SchoolArts Magazine

March 2018

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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28 MARCH 2018 SchoolArts T H E O P E N A R T R O O M T eaching technical skills while providing a high level of choice for all students can sometimes feel like a tug of war for teach- ers as we struggle to decide where our time should be spent. We want to teach technique, but we worry about how much time it takes away from student-directed learning. One solu- tion for this common problem is short and sweet: Ten-Minute Challenges. Ten-Minute Challenges involve teaching concepts over time in little chunks. Each day, for a set amount of time, the teacher presents the class with a challenge. Students have ten minutes to work on it, then a few minutes for reflection at the end. The length seems short, and it is, but it's also powerful. After the challenge, the rest of class time could be spent explor - ing the content that has just been introduced, completing work in prog - ress, or moving on to other instruction. The Process These challenges are effective for a number of reasons. First, the short time frame requires students to apply ideas quickly, without time to procras - tinate or overthink. This maximizes the time spent working and forces students to trust their instincts, which can be a refreshing change of pace. Additionally, Ten-Minute Challenges give learners time to reflect and pro - cess learning before adding new mate- rial. When content is introduced in small pieces over a few days, students are able to spend time thinking about what they learned and would do dif - ferently, then apply these observations in the next lesson. This often isn't an option in traditional instruction, at least not without starting over, and it makes a big difference in how much students learn and remember. Low-Risk Learning Another key aspect of Ten-Minute Challenges is that they are low-risk. Students who worry about messing up artwork that they are expected to spend days on will feel less anxious about mistakes when working for short periods of time. This shifts the focus of the activity to learning through the art- making process instead of on creating a product, which is extremely freeing for students and gives them an excellent opportunity to be impulsive, intuitive, and to take risks. The following is a week of Ten-Min - ute Challenges using colored pencil. A Week of Ten-Minute Challenges Day 1: Draw a Styrofoam cup using arbitrary color. Reflection: Students share how they decided what colors to use. Day 2: Pick three colors, then draw an assigned object from observation. Reflection: Ask students to explain how they felt about their color choices. Day 3: Illustrate an assigned word, picked by selecting a card. Reflection: Group students and have them try and guess the words others illustrated. Day 4: Illustrate the opposite of the word from yesterday. Reflection: Ask the class to talk about working with the same word twice. Is it easier the second time? Why? Day 5: Observe bubbles being blown, then draw from memory. Reflection: Have students write about what they learned during the week and what they would still like to know about colored pencil. A Tool for Flexibility Ten-Minute Challenges are an excel- lent tool to help meet instructional goals because they are so flexible. To design challenges, teachers should consider where students currently are and what they need to know. For example, an advanced high-school class that was overly focused on realism inspired the week of chal- lenges listed above. Those students needed to loosen up and examine other approaches to grow as artists. During that week of instruction, the class experimented with alternative ways to use color, dabbled in symbolic expression, and tried drawing from memory. Ten-Minute Challenges made fitting this all in, as well as working on art in progress, easy and productive. Melissa Purtee is an art teacher at Apex High School in Apex, North Carolina, and co-author of The Open Art Room, available now from Davis Publications. Ten-Minute Challenges Melissa Purtee Ten-Minute Challenges involve teaching concepts over time in little chunks.

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