One of the choice projects I do every year is the PTA Reflections contest theme. They are usually good for themes because they are more abstract. One of our state standards is communicating ideas visually, so the theme always fits in to this standard.
Stop Motion Animation about pollution
This year the PTA theme is “The world would be a better place if…” I always start this themed assignment with a brainstorming session on what the theme could mean and how it could be interpreted. I usually put together a power point with some common ways the theme might be intrepreted, along with some art images that would fit the theme to review.
Turning an abstract concept into a work of art that SHOWS this concept visually, without a bunch of text to explain it, is very difficult for middle school students. So after the brainstorm session, we took 2 days in the computer lab to write about our theme and look for reference pictures and inspiration. While this assignment isn’t just about the contest, the PTA reflections requires an artist statement and the judging weighs heavily on this statement. I like the kids to really have the story or explanation of their theme well thought out ahead of time. The artwork topics have been clearer, richer and deeper since I started doing this project this way.
When we came back to the classroom, the students chose their art medium. For this project they could use any drawing material (pencil, marker, chalk, etc) any type of paint, collage or computers. After picking art mediums we did a seating change to move kids closer to the supply centers they would need. Then students spent 2-4 days working on their rough draft plans. I conference with them at different points, sometimes when they are done with rough draft and have a strong idea and image that is ready to go, others I work with earlier. Luckily, by this point, I know the kids well enough to know who is going to struggle getting their ideas onto paper. For those kids, we talk about their topic and ways they might express it.
When necessary, I help them find new or different reference pictures. Most of these kids are so new to art and drawing that they are still relying heavily on the use of reference pictures. But I stress trying to do “mash-up” remixing more than one image into something new and adding their own flair. I am trying to move them past this, but it is a slow process for my insecure artists.
Students then had a week in class to work on the final draft. Midway through this studio week we had a short peer review activity. Since the goal is to communicate the idea without the use of explaining text, they had to walk up to 3 different classmates to ask them to guess the theme. They wrote those guesses down and then had a longer Praise and Polish conversation with a friend. Students then had more studio time to fix, change, improve or finish their artwork.
Students do a short reflection to wrap up the assignment, which they turn in with their original paragraph. Since kids always seem to finish at different rates, they have their artist goal to work on in their sketch books when they finish.
Some of the popular/common topics for this project included bullying, climate change/pollution, peer pressure, helping the homeless, hungry and ill.
- Better World Paragraph Lesson
- Better World Themed Rubric
- 2014 Peer Critique Form
- Peer Critique Instructions
- More artwork in our Artsonia Gallery
Stop Motion Animation using Pivot about World Peace
Past year’s PTA themes: