Thursday, March 25, 2010

building community in the art room

I had a teaching nightmare last night. I wonder if this happens to anyone else. I dreamt that the new semester had started and my classroom was full of students who wouldn't listen to me. Students of years gone by who were challenging to work with were back in my room in my dream. I did not have the supplies I needed and was teaching a different class than what I had planed. Needless to say I woke up in a cold sweat.

I think a lot of these subconscious fears steam from my middle school classes last trimester. We had a lot of racial based arguing and flat out fights, name throwing and physical interactions. Thinking back to grad school, I have gotten pretty sloppy about building community in my middle school classroom. Just because I have had all the students before, doesn't mean I don't need to keep building community.

So as a I reminder to myself and ideas for others, these are some activities I have used successfully to build community/team work in my art room.
1. Calender puzzle.(I use this one for summer camp and short workshops) Take a dollar tree puzzle. Take as many photos as you have groups. Cut the photo into squares. Keep the squares with their correct counterparts. Before handing the puzzle to the students I give them a big hint. "Good artists are observers. They are like detectives. They look for clues in art to help make sense of what a work of art is trying to tell us. Don't miss any clues with this puzzle."

2. For middle school classes I have been buying murals from Art Projects for Kids. I choose more abstract ones or ones where the color choice is not as important. The students have to work together to make sure their puzzle piece matches all the other puzzle pieces that touch theirs. The kids like this and it usually takes them about 1 1/2 class periods to finish the mural. I like to do a short lesson on the artist featured to go with the mural.

3. Good old newspaper building contest. Every group gets one section of newspaper and a roll of masking tape and is challenged to build the tallest free standing tower they can.

4. Iron Artist. A variation of Iron Chef. Each group is given a box of junk and recyclables from around my house and the art room. I like to have a theme that all groups have to stay with. Things that fly, animals, forth. I like to give the groups two classes to make their object and a poster explaining it. Judging is done by "celebrity judges" like the vice principal and science teacher or some 2nd grade students.

My students like Iron Artist best of all, but it can get kind of crazy. Be warned

What community building activities do you do?

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