Friday, May 27, 2011

Partnership for 21st Century Skills website

At first glance the site for Partnership for 21st century skills ( was overwhelming.  The site hold approximately 162 videos that range from short public service announcement type spots that proclaim the importance of the sites mission to snippets of key note speakers, panel discussions, and teachers.  There are a multitude of links that lead you to articles regarding the need for these skills along with skills maps and readiness guides.  There are also pages that refer you to professional development opportunities. 

A person needs more than a week to thoroughly investigate all the facets of this site.  What I found to be most useful was the resource 21st Century Skills Arts Map found on the Publications page (

The map dedicates a page to each 21st century skill (critical thinking and problem solving, communication,  creativity and innovation, collaborative, information and media literacy skills, and contextual learning skills).  Within that page there is a definition of the skill, an interdisciplinary theme, and samples of student outcomes.  The pages are divided into grade levels of 4th, 8th, and 12th to show a progression.  Each outcome is labeled to identify which art discipline the example covers, visual art, music, theater, or dance.

This publication is easily downloaded as a PDF file.  It goes a long way to providing excellent examples of how to integrate these skill sets into the art content.  To my surprise, not all of the examples were necessarily technology based.  Some involved collaboration and communication away from that resource.  This was reassuring as my access to technology is slight given my placement.  I do what I can to horn in on the computer lab schedule as my room only has one computer (mine).  This document gives me somewhere to start.  My only disappointment for this document was that they did not provide an example for each discipline for every skill.  I suppose the critical thinking and problem-solving portion of my 21st century skills will have to come to the forefront for those areas.

All in all, this site is easy to navigate and jam packed with information.  I will continue to explore and save those documents and videos that best fit my current situation and use them as a springboard for my own professional development. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Classroom Blog?

In my Walden class, we are encouraged to investigate how we might use a blog in our classroom. 

There are two ways that I would like to try.  First, some background to our middle school art routine.  To begin, my classes always start with bell work.  On Mondays, the students receive a new Artist of the Week.  We spend 10-15 minutes on Monday discussing a professional artist (their genre, medium, country of origin, any themes, etc.) and one significant piece of artwork that encapsulates their style.  Each day of the week, the students are given a new vocabulary word to copy into their AOTW (Artist of the Week) journal so that by the end of the week the student has been introduced to a new artist, a significant piece of their artwork, and five new vocabulary terms that refer to the AOTW and to the project the students are currently working on.  It is always my goal to make sure the AOTW ties into the concepts for the projects the students are creating at the time. 

On the other side of the paper, the students are given a drawing assignment that will last the week.  Once the students have copied the definition for the day, they proceed to the drawing side until I give directions for the day and studio time begins.  Each weekly drawing assignment is meant to tie into a project concept or sometimes a totally different art skill that I know I won't have time to cover in a project assignment. 

Blog opportunity #1
In terms of the classroom blog, I would like to give the students an opportunity to further explore the chosen Artist of the Week beyond the one token piece of artwork.  The classroom blog would provide a venue for the students to find and post a picture of other pieces of artwork done by that same artist.  The students could be asked to post the picture with an explanation as to why they chose it above all the others.  This blog post would not only ask the students to explain why they chose the piece but also to incorporate new or learned vocabulary terms correctly in their explanation.  By the end of the week the students would have access to a selection of works by the AOTW instead of just the initial artwork and also have an opportunity to discuss the works while practicing the academic vocabulary.  The students would also be prompted to post a comment using academic vocabulary properly on at least two other student's choices. 

Extension of Blog opportunity #1
I could also expand this into a section where the students try to find professional artists (living or dead) that pertain to our current project and  post them with an explanation as to why they should be considered for the next Artist of the Week.  This would push the students to explore the concepts we are learning with our projects and connect them to something somebody has done outside of the boundaries of our school walls. 

Blog opportunity #2
I would also like to get to the point where the students could take pictures of their designs for projects, their journal drawing assignment, and/or final projects and post them for critiques.  Group classroom critiques can be unbearable as most students cannot bear to say something critical about another student's work (especially a friends) in a face-to-face setting.  After teaching the students how to appropriately critique a piece of art using constructive suggestions or compliments, I believe the students would be more open to making comments behind the safety of a computer screen.  This would allow for honest collaboration on sketches during the design phase, sharpen their critique skills on the final products, and extend the conversation beyond the weekly period of the drawing journal.  Effective critiques demonstrate a knowledge of the concepts being discussed and the academic terms used to describe them.

The blogging opportunities mentioned would be useful for several reasons.  First of all, it pushes the students to integrate the academic vocabulary into their discussions.  It also allows for more communication in terms of  in depth, student generated conversations about their personal artwork and artwork done by the masters of the trade.  These blogs would offer more interaction with the information outside the given fifty minutes I see them every day.  These blogs would allow me to break down the constraints of teacher directed, time management issues and allow the students to immerse themselves in the content on their own time and, in some ways, their own interests. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Just starting....

This is my first experience with a blog (besides facebook)  As this has been a particularly successful year for techniques and projects in my classroom, I am anxious to share my thoughts and, hopefully, get some feedback.  I am excited to venture into this new realm and am anxious to get things up and running.  More to come soon.....