I Want to Make You Mad.

Today, I told my students that I hoped they struggled with our exercises. I want them to be uncomfortable with these lessons. I want them to be frustrated.
If it’s too easy to “succeed”, then we’ve missed the point. If success comes too easily, we have failed because we’re not learning.


After two blind contour drawing exercises, I asked my students to write a few sentences:  two things that they hated, or that frustrated them.  Then, tell me something you learned (or something positive). *note: the video above shows students creating gesture drawings; blind contour drawings are very different.



In the book, The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros discusses the difference between a growth mindset and an innovator’s mindset.  They are very similar, with slightly different goals.  A growth mindset enables a learner to grasp the concept that, with practice and hard work, they can learn a skill.  An innovator’s mindset pushes this concept even further: not only can you learn skills, but use these skills to orchestrate something new and better ~ true creativity.

Where does this happen in our classroom?  Many times, right at the beginning.


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Stop. Please.

We had a brief staff meeting today, and a few comments from one staff member caught my attention more than anything else.  Yesterday, he took part in training and was surprised at how quickly he became frustrated when everyone else in the room was comfortable with some of the tasks and information that he wasn’t familiar with.  They were easily able to move on while he was stuck, wondering how to begin.

He was a victim of “the curse of knowledge,” as Edutopia writer Christopher Reddy describes it.  

Knowledge is a curse.
 Knowing things isn’t bad itself, but it causes unhealthy assumptions — such as forgetting how hard it was to learn those things in the first place. It’s called the Curse of Knowledge. ~ Christopher Reddy

How often does this happen in my classroom?  Am I missing opportunities to help my students with situations that prevent them from moving forward?



This semester, I want to share this blog post with my students.  Maybe we can think of a few ways that they can hit the brakes, stop for a moment & we can move forward together.

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What Are We Thinking?


When Melissa Purtee published her post, “Choice in Student Reflection” yesterday, a lightbulb appeared above my head.  I also wondered why I hadn’t blogged about this idea earlier.  That’s the great thing about working with people I admire; their work pushes me to do better.

Did I say I worked with Melissa?  Yep.  We share ideas all the time.  …the fact that we live at least 2200 km apart doesn’t hinder our working relationship…

Her honesty about student blogging was the very thing that had held me back from writing about this topic:

My relationship with student blog posts started as all positive. I loved reading student’s reflections on process and looking at images of their artistic journey. I based a huge chunk of my grades on these posts, which made total sense: the questions I asked students to write about were growth-oriented and related to the development of conceptual thinking. It seemed perfect, until I noticed it wasn’t. At least not for everyone. (Purtee)

If your students are encouraged to document their learning in any way, who decides how they will share this learning?  You or your students?

Last year, I began using Kidblog for my grade 9 students, but some complained that they didn’t like the way it worked for them.  Some really preferred to use Google docs for a variety of reasons.  Once this conversation started, a few more students started discussing this topic as well.  One student said that she preferred to use Storify because most of our discussions about her work had occurred on Twitter, and she could easily drag & drop these interactions into a story and comment on what she learned.

…but wait, there’s more…

What about the students who know what they’re talking about; their thoughts flow so easily when they discuss what they are learning in class, but are hindered when they are forced to slow their thinking and communicate by writing.  We began using Audioboom and ShowMe to record our conversations and to have a record of these discussions.


We love using ShowMe (@ShowMeApp) in class — it's the best way to analyze artworks! #NipRockArt #artsed #art

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on

I guess I had to ask myself:  What am I assessing?  Their ability to write a blog post, or their ability to communicate what they are learning?

Just because blogging works for me doesn’t mean that it will work well for every student.



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The teachers I admire are one-half avant-garde and one-half renegade. They challenge their students, and they challenge traditional learning.

They’re cool.


Art is traditionally taught by introducing different materials and techniques to students, and then evaluating how well each student manages to follow directions or mimic the style of an artist.

