SchoolArts Magazine

March 2017

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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T H E O P E N A R T R O O M Melissa Purtee T here are some foundational skills that most art teachers would agree are essential for students to know. Understand - ing and applying value is one of these, because it's instrumental in drawing and painting successfully. However, learning it can be a long, drawn-out process that takes weeks of teacher- directed lessons. What's a teacher who wants students to acquire these skills but also values giving students a large amount of choice to do? Concrete Concepts Developing skills and providing choice doesn't have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, short, concentrated periods of skill development work beautifully as a platform for indi - vidual exploration. The answer for teaching skills such as value draw - ing, for me, is group work. Having students learn concrete concepts as part of a collaborative group saves classroom time and increases knowl - edge retention. When students work to accomplish a task with others, they combine what they know as they work together. They learn from each other. Through conversation, they correct each other's misconcep - tions, talk about key concepts, and practice new vocabulary. Applying Pressure To teach the concept of using value to create form in drawing to my Art 1 students, I start by quickly demon- strating how to make a value scale with graphite. I show an example and give the class three minutes to replicate as much of it as they can. We discuss the importance of pres- sure and options for mark-making. I don't look for work to look polished or pretty—the key idea they need to understand at this stage is that, by adding increased pressure, a range of values can be achieved. Value at Warp Speed Creating Value Next, we move on to the sphere. I explain that value can be applied to create three-dimensionality in drawing and demonstrate shading a sphere. I ask them to draw with me if they would like, and as I demon - strate, they practice or take notes. Then I place them in groups and pass out charcoal pencils and large sheets of paper. "Charcoal," I tell them, "can be used to create value like graphite but it has some key differences." I show an image of a sphere with the parts of shadow labeled and challenge them to make one with their group that includes each part. "How big?" they ask. "Fill the whole paper," I tell them. "You have until the end of class." New Processes, New Learning The groups work quickly to finish, distributing tasks among mem- bers. "You do the core shadow," one student says, "I'll work on the reflected light." "What about the cast shadow, dude?" I hear another student ask. "Where will it go?" They talk about these concepts as they work to create their spheres. As they work and talk, they process new learning and apply the concepts to their work. If there is misunderstanding (and there always is), the nature of group work addresses and corrects it. It's been one ninety-minute class period and every student has expe- rienced making a successful sphere, using both graphite and charcoal to render values. From the knowledge base that this one-day lesson creates, my students can successfully explore the concept of value in self-directed work. Melissa Purtee is an art teacher at Apex High School in Apex, North Carolina. Mcpurtee @ gmail.com Short, concentrated periods of skill development work beautifull s a platform for individual exploration. 8 MARCH 2017 SchoolArts

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