When you have great class artists, it can take your comprehensible input to a whole new level. Their artwork generates anticipation and excitement for the "reveal", increases buy-in, provides an engaging focus for more comprehensible input after the story has already been created, and solidifies the sense of community as students enjoy seeing their beloved characters on the wall and revisiting them in additional stories.
When you have sub-par class artists, well, all of this can really fall flat.
I've found two things are critical for achieving artwork that achieves these somewhat lofty goals. First, it's important to coach your class artists so they are successful. Second, it's important that they are successful the first time. Revealing great artwork after the first One Word Image or Story is one of the moments where everyone can really feel the magic happening - it's the moment where even the students who are skeptical about this whole "silly make believe" exercise suddenly lean forward and it becomes real. The class did something, and here it is! We love it and it's here to stay forever. Let's do this again!
So, how do you ensure you have successful artist, even on your first try? Below are a few of my tips and tricks. Also, I highly recommend visiting CI Liftoff and ask Tina Hargaden about The Bite Size Book of Student Artists for more information!
We want the artist and the class as a whole to know this is a sacred position, and we treat it that way! Position your artist in a top-secret location (usually at the back of the room) so that they can see the board and what is happening, but no one can see what they're working on. A great artist station usually requires a bit of an investment - I highly recommend using a large easel with a flip chart pad or white butcher paper. This encourages the artist to create large and dynamic artwork visible to the entire class.
TIP: ONLY provide markers.
Crayons are okay, but makers seem to result in the most dynamic pictures while still remaining simple and straightforward. Colored pencils are a no-no! They break, need to be sharpened creating noise and shavings, and tend to result in students adding more details/shading/finesse than is effective for simultaneous creation/drawing. They also don't cover large areas quickly and boldly (note that crayons also have many of these same issues). Markers avoid these drawbacks and send a message that we're really not here for the details or finesse of fine artistry.
Choose artists that can listen and draw at the same time.
You'll be trusting your students to let you know if they can do this. For the first story, use your intuition to choose an engaged and responsible student. When something has to give, it's going to be the input that's lost because students REALLY want to make a great image for the class (see the tips about having an assistant and putting the scribe next to your artist). You'll get a better feel for who your effective artists are as you go - they will likely be quick processors that don't need to hear the input as often in order to keep up with the class and who are confident readers, making up for some of the input they miss when everyone else is listening. They may also be students who are better processors when they're drawing anyway and can quickly and effectively add details from the class and then go back to listening. I would avoid putting artists in an uncomfortable position during the process - if they're not getting the input anymore but creating great work, one story isn't a huge loss - especially if you wrap it up with discussing the artwork and writing an accompanying text. However, MANY stories over time or even two in a row would be a huge loss, so be sure to pay special attention to new artists during your formative assessment of comprehension for that story.
TIP: Give your artist an assistant.
I do like to designate the "lead" artist in order to make final decisions, but a second artist working on the main artwork can be very helpful in generating ideas quickly, listening for when the story moves on and new details/adjustments, checking to make sure the artist isn't adding any details that haven't been discussed, getting the teacher's attention or checking with the scribe (see the next tip) to clarify what the artwork should show, grabbing markers, keeping the artist on track to finish the art along with the story, and simultaneously adding details so that the artwork comes together faster. You may want to put a list of these suggested jobs at the art station so your assistant knows how to best support the lead artist.
TIP: Position your class scribe(s) next to your artist(s).
There will inevitably be times that the artist needs to double check that their art is accurately representing what is being discussed with the class. By putting the scribe (A person who writes down notes in English about the character/story) next to the artist, they can quickly check in with each other to make sure the art is accurate on track to be completed when the class is done creating it.
TIP: Start with One Word Images.
One Word Images can be very simple yet very engaging - meaning they are a great place to start norming your class. Since we all have new students each year who have not experienced Comprehensible Input and story creation, this is a great opportunity to teach students "the game" and set the tone for the class. They are also a launchpad for future stories, so I take time to create at least a few characters at the beginning of the year with each level. For higher level classes, you can subtlety refresh their memory of vocabulary and grammar before moving into new content, especially if students aren't used to CI instruction. When it comes to artists, OWI's are perfect because students are only responsible for one image and one subject in that image: the character. Background information might get mentioned, but that's exactly where it belongs - in the background, perhaps as a symbol or maybe not even at all. Simplicity is key when first teaching students how to create these images.
TIP: Provide Instructions and exemplars, select the artist, and give tips
There are many ways to provide examples. One of the best ways is to simply have them around the room as decor - this creates an inviting place where students are already generating questions in their heads about these characters on the walls - "What are they? What is going on with them? Why are they here? Is our teacher crazy? Let's find out!". Tina Hargaden has a great script for introducing characters/creating. Once you've given the students the idea of what will be happening, it's time to select an artist. Before doing so, be sure they knew the particular details of this job - you might say something like this:
The class artist is a very important job. I know that many of you are wonderful artists and you can use that to contribute in other ways, but I'm looking for a very specific kind of artist. You'll be bringing our character to life while we make it. This means you have to pay close attention to what the class is saying and make your artwork match it. You'll have to draw quickly with markers and there won't be any fine details perfection, but it still needs to be high quality and colorful because it's going to go up on the wall. You'll have to be creative because our character is going to be very unique, but you also have to stick to what the class says. Here are some examples of some of the characters students have drawn in the past...
