Julie Miller, NE Region VP
Assessing Student Assessments
In recent years, many school districts have turned to an increased focus on student assessments. At first, it seemed like just another heaping helping to an already full teaching plate. Then I realized that much of what was being required of all educators was something that art teachers already did—a lot—the administration was just putting it into words.
The new National Core Art Standards suggest that assessments should be imbedded in learning, which is the essence of an art project. The projects allow the students to apply their knowledge of art concepts instead of just reiterating them on a test. It is my opinion that application of learning is a more accurate and practical measure of understanding how to use an art concept than merely writing the words. I have had students that do poorly on the written tests, but create beautiful projects when they apply the concepts to their work. Therein lies the issue where some of the debate among art teachers centers—how to use a common assessment throughout the district with multiple teachers and multiple schools using multiple projects. The solution can be simply to have an assessment that is based on the standards and on the agreed upon student learning objectives. It could be used as a stand-alone test or used as a rubric, which could be applied to any project used to teach the standards and SLOs. This is definitely easier said than done!
There are many positives on my list of what can be gained from assessments in art education. I have found that assessments have made me more aware of my students’ needs. For districts involved with PLCs (Professional Learning Communities), this is essential to what we do in the classroom. The focus is on how students learn, not how we teach. If assessment results show that we need to change up some of our methods, it does not mean that we are doing something wrong, just that it was not the best approach for our students’ learning.
Assessments have also made me more aware of basics that may need re-teaching. For example, a recent CFA (Common Formative Assessment) that I gave to third grade on complementary colors revealed that the students that struggled with complementary colors did not have a grasp on primary colors. I might have overlooked that obvious data otherwise because of the assumption that all third graders certainly must know primary colors.
Assessments have also made me more aware of which of my teaching methods are most effective for retaining learning over time. Through my CFA’s, I found that more of my first graders were better at warm and cool colors than they were at primary and secondary colors. I use raps and lots of visuals for learning warm and cool colors, so I’m thinking I need to develop the same approach for primary and secondary colors. CFA data has shown me that the projects that begin with students experimenting with the media they will be using in the projects provide a better, more lasting understanding of the concepts than projects where I just explain the concepts to them.
Assessments also help me see which grade levels that projects are most appropriate for. If the whole class goes well beyond expectations with a CFA given during a project, perhaps the rigor is not there and it would be better suited for a younger grade level.
Assessments have helped me improvise and revise projects in progress to meet student needs. For example, after reviewing the results of the CFA on complementary colors, I revised a third grade drawing project to include mounting cutouts of the drawings on woven backgrounds of complementary colors to give added practice with that color concept.
Assessments have also helped me revise my expectations of how many projects I can plan on completing during the year. More is not better. I do fewer projects each year than when I first started teaching, but with more introduction, more experimentation, more enrichment activities, more collaborative work, and hopefully a deeper learning and understanding of the concepts.
My overall feeling about the increased focus on assessments is that, although time-consuming and not always easy to fit into our schedules, they do offer valuable information to help us focus on our students’ learning. The catch is, we have to look at the results not as a judgment on our teaching, but an assessment of our students’ learning. We have to be willing to use the data they give us without letting our pride get in the way by repeating our favorite lessons that are not producing the desired results in our students. We have to be willing to change our methods if collaboration with other teachers shows their methods are getting better results than ours. We have to be willing to use the assessment data to improve student learning, not as indicators or our proficiency as teachers. In the end, the primary focus of assessments must be the needs of students, not teachers.
March is Youth Art Month
YES! It is Youth Art Month time! I know that many of you have been busy preparing your student
art for our annual Youth Art Month Exhibits. Our middle school art teachers just completed
hanging our citywide annual art exhibit in celebration of YAM at our public library. Our
elementary art staff will soon be joining us and displaying art in both our north and south branch
public libraries of La Crosse. During these shows, our district invites each of our school board
members to come view the exhibits and select one piece of art to hang in our school district
boardroom. Late in spring, students and their families are invited to a fine arts recognition
ceremony to meet the board members that chose their work. These artworks get framed and
are displayed for the school district board and attendees to see until the following Youth Art
Month shows. This event has been a wonderful way to showcase and celebrate our youth artists
in our school community.
