Saturday, 24 August 2013

#artinquiry: week 4: the Project: Image mediated dialogue: B&W documentary style photographs from the sixties to seed art as inquiry: what is successful peer mentoring?

Your Final Project for this course is to take the concepts we have explored each week and create a resource that you can incorporate into your teaching. The project outline has been structured to allow you to tailor the content to the context in which you teach so that it can be most useful.  The goal of this final project assignment is to give you an opportunity to practice with the concepts from the class in a forum where you can share ideas and get feedback from your peers.  The required peer assessment process will also give you the opportunity to see the ideas that others come up with.  Be creative!  This is your chance to apply the course concepts to real-world situations.

The brief itself was buried somewhere in the site – I did not find it – but fortunately Kelcy Allwein did and shared it in our FB site.

I know that there will be many great projects that harness the brief much more successfully than I – for example Dave Barr’s lesson and resources – on a Roman bust:

But, here are the questions – and my answers to them. I’ve left the Peer Review questions in…

Your assignment is to select an artwork that you would like to use as the starting point for an inquiry based lesson in your classroom. 

1. Subject Area: Peer Mentor Training – lesson *Art as Inquiry*
Class size – 12 students expected - Journalism students.

2. Intended grade level range: 
Third/Second year University students (UK).

3. Artwork Selection: 
For this activity I would not use one artwork – what I will use are a range of A4 photographs that I have and that have been printed on to ordinary office paper. The photographs were taken in the 1960s, they are Black and White and documentary in type. The images in the photographs include railway tracks, loaded carts pushed by struggling ‘peasants, young people walking hand in hand, a young girl smoking, footprints in the sand, goods on a market stall, African masks, a tree in a desert, an old woman cradling a baby, a sculpture in the distance – possibly an African sculpture, puppets, head dresses, a man cycling carrying an overloaded basket… The ‘point’ is to have a completely diverse range of images that in no way obviously pertain to the question that I set the students.

4. Artwork Title: the artworks are various
I will be using a selection of A4 photographs – I cannot upload the pictures of them here because I am currently on vacation and they are in my office at work… BUT – the images here are not the point – they could be pictures of *any* artwork – the point is to use them as a launching point for student inquiry into another topic. That is – I am using art as inquiry into student expectations, hopes, fears and beliefs about peer mentoring.

5. Artist – various
The artist is not the point, neither really is the picture or the pictures… the point is the student inquiry into why they have chosen a picture and what it might mean to them in the context of the field of study…

6. Date – 1960s
I have a collection of black and white photographs from the 1960’s they are documentary in nature and capture the flavour of a different time to this one. This is useful for this means that today’s students will have no obvious links to the pictures and will be able to use them to explore their own thought processes.

7. Materials:
  • The A4 photographs – a whole collection of them – there are many more photographs than students.
  • ‘Reflections’ sheet – with questions: ‘What is successful peer mentoring? What photograph did you choose? Look again at your photograph – what do you see? How does this photograph answer the question, ‘What is successful peer mentoring?’?

Evaluation Phase: Is the artwork developmentally appropriate?

Theme/Connection to Curriculum: Briefly describe the theme or connection to the curriculum:
I will be training students to mentor other students. I do not want the students to teach the other students – nor to tell them what to do or not to do… I want the mentors to support inquiry in their mentees – and to give their mentees space to ask questions – but then to think about the answers for themselves. I want this process to help the potential mentors realise the power of inquiry – and the power of the open-ended question. I want them to see that there are many answers to one question – and many different ways of seeing the world. I want the mentors to use art as inquiry – and to think about using art to seed their own thought processes – both in the training session and in their future practice as mentors, as students and as journalists.

As they interrogate their own picture choice – literally exploring in more detail what is in a picture – then considering how it answers the question that I have set them – I am hoping they go on a journey of discovery.

