During my time student teaching I had the pleasure of observing many art teachers from the area, successful classroom teachers at my placement, and other specials teachers.
Music and Physical Education
My cooperating teacher and I decided that there could be a real benefit in observing other specials teachers at my placement. Art, music, and physical education teachers all face similar issues like only seeing students 4 minutes every week, large age differences, and students’ differences in interest. The music teacher would get students moving with clapping tapping, and swinging to the beat. This was great for all the wiggly third graders I was observing. She would make certain noises to get students to focus again and pay attention to her- that’s something I could easily apply to my classroom as well. She would also have the students rate themselves on how responsible they were being when activities were almost out of control. This self-reflection she has the students have really cut back on noise and behavior for the rest of the class. The physical education teacher used cold call often in his instruction, which had students paying attention in case they got called on. He would often review what they learned last week so students could see how they were building off of those previously learned skills. I also saw that during an activity he would individually instruct students who were either having a hard time or who were excelling so much they needed another challenge. His lessons involved of stopping, reflecting, and quickly getting back into the activity so students were always paying attention. It was also a treat for me to see some students who didn’t enjoy art very much to really succeed in P.E.
I observed three classroom teachers while at my placement. The first is a kindergarten teacher and currently has the most difficult class in the school. During my observation I often found myself completely engaged in what they were learning because the teacher was such a good actress. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I could see that reflected in the students as well. To help instill classroom expectations she only calls on students following directions and sitting correctly. When another student interrupts or “blurts” she asks them a question to help refocus and reconnect. This technique really requires some patience. The second teacher I observed was a second grade teacher. She was working on “to-do” lists with the class and explained how it’s okay we are not all at the same place. This was a great accommodation for all learners because then students understand there is some urgency but that we all work at our own paces, and that’s okay. She plays music as a reward for heir hard work. I also loved that she gave students a quick stretch break when she could tell they were loosing focus. Lastly, I observed a fifth grade teacher. What stuck with me most from her instruction is that she teaches students the why to their work. This helps students connect information to their everyday or to see a motivation for schoolwork. She had great calls to attention that the students enjoyed because they were so silly. For example;
Person 1: Holy Moly!
Person 2: Guacamole!
Every time she would do that the majority of students would be smiling. She modeled mistakes on the board which helped students avoid it later on and was a great accommodation for visual learners. Routines in the classroom are very strong and students made transition times very quick. She would also give responsibility to all students which was exciting for some students having a hard day.
I observed a large variety of art teachers. Some have been teaching for many teachers, others are just part time, one is in his first year of teaching, and another teaches all types of art (including wood arts!). All of them have individual styles and techniques which make their room special and a safe place to create. Here are some techniques, accommodations, and tips I found most helpful amongst the art educators I observed.
Having an organized art classroom is vital in the success of routines and cleanliness of the room. Going over routines and placement for different materials really pays off. One teacher would put out all the supplies ahead of time and she would run around frantically, while another would have students sitting quietly help them and it not only helped with prep time but also gave responsibility to those students. Having materials ready and available for students was the biggest strength amongst all the teachers. Most had large bins or trays that they would put all prepared materials in for that grade level so set up did not take very long.
Teaching students why its’ important to clean their brush seems obvious to some, but taking the time to teach students how to properly clean colors off and how not to squash the paint brush into the paper really pays off in the life of materials and the production of artwork. Connecting art pieces and projects to artists helps students place it in history and see the variety of art pieces that can be made. I watched a wonderful lesson on Matisse and his paper cut outs. During work time I saw students referencing the book and the different shapes Matisse often made. Giving students a place to start or a way to find inspiration when stuck is vital in creating strong lessons. Being patient with students while learning skills was evident in almost every classroom. Creating an environment of understanding and respect does wonders for a student’s confidence while creating art.
Most classes started with a little instruction or focusing assignment to pick up where students left off the week before. This helps get them in the right mindset or serves as a reminder of what their working on. During work time the teachers would talk with students, reflect on their work, and get materials ready for the following class. What I really liked observing is when a student was stuck and the different ways these teachers would approach it. One would be very excited and talk about problem solving in the art room. Another would reference the instruction materials from before and have them check back for inspiration, one would sit down with them and brainstorm other steps they might take, and another would ask them to talk with their neighbors. There is a large variety of ways to approach situations and each educator definitely showed their strengths here.