Tales from the Art Side Art Blog
Originally published February 2, 2008 http://artid.com/members/mize/blog/
CONTINUING THE ADVENTURES OF TEACHING KIDS ART Mondays through Thursdays as students enter my classroom they find an image waiting for them on the overhead screen. Along with this image are a few questions for them to spend five minutes considering and answering on paper. This is their Daily Dose. While I busy myself with taking roll and checking passes, the students are getting into their art frame of mind. After they've spent some time writing about the artwork of the day, we spend another five minutes or so discussing the piece and asking questions. What did they notice, think, or feel? How does the piece relate to the concepts we're currently covering in class? And did a five year old paint this, because it sure looks like it.
The Daily Dose is something I'm actually pretty proud about doing with my students. From an educational standpoint, it has a lot of strong benefits. The evidence of writing across the curriculum is well documented in helping students improve their abilities. Engaging them as soon as they walk into the room is a critical component of basic classroom management, as is the predictability of a routine schedule. And allowing me time to get my quick bits of business taken care of without distraction makes each hour of the day go much more smoothly. However, as much as I appreciate them, none of these are the reasons I'm really fond of the Daily Dose.
By the time they leave my class at the end of the semester, my students have spent about 12 hours looking, responding, and talking about nearly 75 different pieces of art. This is an absolutely essential component to art education, and I would be remiss if I didn't include it in the experience I provide for my students. It would be like taking a literature class but only talking about books, never ever actually reading any. There is much to be learned by looking at and analyzing art, especially for the beginning student involved in creating art.
In fact, there were a few years when the technology wasn't available and I didn't do the Daily Dose with my classes. Interestingly enough, the artwork created by the students in those classes was, overall, dramatically less successful. This has proven to be incredibly encouraging for me and has consequently justified the extra effort involved in making all the PowerPoint slideshows and grading all the papers.
And what do the students think of all this writing and talking about art? Well I'd be lying if I said they eagerly anticipate the Daily Dose as the highlight of their learning experience each day. In fact, it would be more accurate to say they hate it, at least all of the writing. However, I've managed to harness a particular source of energy that most teenagers seem to inherently have in surplus: the desire to argue. I regularly like to include artwork that I know will infuriate most teenagers, or at least challenge their beliefs. And then it doesn't take much to get the entire class engaged in a lively debate about the boundaries of art.
Despite their grumbling about having to write everyday in an art class, the kids are obviously learning. And every once in awhile I get to enjoy an excited student bounding into the room to tell me how they saw a picture somewhere and recognized it. Or even better a student will justify a decision they've made about their own artwork by referencing something they saw in a Daily Dose. As with all aspects of teaching, it's those rare, yet invaluable "warm and fuzzy" moments that make it all worth while.
It's my plan in future posts to submit to you all some of the same questions I'm putting to my students through the Daily Dose, and my hope is that you might respond through the comments and we could generate our own debates. Peter Barnett used to do something very similar to and I think it was a marvelous use of this online community resource. So put your thinking caps on, because there WILL be a quiz on this later!