As we build on the initial photograph choice and discussions – I hope they appreciate the value of listening – and of considering what other people have to say. I hope they experience and understand the nature of listening…

Thus the point of this activity is the way they interact with their artwork – and then the way they discuss their artwork with others. This PROCESS of art as inquiry is designed to model the mentoring relationship that I am trying to prepare them for…

The B&W documentary style pictures that I will use will feel perhaps familiar in that these are journalism students and the photographs are documentary in nature – at the same time, they are distanciated from the students’ own experiences and I hope this strangeness enables them to see differently – and frees them to discuss with less certainty…

Evaluation Phase: Does the artwork that was chosen clearly relate to the theme/curriculum connection

Include three open-ended questions related to the artwork in the sequence they would be presented: 
  1. Please choose a picture that answers the question: What is successful peer mentoring? NB: This is not a trick – I have not buried the one ‘right’ picture in the pile. The point is to find the picture that speaks to you – that answers the question for you. Please take your time to look at all the pictures – and NO you cannot choose more than one picture!
  2. Now that you have chosen your picture – please look at it again. Take time to really *see* your picture. What literally is in there? Describe your picture in no more than 45 words.
  3. Now look again at your picture. How does it answer the question: What is successful peer mentoring?  If you wish – make a few notes on your Reflection sheet…

Evaluation Phase: Are the questions open-ended? Do the questions support the theme? Do the questions invite multiple responses?

Include 3 bullet points of information about the artwork that is related to the theme/curriculum connection:
    • They are all B&W documentary style pictures
    • They are pictures taken in the 1960s – they are not of immediate meaning to my young, multicultural students
    • They are on a range of subjects – again they are not immediately relevant to the life experiences of the students that I expect to engage in this activity. They are not on the topic of peer mentoring. Thus for them the meanings are in fact open ended – even if when they first engage in the activity they may think that the meanings are closed and obvious.

Evaluation Phase: Does the information support the exploration of the object? Is the information relevant to a conversation about the object?

Include an activity (multi-modal approach) for this artwork and include the following:
1. Brief description of activity: What will the students do? (i.e. writing, drawing,
* Looking – thinking – brief writing
First the students will be invited to choose a picture that to them answers the question: What is successful peer mentoring? They will then be invited to look again at their picture and really *see* it – they will be invited to write a description of their picture in no more than 45 words. After that – they will be asked to consider how their picture answers the question – and make notes if they wish.

* Pairs – discussion – comparison – thinking
After this phase – students will be asked to pair up and share their pictures and their readings and the meanings they are drawing from the pictures.

* Pairs – writing two six word essays together
Following this they will be asked to answer the following questions – in writing – six words only per topic:
I hope peer mentoring is:
I hope peer mentoring is NOT:

* Plenary1: Sharing the writing
In pairs – show your pictures and read out your two six word essays… Discuss.

* Plenary2: Reflecting on this process of art as inquiry: discussion
What have we/you learned about peer mentoring through this very open-ended process? How do you think this will help you in the peer mentoring that is to come?

2. Directions: How will you introduce this activity and what directions will you give your students?
I would say:
To start our day of peer mentor training, we are first going to engage in an art activity. I am going to ask you to explore the photographs over there – and for each of you to choose the *one* picture that for you answers the question: What is successful peer mentoring?  This is not a trick – there is no one right answer picture buried in there. The point is for you to find and explore a picture that answers the question for you… Once you have all chosen your pictures – I will ask you to think about your individual choice in some depth – and with some writing – and then ask you to discuss them in pairs – and to engage in some very concise writing about them. We will move on to two final reflections in a plenary – pulling the activities together to help us think about being successful peer mentors.