- Only draw what the class adds - Our character is going to be very special and not like normal objects or characters.
- Fill the space! The character should be the center of attention in the foreground and be big and bold.
- Draw quickly and skillfully - you have to keep up with the story so that we can show the class the character when we're done.
- Represent size with comparisons - The character should be large, front, and center. If the character is not normal sized, you can draw a magnifying glass around it or a ruler next to it to show that it's small or another item next to it like a house or elephant to show that it's bigger than those objects. We might even say what object to put next to it.
- Use color! - but only after we decide what colors and patterns.
- Use symbolism - we know what the picture is about, so don't worry about communicating every detail. Just help reminds us about the details by adding a basic detail or symbol into the picture
- If you're not sure how to proceed, ask a question (see next tip). However, don't add new details - just clarify items that have been discussed (What color...? How big...? etc.)
- If you have time, add details that enhance, but don't change the ones provided by the class. Make the picture fun!
TIP: Allow your artist to ask clarifying details, but not add new details
Sometimes we will have a great artist that knows when clarifying a detail further will greatly enhance the image. These also provide for additional input with the same detail. However, artists can quickly take control over and derail a story if they're asking about new details that you either haven't asked about yet OR you simply cannot ask about those details for whatever reason. Be sure to invite clarifying questions (how many spots, how big are the spots, what color are the eyes, etc.) but also know when curb these questions with either your own answer, telling the artist it's their decision, or sending the subtle message that those aren't details that need to be added at this time with a simple "I don't know". If your artist doesn't get the message after one or two of those questions, you may consider meeting with them privately after class or choosing another artist.
TIP: Create your character IN ORDER and coach your artist the first few times in English
Called "Question Group A" by Tina Hargaden and Ben Slavic, asking for these basic details in every story isn't optional and doing so in this order helps set the artist up for success. Each is also aligned with what the artist should draw. During the first few stories, I establish each detail and then tell the artist in English (remember, you are also "coaching" prospective artists) what should go on the paper. This also provides students a quick formative evaluation as the confirm that they understood what you were creating when you tell the artist to draw - you may even have the class fill in the details in English:
- Object - "Artist, please draw an outline of our ______, but don't add anything else until I tell you."
- Size - "Artist, please show that our [object] is [size] by..."
- Color - "Artist, please color our [object] [color description]."
- Emotion - "Artist, please draw a face on our [object] that shows it is [emotion]."
- Name - "Artist, please add the name [name] to our character."
- "Artist, we're going to finish talking about one more thing while you finish drawing [name]. You don't have to add any more details except for the ones we just talked about." In English, establish why the object is feeling the way it is and then review the entire character in the target language.
TIP: Give your artists a cheat sheet.
This one is entirely optional, but I'm planning on trying it out this year. If I give my artist a basic list of the details I plan on asking then they can anticipate what should/shouldn't be drawn. When we move to stories (including super mini stories), I can also use the cheat sheet to show artists how to lay out the stories and what goes in each box. Here are the cheat sheets I plan on using this year.
TIP: Make a big deal out of the reveal.
This is the magical moment! Don't let anyone see the art until you show it to the entire class at once. Ham it up. Then, once you unveil it, ooh and aww. Take this moment to talk about the art and admire it - lots of opportunities for repeating the details you discussed! Let the art guide the discussion.
TIP: Display artwork on the wall.
Once you're done with your art, display it proudly! There's not a lot of room for these, but I hope to have 1-2 images displayed per class each year. I'm thinking I'll simply layer new images over the old, allowing me to flip back to old images at my convenience.
TIP: After the first story, try out multiple artists at once
I steer away from doing this the first time as I want to really focus attention on the input and the process rather than having a lot of different students more excited about getting to do art than the actual input/creation process. However, once I'm confident that the class is in on the "game", I audition an additional 1-2 artists each story in order to find my best class artists quickly. You'll want to limit the number of artists you are auditioning at once - having a small number allows you to pay more attention to whether your artists are still with you while you are providing input (not all artists can do this) as well as gives you a chance to process all of the art with the class afterward. If there is anyone who really insists they would be a great artist, I let them know I can only keep track of a few people at a time, but I would love to see their art - why don't you draw a picture outside of class to show me? I'll also make sure to invite them to be the main or secondary artist during class time next in an upcoming story. I ensure that my main artist with the butcher paper is one I can count on to create dynamic pictures, but it doesn't really matter how "good" the secondary artists are. Sometimes there's a lot of fun in processing what can sometimes be "abstract" art with pride! As long as I have great class buy in, this can also be an opportunity to send a powerful message about celebrating and valuing everyone's contributions while still ensuring that the main artwork fits the particular "style" you need ass a teacher. (I do have two mini-easels to make these artists feel special as well, although not really necessary.)
How do you prepare your class artists and use their work? Which of these tips do you find most helpful? Are there any you disagree with? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Also, don't forget to check out CI Liftoff and ask Tina Hargaden about The Bite Size Book of Student Artists for more information!