Let us embrace our regional and state level Youth Art Month Exhibits. I have been enjoying
seeing and hearing from the regional VP’s on their regional exhibits. This has been an amazing
opportunity to oversee over 30 of our region’s teacher YAM submissions. Our regional show is
being installed at the Heider Center for the Arts in West Salem, and will be on display starting
February 2nd. Our exhibit will end with a closing reception for the artists and their families on
February 19th from 6-7:30pm. Shortly after that, this show will be packaged up and be ready for
transit to the State Capital Exhibit on February 21st.
This year’s change to our Youth Art Month submission allowed all WAEA members to submit up
to five student works (two more than last year) with three of those five going on to the State
Capital YAM Show. We anticipate that the State Capital Rotunda will be overflowing with the
magnificent artworks from the art studio classroom from all over the state. It is my hope that
each of you is taking the time to celebrate your students’ artistic accomplishments with them
and their families.
YES! I can’t wait to see our art fill the Capital.
Organizing Assessments with Google Forms
By: Sarah Higley
When I began teaching elementary art two and a half years ago, I was immediately overwhelmed by the responsibility of assessing almost 400 students. The online grade book that my district provides is not user friendly for a teacher that sees every student in the school. Therefore, I set out to find my own way of organizing grades and assessments. The solution I found has served me well for nearly two years, and I hope it might give you some ideas about how you can organize your grades as well.
First of all, this process works much better if you have an iPad that you have access to all the time. The first step is on my regular computer. I create a Google Form for each class that has my report card standards on the top, then an empty space for the project we are working on, followed by a list of all the students in each class with the options of 1, 2, 3, 4, incomplete, and absent below each name. Yes, this step is time intensive, but I figure that the time it saves me throughout the year is worth it.
The Google Form functions like an online survey. I can walk around the room with my iPad and tap on the grade I want to give each student. Then the magic starts! When I press submit, the information I put into the Google Form migrates to a Google Spreadsheet! This is why I love this system so much. I can pull up a spreadsheet for a particular class and see each student’s name with a list of their grades underneath. This is a function that I cannot do with the district grade book.
Depending on how your district does grading, this system may look different for you. I would suggest creating a practice Google Form and just playing around with it to see if you can make this tool work for you in your classroom. Even if my exact system is not right for you, you may be able to incorporate Google Forms to make your assessment organization more efficient. I hope this information was helpful!
WAEA winter 2014 e-times article – Julie Miller VP NE Region
One definition of creativity describes it as the ability to make new connections between things. How fitting then to have the theme – Art Connects Us – to describe the meeting of so many creative minds at the WAEA 2014 fall conference.
Art teachers are famous for developing innovations and finding alternative uses for just about anything. Most of the small appliances in my house have found their way to my classroom. I don’t know about you, but in my world, hair dryers dry paintings, toaster ovens melt shrinky dinks, blenders make paper pulp, and salad spinners make abstract paintings.
Art innovations based on new connections to materials, people and processes were abundant at the fall conference. The workshop I presented with my art teacher buddy, Tricia Evers, focused on using old tools in new ways, or hammers in the art room. The photographs show teachers engaged in a little hammer time. Another workshop called “slow looking” challenged participants to discuss art with students on a deeper more challenging level. Working with glass mosaics on 3D forms instead of flat surfaces was the process suggested by a pair of experienced glass artists. Another team of teachers presented collaborating across the curriculum with art, English, and math through a single project. Putting a new twist on Zentangle designs in the classroom by using different colors and materials was the hands on focus of another session.
The list of innovations goes on and on. There was something valuable to be learned no matter what workshops conference attendees were a part of. Being exposed to how other art educators do things allows us all to take a closer look at what we do in the classroom and put new life into our methods and lessons. It doesn’t have to be something earth shattering that has never been done before. Simple ideas and tweaks to what we are already doing can make a big difference in student learning.
My favorite comment on the workshop we gave was simply that this is what art was all about – experimenting with materials and having fun. The standards were imbedded in what we were doing, but the most obvious thing in the room was the joy of creating. I hope to be able to continue that pure joy and enthusiasm with my students.
