The following four videos show Year 6/Grade 5 students working on a piece of art during our “How we express ourselves” unit of inquiry. The central idea is:
“Creative expression involves inspiration, limitation and reaction.”
The students have been through the following process:
- Considering our lives so far and the experiences we have had. This includes issues of fairness/unfairness, equality/inequality we have inquired about during the previous unit of inquiry (“Sharing the planet”)
- Thinking about which experiences have provoked the strongest reactions in us.
- Thinking about which reactions are inspirational as they make us want to do something or to express how we think or feel.
- Considering how we may wish to express ourselves using a form of art in which we already have some skills that can be built upon.
- Anticipating how people may react to our work and using that to make our work more powerful or thoughtful.
- Shopping for resources and materials.
- Creating an authentic studio space.
- Using a process journal.
The students’ work will be framed and exhibited at an authentic Gallery Opening later this week.
There is a cool little video that is currently “going viral” at the moment, you’ve probably already seen it, but here it is again:
Many of the messages about learning are far too explicit for me to explain here… pretty much everybody will see that it is a parable on the theme of creativity. However, there are also other, more implicit, messages for those of us “in the business of learning”.
- Caine would not have been able to create his arcade if his Dad had not been willing to let him “make a mess”. In how many classrooms could Caine’s talent have bubbled to the surface. How many teachers are willing to let students “create a mess”?
- It appears as though there was little input by Caine’s Dad and so, the arcade was – as far as we know – entirely of Caine’s creation. How many teachers willing just to let students produce what they produce, and then work from there?
- The only interaction that resembles the typical actions of a teacher is the one between the film-maker and Caine. The film-maker, Nirvan, sees that what Caine has done is special and then takes him to the next level. How many teachers are adept “kidwatchers” who see and nurture their student’s genuine talents and skills?
- Nirvan is able to see value in what many people may seem as a frivolity. He honours Caine’s real interests without judgment. How many teachers really value and honour each student for who they are and accepts their starting points as valid.
- Nirvan (and his Dad) can see the trans-disciplinary connections that Caine is making (use of mathematics, language, science) through his arcade. How many teachers know their students well enough, and know their curriculum well enough to see the curricular value in everything the students do?
- Nirvan is able to connect Caine with the wider community through the use of video and through the use of social media, giving him an increasingly growing audience. How many teachers can capture learning in this way? How many teachers are able to harness the potential power of social media?
There’s probably more, but it’s late and I need to go to bed. What else do you see?
The Dot is a great little book. Not only is its obvious message about drawing and creativity extremely easy for kids to understand and to be inspired by, but much more too. It’s like an allegory of good teaching.
- The first conversation between teacher and student takes place after the “art class” itself, revealing that many of the most powerful moments of teaching happen when we least expect it.
“It’s the little conversations that build the relationships and make an impact on each student.”
Robert John Meehan
- The second significant action by the teacher is to value what the student produces, to accept her “starting point”, as David Harste calls it. This is often where most teachers go wrong, when students don’t produce what they had in mind they sometimes tend to reject what is in front of them. This rejection can actually signify a small death for inquiry in a child, and even an adult!
- By framing and hanging the picture of the dot, the Teacher honours the work of the child and treats it like a work of art. She places a child’s work in a genuine context that will connect that child with the way things are done outside a school. This is a very Reggio Emilia inspired moment in the book that reflects the way that, in Reggio, student work is visible in the community, hanging on the walls of restaurants and train stations next to adult work.
- It is at this point that the teacher disappears from the story for a while as the child experiments and explores the new possibilities that have become clear to her. Perhaps the teacher has made materials available or even given small pieces of advice here and there, but they are not as significant as the child’s pursuit of greater skill and self-expression. Her conceptual understanding of space and negative space is also revealed in the process.
- No doubt the teacher is involved with honouring the work again in order to share it in the school’s art exhibition, again putting the child’s work into an authentic, “real world” context that empowers her and helps her see a place in society that could be hers.
- One of the most powerful moments comes as the child becomes a mentor to a younger child, inspired by her work. Taking all the steps above will certainly be important parts of creating a culture of learning in which younger students look to older students and learn by doing so – so much better than adults being the “best” at everything or the source of all knowledge and inspiration.
- By repeating, for the younger student, the process of feedback, valuing and honour that was bestowed upon her by her teacher, the child demonstrates an understanding of what learning looks like and what her role is in it for other people.
So, what appears to be a fairly simple story of a girl who learns to see herself as an artist is actually a kind of mini-handbook of teaching and learning, a reminder of the very essence of what makes good teaching… and what learning, in its purest form, can look like.
The narration on the video, although it sounds a little pompous (can’t help my accent!), does the talking on this one. The main thing I am trying to get across though, is that learning to do observational drawings can help students to become better at looking, seeing, noticing and being more aware of details in everything.
This is the book I refer to: