Curriculum Design

Exploring the National Standards: Respond (Ep. 207)

This is the second episode in a series of Everyday Art Room podcasts that explore the national standards. Today, Nic gets a variety of voices to come on the show to talk about the Respond standard. Listen as they discuss how students can meet the Respond standard, the numerous activities that can be done in the art room to help students respond to work, and why your students might just need to have a debate about abstract art.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: Last week, we talked to Janet Taylor who got us started on a conversation about the national standards for the visual arts in the United States. We know that there are four main core anchor standards. There’s create, present, respond, and connect. Today I want to take this podcast and dedicate it to one of those core standards, which is respond. We are going to hear from several voices and even have just this conversation of what does respond mean for the art education world. This is Everyday Art Room and I’m your host, Nic Hahn.

This conversation started about a month ago when I was checking on my Instagram feed and I got a message from a woman named Anne. She was reaching out as we do in our community online and social media, just kind of having conversation, professional development or professional conversation around art education. Anne reached out and said, “Can you just tell me how you use the national standards in your classroom?”

Huh. Well, where do I get started? That is a really, really huge question so we ended up going back and forth for quite some time. I thought, you know what? There’s so many of us that probably have that same question. How do you use the national standards in your classroom? We decided to work together. She has some questions for us and we’re going to work together on trying to answer that in the next couple of weeks. Today, we’re concentrating on respond. First, let’s have Anne introduce herself just so that we get a feel for who this educator is that reached out to me initially on Instagram.

Ann: Hi, my name is Ann Canida. This is my 10th year teaching kindergarten through sixth grade art at Central Lee Community School District in Donnellson, Iowa. Previously, I taught a gamut of different things. Some first through fifth grade art. I was a reading specialist. I also taught at and ran a before and after school program. I was the middle school coordinator. It took me a little bit to get to my dream job.

Nic: Listening to Ann talk about her past and how she didn’t just get started in art education, she’s had quite a diverse background, which is always fun. It kind of makes sense why she’s looking at this today or even after a couple of years of teaching in art education and asking herself, well, how do we do this? Here’s what she continues to ask in our conversation.

Ann: Going from the various specific state standards to more of the open-ended national art standards, it’s become a little frankly overwhelming. I’m questioning whether or not I’m interpreting them correctly. Am I using them to their fullest? With me being a singleton in my school district, I don’t have that immediate constant network of teachers next door or even the neighboring building where we can really get together and compare and contrast and look at how we’re introducing those, how we’re interpreting them to know whether or not I’m truly teaching the standard correctly or using it in its best way.

Nic: That’s a good point that Ann brought up. It’s not necessarily do we understand what the national standards are saying, but are we interpreting it correctly? Right? I mean, we all are trying to, well, we’re all coming from a different lens. So every time that we read something or see something, our perception is whatever it is, right? We’re all unique and individual people that come from different backgrounds. If we read a standard, we might be thinking of it in one way, when really it wasn’t intended that way. We don’t know the intentions unless we’re there in the conversation. So why not have this conversation today? I decided to go one step further and just do a little exploration myself. What I did, again, I used Instagram as my tool as my way to communicate with others. I asked art educators out there, do you address the national standard of respond in your classroom?

Now this could be any art educator in the world responding to this question. But in my very short 24-hour post I had 77 people say, yes, I do have my students respond in some way. Get this number. I had 60 people respond with no, I don’t have my students responding in my classroom. Well, that is really interesting to me because that tells me right there, there’s something broken. Either people are not understanding what respond means. We don’t have enough time in our situation. Maybe our situation just doesn’t allow, our student population doesn’t allow for it. Maybe we don’t think that we can respond with our younger students versus our older students. I don’t know what the reason is for these nos, but it made me want to dive in, dig deeper, and ask people, what are you doing to respond in your classroom? Again, I asked Ann to just give us more of an idea, what are you seeking? What are you confused about when it comes to respond? What do you want clarification on? Here’s what she had to say.

