Reflective Teaching Strategies for Art Teachers

person on a bridge near a lake

Hello my lovely friends, I am your host Kathleen McGiveron, founder of all things Ms Artastic. Today we’re going to talk a bit about reflection, gratitude, and celebration. 

This is a topic that I need to focus on as well. It is so often that we feel alone in our classrooms, offices, or studios… We show up, do the work, and go home. Sometimes we have colleagues, but it’s not all the time that we see them. As well, they may know you well, but they might not know what is happening inside your classroom, or your office, or studio. I think it is important that we remind ourselves of the magic makers in our lives, which are ourselves.  

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When we, Art Teachers, allow for professional reflection or reflective teaching, we encourage personal growth in our professional journeys. We can calibrate our instructional & teaching practices and pedagogy. We take the time to find and celebrate successes so that, instead of being negative or staying stuck, or even disallowing personal growth in our profession, we can instantly see all the successes we’ve had in our professional journey and develop a better version of ourselves.

On the Topic of Reflection

When I was in my Educational program in university, we were often asked to reflect and write reflections. I was only 20 at the time and as you can imagine, I didn’t take this seriously. I didn’t see the value, or the importance. As well, times were different over a decade ago. We didn’t explore Growth Mindset, Social and Emotional Learning and Well-being, and we didn’t really talk too much about mental health and well-being in schools as well. As a student teacher, I was asked to reflect after observations as well. As a good student, I rambled off reflections of things I did well and things I could work on next time and off I went. To be honest, I wasn’t really do the work of reflecting, I was just saying it. I was focused on jumping through the hoops and getting my second stage at University complete. As well, I had someone else there to cheer me on and show me my accomplishments. I had a practicum teacher and university professors holding my hand, giving me high fives and gold stars. My achievements and growth were naturally visible. 

However, once we’re out of that blissful bubble of glitter, sparkles, and rainbows, the cheerleading squad fades into the shadows and you’re hired into a classroom which you are both the captain of and the cheerleader. With a to-do list miles long, lesson planning to do, idea searching to be implemented, rooms to be organized, parent communication to be had, assessment and grading to be completed… there is only time for captain and not enough time for cheerleader.  

As well, who has time for a moment of reflection when you have ALL of this to do? 

That has been my thinking, really until now. I realized that often, when I don’t feel like I am ticking to-do’s off my list fast enough, negative self-talk or chatter starts. This often also happens when I’m stressed, over-worked, tired, or even hungry. As well, it can loop into a dark, repetitive vortex of negativity when sometimes, the only person I talk to about work is me. If I’m being negative, that inner voice I argue with cheers on the negativity and I begin to not focus on the magic that is around me, that I have encourage, inspired, and created in my classroom or for Artastic Nation, and instead I continue to focus on things that I’m upset about. Which of course, makes me more mad, more upset, and more stressed.  

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings 

Reflection, asks us to look at the big picture. To step back from ourselves and think about our actions and accomplishments critically. It helps us adjust our perspectives when were “stuck” with our thinking and often self-sabotaging the situation, or investigate into whether emotions altered perspectives. As well, professional reflection or reflective teaching means that we take a look at what we do in our classrooms and think about why we do it.  

When we allow for professional reflection or reflective teaching, we encourage personal growth in our professional journeys. We can calibrate our instructional & teaching practices and pedagogy. We take the time to find and celebrate successes so that, instead of being negative or staying stuck, or even disallowing personal growth in our profession, we can instantly see all the successes we’ve had in our professional journey and develop a better version of ourselves.  

“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” 
― Yvonne Woon, Dead Beautiful 

After I started reflecting, I began to grow more and develop that better version of myself. It helped me put things into perspective, allowed me to calibrate my teaching skills and art lesson crafting. It helped me grow and better my personal life and allowed me to feel more gratitude in my daily life. reflecting I came to see that I was indeed getting a lot done. I was making huge progress and learning so much. In fact, I was also adding so much more to my to-do lists so though it appeared like I wasn’t marking off things quick enough, I actually was. The reality was that I was just adding more tasks on faster when I got ideas from daydreaming while driving to work or drinking my coffee in the morning… or that lovely moment when you get into bed and suddenly, a billion ideas slide into your brain like an avalanche on a warm winter day.  


“Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.” 

