About Christine K. Miller

Weaver, art teacher, fiber artist, yogini, reader, cat lady, life enthusiast.

Surface Design Association Inspires Explore Fiber

This is my Pecha Kucha presentation (with the text) that I presented at the Surface Design Associations’ 40th anniversary conference 4/3 – 4/6/2017. Find out how receiving an SDA scholarship to attend the 2011 Minneapolis conference planted the seed for the creation of http://www.ExploreFiber.com

Art Education – The Challenges of Curriculum Transition

This presentation examines a school district’s Art I Foundation curriculum change into the Understanding by Design curriculum template. Find out the challenges and successes for this National Art Education Association annual conference in New York City March 2017.

Bring Fibers Into Your Art Curriculum

See examples of art educators in the Plano Independent School District using fibers in their art projects. This presentation gives not just examples, but advice and resources to support including fibers in the classroom. Resources include the website Explorefiber.com, the blog of Cassie Stephens, and the fiber course of The Art of Education.

Fostering Community in the Art Studio

Fiza 2Creating a strong community in the art classroom has been a top priority this year.  Sometimes it seems challenging, especially in a 9th & 10th grade high school, when kids clump together in different cliques and feel most comfortable with their friends.  This year I have started talking about community from the first week of school, and instead of talking about our art class, I refer to our space as the art studio and invite them to think of themselves as real artists working in this shared space.

I show an artist video at the beginning of every class, and one of my favorite Artist of the Day videos is Candy Chang’s TED Talk ‘Before I Die I Want To…’

Her poignant story and community based art project really demonstrates how a simple idea can connect many people.  After showing the video, I asked each of my students to respond to a daily question with an ‘exit ticket’, a post it note that they use to write their response to the question and leave for me to gather and find out about their thinking.  Here are some of their responses to the question “How can our art impact our school community?” after we watched Chang’s video:

  • Inspire others to step out of their comfort zone
  • Art is a great stress relief.  You need things that are colorful around the school to make people feel at home.
  • By giving the school life, color & passion
  • It can change things for the better.  It can inspire people
  • Art can unite the whole school community and create a solid bond for a long time
  • Change a perspective on a view they already have
  • It gives a voice for students and provides freedom for expression.  It also presents new ideas and stimulates the imagination.
  • Make our school look better, make it more colorful and create a better learning environment
  • It can show people that anyone can become an artist

These are just a handful of the wonderful responses I got from my students.  I think it’s going to be a really great year!

The Power of Photography – Artist of the Day Video Theme

Day 8 - I see you

This is such an exciting time in the history of man!  I want to share the history of photography with them, and get them thinking about the POWER they carry around with them – the camera in their phone.  Never in the history of mankind have so many had such a powerful tool in their pocket.  The 21st c. has seen the explosion of communicating information through visuals.  The fact that a high percentage of the population of the world has the capability to transmit images globally in the blink of an eye has completely shifted the way we understand our world.  It has been a huge democratization factor, and has changed not only art, but also politics and society.

This week’s Artist of the Day videos centered around the theme of Photography.  I wanted to help them find out how to take better pictures, and to think more broadly about the kinds of pictures they might take.  Here is the lineup:

My student teacher came up with these questions for the students to reflect on after viewing the videos:

  • What is one way to improve the composition in your photographs?
  • A photographer in Dubai takes photos while skydiving, how can you change the way you take pictures based on your interaction with your settings?
  • What might be some challenges and considerations of taking successful photos underwater?
  • Micro photography is taking photos of the smaller details in life (like the ant carrying the pink leaf). What objects or organisms would you be inclined to take photos of at the micro level?
  • If you were a photojournalist, what story would you want to capture through photos?

Showing our students these viewpoints of professionals broadens their perception of the world.  I asked each class how many students were interested in photography, and a healthy number of hands were raised in each class.  Photography and video content are trumping text in information dissemination.  Helping our students to strengthen their visual literacy is an important skill art teachers can pass on.  Enjoy this lineup of videos, consider showing them to your students and use these questions, or come up with your own questions or activities to connect our students to the power of the image.

Process Over Product in Art Education: A Student Centered Approach to Making Art

Living in the 21st century is living in a time when change is rapid and insistent.  It can be difficult to keep up with  constant change, much less embrace and incorporate it into our teaching practices.  My experience as an art teacher has always been at the high school level in a public school setting.  My school is highly diverse in every way – racially, culturally, economically, religiously, and with a high percentage of students with special needs.  It is challenging teaching so many kinds of children while striving to target their individual needs!  More than challenging, it can lead to a high level of frustration for both teacher and student!  I know my experience is not unique – this is the common landscape of art classrooms across the country.  When teachers get together, they talk about these common problems and wonder how we can reach our students when we feel like art can be at the heart of their individual expression.

Art education, just like education in general, is also in a state of flux.  Decades of teaching centered on a teacher driven, studio techniques curriculum does not engage the majority of students taking beginning art classes.  The teacher is faced with apathy, defiance and push back as the students query their teacher about why they should do it.  It’s not that what we’ve been doing for the last 20 or 30 years is wrong, it’s just that we need to think about what we’re doing with a new lens, adapting our pedagogy to incorporate not only technology, but the mindset of the digital natives that we are teaching.

My presentation reflects my own journey as an art educator over the last 10 years.  I have been exposed to many ideas, techniques, strategies and approaches to teaching art.  When new ideas come my way, I have taken them immediately into the classroom and played with them with my students, and I have been very transparent with them about why we try these new methods or vocabularies – I want them to care about the art they make!

The lesson plan format I present here is the culmination of my own teaching experience.  I have created an outline that put teaching studio techniques not at the front of the lesson, but is woven throughout the art making process.  What comes at the beginning of my students’ experience is investigation, exploration, questioning and journaling to connect to their own discoveries and their personal lives.  The art that results from this approach is more authentic and not formulaic like many “art projects” can turn out to be.  They have more motivation and excitement in their creating.  And, they are more involved in the assessment of their project because I have shifted my grading to assessing their effort and persistence instead of how skilled their end product is.  My students like being graded this way and I do to.  We are slowly changing from an art classroom to an art community, where their voice, ideas and creations are celebrated and valued as unique expressions.

After viewing the presentation above, here are some questions to consider about your own experience teaching, or how you think you will incorporate some of these ideas when you begin teaching:

  1. Have you ever been a part of a class in which the instructor used a questioning strategy –like QFT or artful thinking?  If so, did it deepen your understanding or connection to what you were learning?  Tell us about your experience and how you would incorporate questioning strategies into your own teaching.
  1. Do you think students can produce high quality artwork if they are focused on the process instead of the product?  This lesson plan emphasizes discovery and investigation instead of teacher driven instruction about processes and techniques.  How would you fold in studio technique instruction into a lesson plan that emphasizes students driving their own learning?
  1. In many art experiences, reflection and assessment come at the completion of the art project instead of throughout the process. Identify at least three types of assessment tools you would use with your students and how you might weave them into a process over product lesson plan format.

I welcome your thoughts and would love to hear your comments!