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Dana Katz

ARTE 344
November 11, 2016
Teaching Reflection 5th Grade
1. Surprises
Working with late elementary/middle school children is not something
new to me. I have substituted in a junior high school classroom and
supervised a summer camp of forty plus kids ranging from ages fourfourteen. I know that at this age, they are trying to figure out who they
are, while also hoping to fit in with the larger group. As discussed by
Wachowiak (2006), fifth and sixth grade is the age level when children
become more and more self-conscious leading them to feel discouraged
and frustrated if their artwork does not match the image they have in
their head (p. 99). Having this prior knowledge, I knew going into the
lesson that I was going to run into issues with students doubting their
animal drawings. It was something I was going to have to help them
overcome, but I felt prepared enough to do so. However, when I finished
my first day, I found myself feeling defeated and could not understand
how or why this had happened.
To start, I was surprised that some children had a hard time selecting
any animal to show appreciation to, and even more surprised when one of
my students completely refused to participate during the lesson. What I
originally thought was going to be the easiest part of the lesson, suddenly
turned into the most difficult. I was also thrown off by how many times

students erased their charcoal drawings to start over. I tried to emphasize


the idea that charcoal is working from your mistakes, and even created a
demonstration piece to show how my incorrect silhouette helped me build
a more accurate final drawing, but for the students still had a very hard
time working through this. As a developing art student still learning to be
looser with my own work, I completely understood their need for
immediate perfection. As their art teacher though, I found myself
confused on why a simple task was taking so long to complete.
2. Best.
1. Student Responses
A lot of my favorite responses came through during the in process
work. I loved hearing how excited each of them were to talk about their
chosen animal. One of my favorite responses came from a student
creating her silhouette. Initially she was having trouble drawing out a
face shape that she felt accurately represented her dog. However,
after working on it for another ten minutes, she told me how good she
felt hers was going to look and how she was excited to work on it
during the next lesson.
Another one of my favorite responses came from a student who, at
the beginning, told me that he did not like any animals except cows for
their meat. After a short discussion, we came to an agreement that he
could choose an insect, which seemed to excite him. When I read over
his artist statement, I was surprised by how unique and deep he

seemed to get in his discussion about mosquitos. He said that because


they bite people, they often get overlooked as bad bugs, when really
they help to keep the bug population down. While most other students
wrote about how they appreciated their animal because it was cute or
loving, he wrote about something that I felt was a little more reflective.
2. Questions/Dialogue
While there were various great discussions held with the class, I
think the best one came at the end when the students all stopped to
look at each others work. I asked for a few volunteers to describe their
thought process when creating their pieces. While some students were
excited to talk about their piece, others were more hesitant because
they felt that their work did not measure up to exactly how they
expected. As their teacher I felt it was my job to help each of them see
the strong aspects of their work. For one student, I asked him to get in
front of the class. Knowing he was hesitant to talk, I began the
discussion by telling the class some of the things that he and I
discussed while he was making the piece. I asked him about color
choice and what he felt he did well on. I then asked the other students
to offer up their opinion on what parts of the piece they thought were
successful. I knew this would be crucial to instilling confidence in the
student, and as discussed by Yardsticks (1997) students at this age are
expressive, talkative and they like to explain (p. 111). This exercise
allowed them to do that. I think this was a crucial part of the project in

helping the students feel confident in their work. I believe it was


especially crucial based on their age and how critical each of them
currently is of themselves.
3. Problem & Solving
One of the difficulties I had when teaching this lesson was trying to
find a way to get one student involved. From day one, she fought me
on participating in the project, refusing to select an animal. Little by
little though, I was able to pull out more from her. On day one, she
came in with no images, so on day two I brought in a sheet of different
animals for her to select from. On day two, I noticed she picked the
flamingo to focus on for her thumbnails, so on day three I brought in
various larger images of flamingos. When I noticed she was struggling
with participation, I asked her to help me pass out papers, and tried to
find tools to make things easier for her. I made sure that no matter
what difficulties I was facing, I never gave up on her and kept pushing
her. I also let her know that it was not an option to sit in the class and
do nothing, and she could either work on a piece that she had total
control over, selecting images and colors that were meaningful to her,
or I would select them for her. I think this set the precedent that I
would not let her behavior slide and also helped her see the choices
she had available to her. Though, I did not fully get where I wanted to
with her by the end of the lesson, I think the pushing helped her
progress father than she would have otherwise.

