Well, that went better!

Tonight was week number two of art classes and, if you’ve been following the story (see previous blog), things went much better. Why? Well, accounting for the complexity of all learning experiences, likely for many reasons.
Firstly, I have to confess that I was missing three students this week (hot family vacations took them away and with the weather we have been having, I understand the appeal). This allowed me to spend more time with everyone. Every teacher knows that class size doesn’t determine success but it makes a difference, for sure.
Secondly, I planned to differentiate. I had a new student this week and so I really had to think about how things needed to look. Flexible grouping was the name of the game. I did a whole group fun warm up but then I worked with the new student and the five year old, while the others began on their own. We were working in a circle so I could see and talk to everyone easily but I could focus where I needed to. I introduced a new medium into the technique we used last week, which was engaging and challenging for the older students. The five year old really worked fantastically well, as did the new student so I was soon able to move from student to student. I think this is a key part of differentiation…you have to build in supports and skills for everyone so you are free to move between flexible groups. Every individual has to be given a measure of independence. After all, the students themselves are the most important part of the teaching-learning relationship.
Thirdly, I introduced a problem-based component. Once they completed their portraits, which combined skills they learned last week with a new medium, we set those aside and began the background. I asked them to cut out any five magazine pictures and glue them down. Then they had to choose any five paint colours and we poured puddles onto the page. It was their decision how to apply the paint. This seemed to be the right balance between choice and challenge. We are just getting into this process and everyone (including me) was sad when the class was over.
Thing just work so much better when I plan thoroughly and anticipate different needs. Next week, we will have more students join us and will need even more differentiation. I can hardly wait!

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