This school year has been about as irregular as it could get. From the Teachers Strike to Covid-19, it’s been a difficult year for teachers, as well as students and families. Navigating e-learning has been a process, mostly because it has involved so many different moving parts.
The Digital Divide
One issue in Chicago Public Schools was access to devices in the home, so that students could actually attend online classes and successfully engage with e-learning. CPS made an effort to get thousands of devices out to families, and it’s helped a lot. My first week of e-learning, attendance and engagement was admittedly super low. This is when the digital divide became super clear to me. My school has been working overtime making sure that each student receives a Chromebook and take-home work that isn’t digital, for those of our students who don’t have access to the internet.
Schools, teachers, and students in the suburbs, in private schools, or more adequately funded CPS schools were able to get up and running with e-learning as quick as they could boot up their laptop. And it’s definitely been hard to reconcile what we don’t have. This digital divide is one of the issues that has just been exacerbated by Covid-19, and CPS schools have felt it.
Not Being In My Classroom
I am happy to say that when I am at Northwest Middle School, my classroom is my happy place. It’s beautiful – if I do say so myself – and every piece of art is hung with a specific purpose and meaning. So being at home and teaching from my kitchen table has been a huge adjustment, and I miss the kids & their energy, without a doubt.
It was hard to tell my students the field trip we had planned was no longer an option. Difficult to tell them that their art show would no longer be a time for us to meet families and connect with the people in our community. That they wouldn’t be able to see their art hang in our hallways until next year and that I wouldn’t see them again for a while – as I am going on Maternity Leave after this Summer. It has definitely been an adjustment to navigate making curriculum that is engaging, fair and equitable to all my students. These past two months have allowed me to think about what my students really need during this time and how impactful arts instruction can be. I wanted to be really mindful about the work I was asking them to do. Is it fair to ask my students to buy supplies for my projects? Or can I think strategically about what they might already have at home??
That said, I’ve found myself focusing on making sure we can still make the most of this time, while also being interested in what we could accomplish.
Lesson Plans That Work Well in An E-Learning Set-Up
One other major hurdle has been the lack of supplies, especially as it applies to an art class. Luckily, IPaintMyMind connected with Blick Lincoln Park and helped provide 100 art supplies bags for our students, which was amazing
Even so, I’ve really wanted to focus on art lesson plans and activities that required as few supplies as possible. I know many of my students don’t have basic art supplies, much less some of the less common stuff.
The lesson plans below take that all into consideration:
1) Quaranzine – A Zine Project to help students articulate this crazy time! @art_with_mrs._p
2) Draw or Paint to Music – A lesson inspired by Kandinsky from MOMA
This project was fun to do with my students because they were able to pick the music they wanted to listen to while drawing. I loved seeing the variety of music genres they are into!
Definitely refer to the original content on the MOMA website. It’s got it all!
3) IPMM ‘Artists You Should Know About’
As a way to engage my students daily and show new artists everyday – I was able to tap into this database of contemporary artists to show my students. We call it a daily “Bell Ringer,” each day I pose a question about a piece of work and they answer on Google Classroom with their thoughts and observations!
Refer to this article on the IPaintMyMind Blog, entitled 16 Special Artists to Follow on Instagram in 2020. You can also search for artists via hashtags on Instagram and build your own list of emerging artists
4) Mandala Drawing
We learned about the history of Mandalas and watched Tibetan Monks create sand mandalas before designing our own. Students learned how to create Radial Symmetry and Repetition by starting their drawing with a circle and breaking it up into quarters.
Then they start adding shapes that ultimately repeat until the circle is full. To see the full project check out @art_with_mrs._p.
A Final Thought
After multiple weeks with this set-up, I feel like I’ve gotten so much better at making the e-learning experience worthwhile for my kids, and I feel great about that. My students are on a four week rotation so when we concluded our course I asked them for feedback on the class. This was the most important part of the class because I was able to see how the kids felt after doing art for four weeks remotely! Some of the most thoughtful comments were that students liked being able to see their teacher and classmates everyday but still prefer the traditional school setting.
My students also felt “calm, and like I had more time to do my work,” when they were doing remote learning in art. They were also very thankful for the materials IPaintMyMind and Blick were able to donate, since many did not have supplies or access to any at home.
Since this might be something we have to do again in the fall, better to be prepared and add these skills to our tool belt!
Being flexible, having compassion and understanding goes a long way in “remote learning.” At the end of my last rotation one of my students thanked me for showing them respect. I think that comes with the territory of this entirely new reality we are living. I will always hold my students to a high standard, encourage and expect the best from them, but in these difficult times, just being a consistent mentor in their life has such massive value.
For them, and for me.
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