It’s been a while

So it’s been a long time since I last wrote on here and in that time quite a lot has happened!

Just before the end of term I had an interview for the Head of Art position at my current school and… I got it! Its now 2 days until we go back for our training days and its now beginning to feel rather real.

Being a HOD is something I have always aspired to be and now its fast approaching I feel a rather big mixture of emotions. The first few weeks of the Summer I spent much of my time sorting out my classroom and having a good old clear out around the department. The result is a clean and organised office and a new classroom which feels like mine. I was so fixed on sorting out these sorts of things I am now beginning to panic about all the other stuff. I have just returned from a fabulous week away in New York City. Myself and the Husband love the place, its where he proposed 3 years ago so will always be special to us. We spent 6 lovely days soaking up all the city has to offer including sports games, art galleries, the sites, street food, music and the general buzz that goes hand in hand with a city that never sleeps. Now I’m back to reality and faced with my new adventure.

With 2 days to go I have the usual back to work jitters that all teachers feel after 6 weeks off mixed with another layer of nerves, excitement and and slight trepidation. I know I am capable of the job but there are so many unknowns and new things to face. My first of these has been responding to a large amount of emails following on from the 2 results days in August – note to self, booking holidays over both of these is not advised. I will need to be more organised next year! I have started to look at the DATA (not a word an artist likes) and look for interventions and ways forward.

So, this is why perhaps I have not written as often as I had initially planned but in some ways I think this blog is going to become even more important to me as I start my new role. It will be my little place to ponder and reflect, to record my highs and lows (Im sure there will be some along the way) and to find myself in the role of Head of Department. Here goes nothing!!!

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Every year we run a series of after school workshops for our Gifted and Talented students in key stage 3. In the past I have run sessions on different print making techniques but this year I was keen to try something different. An aspect I particularly love about being an Art teacher is coming up with new project ideas. I had been mulling over an idea for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party theme and thought that the workshop would provide a useful opportunity to test it out. The students met on a Monday after school and I introduced the theme. I was keen not to be too prescriptive in terms of what they produced so we started off by watching some clips from the original animation and more recent film. From that we mind mapped everything we could think off related to the story of Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter… the list was endless; hats, teacups, cakes, the queen of hearts, rabbits… I had created a Pinterest board of inspiration and once students had come up with their ideas we looked through the possibilities.

Pinterest Board 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party'

Pinterest Board ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’

I had in my mind that the work would be 3D but some students preferred to stick to their preferred 2D media. After only 20 minutes or so they were off. I find workshops such as this a good opportunity to allow the students to work in slightly different ways to perhaps they do in lessons. In this workshop I encouraged them to collaborate with their ideas and think BIG! They certainly did. The workshop was only supposed to run for 3 weeks but the students were so engaged and ambitious with their work it lasted 7 weeks! Last week along with our technician we presented their outcomes near the school reception. I love putting up a new display and it makes me smile when I walk past it in the morning!  I have seen students examining the work as they go past, its definitely got me all inspired for next year’s projects!

Students' final work displayed

Takeaway Homework

Last term I experimented with how I presented homework to my year 9 groups. I find that year 9 can be quite a challenge in terms of completing homework, particularly around this time of year when they are making choices about options. I designed a takeaway menu which was something that was mentioned at a local teachmeet I had been to earlier in the year. I used a traditional format of starters, mains and desserts. I wanted to give learners a choice in what they completed but was aware of making sure there were no ‘easy options’. I broke each section into a short task, a research task where the work could be presented in a range of outcomes and then a practical response again providing a choice of presentation. I was really pleased with the finished result and even said they could personalise their dish if they wanted to and that if they had any queries about their order they could contact the department!

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Before the end of term the students started to hand in their responses. I was blown away by their engagement and the standard of the work they had produced. Below is a selection of some of their responses. I had a range of imaginative outcomes, particularly in terms of the artist research. In the past when I have set research tasks I have been presented with a long piece of text which has been copied and pasted but the students created posters, power points and even movies which showed they had engaged with the material. It was also beneficial in terms of assessment as I was able to assess a complete set of work rather than one piece in isolation therefore covering a wider range of skills. I am planning to consider how this approach may be used within other projects and year groups during the remaining terms.