3. Goals: What are your goals for including the activity in the conversation?
The goal is for students to explore peer mentoring from a completely fresh perspective. The artwork that each student chooses will help them inquire into their own preconceptions about peer mentoring – at the same time they will be invited to extend their original thoughts – first by describing the artwork in more detail, which should help them see it afresh… Then in thinking about how their picture does answer the question…
As they engage in pair work on the artworks chosen – first in discussion – then in really condensed writing – they are modelling successful peer mentoring practice as they articulate that practice.
The two plenaries should help draw the whole session together – one being a ‘lessons learned about peer mentoring’ – and the other a meta-reflection on the activity as a whole in relation to peer mentoring…

I think this whole activity models art as inquiry in a creative way!

Evaluation Phase: Does the activity relate to the artwork? Are the instructions/prompts clear? Is the activity developmentally appropriate?

*** Acknowledgements: I have not invented the idea of using images to start a conversation about a topic to be studied. I was introduced to the practice by a colleague at work, Dave Griffiths; I was given my B&W documentary style photographs by another colleague, David Jacques. What I have done here is to really think about how to use the 'close looking and seeing' part of #artinquiry to bring new life this this 'image mediated dialogue' process... I have also utilised the very short writing activity from the course - but adapted it so that my students will be writing two six-word essays seeded by their reflections on their artworks - and answering questions on the topic we are starting to study. ***

Next - peer review!

Friday, 23 August 2013

#artinquiry: New lessons for practice: Kelcy Allwein on El Anatsui’s Bleeding Takari II; Ary Aranguiz on tech tools and lesson plans; and Cathleen Nardi’s SlideShare on Art as Inquiry and Inquiry as Learning

This #artinquiry MOOC has provoked much thought and active engagement - and as always I've learned so much through the blogs and other posts from colleagues in the MOOC - so this week my blog post takes a different slant - and shares some of what I have learned from my friends... 

Kelcy Allwein - teaching El Anatsui
First, here's Kelcy’s great post on her artwork and how to teach it:"I chose El Anatsui’s Bleeding Takari II because of my interest in both installation art and artwork that is created through found objects.  As I researched Anatsui and looked at other installations of Bleeding Takari II, I was awestruck by the fluidity of this medium that comes from metal bottle caps yet seems as supple as fabric.   When you first see the thumbnail, Bleeding Takari II appears like an oil painting.  Yet this artwork changes each time it is installed somewhere so that there is the possibility for multiple interpretations just from the changing folds, shadows and pooling of the red caps… 
I can see a wall and its impact when I look at the Bleeding Takari II.  It speaks to me of a wall where many have shed their blood to climb it or tear it down.  It is reminiscent in some ways of the walls between East & West Germany during the Soviet era when East Germans were shot trying to escape by climbing over  the wall.  The bodies are not there in this artwork but it seems scarred with their blood.  While Anatsui took inspiration from three cities; his current country of residence (Nigeria) has a great deal of  violence that harms many who try to tear down literal and figurative walls to freedom.  But I like that Anatsui says that walls do not block the imaginative view (some of his other artworks show that clearly).  This is where I would put the focus of my questions to my students." 

El Anatsui was born in Ghana and now resides in Nigeria. The MOMA online display states that 'El Anatsui creates sculptures that allude to contemporary consumer habits and to the history of colonialism in his home nation and in his current country of residence, Nigeria'.  However, I think it is much more than that especially after looking at the Brooklyn Museum exhibit (on through Aug 18) and listening to him speak  - as well as my own experience in working with found objects that people touch personally.  On the exhibition page for the Brooklyn Museum, they state:
'El Anatsui became interested in the notion of walls as religious, political, and social constructs after visiting three cities whose histories have been shaped by such structures: Berlin, Jerusalem, and Notsie, a city in Togo from which his Ewe ancestors claim descent. Gli can mean “wall,” “disrupt,” or “story” in the Ewe language. “Walls are meant to block views,” Anatsui says, “but they block only the view of the eye—the ocular view— not the imaginative view. When the eye scans a certain barrier, the imagination tends to go beyond that barrier. Walls reveal more things than they hide.(!lb_uri=gli_detail.php)'
Teaching Anatsui:
"I would start by asking a series of questions at different distances from the Bleeding Takari II.  The first vantage point would be 15-25 feet away so that was not easy to see the materials that make up the artwork – instead you get a sense of the whole picture where the wall seems readily visible.   Here I would ask the students to look at it for a few minutes and then ask what they thought the story was behind this artwork and how it made them feel.  If no one brought up walls, I would tell them how El Anatsui used walls for inspiration from three cities – Berlin, Jerusalem and Notsie.   I would then ask about the walls in those three cities (and prepared to give additional information as needed) and how those walls have impacted people in various ways.   Before we moved from here, I would also ask the students what material they thought the Takari was made out of.   However, I would not share this information yet but see if they could make it out as they moved closer.

