Jump to content
pixel5050

how to run a ceramics class day to day

Recommended Posts

Hello, I teach high school ceramics and sculpture classes and have been for 3 years. Im used to teaching and running my classes as: introduce the theme, usually based on a handbuilding technique but students must do x y or z. Then I demo the technique provide the students with resources and let them work. Sometimes the project will take over a week so I will have full studio days where the students work for the whole class period on their project and I walk around and help the students and talk to them as needed.

However my problem is I now teach in a school that has 85 minute classes and I notice the students have a hard time working for 85 minutes straight they work for the first hour but then space out, play on their phones or just clean up 15 minutes early. This is driving me insane im not used to students not utilizing their class time, and they are complaining so much how the projects are too long and require too much work and I just get half effort crap projects turned in. But i dont know how to break up the class period everyday, I dont know how else to run a ceramics class other than introduce, demo then students work all class for 5 or so days in a row 

I have tried: increasing the due date- just got half completed work turned in. Creating more artist talks: students complained or just didnt listen and introducing the next project sooner so students have a variety to work on- students had a hard time managing themselves and their work and ended up not completing the previous project

Any suggestion would be appreciated! Thank you

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds like they have a bit of an attention problem.  Maybe you can split the day up a little more.  Maybe first 20 minutes you introduce and demo, work on project for 30 minutes, 10 minutes of free time/history/examples and then work on project for the last 20 minutes.  

When I was in a ceramics class I always lost track of time and could keep myself busy for as long as I could, but the culture now is instant gratification and constant stimulation.  If you need to cater to those things, maybe break a project into different stages and then end with assembling or something that way they're always working on something new and they don't have a chance to become bored.  

Just spitballin though because i am not a teacher, I have no idea what I'm talking about :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Pixel,

Good topic!

I haven't worked with young people (just 'bout all are "young people" now...) for quite a few years now ...no doubt some things have changed, however, perhaps most has not changed; any road, planning for activity transition every fifteen to twenty minutes is what I worked with for decades, whether in the pool (competitive swimming training), classroom (from kindergarten through school o' Engineering "adults"), or lab. In each case, specific outcomes(objectives) and how same is to be measured/evaluated can be key - stop right there! Planning for that is a lot of work! Yep.

Under "what I learned by the pool," not necessary (nor best practice) to run the whole group through one activity, all together; instead, work directly with one or two lanes - typically, skill instruction - whilst the other lanes complete targeted activities under indirect supervision, aka "guided practice," where they are able to "do" the activity correctly without direct guidance. Breaking into groups by objective/activity, having the groups complete at the time when new groups are formed, set up, and started off - takes lots of planning. When I see instructors/coaches running their entire group through one activity, whilst they just stand there, I feel sad, for opportunity to be working - Teaching - is left behind. A typical one activity for all scenario is where the design is for the star, or if there isn't yet a "star," the design is for a single idealized subject (that doesn't exist!); then the activity is diluted as necessary so all can participate. Not nice.

Back to outcomes - there are always unspecified outcomes that are super important, e.g. get along with peers, those "behind" and those "ahead" as well; we don't specify outcomes that we're not measuring, and that has to be ok. The specified outcomes, make'm as clear and concrete as possible, add how, exactly, evaluation will be done, then follow through. Really try to make the outcomes reasonable, and, as possible, flexible - doesn't have to be same for each.

The outcome for writing req class I taught as a grad assistant, som'thin' like write and speak at a professional level, what? All in one term haha! Not possible, nor fair, for if that was a real objective, the Engineering school would include writin' and speakin' through the entire curriculum, plus remedial pathway for about one third. So, I made it you will know about where you are in terms of writing and speaking at a professional level by the end of the term, and many of you won't be there (niced up a bit), but you'll still graduate and likely be successful as well...

How I do go on.

Timely transitions, as Liamb suggested, outcomes/objectives tied directly to activities, consider breaking into several different targeted activities, where one may include you, whilst the others do stuff they can do "correctly" - hope that helps. Honest and direct about why we're here, I've found, isn't lost on most, even five year olds - why are we (include yourself) here? "Don't know" is acceptable, when true.

Grades may be the only "hammer" you got, however, there are other tools.

Best of luck! Get out there and meet some of your peers (clay teachers); what do they do?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe do a short slide presentation every day about halfway through the class. Just pick an artist and show some images and explain the techniques they use, or do something really simple like go through an artist's Instagram page. Anything to give them a 10 minute break from working, but also inspire them.

Or how about a 10 minute critique each day, where 2 or 3 students display their work in progress and the class gets to critique it? Critique is a very important part of any art class. It would also give students a chance to get help from their peers if they're having trouble with any technical or aesthetic issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Think what is lacking is student input into own learning.