4. Organization
The best organization came on days three and four. During the third
lesson, I had a group demonstration. I sat in the middle of the Ushaped desk and demonstrated how to use the various charcoal tools.
After demonstrating each tool, I asked them to practice for a couple
minutes with it. I think this was a great way to keep them involved,
while also holding their attention. It also allowed each of them to
practice and explore the materials before beginning their final piece.
This allowed them to figure out what the best tools were for creating
each part of their drawing.
During day four, I needed to move my lesson to the library. Instead
of having long desks, the tables were square and I had one extra. I
think this gave them more space to work and also allowed them to get
a better sense of other student work. This helped give them ideas and
also push them to finish faster. It also seemed that the students were
more focused in the library in square desks opposed to longer tables.
They not only worked faster, but their work seemed to come out
stronger.
5. Quality of Students Work
Overall, I think the students did a remarkable job interpreting the
lesson and making it their own. Each charcoal piece was unique in how
it was made, and the marks used. I also had some students who chose
to emphasize certain parts of their animals by making them larger. The

oil pastel pieces seemed to take on a mind of their own. It was


interesting that in each piece I could get a true sense of what they
were trying to depict even when they did not necessarily have
intention behind their mark. For one student, he was focusing on
gorillas. The randomness and color splotches throughout his piece
completely reminded me of a jungle environment where you would find
gorillas.
3. Ideas for Improvement
1. Student Responses
I think the students initially had trouble understanding what I
was looking for from them on their first think sheet which asked them
to describe why they appreciated their animal. Many of them just
described what their animal looked like. In the future, I feel that having
a discussion about key characteristics of an animal that the students
appreciate could be helpful. I could make a list on the board to
describe different qualities they could talk about, and also have
questions on the sheet that the student could specifically look to for
guidance.
The final sheet I gave them had various questions that they
could answer to create their artist statement. I think giving the
students more questions to work from, and written answer examples
could help them pull out more meaning in the project.
2. Questions/Dialogue

If I were to teach this lesson again, I would want to create a


stronger dialogue surrounding the vocabulary words and artists
connected with each of the pieces. Because they took longer with their
charcoal drawings, I had to cut a lot of the artist examples out to give
them optimal work time. Being able to show them the work of other
artists could have given them a stronger idea on what I was looking for
with their pastel piece. It also could have given them a better sense of
the artistic community and how not all art is realistic. I believe that
having a review at the beginning of class could also help with the
vocabulary words. I also think that having a list of words for myself to
use each day could allow them to hear the words more and get a
better understanding of what they mean.
3. Problem & Solving
Time was a huge issue with this project. During the third lesson
they had a lot of trouble completing anything in their charcoal
drawings and instead spent the class starting over multiple times. I
now know that they need more structure, detail on what is specifically
happening and how long they have to finish. If I were to teach this
lesson again, I would have use the timing process I used on the final
two days every day. Each day I would also list the actives and time
allotted for them on the board. That way they would know what is
expected, and what is to come.
4. Organization

Keeping students in the same desks could help with initial


organization. A lot of the time, I was sorting out their name tags on
their desks when they came in. If I had a structure where they
remained in the same seat each class, then they could go straight to it
and start working immediately allowing for more time in other areas. I
also believe that having a cleanup duty chart could help the lesson run
smoother. If each student has a specific chart set in the same spot
daily, then they could look to that to know what needs to be done
rather than waiting on me to assign it.
5. Quality of Student Work
Students seemed to have trouble initially understanding what I
wanted from them with the charcoal pieces. Though they eventually
were able to create unique interpretations to represent their animals, I
do think that I could improve on the initial demonstration. I was using
one type of line for all of my demonstration, and I think I need to show
them the various ways they can go about expression. Adding in a
worksheet describing line meaning could possibly help create a more
meaningful outcome.
4. Conclusion
Overall, I think this lesson went well. Students were able to take their
drawings and create pieces that were unique and meaningful to each of
them. They were also given the opportunity to experiment with the
materials, which I think can often get overlooked in art classrooms. Though

there are many improvements that I feel can be made, I think that teaching
will be a constant adjustment depending on the classroom. The classroom I
had was very antsy and needed a lot of activity time, and because this was
my first time teaching this lesson, I ran into issues that I can better assess
and prepare for now.

References
Wachowiak, F., & Clements, R. D. (2006). Emphasis art: A qualitative art program for
elementary and middle schools. Boston, MA: A & B.
Wood, C. (1997). Yardsticks: Children in the classroom, ages 4-14: A resource for parents and
teachers. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.