West Central VP
In September, I was invited to attend the National Arts Forum on Arts Education Partnerships in Pittsburgh. This forum was alive with celebrating the arts and focusing on making it a priority to dedicate a high-quality arts education for every young person. It is known that the arts can turn around low performing schools. Arts education can help close the achievement gap and increase teacher retention and engagement. Guest speaker, Dr. Jane Chu, Chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts highlighted her message, “art exists for beauty itself.” As art educators, we know we need to keep the arts infused, and students engaged and empowered. We want all students to be fluent in all art media. The arts are not a frill, but a necessity. Another Keynote speaker, Bill Strickland, President and CEO of the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corp. and author of Make the Impossible Possible, was highly inspiring. His message continues to fill my head and heart. We are responsible for teaching the heart of what the arts are. It is the art that all our cities collaborate and connect upon across our nation. Bill Strickland’s vision is that every child, every day should create, learn, and perform…for it is “Art” that cures the cancer of the soul. Embracing and engaging in the arts closes the opportunity gap for student success. Engaging in the arts will only impact our daily existence. His message—don’t just advocate for resources, advocate to change the time we can be creative within our daily schedule.
Creative Thinking. Critical Thinking. Communication Skills. Collaboration Skills. Perseverance Skills. Studio Habits of Mind. Digital Image Transfer. Ingenuity. Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB). Inclusive Arts Practice. Visual Journaling, Drawing Interventions. SLO’s. All of these topics and so many more filled two whole days for me at this year’s WAEA Fall Conference. I came away with innovative ideas, the desire to try new (and incorporate old) media in my classroom and came away feeling renewed and inspired. I walked back into my studio ready to pass on the new “creative art spill” with my students. It is my desire to be surrounded by my students who are full of curious delight. I welcome in “the stirring” to facilitate authentic art experiences. In a time when we are forced to write student learner outcomes, keep in sight what we do that matters most, each and every day. Trust the creative process! Let arts-rich experiences arrive in you and through you! Continue to engage and motivate your students through the creative processes that builds bridges and connects us all.
As Art teachers we frequently find ourselves alone on an island—stuck in the basement, in a different building or separated from our like-minded colleagues. The annual fall WAEA conference is a time for rejoicing, having fun, collaborating, and most importantly, a time for learning and growing. This year’s conference has been all of those for me. The sessions this year were amazing and helped me connect with other art teachers as well as helped me connect with my students.
The session, “Resources to Support Students with Disabilities” was great. This session offered great insight into research-based practices of special needs art education, online resources, adaptive tools, and ideas for providing the optimal learning environment for our students. The instructor really made me think about how I connect with my students who need adaptations to learn the same material as everyone else. She provided me with ideas on how to make printmaking safer for the students who have spasms, ticks, and involuntary hand movements. Since going to this session, I have been researching different types of scissors to aid in the development of the cutting skills of my students. By far, the best adaptation she provided me with was the idea for creating different “grips” for those students who have a difficult time grasping tools.
My favorite session and the session that I believe exemplifies the theme of this year’s conference was “Branding Your Art Room.” This session delved deep into how we as art teachers are perceived, how our room and curriculum is perceived, what we want our art department to look like, and ways to project the image we envision for our program. The presenter opened up about how he changed the “image” of how others perceived his program. He showed techniques, ideas, and ways to establish credibility with our school community and how to make our “brand” appealing to the students, administrators, and the community. He talked about how our brand as an art teacher can help develop a culture of creative worth. I think that everyone who attended the conference that has ever had a struggle with the promotion and credibility or the importance of the arts should take a look at what this session had to offer. The presentation is available on the WAEA Google drive folder for the conference.
https://drive.google.com/a/portage.k12.wi.us/folderview?id=0B7DxImD2zQfmek1mNnJPRERWQTg&usp=sharing#. This session will help all of us show our colleagues, administrators, students, and even community members why the arts are important and what we as art teachers stand for.
Information Coming Soon
Information Coming Soon
Bergstrom - Mahler Museum of Glass
January 1th - January 25th
Reception January 11th, 2-4 pm
Heider Center for the Arts, West Salem
February 1st - 9th
Reception February 19th, 6-7:30 pm
Bayshore Town Center Rotunda, Milwaukee
January 30th - Febuary 6th
Reception Information Coming Soon
University of Baraboo, Sauk County
January 10th - 17th
Reception January 17th, 1-3pm
South West Co-Vice President
Starting a new position as an art educator can be daunting, especially if you are just beginning your career. Starting out as a new teacher, I felt overwhelmed. I had many of the same concerns that all art teachers face; how do I promote my art program, how do I show my administration the importance of the arts, and how can I show core teachers the importance of art in their classrooms?
