Teaching during Distance Learning is going to be oh so challenging for teachers. There is not one model to follow. Some are teaching in class and might be going remote later, or will start remote then will switch to in class. Some teachers are teaching on a cart and remotely. There are full remote learning models and there are hybrid models. All of this adds to confusion and stress because we’re not all in the same boat together and instead it feels like were drifting on a raft in the middle of the ocean and the winds just picked up and the sharks have arrived. At times, it even feels like the raft is just breaking apart. Here are my tips for teaching art during Distance Learning or Remote Learning.
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Well, here is the truth…
I am going to be honest, I do not have one solid master plan of how to conquer teaching remotely or in a hybrid model. It is new to me too and everyone is in a completely different scenario so it has been a challenge to think of what to do for myself and how I can support other art teachers.
I’m going to offer a variety of suggestions that you can either use or tweak to make them work for you in your situation. What I DO know is that we cannot overwhelm ourselves or work past our breaking point because OUR health needs to come first. In this situation that we’re going into, with both COVID-19 and Cold and Flu season around the corner, with completely new ways of teaching, we need to be very aware that we can put our bodies and minds in an unhealthy situation and that we can compromise ourselves for real if we get sick this year. This year isn’t a normal year. We ARE superheroes for being teachers, but microscopic bugs are pretty super too and I’m not sure it’s not worth the risk trying to go into an ultimate battle with the bugs just so that we can be superstars at work. When we’re stressed, we can do a lot of damage to both our physical and mental health. I’ve had hard years at work where I’d been so stressed that I no longer knew who I was. I can’t have that the typical stress of teaching and also COVID-19 teaching stress weigh on my body and mind. I don’t think I’d make it very far.
So let’s look at some ideas of how we can manage teaching during distance learning. I’m going to offer some tips that you can use to lessen the burden that has be put upon your job in addition to the stress that was already there (because, we all know that teaching isn’t always sunshine and happiness).
TAKE A MINIMIMALIST APPROACH TO THE PLATFORMS YOU USE
First, don’t try and do everything. There are so many online platforms to use from Google Slides, to YouTube, Zoom, Google Meets, TedTalks, Microsoft Teams, MyBluePrint, Kahoot, Google Classroom, and more. There are so many online tools that I don’t even know all of what is out there. Let me tell you, just learning how to make good, sharable resources on Google Slides this year for me was a big task. Learning to make a YouTube channel was a big task… and I just LOVE technology and the internet. I have been reading horror stories of some teachers trying to juggle 5 or more different websites and trying to learn them ALL at once. They’re feeling so overwhelmed and stressed and are having breakdowns in their early weeks of Back to School. This might even be you. The truth is, that is A LOT. That is WAY too much. Of course you’re feeling overwhelmed, I was overwhelmed getting used to Google Slides! That took me a while to perfect it for using it to create professional resources for teachers and I’m STILL learning about it! You are trying to both teach your students AND yourself. That is too much. My first tip is to tell you DON’T. Do not try and do it all, even if you’re being pressured by other teachers or administrators. You cannot expect yourself to do it all or learn it all well. It is unrealistic and honestly, with everything going on right now, most likely not possible. Instead, I suggest you pick 2 things that you’re going to learn and do VERY WELL. Instead of stretching yourself thin across many platforms, pick 2 that you will MASTER. Perhaps you will use Google Classroom and Zoom BUT you will use them EXCEPTIONALLY so that you feel like you’ve got this and know what you’re doing. Perhaps you will pick Microsoft Teams and Google Slides and you will master those 2 platforms and you will feel a lot happier because you will feel like you know what you’re doing. Right now, no one knows what they’re doing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed-out and have a overall sense of having the feeling that you have no idea what you’re doing or what is going on, it’s because that is exactly what is happening. Just remember, everyone feels that way right now. Acknowledge this feeling because it is REAL. Now, let’s lessen the burden.
ACTION ITEM 1: Right now, jot down on paper ALL the platforms you are using. Now cross off your least favorite. Next, really think about each platform and which you like the best, which have a lot of strengths, and which you think you can really master. Now, cross off all but 2 platforms. These are the 2 I want you to use. Get rid of the rest. Don’t experiment and play with them. Just only use 2 and see how that goes for the next month. I promise, you will feel a lot better. If you don’t, go ahead and go back to the other model of doing it all.
LET’S TALK LESSON PLANNING
This year, remember to keep things flexible and simple. We don’t know how districts might change things as the pandemic rolls through this new school year. Have a game plan or a plan with topics or themes you would like to cover, but be very flexible with willing to change things as you go, not accomplishing as much with the kids as you normally would have, some kids not participating, or having to maybe switch to hybrid or in class later.
Use the same Art Lesson or Unit or Theme across multiple grades.
- You can use the same art lesson for a few similar grades, such as K,1, & 2 or 3,4, & 5. This way you’re planning a lot less. If you teach K-7 that is 2-3 Art Lessons instead of 7 individual ones.
- Use the same Unit for a few similar grades. If you want to have a longer plan developed that goes deep into a topic, you can even use the same unit for similar grade groups. If you’re teaching the Element of Art: Line, teach the same presentations, show the same videos and give the same lessons on Line to the same group of grades. Cut down your planning. This will also cut down on different mediums/materials/prep/and set-up. Your time is VERY LIMITED with your kids this year so you need to make it count.
