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Helping students find their own ideas - a good read (long post)

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  • Judy Decker
    Greetings Art Educators, I wish I had met Marvin Bartel earlier in my teaching career. I changed the way I verbally taught lessons starting fall 1994 - but
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29 5:40 AM
      Greetings Art Educators,

      I wish I had "met" Marvin Bartel earlier in my teaching career. I
      changed the way I verbally taught lessons starting fall 1994 - but
      still wrote them the same way for administrators. I didn't have time
      to write down everything I told students! I provided the materials,
      but encouraged them to go beyond my simple demonstration (Like I did
      in my own art when I was taught a "lesson" in grad school. I followed
      all of the requirements of the lesson - but did my own thing and
      excelled! It was the meaning I put into my art works that got me the
      grade in all but one class - but I don't care about that first class.
      I accept my B grade for "poor composition skills" and being "too
      narrative". I never got a critique like that again!).

      To share these ideas, I need to go back to the beginning of the
      beginning of the thread. I did get permission to post their ideas (I
      respect copyright and ask all of you to do the same....When you post a
      reply to the list, include the essentials of the original post and
      also include the original member's name - so all know the source of
      the ideas that are shared).

      These posts were shared on TAB Yahoo List (Teaching for Artistic
      Behavior). I know about Choice Art Education - but TAB cam about after
      I retired and I learned about it through Knowledge Loom (no longer on
      line?) - through Dr. Craig Roland's post to Getty List.

      From Francis Rice (Francis, I know I have your permission already -
      I asked the wrong person for this message. Her link may not work.
      I don't "Twitter" so I didn't check that)

      > Hi, I just thought I'd poke about on twitter when I stumbled onto this
      > tweet:
      > Check out this awesome @Artsonia artist statement my 4th grader wrote
      > about her #art on her own from home http://bit.ly/Y2lzBP #eduwin

      > I initially interpreted that this tweet meant that a student had
      > created artwork on her own at home and written an artist statement. When I
      > followed the link I was surprised by what the student wrote:
      > This artwork is named City Silhouette. My favorite part of my artwork is
      > the trees that are ink that we used straws to blow all the ink over the
      > paper. We used Sharpies to make creepy curves on the trees. The inspiration
      > for this piece would be the Fall skies and the windows lit up on houses
      > that I see during the night. I am suprised how creative I was with the
      > windows without copying any of anyone else's ideas. I also love the
      > backround that we painted and the whole idea that my art teacher Mrs.
      > Tiedemann came up with. Without her amazing abilities my pieces would not
      > be able to come out this great. I would like to thank her for that.
      > I was surprised when I read this student's artist statement, because it
      > was not about art she had created on her own at home. It was about a
      > directed lesson from class. I realized the teacher was happy the student
      > took the trouble to write an artist statement at home as it showed
      > reflective thinking and interest in the class project. She was proud of how
      > her windows were unique. Think how proud she would have been if the
      > process had been more self directed, even if inspired by another artist
      > (because frankly we don't live in a vacuum and are receiving input 24/7)!
      > But what if the teacher had demoed blowing ink with a straw and then
      > asked, How do you think you might use this technique? Or what if she had
      > asked, "Can you think of any other ways of applying or spreading ink on
      > paper?" I wonder what novel ideas and unusual methods would have been
      > discovered and shared!
      > I once read that when children color in coloring books it actually sends a
      > subliminal message that they aren't capable of drawing well on their own.
      > This student has just said that she could not make great art without the
      > teacher. What will this student do when she no longer has a teacher as a
      > crutch? That is why what we are doing in promoting artistic behavior is so
      > empowering. Students are learning how to find their own ideas, they are
      > encouraged to explore materials, and they are intrinsically motivated to
      > engage and persist.
      > Frances Rice

      Here is the wise "Art Ed Guru" Dr. Marvin Bartel's response:


      I wholeheartedly agree with your very insightful conclusions. Thank you.
      Telling (direct instruction) by teachers is an educational plague. Teachers
      who tell (as I am doing right now), can make students feel dependent on
      instructions and suggestions. We are infinitely more helpful if we help
      students independently see and care about things that need to be expressed
      evocatively (as you did with your post).

