The classroom runs like a well-oiled machine with students pitching in to help things go smoothly. Students are assigned “Jedi Jobs” like “Sink Jedi” or “Table Jedi” who keep areas clean, or the “Doodle Jedi” who sets out paper for students to start class with a doodling exercise to build artistic stamina. It’s truly remarkable how students quietly enter her classroom and immediately start their specific tasks. This student ownership and independence across all the grade levels she teaches allows Smith to share artistic knowledge and give one-on-one attention to her students.
Student voice and choice are seen across a wide variety of projects and lessons in the art room. Smith utilizes the Teaching for Artistic Behavior or TAB approach which sees students as artists who should have real choices so that they can express their own ideas and interests through their art.
“At a very young age students are able to work through the artist process and create original works of art,” said Smith. “It’s really cool to see them highlight their thinking and for art to be the modality to express that.”
Students participate in art skills boot camps where they gain an understanding of value and shading, line or perspective. After developing these skills, students are able to create their own works of art, choosing their own medium and subject matter.
“The focus is on teaching the skills, but allowing students to have choice. I want to allow students to think for themselves and have ownership,” said Smith.
Students are evaluated on their artistic process rather than on a final product. They’re able to confer with fellow students and their teacher to share their thinking, which has led them to be able to create well-thought-out artist statements to accompany their works of art.
This year, after developing artistic skills over the first semester students are given the freedom to create their own WOW or Wonderful Original Work of Art. The WOW must show growth and learning, and include an artist statement. As part of the planning process students are asked what ideas they will be expressing in their WOW and what skills they will demonstrate in the piece. WOWs can take the form of a sculpture, painting, collage- any of the mediums that the students have studied and practiced this year.
On March 14th, the art room was abuzz with students planning their WOW projects.
“I’m thinking of doing a painting or some type of hanging sculpture. I really want to create a cup or a glass tipped over so that the galaxy is pouring out,” said 5th grade student Maizy Nichols. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the galaxy and wanted to incorporate that.”
Fifth grader Ava Allen has a long list of things that inspire her and ideas for her WOW in her sketch book.
“One is like colored rain. I would have a canvas and take paint and put it down the canvas. Then I was thinking of New York, and I was thinking I could do a huge canvas of New York. And then I though of an umbrella because it was a rainy day. I was like ‘Hey! I could create an umbrella out of clay,’” she said.
Other students were exploring using paper mache to create faces, or creating sculptures inspired by Star Wars or sports. Regardless of what the students decide to create, they are sure to show the unique voice of these young artists.