Teachers Connect
Jul 15, 2015

Institute 1: Artist/Writer Challenge

Making a difference through a chosen medium – be it art making, story telling dancing, or singing, is a creator’s challenge.

As teachers we model a variety of possibilities to help students’ imaginations open to the what might be done within the assigned work. In addition to helping students imagine possibilities through multiple examples, it is also our job to help them envision the process for the work. During this week you will be collecting samples of artists’ books, materials, and tools students can use to help them with their creative challenge. What are some of the characteristics of your process in creating these samples and how will that information help your students in their creative assignments?

25 Responses to Institute 1: Artist/Writer Challenge

  1. zell rosenfelt says:

    How do we overcome the fear of starting on a project? How do students face the blank page as writers? How do we do the same in our most challenging assignments every day?
    In all these works, we can start with the process of brainstorming, that is, thinking about and writing down possible ways of approaching the task at hand. If it’s writing, as many of my ESOL students have to do in class every day, it may be possible to begin with the simple process of writing down some of the words that you will use to write on the topic. Maybe progress to writing down some actual thoughts on the subject on paper–perhaps short phrases, not sentences yet.
    I find that after this initial phase it might be advisable to take a break from the work for a time as you do other things. Give the ideas time to “percolate” before you return to the work. If you take a walk or a drive, other ideas may occur to you that you can add to those you have already considered.
    The same is true of the writing or work process. Make it a “recursive” process, one in which you go back frequently to revisit or reread what you have done. Thinking takes time and cannot be accomplished all in one sitting.
    The same is true of the process of revision. It takes several “visits” to a work of writing or art to bring it to a place where you are satisfied. You will be making corrections and improvements at every step of the way.
    So my advice is to slow down and take time to think about your work and don’t use the approach of “one and done.” You will be pleased with the results.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      I use the percolation method myself and students need that same kind of time to process. Thanks for your giving of time!

  2. Katie Cushman says:

    So in the book creation I have learned that I need to do each step of the initial book creation step by step and I need to do it in unison with the teacher. In order to make the process “stick” in my brain I need to practice many times. As far as what goes in the books, it has been different every time-sometimes very open ended which I find very “free-ing” and sometimes more specific which feels more challenging at times to meet the requirement while still honoring my need to create in a certain way. So I need to leave plenty of time to model the steps with my students and make sure we have enough adult support to help them when they need help in the actual mechanics of the book making process.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Good ideas and nice reflection on your “creative” process. Also good feedback for us as instructors!

  3. Carol Barton said something today that I will be using with my students for years to come: “That’s not a mistake, it’s a variation! Here’s how it works.”

    When making samples today I actually planned ahead. Directly on the book I wrote a little label with the book type & a few memory-jogging helpful hints. On a few of the less straightforward variations I also drew a small diagram- just a simple sketch that showed where the hinges should be marked. I have found that doing this is very helpful when I go back to my samples a few months later.

    Another part of the sample-creation process that I find helpful is to use different paper colors for variations on a concept. That way, instead of telling a confused student to find the card that has the pop-out heart that faces downwards, I can direct them to the orange one. Little things like that end up eliminating lots of wasted time and unnecessary student (and teacher) frustration!

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Great idea on using colors and creating your own way to remember what happened this summer months later!

  4. Kay B. says:

    I think pairing or grouping students is important. In class today, we often helped each other at our table with a certain fold, brainstorming another word, or just giving a few words of encouragement. Seeing examples helps, but I enjoyed doing them with my fellow classmates. These art and writing projects allow for creativity and individuality, but at the same time some collaboration. Grouping the students allows them to share supplies, but also expertise.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Collegial work is good when everyone is on board – it is nice to see so many of the tables working together while sharing ideas for the classroom!

  5. Madeleine says:

    Like Liz, I was making notes on the pop up samples themselves and drawing arrows to help me remember. I also found her comment about referring to samples by color a great idea.
    I have found, based on past experience, the best way for me to own a technique is to use it soon after learning it. I expect to be making a lot of books the rest of the summer inorder to be comfortable and capable of working with my students and sharing with other teachers.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Agreed about making lots of books so that it is comfortable in the coming school year. I love the accordion book – making and sharing – because I’ve done it enough to be comfortable teaching it anywhere (I am not an artist like Denise!)

  6. Stephanie Greene says:

    I think it is pretty clear for me that breaking the creation process into manageable steps will help the student feel successful during the project process. I also think that as a teacher, showing a lot of examples of final products helps the creative juices formulate. For me, one of my strengths (yes, we are using a strength based initiative in our county) is INPUT. For me, before I begin creating, I want to know how my pieces will eventually become a whole. I want to see a lot of examples. I need to work toward something, but I don’t always need to get to the end. I know that not all students and artists and creators are like that. But, because of this need for me, I like to provide my students with some ideas to start the creative process. I like to give them the steps, and depending on the objective, allow them to modify based on their creativity. Even if I myself need to start with following directions exactly, I will later take those steps and put my own interpretation into it. This is how I want my students to work. Although, of course, some really need more or less structure so I do try to modify for them as well.

