In my middle school studio classroom, we use the TAB model and media related centers to create artwork based on themes. I really like this way of guiding students to create art because it mimics a lot of real life artist situations. As an adult artist I have regularly kept myself motivated and focused by entering themed-based curated shows and competitions.
In my 6 years of doing a Modified-TAB program, I have found the themes to work well with my students. The few times I have tried to do full-TAB with no themes or specific assignment dates, the bulk of the kids end up just sitting there visiting and cutting up magazines or scribbling on paper with no finished results. The themes focus them and give them mandatory deadlines to work towards.
A few of Last Year’s themes were:
“Beauty is…” I always use the annual PTA Reflections Contest theme as our first one of the year. I then allow interested students to submit their work to the contest, and really encourage those that have created something wonderful. Last year 2 of my students went on to the state level.
Surrealism: I always try to include a style or period of art in one of the themes. The results included a lot of magazine collage and drawings, lending itself less to some of the other mediums, but I also had a few paintings and sculptures.
Recycled Art: This was inspired by one of the keynote speakers at the October State Art teacher’s conference. Recycle Ruby shared the world of recycled art with us and I shared it with my students. My sculpture center of course was the busiest center for this assignment, but fiber center was well used too.
SO, this year’s the themes are… drum roll please….
- “Together We Can” the PTA theme of course. This is going to be a tough one to get going I think, but I am hoping the kids will surprise me.
- Portraits: I have been wanting to do portraits for a while. I just entered some of my own work in a portrait show and I am working on one of Frida Kahlo. I have done self portraits before, but never opened it up to any kind of portrait. I think this will lend itself to a lot of mediums. I am going to allow clay and paper mache’ busts as an option too.
- Perspective City Street Drawing: This is our state’s required art assessment for all 8th graders. It is a BEAR to deal with especially when the kids are so used to studio style work. This has very specific guidelines and is only allowed to be drawing. I do have some flexibility in what types of drawing materials, one of the teacher’s last year did it with Black construction paper and prisma brand colored pencils. I unfortunately don’t have enough money to buy that level of pencil and the cheaper brands don’t work as well on the black paper. So we will be doing regular white paper and pencil… maybe with the option for a few to do it on the black, or even on computer. I might even allow some kids to attempt a sculpture version of their city, after they draw a draft. Or even try to encourage some animations to be made with the city as a background, as an extension if they finish before the end of the assignment/test window.
- Seasons/Earth Art: I will teach them about Earth Art, but then the actual project does not have to be, but can be outdoor earth art. Trying to do earth art with my students would be tricky anyways, we don’t really have a good campus for that being an URBAN school. But I know a number of kids that will do stuff at home and take photos of it.
- Functional Art: This is one of the themes that I have done in the past, but it has been over 4 years now, so none of my current students will have done this.