What’s the difference between a workshop and a unit?

In my class I do two different things – workshops and units. Everyone calls things differently (bootcamps, around the room activities, etc.) and I do a mixture of things. But the two larger differences are my workshops and my units.

What does a Workshop look like?

Workshops are used to teach a specific media – collage, stop motion, printmaking. They are focused on the variety within that specific media and the ways in which artists’ use that media. It’s about techniques and skills – not as much about ideas. The work during the workshops is practice and way to get used to a new or more advanced media. The workshops are short – a week or week and a half (so 5-8 days). Work is graded more on process and feedback to each other rather than on many different levels that other units are graded and assessed.

I recently did the Collage Workshop with my Foundations students. We looked at 2 artists every other day (so a total of 5) and created based on those artists and techniques. The work was focused on composition mainly and working with pre-existing media which was helpful for students. Here’s my collage Powerpoint and I used a super simple note taker where students were to write down what they saw in the work we were looking at. It wasn’t anything fancy but it helps students take note of the commonalities among the artists I had already curated together.

Students created between 3-6 collages and worked on using Seesaw (which is literally my new favorite thing in the world) to upload work and provide feedback between peers. To be perfectly honest, the work wasn’t incredibly strong – but they were working hard at composition which was fantastic.

What does a Unit look like?

A unit is much more open – rather than media specific it is closer to a genre of art (2D design, 3D Design, Painting, Drawing). It doesn’t sound like much of a difference except that within a unit, students are working with their ideas and working through the process. It’s a longer period of time and although I scaffold their learning and model the creative process (ideation, research, practice, exploration, creation, feedback) – I also push students into new ways of making and into more a refined finish product. Not every student ends up with a “finished” piece but more of them do through the process.

We are beginning the 2D Design unit and have done some really great introductory activities to get students excited and engaged. We began with looking at and curating 2D design images – this was a way to find out what sort of things they already knew. They curated as groups, defined categories and then uploaded categories and images into Seesaw.

They then had to practice using technology and doing some independent research while having some options. Students had to complete the value study activity sheet. They had to make some choices – to do a stepped value scale, to shade a sphere, or to use letter, numbers or scribbles to shade a sphere. They had to watch a video on the technique and then complete it large and collaboratively. Oh and in just one period. They also had to upload their finished pieces to Seesaw.

Students were excited and I was able to see the range of learners and where their skills would need some extra practice. We began a multi-day individual exploration of materials and based on prior years feedback, instead of me doing a jillion demos, I found a bunch of videos and had students watch then practice while demonstrating value and creating form. Students used the material choice board but they also had access to the class website and I set up a Symbaloo that was on the desktops. Students were watching and rewatching the techniques and were really demonstrating how to use things. It was definitely a success.

We are moving into the large assignment later this week. So students will engage in the 2D Design PPT and I’m trying something new with them through using Padlet as a response system rather than notetaking during a powerpoint.

I’m incredibly excited with the work my students are already doing and am so pumped to see where this unit brings them. The options I think are open enough while also clear enough so students will have to engage in the research elements in order to reach the goal.

Stay tuned to see their progress!!

How do you differentiate between you teaching methodologies? Is there a difference? 

Next post will be about using technology in my room (I’m INCREDIBLY late to this party and have some substantial barriers to this, which I’ll discuss). But this is something I’m very excited about sharing!

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