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. 

1 comment:

  1. This is so important! My son has a huge IEP and I really think that the amount of pressure and stress we put on kids to read and learn has affected his ability to be willing to learn. When we removed the arts from our daily instruction we surely hindered some kids learning experience. (I believe in this so much we even take him to Art Therapy every other week and it has made a huge impact on his life!) Thanks for this post Danielle! I love it!

    Jennifer from
    Simply Kinder


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