No thanks.

When I began to learn about TAB, I was shocked to learn about a different way of teaching.  I had been convinced that every student needed to do the same assignment, so I never considered providing them with more freedom.  I simply didn’t know how to do it.

Now that I’ve dabbled with choice in art education, I think I’m ready for the next step.  My classes have focused on the creative process while responding to a variety of themes for their major tasks.  They have been allowed and encouraged to use their choice of materials to express their thinking visually.

…enter the Renegade

So, there are a few art educators down in a place called Apex High School, and they’re pretty cool.  Really cool.  Not only did they (along with Katherine Douglas) give me the courage to step/run away from some of my former habits, they have provided non-stop support and continually share their work.  They even developed the Art of Apex Portal, which provides examples of artists’ work (conveniently organized by artistic behaviours), assessment strategies and demonstrations of various techniques.

Today, I began designing my first project that focuses on an artistic behaviour.  I started by designing the task around a theme, and then I caught myself before I could go any further.  …and asked for help.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 6.05.18 PM

I shared this screenshot with Ian Sands, who discussed the project with me; the goals and main ideas.  I decided to focus on the artistic behaviourArtists Tell Stories, rather than selecting the theme of “starting over” based on his advice (and my conscience).  Now, I can design a task that is much broader and open to interpretation.



Other educators are the best collaborators.  Thanks to the advice & suggestions found on the Facebook group, High School TAB, I’ll have a variety of artists to share with my students next week:


I won’t lie:  change makes me nervous.  And excited.  Nervous, because I don’t want my mistakes to have a negative impact on my students. Excited, because this kind of change is good.

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How can artists communicate their concerns about global warming?  How can we use materials to effectively share a critical message?

Today 🌱👟

A photo posted by @jean_jullien on


Do we rely on artists to represent the concerns of humanity?



Grade 11 & 12 students are now presented with a challenge:

How can your use of materials affect the success of an artwork meant to focus on our climate crisis?  Will your audience understand what you are trying to say?  What are you trying to say?






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#LearningIsLike… ?

What is it like to learn?  Do you remember?  Has it been a while, or are you in the midst of learning?  How can you describe it?


"Learning is like… _______" #youdecide #teachervsstudent #learning #education #school

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on


My students and I are beginning to explore this topic, as we think of ways to respond to the question, #LearningIsLike …?


Thanks to Nick & Dalton for their help with this video! For the series #LearningIsLike … ____? #NipRockArt

A video posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on


Can you describe what it’s like to learn?  Does it depend on what you are learning?  Is the process any different?  Post your answer on Instagram or Twitter (or Vine) with the hashtag #LearningIsLike .  I will keep looking for your posts!


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The Value of Value

Grade 9 students learned about value today.  In art, value is the lightness or darkness of a colour or tones.

After watching the introductory video, we began to look at the art of Baroque artists Caravaggio & Gentileschi.

We discussed the strong differences between extremely light areas and the darkness in the background.  We also appreciated the subtle changes in value in areas such as the muscles on Holofernes’ arm.

The two artists who created these paintings captured a very intense scene, because we as the viewers aren’t distracted by problems with their technique.  We are able to appreciate the story, because the artists’ method of communicating is clear.  There are no issues with their shading or proportions.  These artists had taken years to practice with their materials (such as paint) and techniques (such as shading with value), and we are able to benefit from their skill development.

So, today, we began to practice our skills with value.  Grade 9 students created value scales using pencils, charcoal and chalk:


Playing with #value in Gr. 9 art class. #NipRockArt

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on

Some more fun with #value #NipRockArt

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on

Even more #value scales! #NipRockArt

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on

There was no pressure to make these scales look great.  In this class, practice means play.  Experiment.  Make messes.  No grades.  Have fun.


My students worked so hard today! 🏆 #NipRockArt

A photo posted by Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) on


Tomorrow, we’ll play with value + colour!

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