12 Jul

Teaching with Art

It’s right after lunch in my 5th grade classroom.  Time for science.  This quarter, we’re learning about physics.  I’ve got the phet loaded onto my interactive whiteboard.  For some reason, my students just aren’t quite understanding the forces at play in this scenario.  Perhaps I’ll draw an illustration on the white board to help them understand.

I start to sketch some stick figures, and I hear students giggling behind me.  I’m not much of an artist.  I never really have been.  But these stick figure sketches are surprisingly informative.  The students catch on quickly, and I’ll deal with a few giggles, if that’s what it takes for my students to understand.

This year, I’m adopting a “comic book” theme in my classroom, which is interesting for a couple reasons: 1) I hate classroom themes, and 2) I think this means I have to become an artist.  The idea is to allow my students to do a lot more comic book style writing, based mostly on pictures.  I have varying levels of reading and writing skills in my classroom (who doesn’t?), and pictures are universal.  I’m required to teach plot and character and setting regardless of how well my students read, and I think comic books and graphic novels allow me to do this.

I’m also required to teach my students how to write narratives, and comic books allow hesitant writers to participate in that.  Sketching out what’s happening in a story first can be a stepping stone to writing out that story.

But what about the kid that hates to draw?  Do you leave him out as much as a conventional classroom assignment would leave out the students performing below their grade level?  Of course not!

I’m trying to provide my students with a lot of flexibility.  I want to give them multiple ways to access the curriculum.  I don’t want to create a one-size-fits-all comic book tunnel anymore than I want to create an entirely lecture-based classroom with kinesthetic learners left out.

But there is some value to sketching out ideas, even if you’re not good at it.  Enter Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, and the like.  I’m hoping my kids will create their own sorts of hybrids as we work in our reading journals this year.  A little narrative about what we learned, a little drawing to illustrate it.

I also think I should keep one as well.  Each day I ask my students to journal about what they learned, I’m gong to as well.  Obviously, I won’t be learning about root words and affixes, but I’m sure I’ll be learning a lot this year, and what a great reflective practice.  I’ll be sure to share my reflections as well as my students’ once we get started.


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