Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Semester Art Assessment: Personal Squares

Figuring out how to assess high school students during the end of a term or semester (we’re on a block schedule so we work in terms) is challenging in Art.  Pencil/paper tests (which we do also) may capture the knowledge, but they don’t demonstrate the skills I’m looking for.  I designed this Art 1 (freshman) project to help with that.  It is also popular because it is very big on self-expression, which is essentially the primary focus in my classroom.  When older students are around while the freshmen work on this, I always hear “oh, I loved that project!” 

We start with a sheet of 18x24 paper and then draw a three inch grid on it.  This gives them 48 three inch squares to work with.  To start them out, I give them requirements for half of the squares.  This gives them some parameters from which to problem solve design solutions, serves as a review of the some of the projects from the semester and is a chance to prove what they’ve learned.  
This list can obviously be tailored to your teaching, but here is what I came up with and it works quite well for us:

5 squares of letters (one letter per square)
4 squares of solid color
6 squares of designs/patterns
5 glue-ons (photos, random small objects, other artwork, etc.)
1 square created like Monet or Van Gogh
1 cubism square
1 monochromatic square
1 shaded drawing square

The other half of the squares are the students' choice to include as expressions of themselves:  favorites (food, team, class, music, movies, season, etc...), representations of family and friends, memories, plans for the future...the possibilities are endless!

I remind them that this is graded on how well they meet the Art Standards (which are posted on the board.)  
They are allowed to use colored pencil, shaded pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor.  They may use markers if they 
"push color” with colored pencil over them.  I do not allow pastels or oil pastels because they smear too easily and mess up other squares.  

The resulting work is a patchwork of self-expression that beautifully shows who they are at this moment in time.  To be done well, it does take quite a time commitment, but is less daunting when working in 3” increments.  Every so often during this project I ask them to count the number of squares they have left and divide by the number of classes we have left.  That is the goal for the number they need to get done each day (not including weekends.)  This gives them a goal to shoot for and keeps (some of them) on target.