Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

CCO Creative Commons image from Pixabay

So, I’ve been thinking about my summer reading, making, and seeing plan. I have a tendency to imagine that there will be approximately 75 times as many hours in my day during any non-teaching days AND that I will also be 75 times more time-efficient, all while not taking into account my usual, extensive lounging time.

My reading plan

I have already reread most of the books I will be teaching in the fall. So, besides rereading a graphic novel and investigating some Neil Gaiman short stories, if I’m so inclined, I’m in good shape there. Here are a few titles I plan to read, or at least sit next to, over the next weeks.

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Dandicot.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I have seen this mentioned in all sorts of “you must read this” articles and whatnot. My son inhaled it in two days.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I loved Everything I Never Told You and don’t know why I have not already read this book.

We Were Eight Year in Power by Ta-Nahisi Coates. I have read some of these pieces, but want to read them together.

The Glitch by Elizabeth Cohen. I know the author and am so excited for her.

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. I know nothing about this book, but was taken with it at the bookstore the other day and we were already buying something so…

The Atheist in the Attic by Samuel R. Delany. Also saw this at a local bookstore, read the back, and added it to the pile.

I would like to finish The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and perhaps skim through a few other education books.

 

My Making Plan

I also plan to make things. I have recently been back to sewing in addition to my other crafty making. I’ve got a few projects in the works, no surprise there, and a few on the agenda. I have two sewing projects that are already cut out and just need sewing. However, my machine and I are currently not on good terms, perhaps I need a new needle, maybe we just need a break from each other. Also, I have a mostly finished project that just needs a little attention. I would love to finish those and one other.

I have two sets of taxonomy projects that are in process. Those can definitely get finished and posted on the blog. I’m sure I’ll get to another set as well. I have some partial ideas that just need a little more time to marinate.

I would also like to get to some e-textile or soft circuitry projects. I have one makespace type project in the works, although it does not incorporate any circuitry. And, I have a project I started a long time ago that I might finally be ready to tackle. It would mean I would really have to force myself to get a little better with both coding and circuitry– goals of mine for several years now. With the makerspace just sitting there in the summer, calling my name, it seems a shame not to answer.

 

My Seeing Plan

I also like to get out and about and see things. Sometimes I just need to fill up my visual library.

Rodeo–we haven’t been to the Cowtown Rodeo in a few summers. Time for a trip.

MASS MoCA. I love this place and hope we can find some way to make it part of a driving adventure. It’s fun to see images from exhibits I’ve seen there in the past on their Instagram.

Storm King Art Center. I can’t believe I have not been there yet, but it will happen this summer. They also have a great Instagram.

Also, I’m sure I will drag my family to other exhibits or festivals, or outdoor happenings here and there.

Ultimately, I will probably, read, make, and see all kinds of things that may or may not have anything to do with this list. However, I do love to make a list.

Advertisements

A very ambitious plan for an art experience based on Invisible Cities

So, I’ve been thinking about the installation art proposal project that I assigned for a last assessment in my senior English class. I wrote about how excited I was as the students got to work. (Check out the details of the assignment and whatnot). As I said before, I was nervous about the final projects. We are talking about second-semester senior year, last assignment, out of the box project that I thought was super cool. Sometimes I forget that not only am I still uncool, but I am also old now, and therefore what I think is a cool assignment does not always translate that way to my students. Sometimes my enthusiasm can bridge the gap, but not always.

Well, I am happy to report that the entire enterprise was a success. And not even just an end-of-the-year-they-turned-something-in success. It would be a success at any time of the year.

First, the students engaged in the kind of thinking I wanted them to do. In creating their proposals, they had to review some of the key thematic ideas of the course and one of the texts in particular. In addition, they had to consider how to transform ideas from one medium into another while thinking about what would make for an engaging and thoughtful art installation (thanks to @oneissilva I know this is called transmediation). As I walked around the room during the several class periods of work time, I loved what I heard. And, I wished that I had a group to work with too.

