For the last day of 5th-grade art this year, I had my students gather up all their artwork from the year and select one project that they enjoyed the most. They had to photograph it, edit the photo, upload it to Artsonia and write a personal reflection on why it was their favorite. I wanted to see what they had to say about what we had done this year.
As I read through their 300+ answers, I found myself seeing some things that weren’t evident to me before. Below are 4 things my middle schoolers taught me. I would highly recommend having your students do the same!
1. Students like choice.
One of the projects that many students selected was our “3 Views, 3 Mediums” project. For this assignment, the students were able to select any subject matter, but they had to be able to show three different views of it. We spent some time working with 3 different mediums, using one medium for each view. Almost every single student who selected this project wrote about how “getting to draw what they wanted” made the project their favorite.
2. Students like fun materials.
Several students selected projects simply because of the fun materials we used when making them. Using glitter glue to make our “Lines That” pictures and salt to make our watercolors “explode” definitely shot those projects to the top of the list. This observation had me thinking about what other fun materials we can use next year. Glitter glue, puffy paint, rubbing alcohol with Sharpies, and googly eyes are already on my list.
3. Students like themselves.
One of my biggest surprises came from how many students selected their descriptive watercolor project as their favorite project. This project was a super simple lesson planned to reinforce the 5th-grade descriptive writing unit while introducing them to our portrait unit. So many wrote that they “loved creating a picture that tells others about me.” I think the safety of writing vs. speaking was liberating. Of course, liquid watercolors never hurt either.
4. Students are proud of hard work.
We tackled a big project in designing our own personal art galleries, and honestly, it felt like a project that would never end. We practiced and practiced to learn the rules of perspective drawing. We drew out our personal art galleries. We drew famous artwork on the walls. We colored them neatly with colored pencils. We created the exteriors and made doors that opened. It took over a month to do, but it all paid off in the number of students who wrote about how proud they were for all their hard work and how following the rules of perspective drawing has given them more confidence in their drawing abilities.
We work really hard to teach our students every year, but it is amazing what they can teach us (or remind us) when we take the time to learn. Having the students reflect on their artwork was a simple way to end the year, but it also helped me gather some good “data” on what my students need for next year.
What have your students taught you?
What other reflective activities do you do at the end of the year?
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