Next we would move as close as possible to the Bleeding Takari II.  I would ask the students to look at it from all angles including the side. If possible, I would ask them to touch the artwork – to feel the bottle caps – to look at how they are placed on the floor.  If not allowed to touch the artwork, I would have a small handmade sample available.  I would also have several other photographs from other installations of the Takari to show that is indeed malleable and changeable.   I have included one that I found through Google image search.  I would ask their thoughts on how the artwork is constructed and if they knew what the materials were (I would tell them at this point if no one realized it was bottlecaps) and how it was constructed (how the bottlecaps were woven together).   I would also ask if they felt the same feelings now that they knew how the artwork was made and whether they saw any new stories from a closer point of view.

Then we would move back to the first spot 15-25 feet away and I would give them the quote from Anatsui about walls not being able to block the imaginative view.  I would ask them to think about this quote as they look again at this artwork and then describe how they feel it opens their imagination."

El Anatsui: Art and Life, by Susan M. Vogel
Brooklyn Museum Exhibition webpage “Gravity and race:  Monumental Works by El Anatsui”, Feb 8 -Aug 18, 2013 (Includes a video interview with El Anatsui.)
MOMA webpage
Interview with Susan Vogel and El Anatsui  (scroll down to select the specific podcast)
Alternate Installation of Bleeding Takari II showing a variation in the folds

Additional ideas, resources and links from Ary Araguiz and Cathleen Nardi
And some great additional ideas for using art in the classroom – and thinking about using art in the classroom from Ary Aranguiz and Cathleen Nardi – without whose blogs and other posts my life would have been a lot less interesting:

Ary’s great ideas for using art in the classroom - as inquiry and as critical thinking:
And her tech tools suggestions – and lesson plan:

Cathleen’s excellent PPT on how to prepare for and think about using art as inquiry:

CODA: And here’s one we made earlier: friendship quilt as reflective practice
In a project that I was on (, 2005-2010, we decided that as well as the formal end of project report, we would produce a friendship quilt that covered each of the 20 areas that we had been studying. Each one of us made a piece that reflected our experiences of working on the project and Pauline Ridley, of Brighton University, put the whole quilt together. I imagine doing this at the end of the year with a group of students. Each one makes one reflective piece - then we get together to sew the quilt - and perhaps film this sewing ... at the end we would have a quilt and a reflective documentary of the year...

Saturday, 17 August 2013

#artinquiry – week 3: Activities as Inquiry – implications for practice - and some thoughts from the Forum:

Content and instructions
For this week, I recommend that you first do your required Week Three reading, and then watch the lecture and Teaching Tips videos. The purpose of the Teaching Tips videos is to give insight into how MoMA educators introduce modern and contemporary works of art to students highlighting the types of conversations they have in the galleries. There is no Quiz for this week.

Big Ideas For Week Three: Activities as Inquiry 

Week Three Components:
·                 READING (see below)
·                 INTRO VIDEO: 
·                 LECTURE VIDEO:
·                 EDUCATOR VIDEOS: 
 We have selected the following videos as they highlight artworks and ideas that can be challenging for students. You are welcome to view all of the Teaching Tip videos showcased on the MoMA Learning site.

