My students, like all artists, face hurdles when it comes to drawing. When they envision something in their head, they are automatically disappointed when the image on their paper doesn’t reflect their vision perfectly. This disappointment can turn to frustration and can become more defeating the older a student gets. When faced with these challenges, students can often get to the point where they give up. This is where most adults are. They’ve accepted that they are just “not artistic” when in fact, they were at birth and can be again if they put their minds to it.
I try to explain it this way…
You didn’t wake up suddenly being able to add numbers or read. You had to learn and practice. The more you practiced, the better you got. Now you don’t think about it, you just do it. Now you can’t imagine not being able to do it.
Drawing is like that. You must learn the basics and practice. The more you do it, the better you get. No one is born being able to draw like a photograph. It takes time and practice. Think about your drawings when you were young. They look very different from your drawings today. As do your drawings of the future. They too will look different than your drawings today.
A New Art Assessment Idea
I wanted to come up with a way to assess growth in my classroom and at the same time promote artistic confidence and persistence. So, I came up with a sketchbook activity that could be graded but also visually represent growth to the students while promoting their individual talents and abilities.
Artist, Jake Lockett, did something similar when he created a portfolio of his artistic work from age 2 to 24. You can view it HERE. It is an interesting collection and helps us visualize the concept of growth when we can directly compare the works to each other.
It would be unreasonable for us to collect all student artwork every year that we have them to do something like Jake Lockett, but we can do something else to show students how they have progressed.
This is what I mean…
In the beginning of the term, semester, or year, have students pick a subject. This cannot be a logo or something super simple. It should be something generic. Examples of this could be people, eyes, lizards, dragons, trees, food. It should be something that they want to learn to draw better. Without looking at any resources, or reference images, have them draw their subject, sign, and date it. I suggest collecting these drawings so that students resist the temptation to constantly compare their progress. It is more exciting and revealing when they see them as a collection at the end of their experience.
Throughout your time together, periodically allow for research, observation, and analysis of this subject. Students can print pictures of their topic, cut out magazine images, look up tutorials on the computer, or utilize nonfiction materials. Every now and then, have a time during class where they can create another drawing using the skills that they have learned. Every time they create a new drawing have them sign and date it.
The more images the student draws, and the more time they have to work, the more growth they will be able to see. For example, I have my students every other day for either a quarter or a semester. I only see some students 26 times. This may be too short a time to show a large amount of growth. I have seen amazing results from students who I see for a semester. I cannot even imagine how much growth this portfolio might show in an elementary setting. It would be fascinating in an elementary art classroom where you have students from their kindergarten year to grade 5 or 6. That would be amazing!
When your time is coming to an end, distribute your students’ drawings and have organize their artwork by date. Lay out the artwork for a critique. Share observations that you see and have them describe the process. How did you grow? What did you learn? What do you know today that you didn’t know then? What do you want to learn in the future? Where will you go from here?
This is just one idea to assess growth in the classroom, but I feel as though it can set a positive tone moving forward. People want to automatically jump from point A to Z without thinking of all the stages in between. Instant results! When we pick a topic that we enjoy, however, we can return to it repeatedly and visually see the progression of our skills. It is a boost we sometimes need to keep practicing, continuing to get better, and eventually developing our own artistic style.
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.