Skill Builder Friday

Friday Confusion

My classes are on a four-day rotation. Monday-Red, Tuesday- green, Wednesday- yellow, and Thursday-blue. This means that the class who comes in Friday is getting extra time in art that all the other groups don’t get during that week since the schedule starts over on Monday. I generally don’t like having them work on their class projects on Friday because it means they’ll be ahead of the rest of their grade level.

What is Skill Builder Friday

I came up with the idea this school year to have them work on one-day projects to specifically grow certain art skills and introduce them to art techniques to play with and interpret in their own way. I also wanted all grade levels (k-5) to work on the same projects. I introduced this to them by talking about the difference between a skill and a talent. A talent comes naturally; a skill is something that you have worked on to improve.

Talent only goes so far and if someone without much natural talent in something works and develops their skills, they can become better at it than someone with just talent who has not put extra work into it. Ideally we all want to become more skillful at our given talents but being born good at something is not a prerequisite to be amazing at it.

Projects I’ve Done

3D drawing from Wooden Blocks

Blind Contour

Papel Picado

Jen Stark-Style Paper Sculptures

Crayon Resist

What I’ve Discovered

Some students excel at different projects in unexpected ways. Sometimes the very well behaved students who are always listening and patient and are great at following directions can’t do the project very well. Sometimes the students who never listen and are all over the place and usually really sloppy with poor craftsmanship produce amazing work.

Sometimes age and grade doesn’t determine if a student can do the project or not. I had 5th graders who could not figure out how to cut the papel picado project and kindergartners who totally nailed it and had no trouble.

I have a first grade student who never follows any directions and generally does not pay attention in class. He usually never finishes his work because he’s always either messing around with friends or staring off into space. He did exceptionally well at the papel picado to the point where everyone in the class was pointing at how amazing his paper cuts looked. For the first time that semester he followed cleanup procedures without being prompted and then sat quietly listening for the next set of instructions. Being good at this skill seemed to give him self-confidence and make him feel like he could do other things well too.

Painting so far has not been as easy to use in these one-day class projects because a large portion of class is spent getting paint and cleaning up paint. I have only tried crayon resists with my Wednesday classes and decided to not continue with the rest of the groups. It was too chaotic and I was going through my water color too quickly. I do think I’d like to try a color challenge in which the kids try to match their paint to a paint chip. But I wouldn’t do this project until after all grades and classes have had an opportunity to learn about painting procedure because explaining how to wash off the palette without making a huge painty mess is too much time for the short 50-minute class I have with these kids.

What Kids Have Discovered

They’ve discovered that they are good at things that they might not have expected. There are so many different art skills and isolating them down to the fundamentals helps them to not get distracted by the many components of a larger project. They also see that they are good at some things and maybe not at others. Some kids feel like they aren’t good at art at all and then we do a one-day project and they excel and feel good about themselves . And they’re excited about art. And, most important to me, they can see that art can mean many different things; maybe an aspect of making art doesn’t come naturally to them but that doesn’t mean they’re bad at all art.

Additionally, they like the break from the longer term projects they’re working on. I’ve also heard a lot of comments along the lines of “I am not very good at this it’s hard. I know it means I need to work on it.”

And this is what I long to hear.

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