We caught up with Mrs Barnes, Head of Art (Prep), to find out how she’s designed a successful remote learning programme for her subject.
How have you been teaching art and design remotely?
We are using a combination of instructional videos made by our own art teachers, as well as ones by online artists. Both help the children understand the new skills they are learning, but then the main part of every lesson is producing independent artwork in their sketchbooks. We are really trying to use art lessons as a break from the screens and a chance to unwind. We use an app called ‘Seesaw’, which acts as an online portfolio where the children all upload their work for their classmates and teachers to see. We use Google meet for anyone who is stuck (or just wants to show us how their work is progressing!).
How have the pupils responded to the online programme for this subject?
The pupils have been amazing! Many spend their free time finishing work because they want it to be their very best work. I have also seen a rise in the artwork produced outside of lesson time; many children are creating quite spectacular pieces by following their own interests or learning from YouTube. I will have a very hard job to decide who should win the end-of-year prizes for art this year because of the amazingly talented pupils and their dedication to the subject.
What have been the biggest challenges of teaching art and design online?
One thing I love about teaching art is walking around the room and seeing the pupils engrossed in their work. This is the time I ask them about the choices they have made, discuss their progress with the skills we are learning and check if they need any support. Online learning is so different; the biggest challenge is working out how to offer guidance whilst they work. Generally, once they understand the task the communication stops and they get busy (which is great for their independence), so the feedback I give them has to come after the lesson, once they have uploaded their work for me to see. Research shows feedback and comments are more effective given in the moment, so this is something I am continuing to think about.
What’s been the most positive outcome of this temporary change to teaching and learning?
Many very inspiring organisations have overwhelmed teachers with access to learning resources and training. I now spend a huge amount to time learning new skills as both an artist and a teacher. Of course, my technology skills are improving too, but I have found time to study oil painting methods and have further explored the realms of digital drawing, which is just incredible. The website I have used most is called Skillshare (and has a free trial, if you’re interested!). I have enjoyed learning from many artists on there, who offer styles which are completely new to me.
It is easy to get stuck in a routine, especially as we are usually all so busy, and I have enjoyed the change to how I organise my time. I hope that my exchange of shopping centres and trampoline parks (for my children, not me!) for this wonderful personal development goes beyond the end of this strange time that we are in now.
What are you doing as a department to keep children engaged?
We are keeping the focus on art skills each lesson, as well as teaching about amazing artists from the past and today, so that the pupils stay on track with the curriculum. We also have many art competitions and activities (in a dedicated ‘Fun Tasks’ section of the timetable) to lighten the mood a little. Currently, we are asking families to recreate famous pieces of art in real life and share photos of their recreations; the prize for the best entry will be a family sized reward of art goodies and tasty treats, delivered to their door!
What one piece of advice might you give to fellow teachers, based on your personal successes within online teaching?
Make instructions as simple as you possibly can and provide clear examples of what the outcomes should be. Sounds just like normal teaching!
Is there anything you would like to say to the school community?
We will help develop a cohort of resilient, independent, problem solving pupils in this challenging time – so keep persevering, the rewards will benefit us all in the long run.