Ann: Responding, so thinking about that idea of responding, is that doing art walks with your students on famous or contemporary pieces of art? Is it students responding to other students’ artwork? Is it students responding and sharing their own artwork? Are we needing to have them share how they are creating connections and kind of responding as to what their mental process was?

Nic: Great question from Ann. What I decided to do is take that survey that I put out there on Instagram and start connecting with some of the people who voted, yes. Yes, of course I use respond in my classroom. These are the people we need to start hearing from. Right? How do you do it? What are you doing to respond in your classroom? How are you sending your students up for success? One of the people that responded to that request is Joe Boatfield. He is an excellent art educator and a wonderful follow on Instagram. I’ve been following him for quite some time now and consider him to be one of my online friends, for sure. He responded with, “Yeah, I have something for you.” Let’s listen to Joe and hear what he has to say. How does he use respond in his classroom?

Joseph: Hi, my name is Joseph Boatfield and I teach in Dallas, Texas. I’m an art teacher at a kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school. I see kids once a week for their arts specials. When I think about the national standards of respond as it pertains to fine arts, I think about how I train students at a young age, not only to look at art but also describe and be able to describe it to their peers and adults. This starts with training students to see the basic elements and principles, but also train students to look at art for more than a few seconds, which let me tell you, it was very hard. Eventually we have the conversation about, well, what is art and what is good art? Maybe they start to see that people have different perspectives and that maybe someone else see something differently.

It’s important that students begin to think about perception, that we all have opinions and we pick up on details and meanings, that their opinion is important and it will always add to the dialogue. As they get older, I want them to find deeper meanings in their artwork, but also be able to relate it to daily life. At my school, when students reach second grade, they start building their portfolio and they use Google Slides to build a slideshow of their artwork over time. This can include works in progress, maybe some of the sketches, and then also the final ideas. They begin to see how their ideas and experiences become a part of their artwork. In fifth grade, I start asking them to find meaning in historical work, make connections between art and history, and start making predictions and assumptions about the intent. For example, if we are doing a mask project, I might ask them to tell me, well, what are some of the masks that we wear that aren’t physical?

Sometimes we wear a certain face to school or with certain people, and then we take it off when we get home. Or there are certain emotions that we don’t always share, but are really going on. When students see that there is more to just an image and that there might be a story underneath, they start to get the picture that art is deeply connected to the human experience. When students are finished with a project, they might also make a Flipgrid video explaining their artwork, or I’ve had a lot of success with asking them to do mock interviews. There can be a lot of anxiety about explaining your artwork all by yourself so they can team up with a partner in the classroom and then have one person ask them about their art and they give a little interview and explain what they’ve created.

Nic: Okay. Can you tell I was really excited that Joseph was able to take a few minutes to just explain what he does in the classroom? Following him on Instagram, I knew that he was a genius art educator, but now that I hear the deeper ideas of how he’s having his students respond, my goodness, I love it. I love every single part of it. I love how they’re putting it. As young as second grade, putting it into this Google digital portfolio and then working their way up to fifth grade. He’s really scaffolding what’s happening, responding to art history in fifth grade. Then giving us like how tos, use Flipgrid for responding to your art. Go ahead and use it. Interview system. Isn’t that beautiful? Can’t you just imagine all of your students sitting around interviewing each other, having these deep conversations with a couple of prompts?

This could definitely assure our students to respond to art, to their own art in their own ways. Then he also mentioned the art history. Wonderful, wonderful ideas from Joseph Boatfield. Thank you so much for joining us with your commentary and your ideas. Thank you. Thank you. We’re not only going to hear from someone in the elementary setting. We’re actually going to hear from Lindsey McGinnis who is a coworker of mine at The Art of Education University. She has a couple of ideas that she would like to share as well.

Lindsey: Hi, I’m Lindsey McGinnis, Media Content Manager at AOEU. I wanted to share with you on the podcast an introductory art history assignment I did with my sophomores that meets the respond standard. Now I want to preface this by saying that I know it can be hard to achieve these standards. I look at the criteria for the different high school levels. We have proficient, accomplished, advanced. Even when I look at the criteria for the proficient level, it seems impossible for some of my high schoolers. How on earth do you get to proficient when you have 40 high schoolers mix ages and grades with no previous art experience in one class? Crazy. This activity that I want to share with you is a great icebreaker activity to looking at and talking about art. I actually do this on the first day of school. It gets students, as I said, looking and talking about art on day one. It also gives me artwork to hang on the walls immediately.