On the day of the presentations, we had some guests–two other teachers who are also department chairs. I like to have visitors for a couple of reasons. First, the students usually do better with an audience (the audience effect is real). I like to make the presentation a bit more of an event and visitors do that. Also, visitors keep me honest. I can get a little carried away when I think things are going well. I get too excited and think everything is awesome (is everyone singing the LEGO movie theme song now? Just me?) So, being able to check in later with another colleague who was a witness to the event is a good dose of reality. I take advantage of their feedback when I give final grades for the work too.

The actual proposals and posters worked in a lot of ways. First, the format allowed the students to focus on the idea and concept rather than the actual creation of an art piece, but at the same time, it was easy to imagine the exhibit. The structure and outline of the types of information that were required meant that if the group did each part, the audience had a good sense of the ideas and concept.

A note on grading. I considered this project a complete success and the grades ranged from B- to A. Every group tackled the work thoughtfully. Some groups ultimately were missing a few bits or had more straightforward ideas, but I consider every project to be a success. There were 6 proposals and each book that we read was chosen by some group.

Here are a few details from some of the proposals. Note: since this is a fantasy book class, so I did say that they could plan to have some things happen “automagically” in their exhibits.

One group planned a multi-room experience inspired by Bailey, from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

 

The exhibit itself is designed to have viewers initially interact with a series of touch screens arranged in a circle, like a clock (the clock is important in the book and the group made a strong case for the clock’s connection to Bailey). Then viewers go through another room with many varied settings to wander through and finally end up in a space where each person sees a personalized video that is created based on what the person did on the screens in the first room and where they wandered in the second space. The idea was that viewers would get insight into their own dreams and desires and therefore be more able to take action to make them real, like Bailey. (I am not doing their ideas justice here, by the way.) The group also described the experience of walking through their space in the style of a particular part of the book (the interludes that describe how “you” experience the circus, for those who have read the book).

This group also commented on the way their ideas changed over the course of their brainstorming. I love seeing this, and the success I have had this year in asking for some amount of process commentary on assignments has totally convinced me to include this type of commentary on pretty much everything next year.

 

Another group planned a heart exhibit for the Tin Man from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As they were planning, I was concerned that their idea was quite literal. Oh, how wrong I was. Visitors move through 4 metal rooms (the chambers of the heart) while wearing a heart monitor that allows sounds and lights to match the heart rate of the viewer, among other things. It is a dark, conceptual plan.

Below is their description of what happens in the first chamber of the heart. They were super serious about their idea, even though they had a grand time in the planning.

Two groups planned exhibits based in some way on Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. One dealt with the journey aspect of the book and tried to tackle each type of city, creating something more concrete from the very abstract ideas of the book. They were an idea factory! (The image at the beginning of the post is their plan.) My favorite part of this plan was the fact that on the way out visitors walked a kind of ring road that circumnavigated all the previous rooms and allowed them to look back in on the other spaces and reflect. Here is some of what this group said about their work:

Artist Statement: We want the audience to go through our installation and get a view into the mind of Marco Polo, while making their own connections and redefining what it means to know a place. Marco Polo stated he connected every city he visited to his own, Venice, which is why each room, or set of rooms in the case of hidden cities and cities and the dead, is accessible only through Venice. As each room represents a grouping of cities from Hidden Cities, we also want the audience to see that each grouping is applicable to all cities, though in different ways.
Process Commentary: The eyes room was inspired by Ai Weiwei’s installation piece entitled “Hansel and Gretel,” in which the audience is tracked by cameras in the first space, then is later able to find themselves in past footage and pictures in a second space using face recognition. We originally thought we would have one room with maps of different cities everywhere and strings connecting each one to Venice and the other cities in its category, but we ended up deciding individual rooms all leading back to Venice would work nicely. As we did not want to lose the connection between cities, we made continuous cities a loop where each person can look into the rooms previously visited, and reflect on how everything comes together. We also made some interesting new connections from the book, and after the floor plan poster idea was set started trying to figure out the big picture of each grouping. During brainstorming, we decided cities and the sky, cities of the dead, and hidden cities could all be in one close to one another, with hidden cities literally being embedded in the city of the dead.