Selected Videos
Teaching Tips: Marcel Duchamp. Bicycle Wheel. 1951. with MoMA educator Jackie Delamatre
Teaching Tips: Jasper Johns. Map. 1961. with MoMA educator Mark Epstein
Teaching Tips: Sol LeWitt. Wall Drawing #1144, Broken Bands of Color in Four Directions. 2004. with MoMA educator Lisa Libicki

Required Reading:
Required Discussion Forum Question:
Using the artwork you posted last week in the discussion forum, ask a friend or family member to help you practice leading an inquiry-based conversation around it, and talk about it in the forum: Describe your experience. What was easy? What did you find challenging?

This week…
… Felt really challenging it was very strange to take forth an activity from this MOOC with a friend and really see what worked – and why – or why not…

This post is about IBL: discussing a photograph with a friend in a way that models future practice. I have also summarised some ‘activities as inquiry’ from Hubard and some excellent suggestions for practice taken from the Forum. Many of those are from primary age tutors – but still relevant for my University staff and students – especially I think the ‘jump up and wriggle time’!! Absolutely…

Working class hero – discussion of Billingsgate Fish Market
Last week I chose Bill Brandt’s (c1938) ‘Billingsgate Fish Market’ as my artwork. It is a B&W photograph of a scene at the Fish Market – with three men in the background about their business and one man in the foreground gazing at the camera – or though the camera at us the onlookers.

Discussing Billingsgate with my friend

I asked my friend to look at the photograph and to take the time to respond to my questions – as himself, not imagining himself to be a student or anything, just he himself… though obviously one thing he knows about me is that I do teach and I did say that I was asking him questions that I might ask a group of students at some point.

I sat my friend down in front of my laptop to look at the photograph – and asked him to say what he literally saw in the picture … and to make any observations that he wanted… I then waited and waited. 

After quite some time had passed – with me wondering all the while whether I had made the supplementary statement too soon – he said, ‘Okay.’ Another silence... I then asked for his response:

He: Possibly Billingsgate Fish Market – one man in a white coat – a porter because a basket on his head; one man with boxes on his head – a punter - customer – though unusual because you don’t normally see them carrying … One man with paper in his hand – a tally? The Tally man… Is this a hierarchy? One man is looking at the camera – is this a staged picture? There’s a big fish in the basket which is unusual as we don’t eat big fish nowadays… is it a shark? There’s JE on a box - jellied eels? It’s a cramped busy place. There’s a chopping block – is that fish or meat – it’s a big part of the picture… But they don’t do that kind of thing in a fish market… I don’t like it! I don’t know why. Too ambiguous? What’s it for? Don’t know what’s going on… Wouldn’t have looked twice at it – it doesn’t give me enough…

Me: My next question would have been, What attracts you to or repels you in the picture … It seems like it repels you? And it’s not the subject matter?

He: Yes. It’s the composition – it’s cramped – I can’t see the point of it… I can see it’s night time – and all the different packaging – laughs – could use it with Logistics students…

Me: I might have asked students whether that was documentary or art or whether that mattered?

He: (No real response – kept looking at the picture.)

Me: When do you think that picture was taken?

He: That’s why it’s so frustrating that it’s such a cramped picture. There are wheels there – it could be 1910, 1920? If I could see the wheels… if I could get a better look…

Me: Perhaps the cramped nature of the picture is part of the point?

He (more looking – positive noises)

Me: It was taken circa 1938… Though the clothes could be anywhere up to 1960s?

He: Yes - looking at it – it’s not the cliché jolly cockney pictures … Good…

He (more looking – positive noises)

Me: You noticed one person looking out – at us… I just did another course – Dorothea Lange took documentary pictures in the US – had one, ‘Angel of the Breadline’? With just that – one person looking – inviting us to comment - to be a chorus perhaps… On that hierarchy you were noticing? 

