Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One of THOSE days...

It is best that I am writing this today and not yesterday.  By 8th period I was DONE!  I was so frustrated and upset with my 6th graders that I did something I rarely do... I left without even cleaning up my room.  I just had to "get a break."

We have been working on our printmaking projects and to fill in the printing time I assigned a illustration project.  They researched different illustrators they liked and even had to reflect on one they did not.  They had time to plan, sketch and reflect before starting a final copy.  Their final copy could be an inside the book illustration or the book cover.  Besides the fact that I am getting a least 2 'mocking jay pin covers' for the Hunger Games (a complete copy of the cover that already exists), I am getting a bunch of poorly done projects.

This was supposed to be a lesson that would interest them and keep them working hard till the last week when we would have a "fun" project.  

The drawings are lacking authors... I am asked multiple times each class, "who is the illustrator?"  (who is doing the drawing)...  They are drawing floating objects with no horizon line....  They have forgotten everything about craftsmanship.  UGH!

Here is a few of what I was expecting...

...and what I am getting a lot of...
When I sent this student back to work on it more, I was informed that this is his best work  (He spent 10 minutes on it) and he wasn't going to do any more.  I know that I can give him a grade that reflects his level of effort but this is frustrating to me.  This student is exceptionally bright and honest but his attitude and lack of caring keep him from being a shining star in his class.  He could be a leader in his class but chooses to be the instigator (you know the one who taps the desk just to make noise and just to see if he can get away with it).  I think this is one of the hardest parts of teaching for me.  Seeing a student with so much ability who consistently makes choices that squander his talents.  I can't make him care so I just pray that someday he will meet someone who "jump starts his ability." 

Does anyone have any advice?  What do you do to keep kids working hard until the end of the year?  How do you keep kids motivated on a lesson that takes more than 2 weeks?  


  1. Hi Jen, I've visited your site several times - of course I stumbled upon it through Pinterest. When I read this entry from all the way back in May, I was so surprised no one had commented. I teach art now (K-6), but I used to teach English, History, and Humanities in high school and middle school. I'm not sure how you presented the lesson and your expectations, but I had disappointing experiences on large end of the year projects also. On what was to be the culmination of what they learned - it ended up a joke for far too many. I'd be angry and frustrated.

    Now, you may have all ready done this, but here's what I learned!

    1) HUGE, fanfare introduction! Expressing the magnitude of the project, how engaging yet complex it would be, how I would be there to walk them through every step of the way, "I know you can do this" pep talk.
    2) Project expectation signed by parents
    3) Step by step, day by day check list. Here's what we're working on today. Here's what needs to be done by the end of class. Everything needs to be done incrementally. I know it flies in the face of open creativity and allowing kids to problem solve and figure it out, so that's where you lead the discussion, brainstorm as a class or in small groups, create lists, etc.
    4) Project Evaluation Create a guideline for the kids to follow and fill out evaluating their piece. This sheet has to contain a variety of different things for them to look at and do - not just a check list. "Where is the horizon line?" (have them draw it on a rectangle on the paper. "Name three elements of art you included." "When you squint your eyes, what is the focal point?" Show a number line: "How would you rate neatness? Use of color? etc. etc." "If you could change something, what would it be?" "What are you proud of." Sometimes the evaluation would go home and parents would be their peer editor - for writing.

    Then they were given the opportunity to write a quick proposal for a one or two day extension. (Again signed by parents)

    This takes more teacher time and energy, but the projects were so much better and so much easier to grade!

    I don't have end of the year projects because I have new sets of students every seven weeks - some continuing, some not. I miss consistency!

    (from Seattle)