The other took a more conceptual approach to the same text and proposed a two-room installation that spoke to the idea that even those far away from a city can have power over it and impact how it changes. Visitors in the first room interact with a seemingly random group of objects. As they do this, a city changes in the next room. When the visitors enter the next room, they see the city but also two side by side videos of their actions in the earlier room and what happened in the city room.

Each group had some sort of visual, but it was secondary, as was planned. The driving force was the idea.

I really cannot wait to use this project idea again.

So, I’m continuing on my taxonomy project where I make sets of 5 works and share them.

Text shows up in a lot of these sets of works. Many of them have had a blackout poetry component to them or some sort of found text as part of the final piece. I really like the idea of taking some sort of text and turning it into something else, either by choosing to use only some of the words or inserting the text into a new context. Both options appeal to me in that they combine or remix in an unexpected way.

Sewing of some is also showing up a lot. Stitching is an easy way to add some color and another layer, to break out of boundaries, but subtle ways. It’s also something that is a bit of a lost art and therefore creates an interesting contrast sometimes.

For these works, I started with a book I got at a used bookstore called The Way of Enterprise, not my usual genre, but the paper is nice. I thought it would be a challenge to try to turn this writing about business and case studies into poetry that is not about business. And, then sewing the words together rather than blacking out all the extra words made for a more unexpected combination. Rather than just having one poem on each page, I went for two overlapping poems. You can tell them apart by following the sewing lines. I tried one with two different colors of thread but then decided that it was better to have two very similar colors instead. As I did more of the sewing, I also started to think more about the shapes of the connecting lines and be more intentional about the paths rather than just going from one word to the next.

Here they are in the order they appear in the book, not necessarily in the order completed. Follow the thread to find the poem, some of them are much more successful as a group of words or ideas than others.

This poem is in 2 stanzas, hence the 2 at the bottom.

 

I like the fact that both poems end with the same phrase. Somehow the thread colors seem to change on the way down the page. Not sure what happened there.

 

So, there you have it. I also have a series of contour line drawings in the book. Nothing that needs sharing, but I have not decided whether to take the pages out of the book or just keep altering in the book and see how many different ways I can mess with the pages. As I said, this book has good paper; that’s mostly why I bought it.

CCO Creative commons image

So, I’ve been thinking about assessments. I worked really hard this year to develop assessments that addressed our essential questions, combined analytical and creative work, and pushed students to think.

I’ve already written about a brief research project where I used VoiceThread for the final, virtual presentations and the following installation art proposal project (more on that soon). But, here I want to describe two writing assignments that I think combined all the parts I mentioned above.

First up, my first-semester class (Fantasy literature with a focus on fantastic creatures, interdisciplinary approach). This paper was an early part of a larger project. We read most of The Odyssey and looked at images by a wide range of artists who interpreted Odysseus’ adventures, including Cy Twombly’s 50 Days at Ilium, a graphic novel interpretation by Seymour Chwast, and many works by Romare Bearden. Here’s what I asked students to do:

Think and Write:

  • How will you remember Odysseus in your personal, mental library? (look at the collection of epithets on the topics page) What characteristic stands out to you?
  • Which fantastic creature stands out and is particularly memorable to you? Why?
  • Who are your people* and how do your Odysseus and your fantastic creature speak to them?

No more than 800 words, a few, short quotes are a must. Share link to final draft in this chart. Read what your classmates wrote! (100 points) (Rubric)

(*This is based on the following from author Neil Gaiman “Mythologies tell us about being human. They are glorious; they are timeless. They need to be retold. . . When you’re retelling stories, you’re retelling them for your people.”)

I initially thought of this as something different to do with a text that was very familiar to them (many read a middle-grade version in 5th grade and almost all were familiar with many of the individual episodes). Since Odysseus is one of those characters who people tend to remember in some shorthand way, I thought it would be interesting for students to take a conscious look at something that we do unconsciously. And, considering how that choice of how to remember this character might be related to their own personalities seemed like an excellent option for seniors in the midst of writing college essays.

It was interesting to me that students found it difficult to make the personal connection between their choice of how to identify and remember Odysseus (the wily Odysseus, the old warrior etc) and themselves. It was hard for them to see that their choice perhaps said something about who they are or what they appreciate. Since I knew the students quite well, it was pretty easy for me to connect the dots. The dots appeared like lighted runway arrows to me. Most of the group ultimately found some connections, and they were amused to find that many of the connections were not that tricky to identify, although a few just totally could not or would not go to any personal reflection. I think that combining the analytical and the personal was a novel experience, and they were uncertain about leaping in.

In the second semester the course, still English with an interdisciplinary approach, focussed on fantastic places in literature. One of our texts was Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. It is the story of Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan about the cities in his empire. However, each city may actually be based on Venice or Marco Polo’s imagination. Each city is described in a few paragraphs or a few pages and is grouped into one of nine categories. The students had never read anything like it.

My assignment description was the following:

Post Invisible Cities writing project

This is NOT a research paper. Do NOT search for or use any other sources (criticism, reviews, wikipedia, etc). This is your own deep investigation of a piece of this text.

Part 1: Analysis of a collection of city passages (choose whichever topic you wish)

  • Formulate an original idea about these passages.
  • Analyze the passages, explain your notion of their identity, use quotations, etc
  • ~1100-1200 words (no more than 1250)
  • Assessed as a typical analytical paper (see English department general rubric on bulletin board)
  • Worth 50% of total points

Part 2: Creative descriptions of the place you chose

  • Write 2 short descriptions of your location in the style of the theme you analyzed
  • You do not need to imitate Calvino, but do use his writing as a model
  • Each one should be 250-350 words
  • Worth 25% of total points

Part 3: Connecting the dots Commentary

  • A commentary or reflection on your own writing and analysis
  • How have these two parts (analytical and creative) informed each other
  • 400-500 words
  • Worth 25 % of total points

Total points=200

All parts should be in one document. A simple row of asterisks can be used to indicate a move to the next section. No need to label the parts.

Although this description of word count and points makes it seem like this assignment was very rigid, there was A LOT of room to move within these boundaries. The book itself is hard to get a grip on so having so very set specifics for the writing was a good anchor. And, to spread out the work, we had worked on the descriptions of place a bit in advance.

The final products here were very successful, in my opinion, in that they pieces each contributed to the whole. I can’t imagine understanding any of the student’s thinking without all the pieces. In some ways, the commentary was the most valuable. By that point in the assignment, the student had done the thinking, analyzing, writing, and editing. For many, it was the place where everything came together the most succinctly. It also gave me some insights into the student’s process and intentions with the creative writing, in case they could not quite carry off what they intended. We talked about this quite a bit in class, and I wrote the creative pieces as well. I shared that my pieces were certainly more heavy-handed than Calvino’s in terms of the themes I wanted to get across. But I also reminded the group that Calvino is a pro; it’s ok for him to be better at this and it’s ok for us to try to copy some of his writer moves (as long as we say that is what we are doing). In giving them that permission, I got back all kinds of careful observation notes and comments about the writer moves each of them was trying. Plus, with the different parts of the assignment, there was something for everyone.

So, what I learned is that combining the analytical and the more creative or personal leads to good thinking, solid writing, and quality engagement from the students. Plus, the final products were interesting to read. Victory!

So, I’ve been working on some more images for my taxonomy sets.

starting image of a house

This set begins with the same image, which I created from a photograph that I put through the Adobe Capture app using the shapes tool. I adjusted it some and took out some stray marks. With other images, I have used the lasercutter to make a woodblock and then printed from there (description of that process). With these, I printed from a regular document printer onto a variety of paper, mostly heavier art paper, but one image is one plain old copy paper. Then, I cut out the window spaces (they were very dark and distracting) and thought about what might replace the darkness.

The idea of not knowing what is behind windows and inside houses that we see from the street was interesting to me. What if the outside were inside? What if it was unexpected? What if some things (birds) were both inside and out? If I remember correctly, I was also thinking about the Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Our House.” I think the “two cats in the yard’ line got me thinking about what is behind the fence, but in the yard, and what if the things that are in the yard were inside instead…

Once I cut out the windows, I went my trusty miniature copy of Audubon’s Birds of America and started cutting. It is truly the book that keeps on giving. I thought we, the viewers, should also see that the birds’ habitat was behind the walls, so I put bits and pieces of the background scenery in the windows too. Finally, everything needs a little bit of sewing. I definitely need a sewing machine that allows for more free movement; I think I can get a plate to adjust my machine, but that is for another day.

So, here are the images. As is becoming a habit, the idea shifted a bit during the process. The first two were as described above. The sewing traces some of the lines of the siding and is in a color similar to the paper. The next two have larger images of nature behind the windows and the plants are kind of taking over the house. To me, they seem wilder, especially the fourth one with the sewing of the plant shape on top. I completed four of the five in more of a group and then set the group down for a bit. I was trying out different color paper and ran through the colors in my pack.

First. The Blue Grebe House. Subtle sky in the windows.

 

Next. I like the grasses in the windows and the magenta stitching.

 

Third. I return to the music score as background and nature starts to take over.

 

Ran out of my good paper, but added some free-form plant shapes in the sewing.

I then came back to the group and thought about fabric. Also, I was tired of cutting all those tiny windows and just got rid of the middle horizontal piece in each window. Rather than plants in the house, I used the music score as a background and painted it so that there was more difference between it and the house. Again, I added the birds, inside and out, and then noticed this deep purple velvet fabric. I like that it almost reads as a curtain, especially with the vertical zig-zag stitch. I also returned to the stitching at the fence line.

Final piece. The house as a barrier or dividing line is back.

It’s interesting to me that the final image has the house back in charge in some ways. Things aren’t busting out, nature isn’t all over, inside and outside may be unexpected, but they are distinct.

If I decide to continue with this idea, I have the image printed on vellum ready to go. The vellum would allow even more of an inside look at what’s behind the wall.

CCO Creative commons image

So I have been thinking about class discussion. I have been having discussions about books with students for decades. (I am not exaggerating; I can honestly make that statement.)

Talking with students about what we have read is one of my favorite things to do. Do other people not feel this way? I find it hard to believe that a great conversation about what we noticed and thought about in a book/text/image/whatever and how it might connect to other art or ideas or anything would not be thrilling. This may be why I am still a teacher. Anyway, my enthusiasm is not enough. Good teaching that translates into significant learning does not happen automatically or automagically. It takes intentional planning, ongoing work, and regular reflection. Years of teaching do not get me (or anyone) a pass on careful preparation.

My standards are high for class discussions; I am not satisfied with walking through the chapters and reviewing what happened with a few thoughtful comments thrown in, unless it is a very challenging text; I don’t think that is enough. I aim for a discussion that includes both specific attention to the text’s words, structure, literary elements, “writer moves” and one that makes connections to the big picture. As a fan of the big picture, I love it when our conversations get there. However, I also know that unless we are all talking about those big ideas with real grounding in the text and basing our comments on that deep, specific understanding, it is easy for those big idea discussion to become too much BS. It has been my experience that smart students who are very good on their feet and comfortable talking about big, sweeping ideas, get carried away with generalities without being too bothered by those pesky details. Finally, I want students to be talking to each other and the group not just answering me and then waiting for the next question. That’s not a discussion; that’s a set of reading questions that we answer orally.

I want a lot.

This year, I’ve worried that not enough of our class discussions have hit that sweet spot. I took a look at various parts of the discussion equation.

First, the content of the discussions.

  • Fine reviewing/summarizing
  • Fine talking about big ideas.
  • Not fine putting it all together.

