. It also became apparent that the sub I was working with was telling them different things than I intended; she was telling them they need to include all three in their piece. Although, I clarifies this for the students and will do again on the following day, this experience clarified what students probably feel from class to class and grade to grade. That is, if you don’t have a coherent staff message in terms of behavior and content you will just confuse students and make the problem worse. I began to understand how it might be difficult going to different teachers that have different expectations.

In further lessons, I would definitely have tried to clarify this by including perhaps an internal assessment in the lesson to show what students understand the content and which don’t so that I know which ones to clarify. Although, we won’t have time in out semester, I think this would be a good lessons to extend into a full critique discussion about who the students chose and how they are similar or different from other people that students choose. I will definitely have students reflect on their piece but I struggle with how I would format a discussion. I think there are times where it is okay to anonymity in art and there are other times where you want students to discuss those difficult themes in art. I think you would have to know the students in your class and how they would participate before you think of how you might structure a discussion like that.


On this last day of the project students finished up work that they hadn’t had time to do last time. Additionally, they filled out a rubric and assessment about the color scheme they used and the person to whom they dedicated  their piece. I have found over the semester that including a portion of the rubric where they have to apply those skills helps to focus what they’ve learned. On this rubric I asked students to color the mask examples according to the color scheme I taught them the previous day, this strategy also helped me to differentiate to the students that needed additional explanation if their masks weren’t colored with the correct scheme.

Lesson Three: How To… Altered Books

STAGE ONE: STATIONS The first days of the lesson were introductory to art class and to the next project. We started out with doing a Mad Libs How To sheet that connected to what students knew how to do in their lives. Since this was the term that I had students from the beginning I wanted to make sure that I set up the expectations and the classroom culture. Then we began to talk about their own creativity and the creative process. The next four to five days we had stations and they were experimenting with the different mediums. I liked having this set up as the introduction because it got the students talking and experimenting with the materials while them also give them some skills that they could use in their altered books. This also allowed me to demonstrate how the art classroom is set up and functions while they are doing studio time.

STAGE TWO: PLANNING For the next stage, we were discussing the history of altered books and compared it to the history of slam poetry. I began by introducing mixed media and then the idea of “going against the grain”. I used the creative process in slam poetry to parallel the creative process in altered books; taking something traditional and turning into a new art form. I demonstrated how I began planning my HOW TO Book and then showed other materials they could use. At first the students plans first their books were really basic… how to throw football, how to draw, how to play soccer. So, the second day we looked at some other examples and some specific words they could use to make it more specific to them (and, like , while, for). I decided to conference with each student so that I could help them continue to develop their idea and plan their materials. I think that I will continue to use the practice of conferencing individually because it allows me to differentiate specifically to each student while also assessing what they may need in the future. Additionally, I learned that so many times students don’t know how to actually plan and that it is a step that in some cases needs to be explicitly taught.

STAGE THREE: CREATION I found that at first students were really hesitant to do anything in their book, so we talked about the idea of why people might want to use books to make art instead of just paper. This lesson lends itself really well to teaching the creative process because students clearly are experimenting, trying and then looking at what works well or what doesn’t. Students were asking things like “can just practice a media in my book before I use it on the page I want” or “can I use my book to sketch things out?”. After two or three days of having students working on their books, I am realizing that many of them are hesitating to experiment on their pages. I found this surprising since so many of them were willing to experiment on the first week when we were doing our folded books. This following week, I think I will try to split students into groups to have them talk about what they are doing in their books. My observer mentioned that it might be worth grouping them according to the subjects of their book.

STAGE FOUR: MID PROCESS CRITIQUE One the fifth or six day pf working student participated in a mid process critique. I introduced the critique comparing it to a writing workshop in language art— it allows artists to receive good feedback on your work. Then I explained that even if you aren’t finished or your plans aren’t finished they are still going to look at your plans/work and give you feedback. Although, the students expressed that they would rather be working, I think the critique was good for two reasons. First, it held students accountable for their work. I grouped them according to the subject of the How To (sports, people, cooking, animals, activities, all other) and they had to show their work to people that didn’t sit at their table. Many of the students that hadn’t been working as hard saw how other students were creating their book. Second, it gave them feedback they could use. Although I think it is important to look at work after its finished, mid process critiques give students the power to add those suggestions if they wanted. If put into regular practice, mid process critiques would give students the practice of giving feedback and then power of choosing if and what comments they might want to use.

STAGE FIVE:FINAL DAYS For our final work days, I really had time to look at what students needed help and additional differentiation and what students needed additional challenge. We had been working on this project and I wanted to push students towards making the best product they could. The last day of my student teaching, I had the students take an anonymous survey on what they likes about the semester and what they would have changes. It turned out that many of the students favorite part of the semester was the project of altering books.  After reading the responses I was glad to hear this because it meant that I was making the curriculum pertinent and engaging to the students. One the the responses that students gave is that they wish that they had more than one product from their time in the classroom. This made me realize that maybe some students would like more than one outcome and that I could possibly emphasize that their sketchbook can serve as an art product.