Friday, September 2, 2011

Ideas for getting started

Welcome, new Art Docents! Here are some random nuts and bolts that will hopefully help you have a successful start to your docent experience.

First things first -
Scheduling: There is a lot of freedom as an art docent to teach what you want, when you want. You will be responsible for coordinating with your teacher when and how often you will come.

What to teach: Again, this is up to you. There are lots of lessons on this blog (these are all ones that art docents at Kelly have tried) but if you find something somewhere else, by all means, go for it! There are so many great art lessons all over the internet. I personally like for them to have an art history tie-in, because contributing to the children’s cultural literacy is one of our goals, but you don't necessarily need to do that every time.

Some art docents like to try and coordinate their lessons to enhance what their kids are learning - for instance, if your seventh grader is studying the Aztecs, it might be fun to find a lesson creating Aztec warrior images, etc. But you don't have to do that unless you want to.

Although the lessons on the blog are organized by grade level, most of them will work for all of the grades (kindergarten being the exception) with small adjustments. For instance, I am an art docent in my son's class (5th grade) and my daughter's class (3rd grade). Usually I prepare the same lesson for both classes. Our discussions and projects end up being a little different but it totally works (and I'm also so much more comfortable teaching the lesson the second time!).

Some of the kids are bound to repeat a lesson from year to year depending on their previous teacher/art docent. We don’t worry too much about this, as every year they are bringing more skills to the table as artists and for that reason a project done one year is a totally different experience done 12 months later.

Some great sites for more lessons:, (start with a search for “art lessons for kids” will give you a zillion results!)

Also, at our art docent meetings each month, we will always have a new lesson that we will sample.

Good lessons to start with:

Van Gogh's Starry Starry Night. This probably has the most thorough "script", so if you are really nervous about what you might say as you are introducing the activity to the kids, there's a lot to use in this lesson.

Matisse: Drawing with Scissors. Also has a very thorough "script" and it's a little less intimidating to hand out construction paper than trying to manage paint with a large group. And this project really ends up looking great.

Andy Goldsworthy. This is such a fun lesson and logistically easy since the kids try to find a lot of their materials. Use on a really pretty day.

Day of the Dead - this one is really fun to do in October as it is kind of spooky to draw a skull. And also, fairly simple in terms of materials needed.

-location: supplies are in the large cabinet in the teacher conference room (wall to the right of the door). Also we have supplies in the lower cabinets located in the teacher mail room, along the back wall on the left hand side of the room.

-if you know you will be needing something (like, for example, sharpies) on a specific day - you may want to send out an email to the other art docents to reserve them. Hopefully we will always have enough of everything for people to do what they want, but in some cases we only have one set of some supplies and it would be smart to plan ahead.

-please put the supplies back right after you use them so they are available for whoever needs them next.

-please clean the supplies before you put them back. It's no fun to go into the cabinet and pull out a handful of yucky brushes covered in dried paint.

-we usually make a few orders each year. Make a note of supplies you think we could use on our supply request sheet inside the cabinets.

Visual Aids: Many lessons on the blog have power point slideshows for you to use. The link is typically included in the lesson. To use these links, click and download the slideshow to your computer. Then email it to your teacher. She can pull the file up on her computer and use her projector to magically display the images. You probably want to do this a few days before you teach to check that it works. I also have the original powerpoint files on my computer that I can email to you if slideshare doesn't work. (
) Also - there are sometimes some really neat things on youtube that are fun for the kids to see. If you find something like this, try and download it and send it to your teacher. Again, you’ll probably want to test this ahead of time to make sure it works. Nothing worse than technical difficulties in the moment!

Also each classroom is equipped with a document projector (the "ladybug"). You can bring in books and the projector can project from them - you can also plug your ipad/iphone into it to show images from the internet/youtube that the school firewall prevents the teachers from showing from their laptops.

Portfolios: We've found over the years that the best, simplest way to keep track of the kids' art is by making a portfolio for every child from poster board (folded in half, stapled on the sides). We have poster board in the conference room (against the walls). Please take what you need to make portfolios for the kids (or, you could even have the kids do it before their first lesson). Then, after every project, have the kids put their art in their portfolios and keep them in the classroom. At the end of the year they'll be able to choose their favorite piece for the art show, and the portfolio will go home at Open House.

Sponsor Letters: We fundraise primarily by sending home a short letter to every family giving parents an opportunity to "sponsor" art lessons by sending in a donation of $4. Our goal is for every participating class to contribute at least $40. We will be printing out these letters and putting them in the art cabinet. Please send them home to your class(es). The money, when it comes back to the teacher, should be turned in by you to the school secretary who will deposit it in our art account. Thank you - this makes a huge impact in our ability to have what we need!!

Random thoughts: Being an art docent gives us a unique opportunity to be in the classroom presenting an activity that will not be graded. For some children, this is their one chance to really succeed at something where they don’t have to be “in the box” thinkers. Don’t be so rigid with your instructions or procedures that the kids miss the freedom to express themselves and their point of view. Some of the best lessons happen when a child tweaks instructions and tries something in a new or different way. Be open to incorporating their ideas.

Finally, enjoy yourself! Remember, the main point here is to help the kids have a creative experience, not necessarily to produce a "beautiful" product. Have fun with it and don't worry too much about trying to be perfect.

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