Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas: Empowering Students through Art

Welcome to the August Bright Ideas Link up.   A huge shout out to Shelley Gray and all of the wonderful teachers that have come together this month for the new installment of Bright Ideas.

When I signed up for this event, I was right in the middle of several projects. My "bright ideas" seem to come to me when I am either eyeball deep in "stuff" or late at night when I am trying to go to sleep.   This month's idea came to me while I was driving down the road.  My mind was free of clutter, and I was reminiscing about a group of students that I worked with.  They were a pretty tough bunch initially.  They'd gone through several teachers and program leaders before I was transferred in. Their trust and confidence levels were about Defcon 4. They didn't trust anyone because those that came before me had let them down by leaving. Because of the behavioral issues, the homeroom teachers had referred them out.  There goes the self esteem! I used art, in many different forms to break through their barriers.  These were students that had been acting out in classes, having to be medicated for ADHD with weekly therapy sessions.  I had my work cut out for me.

"Empowering Students through Art!"   

First and foremost, students need to feel like they are important. They also need the security of knowing that somebody cares, and that they are good at something.  For many kids, the only encouragement they receive is at school.  

Art, in any form, can be a way for students to express themselves freely.  There are no right or wrong answers when creating art.  Helping students find their voice through creative (art) expression helps build their confidence.  Confidence is empowerment. 

Empowerment comes from giving students tools that they need to succeed.  Art, regardless of the medium or forum will provide your students with a foundation that they can take with them throughout their life.  

1.  Verbally praise student for their artwork.   Taking the time to acknowledge that the student created something can make the whole difference for that young person.  Whether the "masterpiece" was a drawing, or art project, genuine praise is good.  It can set the tone for the whole school year, and beyond.  

2.  Display student artwork.  When words aren't enough, having a classroom gallery is an excellent way to boost the confidence of your students. Everyone likes to have their moment in the spotlight.  If you have limited space, switch out artwork weekly or monthly. Special pieces that perhaps a student took a lot of time creating, save for conferences or reserve a special space for display.  

3.  Join in creating with your students.  You do not have to be an artist yourself to work with your students.
 I always carried around a backpack with art supplies in it.  I worked with students that had severe behavioral issues, as well as learning challenges.  One of my most memorable breakthroughs with students came after I began sitting down in the middle of my "kids," pulling out paper and pens and start drawing.   Pretty soon the kids were all joining in trying to see if they could draw too.  Starting out with shapes, and moving on to more geometric patterns, and so on. You might even whip up a batch of play dough the night before and hand each student a portion to see what they will create with it.

4. Encourage students to create an art journal:   Art journals can be created from composition notebooks, or 3 ring binders. It can be something that the students will want to share with you or not. They may start out not sharing it, but eventually will gravitate toward wanting to show off their creativity. Don't worry if the students don't want to show you their art journal.  If you aren't familiar with art journals, they are similar to sketch books and some can take the shape of a scrap book. There are other terms for them like smash book, slam books, etc.   {The large notebook in the photo is one of my own art journals.  I have several of them}  There are a numerous tutorials on Youtube on the subject of creating art journals. I generally start out by giving the students sheet protectors to preserve some of their best work, and then the students can add their own pages and whatever they want to their journal.

5. Free art time.    This can take place a few minutes of the day.  This type of activity can be really effective when the students are not really connecting with what is currently being taught. {I'm not referring to students that want to get out of their work.} For moments when there is nothing else really planned, and the students are restless.  Free art time is golden.  It can even be used as a reward or incentive for finishing work completely, or while waiting for the rest of the class to finish up an activity.   Free art time can take place either in a designated area or at their desk.  (Supplies will vary based on age group.)

The idea behind empowering students through art is to encourage creativity in all forms.  If you over think it, or stress over it, the purpose becomes lost in translation.  

The positive ending to my story of "my kids..."  I worked with them every day until the end of the school year.  Art was used in one way or another every day.  We started out at the ground floor and worked our way up building the student's confidences.  By the end of the year, the 3 students that were on medication were able to be taken off of their medications.  The toughest cookie graduated from his therapy sessions and didn't need to go back. All of the students had made enough positive progress to be able to move on to the next grade level for the following year.  I am not saying that it was always easy, it wasn't.  Art was the one thing that we could all have in common.  The students worked hard.  They became empowered.  That little bit of encouragement made the difference between them being held back and having their records filled with notations of behavioral issues, and being excited again about going to school and learning.   That's what it's all about!

If you have questions pertaining this post, please feel free to leave me a comment.  Below, you'll find a link up with over 100 wonderful teachers from all over the globe sharing their BRIGHT IDEAS!   Even if it takes you a few days to make it through, it's well worth it. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's Under Your Cape? Book Study

If you haven't had the opportunity to read Barbara Gruener's book,  "What's Under Your Cape, Superheroes of the Character Kind" it's a MUST read!   

