SchoolArts Magazine

February 2015

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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32 SchoolArts Middle School students to think very deeply and synthesize lots of information. The process required conceptualizing a superhero, creating it on paper, responding while working towards completion, and revising a story that explains the hero's meaning and attributes. For this, students had to dig deep. Students could handle the criti- cal thinking aspect. They could deconstruct a superhero, break down its parts, and investigate the many aspects that went into making some - one a hero. Asking "Why?" and "How come?" came pretty naturally to them. The break - down happened when students had to move from "Why?" and "How?" to "What if?" It was dif - ficult for students to conceptualize this part, but once they understood and made that con - nection, the creativity started to flow. Collaboration Suddenly, students transformed from sullen and pouty to engaged and happy as they began to share and do know that the time and effort it took to encourage these students to come up with their own ideas was painstaking. Why were so many students giving up before they even started? Experience has taught me that in every challenge there is an opportunity. Here was an opportunity to really reflect upon this lesson and recreate it so all my students would be successful. Testing a New Approach After tweaking the handout and add - ing more examples, I introduced the revised lesson to a group of second- quarter students. I was hoping for a higher success rate, less strug - gling, and more engagement, but to my dismay, the same thing hap - pened as before. If their hands weren't busy building and sculpting, students didn't have the interest to maintain their effort. As hard as I encourage my students to work, I expect no less from myself. Deep in thought, I went back to the drawing board. This particular project required M y annual superhero les- son needed to be adjusted several times this year because I noticed that students were struggling to keep focused and engaged during the proj - ect. This was in stark contrast to the past four years, in which the lesson always resulted in great success. As I watched the disengagement unfold, I took mental notes and reflected carefully on the lesson. Was it my delivery? Maybe this par - ticular group was not ready for such a detailed and focused project. Was the pacing off, or was the order of the projects off, seeing that this project was done after a sculptural lesson? The reason could have been any of the above, or something altogether different. Struggling with Ideas While reflecting upon this lesson I found an interesting correlation between those who love to read and their ability to generate multiple solutions, versus those who dislike reading and their inability to gener - ate ideas. Was this due to motivation, or were there other factors at play? I don't have an answer for this, but I Rather than take the responsibility of meaningful learning away from students, I allowed them to struggle while I encouraged. Stacy Lord WHAT IF?

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