He: – it’s … class… Not the jolly chatty cockneys – you don’t see working men like that - in that picture – closed – working… Not laughing and joking… It’s good – a good thing…

He: I’m glad I looked now, yes…

We then discussed his quite strong reaction against the picture. We also discussed that he only felt able to share his initial negative reaction to the picture because of our trust relationship. He thought that saying he did not like the picture would have pulled forth a lecture on why he should like it – and what makes it good. And even though we have trust, he was surprised that he did not get that lecture but was ‘allowed’ to continue to explore the picture and his reaction to it – until he came at last to his final (in this encounter) reaction. He did have a positive reaction – but not because he felt he had to be positive – or that he had to pretend to be positive… He realized that once he overcame his own resistance (and the feeling that it was all a trick – that he was about to be talked down to and condescended…) he actually did respect and like the picture – for his own reasons.

This brief encounter of no more than twenty minutes at most was a revelation. Naively, I did not think that the mere showing of a photograph would evoke so much emotional and cultural baggage – nor such negative educational or academic baggage.

In this episode, I can see all the weight of a content-based, hierarchical, elitist and measurement-obsessed system. In this brief encounter there was resistance, confusion, frustration, irritation, anger, self-doubt, a tendency not to trust the ‘teacher’ or the teaching scenario; a belief that your own thoughts and feelings will be deemed inappropriate, bad, irrelevant… just plain WRONG. I can see the expectation that students are expected to swallow their pride and lose all of themselves – do as they are told – think what they are told to think… 

That this one small and quite beautiful picture evoked such a strong response in a grown up ... What on earth are we doing to our young?

I am lucky that there was trust in this friendship, otherwise I would never have been allowed to see all this. Now how to remember it – not just in this MOOC and in my final project – but in all my teaching!

Activities an inquiry and learnig: Notes on the Reading – suggestions for practice:

Activities that frame encounters with artworks:
  • Introduce key concepts e.g. modelling a partner to test out resistance in material – which will bring fresh insight to sculpture
  • Hook people in with a riddle
  • Record encounters with artworks tip: make the sketchbook first (see )
  • Reflect by drawing most powerful moment on a postcard 

Activities that deepen and enrich encounters:
  • Foster close observation: use a viewfinder; bend a piece of wire; describe to another; tear off paper and produce mini-collage
  • Access an immediate response: say the first word or draw the gesture that come to mind
  • Elicit an embodied response: become the artwork; write a letter *from * the landscape
  • Access the emotional tone: write a poem or prose piece in response to; create a soundtrack for…

Activities that connect the artwork to other realms of learning, creation, experience:
  • From artwork to own world – e.g. discussing cultural icons – ask students to offer suggestions and descriptions of icons of their own – and to follow up in social studies
  • Developing non-art ‘skills’ – generate nouns/adjectives from an artwork and use in sentences (!)
  • Inspiring artistic creation – expressing an artwork through the medium of dance – seeding own work…
  • Guiding the honing of specific art skills – drawing sculptures to improve draftsmanship.
Useful teaching notes from a Forum Discussion Thread
I have my students keep a 'cuaderno personal', ( a composition book) that they write reflections in on a regular basis and are provided feedback in. Maybe at the closing of class discussion, you could have them reflect/expand on the discussion in their book (or in a class wiki), then you as the teacher can read the entries and give them feedback, or have them peer review it, getting feed back from a classmate. It does take a lot of time to read all of them and to provide feedback, but watching them read the comments when they pick up their notebooks will give you goosebumps. Just a few words on the reader's part makes them re-digest the discussion. Hope this helps.

In my experience, allowing the free flow of conversation (as adults would handle it when talking about a piece) comes with practice. When I teach my students how to do Socratic seminar, there are some weeks of hand-holding and oodles of modeling on my part. We have a facilitator for each seminar, and for the first couple of weeks, it's me! This way, the students, who will all get a chance at being facilitator can see a model of how to redirect a conversation that might be going off of the deep end. It's rough at first, but with each new piece, there's more ownership on the part of the students and a better understanding of how to practice being reflective when thinking about a piece.

