Online Learning for Art – Getting Started

I am a visual art teacher in the Primary Years Programme at an IB international school in Hong Kong. We are currently in week number six of online learning due to campus closure resulting from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) precautions. Since many other schools around the world are considering or already moving into online learning, I thought I would share some notes for getting started and a few takeaways from my own online experience so far, as an art teacher.

Getting Started

At my school, we are using our school blog sites to post lessons for all specialist teachers for grades pre-k through grade three. Students access our blog posts through their homeroom teacher’s site. We use Weebly to host our specialist blogs and homeroom sites. For grades four and five, we are using Google classroom. We use Vimeo for hosting original videos and use sites such as safeyoutube for sharing Youtube video links. 

Lessons

My approach for online art lessons focuses on trying to best serve the student and family needs. 

Parents are suddenly in the role of teacher as they guide their primary-age children through all the details of their online learning lessons for every subject area, establishing routines, dealing with different ways of learning mathematics and other subjects, learning tech skills like posting to Seesaw, while many of them are also working full-time and supporting more than one child. Some of our families have been on the road since we started. Since we are an international school, we have families in a variety of time zones at the moment. Some students have only limited access to art making materials. It’s not an easy role for the parents or the students, so…

keep things simple

As often as I can, I make connections with what students are doing in the homeroom lessons.  

Assignments are open-ended and possible with a variety of materials. “The child is the artist.” For example in grade four: “While watching the video about the life and artwork of Alma Woodsey Thomas, notice how she used rhythm and color patterns in her paintings. For your assignment, create some artwork (2D or 3D) using any materials available and consider how you could use these concepts of rhythm or color pattern in your own piece.

Our specialist teachers post lessons once per week and recently started a “specialist day” on Tuesdays when primary students focus only on work from their specialist teachers. Homeroom teachers appreciate this because they use that day for planning and students love it because it’s “sickkkkk” as one grade five student responded. 

Our specialist team just moved into using a simple common structure. Each lesson has three very short parts:

WATCH (a video)

DO (an assignment)

POST (to Seesaw, Padlet, Google Classroom, etc.) 

That similar structure keeps things from being too wordy and allows parents to quickly scan an assignment for critical information. 

Stay Connected

I try to keep the videos short, friendly and sometimes humorous. 

I respond to every student’s art Seesaw or Google classroom assignment turned in with a specific comment about their work. 

I set up a pop-up art gallery through Padlet for each grade level to share artwork with their peers.

Padlet and Google Forms are great ways to get comments and insights from students. You can ask them thought-provoking questions and do visual thinking routines like see-think-wonder.

I add a storybook read-aloud video to my lessons each week (usually art related). I use the same read-aloud video with all grade levels for that week (stories like Ish or Art Dog).  

Our school uses Google Meet. Specialist teachers manage those meets every Tuesday (“specialist day”). It’s great to have a chance to chat with the students who are able to log in. Each grade level has their own separate meet and time schedule. The meet time is for checking in for understanding about assignments or for students who want to share things they have been working on. Two teachers are in every meet. Additionally, we record those sessions with a screen recording for child protection (Chrome extension Screencastify). 

We use parent surveys to ask about things such as the workload, organization, etc. 

Parents and students can email specialist teachers directly about their assignments, if they have any questions.   

Well-being 

If you are moving into school campus closure due to the coronavirus, there are a number of things that might affect your emotions, stress and energy levels. Read reputable websites that have information about the disease, instead of only relying on sensationalized news reports and Facebook posts. Some teachers mentioned to me that they feel a type of mourning over the loss of being able to teach their students in person. I’m a glass-half-full person and I’m looking for ways to make this a meaningful experience for students. It has definitely been a learning curve for me! 

After the first three weeks of online learning, I felt like my body was suffering from sitting all day instead of standing, missing the gym and other activities. I bought a yoga mat for home and now I’m more conscious of taking the stairs, hiking in nature, rowing and finding other ways to exercise. I’m limiting sweets, drinking mostly water and herbal tea, and eating healthy foods. It’s boring sometimes, but we need to keep our immune systems healthy. I’m reading things for enjoyment and staying connected to friends and family daily via social media.

Let’s Support Each Other

If you are just starting to use online learning with your art students, I wish you the very best. Let’s all keep sharing ideas and support each other through our professional learning networks in social media! 

Author: Ron

Ron teaches Visual Arts to students in the early years through grade five. In his practice, he uses innovative approaches to foster agency in the students through a choice-based model that encourages creative thinking routines and supports student voice. Additionally, he works closely with teachers to develop arts integration and creative thinking across the primary curriculum. Ron is passionate about supporting creative thinking in the educational environment for all subject areas. He follows current literature on the topic and attends innovative workshops and conferences. Ron has previously worked as a Visual Arts teacher, homeroom teacher and university lecturer.

3 thoughts on “Online Learning for Art – Getting Started”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I have been doing the same thing as you, teaching art online. Most of my students that response to the work finds art therapeutic. My most uplifting comment was when a student’s family notice how when she is drawing. A proud moment for me as an art teacher.

    Like

  2. Thank you Ron!

    I teach art middle school through high school in Western Massachusetts. I just Posted three weeks worth of lessons for my students last night. It was a marathon getting everything organized and set up to make it user friendly with links and reminders everywhere possible. Student Questions help me tweak the Google Docs and Slides to make them better.

    I’m already seeing student work which makes me smile. Everything you wrote confirms my thoughts and feelings to date.

    All the Best,
    Julie

    Like

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