    Something else that really helps my creative process (after I have gathered all of the ideas, examples, research, and materials) is distance from the project. Sometimes I need to walk away from the project, sleep on it, dwell and obsess on it but away from the project at hand. Then, I come back to it with inspiration and a new way to address any frustration or just to give it something fresh. This, sadly, is not an option for my students….I see them once a week for 30-45 minutes (25 for the lesson/activity). It is hard to carry over a project from one week to the next…especially with interruptions to the schedule due to testing, etc.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Lack of time really is a sad comment on the process of learning. I am a slow processor and need time between to edit, generate ideas, and create. Thanks for sharing your view on this.

  7. Betsy Kreutzberg says:

    Having a couple of “already done” books for students to look at, unfold, refold– is a big help. Plus, after the first time, using student examples lets the kids know that “this is something another student made and it looks … good …easy …not that hard”.
    I liked some of the organizing of materials I’ve seen you use:
    1. strong plastic bag to contain project over the days it may take to work and finish
    2. box to hold 2 people’s materials, bags, notebooks, hats, all in one place
    3. materials organized in advance—and then circulating to bring more purple sheets here or light blue there
    My question of how to do some of the projects which have taken more than a couple of class periods— I heard a classmate today talk about an after school group to make books— OF course! and why I didn’t…. well, so I am going to adopt this…and I will do less time taking books with my classes. Thank you I agree that working together brought out great times of sharing, helping each other, hands on projects, and learning— oh wait, that is the definition of great teaching. 🙂

    • Stephanie Greene says:

      I like this idea of having an after school class geared towards bookmaking! My third grade girls and boys are always asking to make books. The fourth and fifth graders always seem to want to cut and make things. After school, if possible, would be a great time to host a bookmaking workshop…or maybe have a bookmaking/storytelling event in the evening! I know at my school, it is very difficult to get families back to the building in the evening, but this could be a fun way to get them all involved in the arts!

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Good ideas shared are so much more valuable. Thank you. I did an after school program for an elementary school and it was wonderful – getting to know some students well and them having the time to dedicate to a project without rushing off to the next subject area!

  8. Daniela Shumate says:

    Doing these samples in class and practicing at home allows me to figure out how much time I need in class to prep, to work with students and to troubleshoot. For my younger students I often show samples of the final project in various stages. I also carefully group the students so I can have helpers strategically placed in the room. My average class size is 30 and my students know that we all help each other along the way.
    I also think a VTS session with a book sample in the beginning of class or a student sample at the end of class would be inspiring for all. Great class today!

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Good ideas – and important to know prep time which seems to get longer the busier we get. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Viviana Scott says:

    As an adult sometimes we forget how information was communicated to us as a child. It is all about repetition: What sticks out the most? How can we relate? It is important for me, as a teacher, to pay attention to each of my students’ learning patterns and brainstorm on better ways to capture what intrigues them the most. I would first take the initiative to understand what their interests are and find a way to incorporate that in the lesson. I would base my book lesson, materials and/or resources on their interests. I also think it’s important to pair like minded children together based upon their learning patterns and interests to keep them engaged. Once that initial preparation is established, I would create the lesson in different formats to appeal to my students. This would help them to think abstractly and creatively because it wouldn’t be just another writing assignment, it would be unique to their imagination.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Asking ourselves “what questions would the students ask” is an intriguing idea. Thank you for sharing your process of student centered learning.

  10. Rachel Blumenthal says:

    I tend to start out with very basic pictures and ideas. My landscape project had stick figures for people! I think showing them my work as an example will help them see that you don’t have to be a master artist to be an artist. I like my artwork, but it would never be confused with something professionally created. We need to help our students see that artwork comes in many different forms and stages of refinement.

    My question is, at what point in our lives does our artwork cease to evolve into something richer and more refined?

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Probably never. When I write, my editor has to tell me to stop editing and I am reluctant to do so. But editing gives me a thrill and I still go back even after publishing!

  11. In my creative process, perseverance is critical. It is also essential to maintain an open mind, and to communicate and ask questions when you are stuck or don’t understand something. I find myself speaking up a lot, not only for clarification from instructors during the work time on artist books but more importantly with the other artists sitting in my group. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Often in the classroom, children teach one another in a different way than an adult might. It is helpful to gain insight on the various ways one might choose to take in order to achieve a common goal.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      We are so fortunate to have this collegial time during the institute. Figuring out how this might apply to students is a good idea!

  12. Ellen Rosenthal says:

    NB: Last night 7/15 I responded by mistake to Institute 2 on risk taking.

    Teacher’s examples are really important for my teaching. It helps to show the kids what they will be making and to get them energized. Making a teacher’s example helps me to “test drive”what we will be doing and see where the challenges might come up and how to address them.

    This week I have been doing my best to make and complete all the books we have been assigned. I’ve taken careful notes and drawn diagrams in my sketchbook on how to make them. Yes, I know there directions etc. are on the website, but always find it helpful to write my own notes and do my own diagrams as part of my learning process.

    I feel pretty good about my examples, and I think I can teach them to my students.

    • Kathleen Anderson says:

      Good to take those notes! I’m happy you feel confident about the books and I hope your students find excitement in making them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *