My third grade art students and I tackled a new project I called kinetic art in the style of a Rube Goldberg machine to connect what they learned in science about energy transfer to visual art. Hearing the spontaneous applause, or a “yeah!” from students as the last moving part came to rest when a classmate shared a piece made me smile. It was a great reminder (one I needed) how gratifying sharing your work with others can be. That in and of itself makes prioritizing time to share worthwhile, but there are so many reasons to make sure students have a chance to reflect and share.
Reflecting and sharing give due respect to the time and effort the students invested and deepen the learning. They also allow students to notice strengths in themselves and their classmates. It allows them to notice similarities and differences in the work produced and in perception of the work. And, witness the variety of self-expressions that can manifest even when given the same assignment. Unfortunately, it is so easy in our busy classrooms to allow the students time to create the work, but not spend time on reflecting on and sharing that work.
Of course, sharing and reflecting do take time so as facilitators. We need to decide what kind of sharing best meets the objectives of the particular assignment. In my mind, the time invested in the creation should be reflected in the time given to the sharing process. Along with, in the size of the audience. When having students appreciate a classmate’s work, whatever form that work takes, it is important for the students to have a clear purpose. Preparing and modeling a set of guiding questions and sentence frames is key to helping students have productive, constructive and focused sharing regardless of the structure of that sharing process.
Here are a few possible sharing structures to consider:
Pairs – My turn, your turn sharing and responding. This is great for works-in-progress or a quick activity.
Small Groups – Each person shares and receives feedback. Another great choice for works-in-progress or a quick activity.
Gallery Walk – This is when students place work on their desks or in their space and the class has a chance to literally walk around and view the pieces. This can be used for a quick sharing or as the precursor to a deeper more formal share. It can be followed by a personal written response, pair share, small group share, or whole class share.
Whole Group – This structure takes the most time as each child is presenting individually to the class and receiving feedback. This is best for a finished piece that took time to create – similar to “published” writing. With this type of sharing, I recommend having just a few children per day to make sure every child gets the high level of classmate attention they deserve.
Display – If you have a piece that is the equivalent of published writing, this deserves to be displayed. Think about pieces displayed in an art gallery. The piece has a name and is labeled as such, usually with the medium or media the artist used. There may even be a little biography of the artist and a statement from the artist her/himself that reflects on the process, the artistic choices, the meaning of the piece, etc.
There are so many things competing for our time in today’s classroom. As the facilitators of learning we are constantly making judgements about where that time is best spent. As we make those decisions, we must be sure to consider what the students will be losing if we do not allow enough time for the students to reflect and share.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.