Art PD and Considering Differentiation

Itt was a difficult year for me, last year, and culminated in heart surgery. I wish I could have finished off the year with my students but was able, at least, to see their final projects. This year I will only be teaching grade 10 art and grade 10 computers. 

I found grade 10 quite engaging. Of course, being a mandatory class, some students didn’t really want to be there. However most seemed to enjoy the more relaxed atmosphere and opportunity to stretch creativity and skill. Since I’m teaching the single course, I’m struggling with which lessons I still want to complete. And also the timeline. Because last year seemed to crawl. Of course it was a play year and the holidays also disrupted my once a week class. This year I’m hoping for more sessions and more productivity. And I will have two separate days per week instead of a double class so if a student misses one class, she won’t miss the entire week. Whew!

One goal is to improve differentiation. I consider myself a partial-choice educator (I believe there’s more in a previous blog post (I will have to add more categories); but, basically, it means that I offer them choices in material, subject, and methods, whenever I can. Occasionally, I offer total choice. I also discourage cookie-cutter results. There are always some students who want to reproduce a Pinterest project, but that’s discouraged. Or at least I encourage them to take it to the next step or decide how to make it their own and original.

I’ve been engaging in quite a lot of PD in the summer 2019. The Art of Education conference and STEAM Conference were both held online. Teach with Tech was a 3-day online event, too. I also attended MakerEd, in person. As well as other webinars, videos and sites. One site that I decided to join (in addition to the ArtofEducation.edu) is Sarah Crowther’s https://theartyteacher.com. Last year I won a set of Hundertwasser stamps from her and had intended to introduce students to one of my favourite artists – definitely going to happen this year! I may even bring in my poster that advertised an art show in Israel, with Hebrew text. I can see extending a history lesson with either painting or constructing a cityscape.

Now, back to differentiation. After reading a post by Sarah Crowther, and based on my own studies of Special Education (I have two additional qualifications), I realize that I could combine choice and differentiation to suit the needs of diverse students. I’ve already done some good work, taking into account student interests and designing new units to suit what they want to explore. I sometimes offer an alternate method and materials for students who need it – for example, some students can’t hold scratch art tools or are so sensitive that they are bothered by the sound, so I allow them to work with Sharpie, to achieve tones using different marks. What I do need to do more of is chunk lessons, have more regular conversations and written reflections, to keep everyone on track. 

I like Sarah’s suggestion of having on hand more challenging tasks for those who already have the aptitude. Don’t give easier tasks to students, so as not to embarrass them, but challenge. Also offer extra, optional tasks from a menu that ties in to the current unit. Include “a wide variety of practical and more research-based basks so that it appeals to a broad range of students.” (https://theartyteacher.com/what-is-differentiation-in-art) She also suggests getting students to suggest tasks. 

Sarah suggests having students revisit feedback on assignments so that they will respond to your suggestions. So at the beginning of a new project, I can ask students to keep in mind previous feedback and in the final reflection for the current one, describe how they have upped their game based on what you suggested.

​I’ll have more goals based on my summer PD in another post.

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