Students new to making their own creative choices often need guidance to come up with their own ideas. After years of being led through step by step project, pulling out their own ideas is not just a matter of providing an open studio. One way I scaffold for my middle school students is by providing themes. But sometimes even this doesn’t provide enough room for the students’ own ideas.
At the NAEA convention in Chicago last spring, I discovered Terraforma cards. http://terraformacards.squarespace.com They looked like an intriguing way to help my students come up with their own themes. You can watch their online video to learn more, but I would describe them to students as an art Madlib.
They have a sentence prompt with 4 blanks. There are 5 different sentences that have increasing levels of complexity. We started with the first one. “How do I use (theme) to explore (subject) in my (process) using (media).” The cards are paired with incredible, rich images on the front and connected words on the back organized by the aforementioned categories. I gave each table 3 pairs. Students took turns picking a favorite card from each of the 3 pairs. With those 3 cards in hand, they then wrote down one theme, subject, process and media from each card. Then they used those words to fill in the blanks on their sentences.
I tested the cards out with my 7th graders. Two small classes of kids who had me last year and had been through all my “Around the Room” activities and felt comfortable in my studio classroom. They loved the cards and how they both guided and opened them up to ideas. I was so impressed with their work for the first project of the year. So diverse, interesting and engaging. And not a single student complained about the task. (Which can be a rarity in middle school!)
Of course with the different sizes and mediums kids were finishing at very different speeds. When they finished, I had them draw cards for another prompt and do a second artwork. For the grade they selected their favorite of the two. Both the kids and I look forward to using them again this year.
See more art from this lesson here. http://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1193743