Throughout the year I work to help students grow and maintain a positive and safe classroom, physically and emotionally, in the art room. We have been talking a lot about our emotional responses to challenges, and how to think flexibly in grade two.
In that theme of growth, and to focus on building our community, Second Graders are making "community garden" collages. The students make the painted papers that they will all share to "grow" their gardens, borrowing what they need and leaving some for others.
Students have just begun a few new processes in art that can be very emotional for students. First, they are thinking about how to self-assess based on a rubric of expectations for their art work. These expectations are focused primarily on Effort, Craftsmanship, and staying On Topic. Students are learning what those expectations look like at grade two, and how to assess honestly where their own work is.
Next, students are learning to ask others in the classroom for feedback about their artwork. Constructive criticism can certainly be hard to receive, but it can also be hard to give. They are just beginning to ask other classmates "What can I add, change, or improve about my project?" and learning how to answer that question when asked.
Not only are students asked to elicit feedback from two peers, but they are asked to actually implement at least one of the suggestions, which is why it is so critical that they learn how to offer positive, constructive ideas that will promote more growth for the artist.
It can be hard to get students to talk with each other when they want to get right to work, so when they arrive to their tables, they find only their artwork, no supplies. This is frustrating to some that want to skip the community conversations (I have kids do this in small groups of 3-5 per table), but I promise that it is worth it. These young artists come away with many great ideas and see their own work through fresh eyes.
Building our classroom environment begins with shared tangible materials- passing the scissors, sharing the painted papers- but grows into sharing the intangibles. Sharing our thinking with one another, sharing our challenges, and sharing our positive, supportive thoughts.