The response standard has three anchor standards, perceive and analyze artistic work, interpret intent and meaning in artistic work, and apply criteria to evaluate artistic work. We’re going to be focusing on the first two of those three anchor standards. The activity is to create a diamante poem based on The Bedroom by Vincent van Gogh. I specifically choose this painting every single year because it’s a bedroom. Most students have a bedroom or at least know what a bedroom looks like. It’s also by a famous artists without it being Starry Night. It has a lot of items in the artwork or the bedroom that kids can reference. The students look at this painting and brainstorm a 10 by two inspired list. I give them two minutes to list 10 items they see in the painting. I then give them four minutes to brainstorm two to three adjectives for each of the items in the painting.

Right off the bat, they’re coming up with words to use to describe the artwork in a guided activity in more detail. Once the students have their words, they plug the words into a diamante poem. You can Google what this format looks like, but it is a diamond-shaped poem that uses the following format. The first line is a noun, one noun. The second line is two adjectives. The third line are three participles. The fourth line are four nouns. Then it repeats to be a mirror image to form the shape of a diamond. Students come up with a title to capture their poem, and this should also capture the original artwork as well. Then they illustrate a corresponding border. It also hits the criteria of evaluate the effectiveness of an image or images to influence ideas, feelings, and behaviors of specific audiences, and to analyze how one’s understanding of the world is affected by experiencing visual imagery.

I think it’s really interesting to note that even though we start with the same painting, there are many different interpretations of it. As students are working, the painting has influenced them in a certain way, or their experiences have caused them to gravitate to different things in the painting, causing them to also brainstorm different words and adjectives. Another criteria is to determine the commonalities within a group of artists or visual images attributed to a particular type of art timeframe or culture. I also like to show Starry Night at this point, which many of the students recognize. We can compare and contrast them and compile a list of visual similarities between the two artworks, even though they are different subject matters and settings.

It’s also a good intro to start applying the language at the elements and principles of art at the very beginning of the year. Another criteria is to interpret an artwork or collection of work supported by relevant and sufficient evidence found in the artwork and its various contexts. While this activity isn’t an in-depth Feldman model, it is a good sampling of this criteria to kind of dip their feet and before we go more in-depth with this throughout the year.

Nic: I’m so excited about the voices that we’re having in response to this question of respond. Because we had Joseph Boatfield who is working with elementary and gave us some very doable, obtainable action type things to do with your students. It’s not just talk about it. It was, what did I do? How did I do it? Here are the tools. I think Lindsey gives us the same thing but for our older group. Now she explains, she acknowledges that our high school setting could have various age levels, could have people who are more advanced in art taking and more beginner level. I think that’s what we’re going to run into in our middle school as well. I think a lot of what Lindsey had to say here could very easily bump into the middle school as well as the high school. But simply just seeking out a way to a safe way, a guided way to work the words in the explanation of what you’re seeing into a verbal sort of explanation.

You know, I think that’s what Lindsey was really going for, making that poem. I just absolutely love it. It’s a wonderful how-to in action type of explanation of how to use respond in your classroom. Thank you both to Joseph and Lindsey for sharing how you respond in the classroom. It was great to hear some ideas of how to respond in the elementary room and then the high school. But I have had the advantage of working in the middle school for a large portion of my career. I think I’ll bring you one idea I did with my middle school students. I have taken lots and lots of professional development in many different areas, but one of the trainings that I’ve received is through AVID. AVID is this college readiness program that our school, and I know a lot of your schools uses. It’s really quite often not focused for specialists per se, but I have gone to some training and really found some sweet nuggets within the professional development.