The critique of other's work is a great learning situation for many reasons but would have to be guided by example and criteria set by teacher..i.e giving them language with which to do this appropriately.

Perhaps set equivalent of junior "morning talk"  whereby at some stage in the 85 mins, you judge when you are losing them... a number of students per week bring what has interested them out there in their environment, ceramics of course, to present and discuss with class. Have it as part of grade,.

A fun one could be pinch pot. Hands and clay hidden beneath desk, passed on after a couple of minutes.....

But getting your group to take charge of their learning is a great way to go..you the facilitator and unbeknownst to them...actually have the outcomes well sorted:-)))) you have set them up to work within the criteria of your course..

Encourage restless to walk around and view others work.

Throw in a quick exercise for potters ...back stretching etc  blood to brain helps heaps

Engage with first student who looks like packing up by discussing their progress, and directing them to go loo at what ?? is doing etc.

One signs off the all do....it's infectious

 

Edited by Babs
Grammer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmmm Pixel, I used to teach a 50 minute period, much different, but we had investigated the block scheduling with 85" periods, but the admin did not want to give the art department a full block, they though we should have 40" block tied with a bunch of other "low" level blocks! WE fought it hard. I had often thought of all the things I could do with an 85" period. . . and a lot of the problems. I would have opted for it if I had the 85 minutes. 

Your problem sounds as others have said, that they get worn out after half the period. As others have said, you need to break up the time. I usually had 5 minutes for set up out of class, then 10 minutes for clean-up. Wheels and such take a little longer so my advance groups had 10-12 minutes for clean up, with lots of buckets and sponges to keep the dust down. So that would leave you with 65-70 minutes roughly. Figuring on a 35-40 working period, then a 10 to 15 minute demonstration/discussion, followed by 15-20 minute continuation of the work period should help with your boredom/zone out problems. The mid period demo situation could be filled in with all sorts of things. . . demonstrations of main decorating techniques and variations of: Incising, stamping, piercing, and added on clay. Or you could do a demo on tool marks and uses, mishima, building up pattenrs, brush strokes in decorating with slips or underglazes, variations in bottom finishing and signatures etc. The possibilities for short 10 to 15 minute demonstrations with discussion and visuals is absolutely endless. I could do a whole demo on just one of the decorating techniques alone. Other demos could include review/reinforcement of things like reinforcing seams, joining coils, centering techniques or opening up strategies for wheel throwers, or when glazing safe techniques for mixing and dipping or glazing potter,  Use of sponging and brushing glazes, overlapping combinations, cleaning bottoms  and other glazing problems.

I would think that towards the middle of a project, to remind the students of the project parameters, enforce these with visuals from the internet etc, and then follow up the next day or two with  a preliminary critique/sharing to discuss "where to go from here", often this is the best time for the students to help each other to discover options leading forward to completion.  Then again, just before the due date for the project have some time to reinforce the requirements as determined by your rubric or grading policy.

I did it for 35 years, and when you get thrown a curve like a period change it can cause trouble, but with time and flexibility I think you will be better for the change. Be flexible, and when getting near the end of a project put the pressure on, and if needed throw out the mid period break for a day or two just so that the students will know that the end is near to get things done.

 

best,

Pres

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience has been a 6 week Learning Exchange class where once a week we would get together and the instructor would do a demo for about 15-20 minutes and then set us loose for the rest of the 3 hour class to work on what was demoed, giving us about 15 minutes at the end of the session for clean up. Over that 6 week period we were encouraged to come into the studio and work on developing our skills whenever the store was open, which was 10AM to 6 PM, six days a week.  In college, the classes were supposed to be 1 hour lecture and 2 hours lab...Depending on what was being taught, the lecture would last for 20-40 minutes and the lab (hands on working with clay, glazing, etc.)would occupy the rest of the time, leaving about 15 minutes for cleanup. That was Ceramics1. In Ceramics2, the professor said, "You should have learned the basics in Cer1. What I want you to do now is come up with 3 projects. Create a poster/story board for all 3 projects which you will describe to the class...and then DO IT! I'll be there to help if you have any questions." Then we would have 3 hours of hands on, twice a week for the rest of the semester. In the next to last class we would all display what we had done for critique by our classmates and the professor and in the final class we would have a "pot luck" party and get our grades. Smores were pretty popular since we fired up the Raku kiln to toast the marshmallows :D