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TWITTER

A few months ago I decided to join Twitter in a bid to keep up to date with new technology. It is turning out to be one of the best things I have done this year. I have made links with lots of lovely art teachers who both work locally and also nationally. Its such a great resource for sharing ideas and keeping up to date with things. Its taken me a while to get to grips with how it all works, but I feel like my confidence is growing each time I tweet something or favourite a post! One local art teacher has set up  #artcubed which involves posting 9 pics a day based on what you have been doing, I am the world’s worst at remembering to photograph and document all the amazing things that go on in the department, so have set myself the challenge of posting my #artcubed at least once a week. I posted my first one today; a selection of beautiful sketchbook work done by my year 10 GCSE students. Its such a nice thing sometimes to just stop and appreciate the amazing things that I encounter on a daily basis being an Art Teacher. Feeling very proud of my students today.

Feedback

Someone on the NSEAD Facebook group posted this link a few weeks ago about assessment from the legend that is Dylan Wiliam. It’s a really interesting read and really sums up my own philosophy on the subject of assessment. We are in such a state of change at the moment with the removal of levels but I’m actually really excited by it. I’ve always been an advocate of good quality comment only marking, I think partly because of my teacher training.

http://www.dylanwiliamcenter.com/is-the-feedback-you-are-giving-students-helping-or-hindering/

The article also talks about the idea “Feedback should be more work for the student than it is for the teacher” which links to my earlier post regarding DIRT – the idea of the student acting on the feedback rather than it being a box ticking exercise.

Carol Dweck’s concept of Growth Mindset is also mentioned with is so important in a subject like Art. I have so many conversations with students (and parents) who see Art as something that you can either ‘do’ or ‘can’t do’. It’s important to me that they see Art as a set of skills which can be developed and refined rather than an innate ability. Undoubtedly good quality feedback is inherently linked to this concept, and allows learners to take control of their learning and see how they can improve.

A worthwhile read with lots to think about.

DIRT

As with many teachers I had a training day on my return to work after Christmas. Before the holidays we had been asked to sign up for a choice of sessions, I opted for a session of feedback as it linked to one of my performance management areas. The session was run by two English teachers and gave us all a worthwhile opportunity to discuss what we mean by effective assessment and the processes we use within our own subject areas. I was really interested in the work that was being done by staff in the English department in terms of their use of assessment and how they engage the learners in the process. I’d been made aware of Directed Improvement and Reflection Time or ‘DIRT’ during a teach meet I attended a few weeks previously at a local school and it got me thinking about how it could be developed in Art. I am a massive advocate of Formative assessment, looking at providing students with good quality comments which identify areas of strength and areas where they can improve, however what I don’t always do is give them the time to ACT on the feedback. In subjects such as English and History the students have their work assessed and then spend the first part of the next lesson responding to the feedback through re-drafting something or making necessary corrections. It’s got me thinking what this could look like in my own subject area. What are the skills or techniques that students commonly need to develop or improve and how can this be done in a timely fashion within the classroom? This is something I would like to look more into during this term, as the research shows it can have a massive impact on learning.

DIRT Dedicated improvement reflection time

Learning how to Blog and Surreal Homeworks

So it’s the half term holidays and I’ve set myself the challenge of getting my Blog up and running. I’ve been busy watching YouTube videos and reading ‘How To’ guides on the internet and I think I’m getting the idea of how to post things and navigate the software although it’s been quite a challenge for someone who likes to work with paper and pencil!

Today I’ve been creating a homework booklet for my year 9s. Term 2 sees us finishing our current Twisted project and moving onto a Surrealism Project where the students explore Surrealist ideas and techniques and the use of Photoshop software to created layered compositions. I really feel I should be equipping my learners to be independent and resilient and want to consider how to embed these things within the Curriculum. A few years ago I created a series of Independent Learning Booklets along with some colleagues from another school in the area. The premise was to encourage independence and to allow learners to develop skills such as organisation and time management. With this in mind I am putting together a homework booklet which will replace the fortnightly teacher led homework tasks and instead give control to the students in terms of how they plan their time and meet the deadline. The homework booklet will focus on their research skills and will allow them choice and flexibility in terms of how they present their work; Power Point, Collage, Video or Artwork. I really want them to move away from the copy and pasted information found on-line and instead engage with the subject matter and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in a more creative way. It’s still in progress but I’m hoping the students engage with it.

Whilst doing my own research on Surrealism I came across this amazing artwork by Swedish teenager Sebastian Eriksson. The image below almost sums up how I’ve been feeling about Blogging and all the new information to take on-board! I will definitely show his work my year 9s when we start our own Photoshop compositions. Hopefully it will engage them to see work done by someone so close to their age.