I wrote this blog post at the end of the school year, and got so busy that I didn’t get the photos added in until now that summer is in full swing.
This past May, Teacher Tom shared the story of how his preschool class created the end of the year play and sets in his blog. He shared the script which the students had collaborated on as well. The story was a series of unusual characters popping in and out, moving from one part of the stage to another, and even around the audience. There wasn’t a traditional story with rising action and climax, but a series of somewhat random comings and goings.
Today (June 8, 2012) as I was building with unit blocks with my homeschool students, B. asked if he could make up a story to go with his building which was a house for Pikachu the Pokemon. I offered to write the story down for him, and as he told the story, he began to play with his stuffed Pikachu and open secret doors in his building. The next thing I knew Pikachu was demolishing his house, but he still came out the victor over Mew, the bad guy Pokemon.
Later in the afternoon I had my drawing students draw with a partner. I suggested that the drawing should be like a conversation with one person drawing a character or an object, and the other responding by adding something to the picture and the story. As the students drew I wrote down their descriptions of the action in their pictures. I roamed from team to team adding story details as they added pictorial details.
Both the block story and the drawing stories reminded me of the preschool play that Teacher Tom had described. Perhaps there is a universal developmental stage that young storytellers move through! In any event, the drawing class was really engaging, and everyone enjoyed drawing, telling stories, and sharing stories. This summer, I hope to offer a summer arts program, and one of the things I want to try is facilitating a student created play, rather than having the kids perform a play that I have selected. I assume it will be a bit random, but I know also that it will be theirs, and that ownership is so important to their development of trust in their own ideas.
I facilitate learning activities in my art classroom based on the premise that students have their own interests to explore, ideas to express, and discoveries to make. I can assist with demonstrating ways to use materials, and in figuring out ways to solve problems, or pointing out connections or similarities to the work of professional artists past and present. We spend time sharing and reflecting on the art being created in the classroom, discussing what’s been accomplished and the difficulties and challenges. My students are inspired by their classmates, and made more aware of a range of responses by having this time to view and respond.
So much of what goes on in classrooms is directed by adults without ever asking the students what they are interested in learning or doing. It’s very top down, rather than bottom up. And even in my classroom which is choice oriented and play based, I know that I make most of the decisions. I select the materials the kids have available to use. I set up the structure of greeting, mini lesson, work period, clean up, and reflection. And there are so many things that I control. Awareness that there are other ways to interact, facilitate, and delve into new territory are evolving my classroom practice. It’s an exciting journey, which I’m sure will lead to many new artventures! I’ll keep you posted!
P.S. I’ve begun my summer art and drama program. We’ve met twice so far. It’s been really fun, and we’ve discussed the idea of creating our own story, with characters the students want to be. One student suggested a story that she’s been writing at home. It’s a science fiction story about a vortex under a bridge. I think we could act it out, but I also want the kids to collaborate and generate a new story which has input from each member of the group. I’ll share how the play evolves as the summer progresses!