I tend to use a lot of literary works and poems, so I have the kids do annotations (a lesson during Orientation week) and come up with critical thinking questions (another lesson). We also review expectations for seminar each time we engage in it (which is weekly) and I'd be more than willing to share these. It's a poster I simply made in PowerPoint that hangs up in my classroom. The students are also aware that they're being assessed throughout the process from annotations to participation, from grace and courtesy to eye contact. If you practice it enough, it becomes second nature! 

The 2 minute silence and focus becomes a "group effort". It encourages students to work be aware of movement and sound around them (a non-interactive group activity). This prepares them for "circle" (an interactive group activity) where they each get a few moments to share their awesome thoughts and's always a wonderful experience (as a teacher) to hear what ideas and thoughts they have. Sometimes, they are PROFOUND! 

This technique has been used with kids from ages preschool thru high school. The initial focus was ACTUALLY more about finding time management solutions which led to patience, self & group awareness, then, focus on art. I kept finding that I (the teacher) was "commanding and directing" the use of time in the classroom (which goes against my teaching methods/beliefs) when ultimately, students must understand (at some point in their lives) how to utilize "time" efficiently on their own (it's the real world, right?). And much of their time management is structured/controlled/directed by parents... waking them up, getting them dressed, driving them to school, etc. etc. There isn't a lot of autonomy…I found myself using SO much of my own energy dictating time and completing state guidelined activities rather than encouraging the learning process and one day, I just thought, "WHY am I doing this? THEY are perfectly capable of accomplishing this...if they can take responsibility for time management, I can focus more on the curriculum and teaching pieces... When the students became responsible for their own time and tasks, things took a dramatic change in the classroom. I would place an easel in front of the class and list the 4 stations they needed to work through. Students each had a journal page with those 4 tasks (for example) and when they moved through each station, it would be checked off (yes, even for preschoolers). I had my own personal station that would be more in depth than the others. Preschoolers were introduced to time as well and instructed that they had until the big hand landed on the 5 (25) to get everything completed (for example). SO, it sounds absolutely crazy, doesn't it? Well, it was...a complete mess in the beginning...but then, something remarkable happened (it took about 3 weeks before things started to catch on) would notice the clock (with excitement and giggles to get everything done) and watch the hand move, which began the process of understanding "time",  they would nudge their other classmates as the big hand moved...and at times, if I looked around and saw unmarked charts, I might "suggest" that they look at the clock as well...with time, these kids became very responsible for their time and tasks for the day. It was quite remarkable, actually (this spilled over into other classes and their home life as well). Even for the preschoolers! When "Looking Time" was integrated, toddlers through 5th grade were limited to 2 minutes (5 minutes for the older kids)....and we'd take turns talking...much like our instructor does with her museum visitors. My only rule was that we allow everyone the opportunity to speak without interruption (because there are some VERY important things being said, everyone deserves the opportunity to share their ideas and if everyone is talking, we won't be able to hear them! :) I've never had to limit the time because the kids already know the first 15 min are for circle and looking time (free time at the end...if not enough time, no free time)...they're watching the clock (not me)! I don't know if this would work for others, I can only tell you that it worked for me and I've used the same concept for light years.  By making students responsible for their own time, you free up more time for you the teacher) to engage in other areas (taking those extra minutes to re-explain a concept to a student or coming up with a new side activity for the next day, etc. etc.) I should also note that another teacher in the same building adopted a similar approach and it worked beautifully in his room as well. :) So, maybe give it a go and see what happens! I would love to hear the responses! Good luck to all!