      When we make suggestions, we are giving answers, we encourage lazy minds
      and learned helplessness. On the other hand, when we ask authentically
      open-ended questions (the inquiry method), we help students become better
      thinkers. Choice-based instruction questions do not have yes/no answers or
      other single-answer responses. The inquiry method does not use questions in
      the manner of a test. Questions are used to motivate intrinsic wondering.
      We can wonder whether they might consider answering with their artwork.
      When we use open-ended questions (questions with many answers) we help
      encourage divergent thinking and creativity. When we make a suggestion, we
      promote a mindset of dependency on experts. If we use open-ended questions,
      we can coach wondering and awareness about color effects, about line
      character, about all kinds of aesthetic theory, about observations, about
      feelings, about past experiences and memories, and so on and on and on.

      The questions depend what age and readiness, but I am often surprised at
      how much kids improve their artwork when they make the effort to consider
      some alternatives on their own. I have seen teachers stop the whole class
      to ask these questions without expecting verbal answers. The work gets
      better because new ideas are being tested. The most amazing outcome has
      been that the students begin to self-question (on their own) as they work.
      They learn that the strategies of inquiry and experimentation are rewarding
      enough that they suspend some of their fear of the unknown in order to look
      for new discoveries. This is learned creativity!

      Dr. Marvin Bartel, retired

      (From Judy D: Oh - now I wish I had saved an odd figure pot I made in
      college - all altered wheel thrown pieces! Dr. Bartel would have loved
      it! I sold it for $5 at my first Garage Sale. Check his Sky Table
      image on home page. Dr. Bartel, we must be related after all --

      To find more go to:


      This is the post I got permission to post.... I only thought it was
      what started the thread. I just read it today (silly me)
      Looks like all of you have some searches to do to find Ali Benton's
      Action Research topic that Ellyn replied to.
      I did a TAB search for "out of the mouths of babes" - try it for
      yourself and see what you find. Enter her name is the search (after
      you join TAB list -- then email her personally - but never ask her for
      her entire research paper. If she wants to share it, she will offer it

      From Ellyn:

      Ali, thanks for sharing your action research findings. I think as TAB teachers
      we all find the diversity of needs that you have written about. Even as a
      practicing artist and art-class-taker I too appreciate what I would call "a
      challenge" offered by my instructor. However, I want to state that I don't think
      the "tracers" and "coloring book" kids are being looked down upon, it is a
      sustained practice that leads them to believe that this is all they can do that
      is a bit frightening (teacher directed art is just the verbal form of this).
      Does it have it's place? Sure but as teachers I think we need to think about how
      we use it.

      Why is it frightening? Well for one, in real life we are all presented with
      challenges that we must solve by pulling out information from a vast store of
      files in our brains and sometimes we are successful and sometimes not. This is
      how life goes. Teaching students to be resilient, and resourceful are skills
      they could use practice in and many of them are not getting this in other
      classes or even outside of school. Teaching them that they may not always be
      successful and that that is a good feeling to learn how to wrangle with is
      important. I let my kids trace, I teach them to use it as a tool for learning
      about something difficult that they are drawing. If you are stuck on a part,
      trace it a few times and it can give your hand a sort of muscle memory for how
      to draw it on your own. Instead of coloring book pages I let students photocopy
      their own drawings to make multiples or use zentangle type doodling (which
      looked cheap to me at first) some kids love the meditative feel of it and often
      it leads to a freedom of thought for my more insecure students.

      Thanks for bringing up these thoughts on coloring books and tracing. I have
      learned over the years that it is part of my job to remain open in thought and

      What do others think of this/

      Ellyn Gaspardi


      Thanks TAB Members! Warning Kathy, there may be more signing up. Be
      sure to keep all "on topic" (big smile).

      Wishing all a Joyous New Year!

      Judy Decker
      Retired Art Teacher..... but still teaching, I guess?

      P.S. This is the very last time I am apologizing for a post that was
      too long to read. I am sure there are many who will understand.
      Sometimes, answers are NOT short and NOT easy to write.
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