Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Teaching students to find their individual voice through art is a difficult process. It's one thing to make a project about video games and cartoons because we know that students respond well to topics that relate to them, but teaching them WHY they respond or the deeper thought process that all artist struggle with, "who am I as an artist" is a whole other thing. Clearly this isn't going to magically happen in the three years I have them in middle school, but my goal is to create a stepping stone.

Identity. It's a challenging topic but one that is so fantastically rooted in art. I love exploring WITH my students the way artists infuse their identity into their artwork and how the great artists explore and question themselves through their creative process. I start small, get my kids to just open up in their art. Here are two projects my students have responded really well to:

These are Totem Spoons (Totem = symbol of personality, Spoon = symbol of sharing, thus "Share about your personality) created by 6th grade student. Students learn about the clay process, balance, contrast and basic color mixing with this project. I get to learn about them! We start the lesson by learning a little about what a totem is and a little about how artist use identity in their work. With some basic guidelines on size (between 9 and 10 inches) and an understanding that each item needs to be 3-Dimensional students just run with their imagination and always surprise me with creativity. Get them understanding identity and they'll start showing theirs :)

These are watercolor paintings done my 7th grade Roosevelt students. I should explain that I teach at two schools housed in the same building. One an arts charter, one a public school. I get this group of students first as 7th graders (instead of 6th grade like the charter school), so I start with a similar project to help allow me to get to know them as well as teach the topic of identity. We dug a little deeper with this project however. We started by learning how our experiences shape who we are and cause us to change as we get older. Their task? Paint a landscape that effected them in some way. This could mean the place where they fell and broke their leg, their childhood house or a place they vacationed. The final step is to cut their painting into the shape of their profile (they giggle getting their head's traced with a projector, got to love middle school). Vocabulary like fore/middle/background, texture and watercolor techniques can be discussed. My students also have fun exploring the effects of salt and crayon on watercolor. 

Okay, I've shared a lot which only shows how passionate I am about the topic. These are just starter projects. We continue to discuss how identity play a role in art with EVERY project. Any questions I can answer please comment below. Thanks for participating in my rants :)


  1. Just want to see if comments work

  2. Im SO glad you started a blog. I love seeing what you are doing with your students (all the time, not just when I stop by to visit) And now I can borrow a few ideas too! I'm so proud of you!

  3. Just read this and the geocache post. Just too cool!. Again, way too late, I thought of another name for your blog: A World Easel as in AWE asin awesome! Keep it up!.