Throughout my first two years of teaching, I have used many different strategies for promoting and advocating for my students and the art education program. The first thing I did was to be visible. When I say this I do not mean just artwork around the school; I mean making myself visible before school, after school, during prep time, during passing time, and most importantly during lunch. I feel that making a solid connection to the colleagues you work with on a daily basis is pertinent to developing your art program. I also updated the display cases throughout the year with new student artwork to show other students and colleagues what type of learning was occurring in my classroom.
The next thing that I did, as most art educators do, is to have a district wide art exhibition of student work. To form an even better bond with my administration, I created personalized invitations for my administration and handed them out in person. Doing this led to the superintendent and multiple other administrators and principals attending the art show. After making this connection, I used the support of the administrators to start an art club for the students. To advocate for the art club, I created a proposal that outlined expenses, student benefits, community benefits, and district benefits. I later wrote a letter to the school board with detailed notes about how the art club would help student development and how it would be beneficial for them. It took me about a year to get the art club approved, but it was well worth the effort and persistence.
What I found to be the best way to promote and advocate for my art program and myself was my love and interest for inter-disciplinary units of teaching with other subjects. Bringing art into the science, English, and history classrooms has really shown my fellow teachers and administrators the positive attributes of art education. My administration loves when teachers work together in collaboration and doing this has really helped illustrate how important the arts are to student development as a whole. Showing other teachers a positive way to integrate art into their teaching has allowed them to explore the arts in their curriculum, and has reinforced the importance of art as an integral part of education today.
Some of my favorite advocacy resources have been blogs and websites from other art educators. They are listed as follows:
North East Vice President
Visibility. If you want people to support something, they first have to be aware of it. They need to see it and understand it before they will be willing to support it.
Visibility. That’s one of the challenges facing art education today. Too many people see art education as simply drawing and painting and making pretty things. They fail to see that art education can be the vehicle for teaching students important life skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication, responsibility, leadership, independence, thinking, problem solving, and inquiry, to name just a few.
Visibility. That needs to be the focus when advocating for art education. Everyone involved–students, parents, community members and leaders–must be made aware of the values of having students actively involved in an art program. These values go beyond merely learning the color wheel and the elements of art. If students understand, for example, that they are learning to draw or paint as a means of communicating their ideas, it will become more authentic and relevant to them. As students gain creative confidence through the choices and decisions they make during the artistic process, they will be able to become advocates for art education themselves. If parents see the relevancy art has to lasting life skills, they will be more likely to support art education, as well as their students’ efforts at school and at home. The community will also be more likely to offer their support for programs they are familiar with and see the value in.
How do we do this? How do we make our art programs visible? It starts in the classroom. Students should always be made aware of what they are learning and why. This information can be communicated to parents through e-mails, newsletters, teacher websites or notes attached to artwork when it goes home. Options and suggestions for continuing learning at home could be included as well. Making classroom teachers aware of what is happening in the art room is another strategy to garner support. E-mails, copies of lesson plans, samples of projects, and hallway displays with objectives included can all help secure support from teachers and administration. An effective way to reach the community is through regular displays of student work. Whether that is an annual art show, pieces on display in area businesses, business partnerships developed to provide supplies or student incentives, or a space dedicated to student art in a prominent community location, we need to make and keep the community aware that our art programs are alive and well and are having a positive and far-reaching effect on our students’ learning.
Visibility. When I first started teaching, I was frustrated by the fact that there were no local venues for the display of elementary art. I wrote a proposal, put together a portfolio with examples of student work and ideas for displays, and approached a local museum, Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah, WI, as well as the YMCA in my district. Both were very receptive to the idea of displaying student art and provided space in their facilities. I provide a new display of student work each month, drawing on support from other area art teachers. For the past five years, these displays have provided a consistent visual reminder to the community of the benefits of a visual arts program. An informational and educational poster describing the process and the objectives always accompany the displays. It has been a win-win arrangement! Students feel pride in the work that they are able to share with the public, parents are provided with an opportunity for a free family outing focusing on the accomplishments of their students, the community gets a peek into what goes on in the art rooms they support with their tax dollars, and the museum has been very pleased by the increased number of new visitors. Whenever possible, I use grade level projects, instead of just one class, to involve as many students as possible.
Visibility. Art educators have the opportunity to share the great learning that goes hand in hand with the great creating in their art rooms. They can make the value of their programs visible to their students, parents, and communities. Advocating for art facilitates collaboration with supporters and other art teachers, which serves to advance the quality of art education. We must not only be leaders in the classroom with our students, but also convey our objectives outside the classroom to ensure visibility and support for the future of art education.