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We can do better

Committing to variety and expression in every project

"I feel like an art unit has succeeded if all the student work is unique"

Before I start... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I hope you had a great break.

Now... onto the blogging stuff :)

Teaching any subject is challenging and there are so many approaches, fads and 'new ideas' out there that it can be hard sometimes to really engage for what best practice is, especially when you are a single subject (specialist) teacher.

Any given lesson often has to incorporate (and assess whether we have met) our...

Curriculum Goals, Achievement Objectives, National Standards, National Guidelines, Benchmarks, School Standards, Values, Elements, Principals, Concepts, Guiding Questions, Thinking Skills, Curriculum links, Inquiry Objectives, Skills, Strategies, Techniques, Overviews, and so on...

Not to forget any 'Individual behaviour or learning goal plans' a student might be on, whilst differentiating for all of the skills, ability levels, confidence, relationship quirks and needs of the students in the class.

And let's not forget that we teach anything from 2 students to 1000 students a week depending on the school and system that you are a part of.

So with all that in mind, when someone like me, says that all the students should be making completely unique art pieces, it seems overwhelming and gets put in to the 'too hard basket'. I want to help you take it out of the 'too hard basket' and hopefully fuel your passion so that it can sit in the 'totally worth it basket!'

When we teach literacy, or poetry, no one would accept it if all the children in a class handed in the same Haiku about Holidays, the one they had copied from the board... but why do we except in art? Every child handing in a blue painting with a white snowman with a black hat and an orange nose, with 2 trees behind him? Or multiple copies of 'The Starry Night? done with oil pastels, and graded on accuracy? What are we actually wanting our kids to learn when we do this? And is it the best way to engage them, to develop creativity, to grow them as artists and creatives in todays world?

I know it can be an amazing relief when someone sits down and hands you a lesson plan, with photos, examples, step by step instructions, with materials and colours and troubleshooting, and assessments, and all of the tick boxes ready to complete a lesson that fully accomplishes all that your curriculum needs you to accomplish. BUT... I believe we can do better... I believe we need to.

This week I am going to blog a new post each day, with lesson ideas to replace what traditionally have been standard art teacher 'bread and butter' lessons. My hope is, at the end of the week, that I have maybe given you some ideas and systems that will be better than what has been offered in the past.

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The reason I am doing this, is that I don't believe it is our role to make duplicates. Yes, we teach skills, techniques and strategies, and at times show specific strokes or introduce art movements, but that doesn't mean that every piece of work should be the same. There will of course be the occasional lesson where they do learn a specific skill or technique that has similar results (like the picture below) but I believe that should be a very small part of what our students produce; an exemption to the rule.

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Art Teachers give expression and a voice to students, we help them communicate what words cannot. We teach colour and texture so that they can express the colour and texture of their lives. We challenge them to see deeper than just shape and form, to go beyond 'making something pretty' and instead make something profound. Instead of representing a snowman for Christmas, they can represent cold, or warmth, or the juxtaposition between the feeling of warmth you have when you make a snowman with a friend, and the cold your fingers experience when you roll the snow.

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I hope that you can be inspired this week. I want to give you permission to allow your '6 year old student who has never held a paintbrush', to paint something that looks like 'a 6 year old who's never held a paintbrush' and be proud of that! (without the need to correct, give bad marks, or finish it off for them) Art can give confidence and language and passion.

I often get teased for saying that things are easy. But honestly they are. Every tip and idea will be achievable and fun and liberating. At the very least I hope to start some conversation and thinking about how things could be done differently.

Please feel free to engage with these posts. Share, comment, discuss, argue and post.

2018 looks like an amazing year, and I hope it has started well for you!

Hamish :)