Guest post by Art teacher, Elena Sacks…
As most specialist PYP art teachers know, time is always of the essence. We need to cram in as many skills and techniques into the year as well as tying in with some units of inquiry. I always have felt compelled to feed the children with information as well as modelling techniques.
Lately I have begun to let the students learn what I used to spoon feed them through self discovery. I got to a point in my teaching where I realized that the majority of kids were switching off as I rambled on excitedly, together with numerous visual examples on my smart board. In reality, the kids just wanted to “get on with it”.
After being mentored earlier this year by a fellow teacher (Jocelyn), I soon realized that I did far too much talking. This became evident after Jocelyn filmed me teaching. When I reviewed the footage, my first reaction was “God I talk a lot!” It was then that I decided to reassess how I conducted my lessons. Jocelyn also advised me to read the book “The 5 Minute Teacher”.
After some reassessment, I decided that it was time to let go and hand over more ownership to the students. Initially I found this difficult to do, but very soon I realized that by letting the kids work more out for themselves, and the less I tried to control the lesson, the more engaged the majority of the class was. Yes the less is more theory definitely rang true! Surprisingly there was less petty socialization during the lesson and more discussion about the activity and sharing of ideas.
Last week I took the letting go a step further. I had never let the children go off in different directions to do an art activity outside the art room. This was because I always wanted to make sure I could oversee and have control of the activity. I decided that I wanted to do a photographic project with my Year 6 kids to tie in with their Science inquiry. They would need to go around the school in small groups to photograph. I was very nervous before the first session: What if they mucked around when I was not in sight? What if they didn’t stay on task? I decided to bite the bullet and just see what happened.
To my surprise the kids behaved responsibly, working collaboratively in groups of threes and fours. I merely became an observer, only engaging with them if they required some assistance or advice .
The students spent a good hour experimenting with ways to create ‘forced perspective’ photos. The only provocation I gave them was a 40 second clip and two photographic examples. From there they had to work out how this concept worked and why or how it connected to their Science unit of inquiry.
Here are some of the results:
Yes letting go is hard to do and I still struggle with it at times, but when I do manage to do it, I feel a sense of exhilaration and success for myself and the students!