Since my English class this year is also interdisciplinary, there is even more reason to really push the big idea. However, I can’t in good conscience ignore the need for careful reading and examination of the text. So, I went to visit a colleague who loves to do detailed passage analysis with her students. I will admit that I do not necessarily love detailed passage analysis by itself. I need it to be done in service of a bigger idea or investigation. Sometimes this is hard at the beginning of a book when we need to be doing all that close reading, but we haven’t read enough of the text for some of the bigger ideas to be visible. After visiting my colleague, I decided that I could be more insistent that we stick with some particular passages longer in order to get at more and deeper analysis, but I also have some texts in my curriculum that do not necessarily call for the kind of analysis this colleague does with Faulkner, for example.

Conclusion: I need to be more intentional in the passages that we investigate closely and be more patient in waiting and prodding for that continued analysis. But, I’m not far off here. And, there is no reason we can’t come back to passages later. It may be easy to stick to discussing the passages from the particular assignment, but that should not dictate my planning.

Second, the format of our discussions.

  • I was too dominant a voice in class.
  • Too much talk was simply a single response to a question from me.
  • Not enough adding on to others’ ideas or responding to a classmate.

While I will admit that I can get carried away and want to participate a lot in a good discussion (in a very ‘ooh this is so exciting’ way), I am definitely not intimidating. I like to take notes on the board (preferably in multiple colors in a web with circles and lines connecting ideas) as we talk. This keeps me close to the board and at the front. The tables are usually arranged in a U-shape or a closed rectangle. However, most students sit at the sides and far edge of the shape. I try to move to the side and sit down, but then I am back up again. When we have what I call graded discussions (where I do not talk at all and give students a topic to prepare in advance), they do a better job of responding to each other as there is no other option. However, even in this format, I found too much serial opinion giving this year rather than collaborative discussion.

Conclusion: I have forgotten to remind students of some of my goals and expectations for our work together. In other years, I have been more intentional about this and, surprise, the outcomes were better in this area. I was reminded of some of this after I read “Bringing All Students into Discussion” on Edutopia the other day. It’s impossible to keep everything I want to be doing at the front of my brain, and the ideas in this article are not new to me; I just did not put them front and center. As I focused on some particular interdisciplinary goals and more rigorous and synthetic assessment design, I forgot to spend time in some other areas.

Classroom climate, which I see this as an outgrowth of, is one of the most important things to me. And while I know from my course surveys that students did not feel discouraged from participating or that there was a culture of exclusion, I want to get back to my previous levels of success here. When I talked with small groups of students, we had great interchanges–wrestling with ideas for projects or writing, working and reworking ideas. This leads me to believe that it is the whole class situation that needs attention. All of us, teacher and students, should feel responsible for encouraging and ensuring that all voices are heard. We should aim to be requesting feedback from others on our ideas. I suspect a lot of this change can be affected by me being more transparent and specific about my goals and then explicitly modeling and sharing strategies that we can all use. 

I’m already planning for September!

 

So I’ve been thinking about the final project for my senior English class. I have known that this would be the assignment in some shape or other since the summer. It was one of the very first things that I determined about the class, and I’ve been excited about it ever since.

A little background.

This is a one semester, interdisciplinary English class focusing on fantasy literature and in particular fantastic places. For this final unit, we have learned about installation art (I wrote about my students’ voicethread projects on installation artist the other day), and we have just read The Night Circus by Ellen Morgenstern. In the book, two magicians make various displays and tens within a magical circus (think more fair than circus in that there are many displays and parts of the place rather than a single big top). The circus, open only at night, travels from city to city and serves as a venue for a competition between the two magicians, who have each been trained by a different teacher. Some of the tents that they create have the feel of installation art. I told the students the rough outline of this assignment about halfway through our reading. I would have told him sooner but It would not have made sense. Here is what I shared with them at that point:

Immersive Environment Proposal

Simply put, you will create a proposal and explanation for an immersive environment. This environment should have one specific, intended audience member (from one of our course texts) and allow for others to participate. It should also address a big idea that we have investigated over the course of the semester.