One of them is using debates in your classroom. I will do this on a regular basis, even with as young as fourth or fifth grade, but middle school really enjoyed debating. I might put an image up on the smartboard of an abstract piece and not give any information behind it. On one side of the room, I would tell this group, you are going to debate this, whether you believe this or not, you’re going to debate this. Your feeling is this is a very skilled artist who has created something to share with the world. You’re going to debate that this is a skilled artist who created this artwork. Then I look at the other team, the other group, and I’d say, okay, and you’re going to debate that this is not a skilled artist in any way, shape or form.

You’re going to explain that this is a beginner artist and you need to give us the evidence of why you think that. The two groups would meet and start having a conversation about how to support their argument, their debate. Well, what we would do is have a speaking tool. Maybe it’s just a stuffed animal or something around the room that you need that in your hand in order to speak and that is critical in this activity. What I would do is I would hand it to the first group and I’d say, okay, tell me why you think your side. They would say their one thing. The student would get the talking piece and they’d say, I think that this is a skilled artist because of the brush strokes that I see in this area of this artwork.

Then their team is prompted to cheer them on. Yes, exactly. That’s exactly why. Good job, good job. And if you want to go as far as make it a little bit more fun, you can have the other team just saying no, boo, no, that’s ridiculous. Sometimes that gets a little out of hand so it’s really where your level of chaos is, your level of accepting chaos I guess I should say. Then the talking piece would be handed to someone on the other side. That person would stand up and explain why they think that a child possibly had made this piece of artwork and there is no skill behind it, no training behind it. They would go back and forth and back and forth on this and there’s no right answer.

There’s actually no answer at all that I want the students to come up with. But it’s that same idea that Joseph and Lindsey have mentioned earlier in the podcast. It is this idea of there’s many different perspectives in this world for everything. They’re having this conversation. If we look at the three anchor standards under respond, this could work for any of them. In the scenario that I give, it’s probably anchor standard nine, apply criteria to evaluate artistic works. Okay. If we have this conversation, this debate that’s happening in our classroom, we’re saying, what makes it good? What makes it bad? Or not bad, but less skillful. We’re really having this debate in the classroom whether we truly feel that way or not. When we look at the other ones, anchor standard seven says perceive and analyze an artwork. Well, that’s amazing. That could be a really fun one in another AVID activity that we once did and that’s called speed dating.

You line up your two groups facing each other and they’re in a straight line. You say, okay, you’re going to tell your partner across from you your favorite candy to loosen things up. You’re going to explain your favorite candy. Then you’re going to talk about the piece of artwork that’s in your hand. I want you to analyze this artwork. Tell me what you think is happening. What is happening in the artwork? How do you perceive it? Then those two people will have their conversation about what candy they like and the perception of the artwork. Once they hear a bell ring, then one line is going to lose a person from the start of it, who will go to the end. Everybody shifts down and they’re going to meet their new date, their new speed date.

Now this time, please explain to your partner your favorite movie. Then you’re going to talk about whatever with the artwork in front of you. That’s another activity that I did with middle school on a regular basis. We would do speed dating and we would do debates. Those were fun. It got the kids out of their seat and it was a really, really great way to just have that artistic conversation. Anchor standard eight says to interpret intent or meaning in the artistic work. Same thing. You could easily use debate. You could easily use speed dating. You could easily do a quick Flipgrid as Joseph explained, or of course, write some sort of a poem. Easily, all of these anchor standards under the big idea of respond could be handled in so many different ways.

I think that’s the basis of our original question from Ann. How do you have your students respond? There isn’t one way, right? I mean, that’s why I think the standards are built the way that they are, to really give art teachers this flexibility and creativity of how we want to address this idea of respond. I’d like to thank Ann for bringing up this conversation, for starting to ask her professional community about the national standards that we’re working under. This was a great conversation revolving around the word respond. I loved hearing the ideas from Joseph Boatfield, and of course from Lindsey McGinnis. We just had some really good ideas given to us by those two art educators.

Thank you for giving us your time and your ideas. Again, we will meet again next week on this podcast, but let’s shift our idea from respond and let’s move into the word connect. We’re going to continue this conversation about the national visual arts core standards for all of the United States. We’re really going to hone in on the idea of connect.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.