- Use the same Theme! If you want, you can use the same Theme for ALL your classes. For example, we’re all going to explore the theme “Time” or “Past” or “Rainforest”. You can use the same YouTube videos, Powerpoints, and other introductory resources to pre-load kids for ALL your classes, and then give them grade-group art lessons around the same theme. This will also save time and keep you stress-free. Keep it simple. Be Strategic.
One thing you can try this year is making your teacher planner digital. I am sure there are already some on TpT if you search it. But you can also make a simple one in Powerpoint or Google Slides and just have a blank slide for each month and type the month and change the color for each page. Then you can copy the file and make a planner for each grade group! That way, if you need to change things up, say if you go from in person to hybrid or Distance Learning, then you can just edit the typing instead of re-doing everything. You can also cut and paste your text, and move things around, or put in images of samples of artwork or stuff off Google… or even links to websites with tutorials… or links to YouTube Video art lessons you’re going to use for the lesson itself! BOOM! DONE!
ACTION ITEM: Decide on one tactic for how you’re going to minimalize your lesson planning this year. Pick one strategy, like keeping a consistent theme and using elements through all grades, and then STICK TO IT this year. Consistency is key to help eliminate some of the decision making and planning this year.
CREATING ART DEMONSTRATIONS DIGITALLY
Digital art demonstrations is a huge challenge for art teachers and studio instructors. It is like trying to juggle things you do in person with the added lights, camera, and the awkward feeling of talking to yourself but you’re actually talking to a lot of people. Then there is editing. I know this feeling, but let me tell you, it does get easier. I’ve been running my YouTube channel for a while now and YES, I look completely awkward in the beginning, my filming is terrible, and I say “Ummm….” every sentence. Then if you get into editing, it gets ridiculous.
For my YouTube Channel, Ms Artastic (which you can find by searching Ms Artastic on YouTube), I do a lot of lighting, overhead filming and editing. But that all takes time and I’m doing that for FREE so I had to learn how to stream line the process.
For filming I got an overhead arm that I mount my camera to off of amazon for around 30 bucks. I hate spending money so you can fully know that everything I have is very affordable and is not a production. You can also try using your document camera, or use a tripod or monopod and have it straight out (horizontally) off a shelf or furniture piece that is taller than your work area and anchor it down with something heavy like cat litter or a sand bag. I have a table set up and I have 2 lamps with bright white LEDS in them on either side of my work space that I turn on. I also turn up the exposure on my camera manually, but if you edit you can always turn up the brightness in the video later.
If you want to streamline further, just put a desk in front of a window or go outside if it is overcast (to avoid shadows).
Next, just film! Film either in 1 shot and let the mistakes stay there, just as you would in class doing live demo, or if you need breaks pause the vid after every 5 minutes or so then put all the videos in the same line on your video editing software later. Then hit export and you’re done. For teaching, don’t bother adding transitions or graphics or anything. Again, this is not the year to experiment and be extra creative and amazing art-teachery. You are amazing making this videos, let me tell you!
So, you can create art demonstrations by filming yourself with your camera above you and posting your video onto YouTube or uploading it to your online classroom. For YouTube, you can post as PUBLIC which anyone can find the video, or you can select UNLISTED so no one can find it unless they have the link.
If you are not comfortable with filming your art lessons, you can also take a picture of each step in the art making process.
Then, you can put the picture of each step on a separate slide on either Powerpoint or Google Slides. Then you can show the steps in a Zoom Meeting, or post the presentation to your online classroom.
You can also do a voiceover on Powerpoint and export it as a video!
You can also use YouTube to find Art Lessons for Distance Learning if you’re feeling overwhelmed or needing a break from filming yourself. This is a great way to balance your life in this chaos! You can search “Art for Kids” and see what you find! A reminder… I’ve also created a YouTube Channel (search Ms Artastic) and there you can find a lot of free Directed Drawings & Art Lessons (including lessons on the Elements and Principles) that allow for flexible mediums to be used! Feel free to use my lessons in your classroom or post online to your kids any time you need a break. I got you!
Download Free Art Worksheets for Kids
Click here to download free art worksheets that you can print to allow kids to explore art at home!
DON’T DO IT TWICE.
If you’re doing Hybrid or Distance Learning & in class teaching this year, you’re going to be asked to be in two places at once, which is overwhelming. You can upload your videos to YouTube (publish as unlisted if you don’t want everyone to find it).
Save time by recording or filming ALL your art project demonstrations.
–For kids at home, give them the link to the video or upload it.
-For kids in class, play the video in person. While they’re watching, you are monitoring or prepping to save you time or buy you a needed break.
DON’T DO Demonstrations twice! That’s crazy!
More Tips to come!
This is just the beginning of what I have to share with you on Distance Learning. I have more tips to come where I give you more ideas of what to teach and ways to teach art during remote or hybrid learning models in the next blog post & podcast episode!
Art Lessons You’ll LOVE!
Thank you for reading my blog post! I am grateful that you did and I appreciate you having took the time to read to the end. Thank you so much. Please write any questions you have in the comments section of this post.
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Kathleen McGiveron (Ms Artastic)
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