Things to consider or questions you need to answer:

  • What big, conceptual ideas will your work/space examine?
  • Who is this space for? You need to have a specific audience member (presumably a character from the semester, but if you have other ideas, please ask) in mind and design for that person (and others)
  • How does this space speak to both you and your audience member?
  • How do you imagine the audience moving or not around the space and why?
  • How does the audience interact with the environment? Can they change it or engage with it in a way that alters the experience?
  • What materials would you use and why?
  • How have you been inspired by any of the artists you or your classmates studied? Be specific about your inspiration.
  • Consider technological and fantastic options. Just because you don’t know HOW you would make it work, doesn’t mean you can’t suggest or plan as if you did.

More details about words and images to come, but this is enough to let you get started thinking.

 

We really started talking about it a little more in earnest as they finished the last section of the book. I asked for feedback from a few colleagues. I talked with the class about product and group or individual project.  We actually came to the idea of a poster session as a group. After all that, I added what I think are clarifications to the description of the assignment.

Please look at the TED Talk video on The Night Circus topic page (on LMS) I think it gives a good example of how an artist might think about big ideas yet represent them in maybe unexpected ways.

Due Date: Friday, May 4th.

Format: poster (and shadow box or model–optional) with images and text.

  • Artist statement
  • Detailed description of the piece. This does not all have to be words. You can and should have some visual elements here (diagram, colors, picture of materials, etc). How will visitors experience the work? What do you hope they notice? etc
  • Process commentary. This will walk us through the ideas you drew upon, reference images or artists you borrowed from, discuss the process of coming to your final idea. (So, take notes along the way of where your ideas have come from and how they have changed).

We will have a gallery walk through the proposals. There is a special schedule on Friday. 4th is after 1st. I am worried about completing all proposals in a single period. We may need to meet on Monday for part of the time as well.

I have been updating a Pinterest board with images of installation art and linked that to our class page as well. The groups are formed. The topics are chosen. The students are working. On Monday I had expected that we would have time to work in class after finishing a discussion. However, the discussion was going so well that we didn’t get to it. So, students have had time in class but only the past couple of days. I would have liked to have given them shorter bits of time over more days, but that is not how things turned out.

One of the things that I needed to clarify and find a way to explain more was the idea of this being an art piece, not a stage set or an illustration of some piece of the book. Most of the very first ideas they were batting around in their groups were very literal. I was concerned. After another conversation with my art colleague who had helped out during the introduction to installation art, I returned with the following words: our goal is Art, not illustration. While this seems succinct and to the point, I was not sure that the students would know what to do with it. I added more to the assignment description. (Sometimes I just can’t help myself.)

NOTES:

  • Our goal here is ART, not illustration. That doesn’t mean you might not start with some more literal representations of your ideas, but then consider how to move a bit away from that. Your audience should be able to bring their own experiences and ideas to the work. You don’t want to dictate exactly what they are supposed to think or see.
  • It is fine to be inspired by or have someone else’s work spark an idea for you as long as you then do something different with it. It’s hard to explain why seeing x makes you think of y. Giving credit to that initial spark does not make you unoriginal. It makes you a respectful member of a community of creators.
  • Keep generating ideas. Don’t necessarily settle for the first idea that comes to you. Be willing to engage in significant revision to the point that the initial plan is not even visible.

Oh, me of little faith.

On Wednesday, students came in with lots of ideas. They must have been doing some thinking about the project, and I was impressed by where many of their ideas had gone. While there is still a lot of literal underpinning for what they’re planning, they are pushing themselves to be more abstract as well.

Victory!

A couple of the groups had some heated discussion about where and how they would bring their ideas to life. One group has been laughing up a storm as they try to imagine making their ideas visible–blood and wolves are involved. This group is particularly amusing to me because two of the three students are from my 5th grade class, and as I watch them laughing about  the absurdity of some of their ideas, I can see them as those 5th graders in my room who laughed about the craziness of the Greek myths and ran around the playground at recess. Usually, I walk around and talk with each group, which I did some of, but there was so much good conversation happening in each group that I really didn’t want to interrupt the flow. I did more walking and listening. And, at some point, I just sat down. They really did not need me to do anything else.

I am so excited to see the final results.