I first heard about Barbara's book in a teacher group that I am a member.  She had been understandably, very excited to share information about her book being finished.  The more I read about the book, the more I wanted to get my hands on a copy to read it!  I purchased it from Barbara's site which was cool because she wrote me a little note in the book just for me! {You can purchase her book from Amazon too, but it isn't as much fun because the Amazon people don't write sweet notes!}

As I began to read the book, many of the examples she provided rang true to me.  Having worked extensively with children with behavioral challenges (many of which were severe), often times they didn't have role models or any positives in their lives.

In this book,  S-U-P-E-R-H-E-R-O-E-S stands for....
Unconditional Love

 "It's all about giving someone approval, support, confidence, and hope."  Barbara Gruener

Encouragement is an area that a lot of students don't have a lot of outside of the classroom.  Many students come from a diverse home setting (foster care, single parent homes, etc) where the only consistency and possibly the only encouragement they receive is at school.  I am sure you've all experienced students in your classroom that had less than desirable behaviors.  Sometimes the smallest gesture of a word or phone call home can make all the difference in the world in the child's life.  

How do you encourage your students?

Barbara shares examples of encouraging students from making a phone call home to share with parents about a student's positive behavior, to "when a child gets out of the car with a greeting, a compliment, or a smile." One of the examples that I gravitate towards is that of the written word.  I'd like to share with you a little story about how the written word can change a life of a kindergartner.

This little girl had gone through a lot in her young life.  Along with their father, the young girl and her brother fled the state they had lived in after their Mother had been involved in a crime and was later incarcerated.  They had left a pretty awful situation, and came to a part of the country where they didn't know anyone.  When I met these 2 children, they were guarded, and demonstrated a lot of negative behaviors.  You could tell by some of their conversations and actions that they were acting out due to seeing and hearing way too much for their young age.  Even though the father tried hard, they often went to school in dirty or torn clothing, hair a mess. They also didn't always have balanced meals to eat at home. Their main meals were ate at school.  This also contributed to their behavior issues. They were always hungry and tired.  

Slowly,  the young girl began to let her guard down and enjoyed school. Each day, we would interact with these children, you could see subtle improvements in the behavior.  Every day that we interacted with the 2 kids,  we were consistent in how we encouraged them when they did something positive, and downplayed the not so positive behaviors.

Midway through the school year,  the little girl began smiling more. This is something that was a HUGE thing for us because she was always so sullen and her eyes looked sad. She began taking more of an interest in what she was wearing, that she was clean and neat, and her hair combed.  The key to unlocking this little girl was encouragement.  

By the end of the school year, she was excelling in her school work.  So much so that she was awarded "Most Improved Student" and was given this award in front of the whole school at the end of the year assembly.  She brought home her certificate.  By the end of the day it was a little wrinkled and, but she carried that piece of paper around showing it to anyone who would look at it.

I gave her a special binder (with a cover with her name on it) that I hand drew, and sheet protectors to put her awards in so that she could save them.  That small gesture was that little girl's whole world.  The SMILE on her face when I presented it to her, was priceless.  I don't think I have ever seen her eyes light up like that.  She giggled and hugged me and told me that I spelled her name right. :)   She has carried her binder around with her ALL SUMMER LONG.... she sleeps with it under her pillow.

Yesterday,  she sat down beside me with wiggles and grins like FIRST GRADERS do.. and told me how she can't wait to go to school.   I asked her what the best part of school is...   she smiled and she said.. "I LOVE MATH!     I want to count things." ;) 

From a little girl that didn't have much of an interest in anything to a SUPERHERO.... all because she was given encouragement!   That little positive nudge in the right direction has changed her life, and set her on the right path to LEARN!   

Traditionally in a book study,  a common question that is asked what did you like the best about the book? I can't say enough, everything about this book is the best part.  It is a book that any teacher can pick up and find something that they can do to implement.  "What's Under Your Cape,  Superheroes of the Character Kind"  is a book that you will refer back to often.  My copy already has post it notes, and book marks in it to refer back to.  

I have created this SUPERHERO freebie for you to download and write little messages
of encouragement when seeing them demonstrate positive behavior.  They are provided in blackline instead of color to save on ink!  *Note* The superhero graphics featured in this freebie were custom made for me by Mel from Graphics from the Pond!

Click either image to download file.  There are 2 sheets of 4 cards each as seen below.

Would you like to WIN a signed copy of 
 "What's Under Your Cape?   Superheroes of the Character Kind"?
Barbara Gruener has graciously agreed to give one of my wonderful fans a signed copy of her book. How cool is that?  Fill out the Rafflecopter below. A winner will be chosen on Sat., 8/9/14 at 12:00 am

The next stop in this book study journey.....

Runde's Room will be hosting the chapter on Self Discipline on August 7th.  Be sure to pop by and show her some Bloggy love. :)