It is difficult to have a quiet, controlled classroom discussion when children are excited and motivated to share their responses to an artwork. We want the excitement, but when the voices cancel one another out, the students' production of new thinking around a complex idea a can dissolve in the distraction. One strategy from the theater department has been for the teacher to clap her/his hands in a rhythmic pattern, and have the students clap back. This always stops the action.  It is friendly and collaborative, and gives the class enough time to catch their collective breath. Before any rambunctious discussion, let the class know about this technique. . And speaking of ideas, a class motto that reads "All ideas are good ideas" will establish a tone of acceptance.

I've used this technique as well and it is effective. Another attention grabber is turning off the lights (kids know if I turn the lights off, to freeze). Sometimes I'll do a quick "wiggle, giggle, jump up and down" session but it really is based on the dynamics of the group. What works for one class, might not work for others. Positive rewards are VERY helpful as well (stickers, stickers and more stickers). :)

One strategy that worked well with my kindergarten class was drawing names. Each student had their name on a popsicle stick and it was in this shiny can that I decorated. I used this when my class was not responding to my questions. I would shake the can and the students actually would get really excited and want their name to be drawn. This technique worked wonders and I heard many interesting responses.

One strategy that I use when teaching children in the gallery, that may work in the classroom, is to ask the children to spend one minute looking at the painting. I tell them that they will then turn around so they can't see the painting and I will ask each one of them in turn to share something that they remember about it. I have never had the same observation twice within one group. It works well near the beginning of a session as each student gets to stay something and be heard and I get to praise everyone of them individually. It's not only useful for including the quiet children - who incidentally I have found make the most profound observations, so its great to have their input - but its a great method for engaging even the most disruptive child. When we turn back around to look at the painting in more depth, I have them all hooked and eager. 

In the art classroom compared to the art museum, there are some differences of relationship to the teacher. Some of my students have been coming to my studio for more than three years. We are all very comfortable with each other, a learning family. I like to get student impressions after looking at art, after making art.
If you throw the question making and asking to the students and they direct the questions to you, or to each other students, this can produce surprising results. The questions they come up with might be anything from sociological to technical, they are often delicious, funny, totally irrelevant, or not, and often insightful. 

As the teacher, most of the time I do not like to be the one breathing out the learning oxygen, being the main voice in the room will just make me the dominant personality (not what I want to be) followed by a hierarchy of dominant personalities. I want my quiet achievers to have a voice but that might take a different form than through dialogue.

Mixed ability classes: Your comment reminded me of a class I took through Coursera-MIT Global Poverty (my favorite class offered through MOOCs) this past winter/spring. The scenario you described above made me think of a study that Dr. Esther Duflo & Dr. Banerjee conducted in India. I was able to find the study (free-at least for now, so click on and save) for you. Even though this research was completed in India, they faced a very similar situation (further explained in the abstract portion of the paper) and I think this analysis could provide you with some ideas and strategies.

On another side note, I would also consider researching Montessori concepts and teaching methods.....this teaching methodology encourages multiple age integration and students helping other students........

Other MOOCs to consider: I highly recommend that everyone taking this course, sign up for "Art Historical Methodologies ARTH301" through Saylor University (free and virtually all OCW/reading-not much interactive discussion there-so, it would be nice to have some fellow classmates from here to discuss that class with as well) It examines the differences between Art History, Art Criticism, Art Aesthetics and the different philosophical approaches/styles used. I had NO idea there were so many different  philosophies (some were established in the 1700s!) and how these techniques are used today with presenting art and integrating it into the public classroom (schools, museums, etc.). Take a look!

I highly recommend you take Modern and Contemporary Poetry by Prof. Al Filreis. It's the first MOOC I took, and frankly, it spoiled me. It's truly an inquiry-based MOOC that was organized and implemented in a manner that kept me engaged from the first minute. Al was very invested in the course and in the success of the participants, constantly making his presence felt and asking open-ended questions as opposed to lecturing and giving us the answers.

Next week – our Project – good luck everybody!