I guess in the college class I and a couple of other students who were over 40 had a different outlook and different goals which propelled us to accomplish as much as we could over the semester, while the 18-20 year olds were primarily looking to get through the class and get a grade. Many of the youngster thought the class would be a piece of cake, but the professor short circuited that notion in the first class. Many of the youngsters would drop the class after a few sessions not believing the difficulty of the curriculum. Some of the older folks bailed too after deciding that it was not what they expected. Outlook and motivation is essential in the ceramics classes and I manages to ace all 3 of the courses I took to maintain a 4.0 average in ceramics...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, hear you Johnny, I had gone through 3 years of college bouncing around til I ended up in Art Education, flunked out of previous school, ate humble pie to get back in. Found a girl friend sometime before, she encouraged me to join her a year later at another school. Getting in to another school was a weird experience with a 1.9 accum. . I did get in, one of the questions on the interview would you believe was "What happened" Did you get a girlfriend? Is she here? OK you're in on probation for 1 year. Never looked back first semester was a 3.8. 3.9 for the first year. Go figure. . humble pie is rather bitter, but great motivating medicine for future.

 

best,

Pres

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you guys for all the input! I like the idea of breaking up the class period by doing the demo or just showing students extra tips/skills at the halfway point as opposed to the start of class which I usually do. I just hate being interrupted personally when I am working so I always tried to get that stuff in at the start of class. Work in progress critiques are also a great idea I think it will force a more intrinsic  desire in them to create good artwork If all their classmates are going to look at it and talk about it. I know it'll be uncomfortable at first and a little bit of a learning curve because were already half way through the semester but Ill see if this helps the work issue! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, pixel5050 said:

Thank you guys for all the input! I like the idea of breaking up the class period by doing the demo or just showing students extra tips/skills at the halfway point as opposed to the start of class which I usually do. I just hate being interrupted personally when I am working so I always tried to get that stuff in at the start of class. Work in progress critiques are also a great idea I think it will force a more intrinsic  desire in them to create good artwork If all their classmates are going to look at it and talk about it. I know it'll be uncomfortable at first and a little bit of a learning curve because were already half way through the semester but Ill see if this helps the work issue! 

Starting critiques at a young age is great. You can begin to teach them the language of critique, which will be useful in all their other classes, and life in general. It forces them to analyze and verbalize their thoughts beyond 'I like it'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/9/2020 at 8:35 PM, neilestrick said:

Starting critiques at a young age is great. You can begin to teach them the language of critique, which will be useful in all their other classes, and life in general. It forces them to analyze and verbalize their thoughts beyond 'I like it'.

Going beyond the classroom as Neil says, learning skills that handle excellent critiques can often carry over into all sorts of other discussions and debates. When one realizes it is not the person behind the object but the object itself having to stand on its own, then the idea of being impersonal, non emotional and rational becomes of a second nature. Students need these sorts of interactions to be able to deal with all sorts of "stressful" situations.

best,

Pres

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have taught on both a block, and a standard/ traditional eight period schedule.   I definitely prefer the block!  I started teaching with the block, had several years with that.  Then I went to a different district, that had the eight-period.  Then switched districts again, and they were also on the block.  Since then, we have switched to an eight-period as a cost saving measure.  I'm not a fan, but I am flexible, and can adapt. 

I honestly  never had a problem, with the student's attention, on a block schedule.  Most of them love working hands on for an hour and a half.  It gave me time to demo, and then them time to work, right after seeing my demo.  Now, I do a demo, and it's time to get cleaned up.  I guess my strategy was just always having something for them to do.  They could be researching ideas for their next project, sketching it out, getting their slabs, or coils made, for said project, building, underglazing, glazing, working on the potter's wheel.  They never had "Nothing" to do, and with a variety of options, they didn't get bored.  I will say, it has been several years since we switched.  These more recent students are definitely different, in regards to behavior, attitude, etc.  So, who knows, I could very well have issues if I had them on  a block now. 

A couple of years ago, I visited another school, to see how that teacher ran things.  It was a professional development option, that I had been suggesting for years.  That school was also a block schedule.  I thought the instructor did a great job, because he also had plenty for the students to be working on.  I was there towards the end of the term, so they were doing presentations, along with finishing up their projects.  I thought that was a great idea.  Especially considering that a lot of classes beyond the Language Arts classes  are being called upon to incorporated reading and writing in recent years, due to worsening test scores, in those areas. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do two hour classes with teens and not experienced issues but these are at a community center and these kids specifically sign up and pay to join the class so perhaps their interest is more present. 
 

But i find introducing cultural history along with the technique and historical pots seem to help fill the time. During making pinch pots i introduce native american animal animorphic vessels and then they make animal pinch pots. During coil demo i talk a lot about native american and African coil pot making, ask them to look up examples on their devices, let them explore online for a short while then we get down to making coils and pots. They are almost all still trying to get those details right when the class ends. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.