Yvonne Woon

THE REFLECTIVE TEACHING PROCESS

Teaching reflectively is a process. But also, this is a cycle that we can absorb into our own lives too! 

The Steps of Reflection are: 

1) Teach a Lesson or do the task that you want to reflect on or improve on. 

2) Pause and reflect on all the moments of the lesson. You can even video record yourself teach then go back and watch it to see the “bigger picture”. This can be in your own life as well or other side hustles you have, like working in your studio. Think about the strengths during the lesson or task or activity and the things that could be improved on. 

3) Think about new ways to teach this lesson or ways to improve on your instruction. This is all about us thinking about ways to enable our own self-growth or professional growth, to encourage us to grow into our better visions of ourselves, whether on a personal level or as a studio instructor, art teacher, or whatever. 

4) Try your new ideas in practice. Teach the lesson.  

5) Start that reflective process all over again. Teach. Pause and Reflect. Think of new ways to teach the lesson or whatever. Try out your new ideas. Each time you’re getting better and better. Growing. Allowing your growth journey or journey of success to accelerate. Each little win or step in your growth journey is a piece of your overall puzzle. And just imagine… sure one improvement is one improvement to a lesson. But imagine all of it together over a year of reflective teaching? Decades? Imagine how far you could go? This is where the possibilities are endless. This is how you can best version or vision of yourself in any area of your life, even beyond your teaching practice.  

person on a bridge near a lake
Photo by Simon Migaj on Pexels.com

WAYS TO REFLECT ON YOUR TEACHING

Let’s dive into ways you can reflect in your professional practice. 

3 STARS and a WISH:  

This is one that I did as a student teacher. Again, at the time, I really did not like reflecting. I did not understand the growth part of it. I wasn’t a teacher yet. I didn’t understand growth mindset or any of that. What I am saying is… I had a different mindset a decade ago. I too, am on a professional and life journey. Upon reflecting, I can now see how this process makes a difference. I can also see that I need to make this happen in my Ms Artastic life, and in my own personal life as well to encourage a better of myself to develop. 

So three stars and a wish means that after teaching a lesson, leading an activity, or doing your task, you are going to reflect using this specific format. So do the teaching, think about and consider the activity, then reflect with a “3 stars and a wish”. This means you’re writing down in a journal or paper, or typing it on a digital journal, the three things you did really well during your lesson or instructional time. These are your “three stars”. You will also find one thing you need to improve on and that is your “wish”. Finally, you need to think of a new way to improve on your lesson or your wish! And of course, implement it in your next lesson. Then repeat! Tweak. Calibrate. Slowly, making it perfect.  

ASK THE KIDS: 

After the instructional part of the lesson and while students are working, you can take your journal or notepad and stop and ask a few of the kids about one thing they learned and if there was anything unclear in the lesson. You can be honest and let them know that you’re trying to improve on teaching lessons if you want to demonstrate that you too are a lifelong learner.  Take notes and jot it down. Use this as part of your reflection to help you understand where you need to improve your teaching strategies or instructional methods.  

INCLUDE IT IN YOUR LESSON PLANS: 

At the end of your lesson plan, maybe in the notes section or you can build it right into your lesson plan template, you can add your reflection section. It can even be titled: “Reflection”. You can jot a few prompts to yourself like “What was successful during the lesson?”, “Did students follow all the steps/were clear about the expectations?”, “What is something that you can improve on next time?”, “What can I do differently?”. 

photo of confetti on person s hand
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

FILM YOURSELF: 

Teachers have a second pair of eyes watching them when they’re being observed, but what about observing for personal growth? You can turn your computer camera on to record or set up your phone near you at the front (so you’re not filming the students), and film yourself teach. Then you can go back and see exactly what you are saying, what it sounds like to an observer, your mannerisms and your actions. You can listen to how you give instructions or expectations. You can then decide on what you did well and celebrate those successes, and then think of what you want to improve on as part of your reflection. As always, be sure to implement your ideas for how to improve to allow yourself to take those steps toward your better version. Always tweak. Always calibrate.  

REFLECTIVE JOURNAL: 

Keep a journal or notebook with you in your classroom that is dedicated purely to your reflections. This is kind of like your “dear diary”, except your recording your thoughts, observations, goals, and ideas for improvement. In your journal or notebook, write down your thoughts, observations, or ideas about your lesson that you taught. Write down things that you notice… like things you notice about what students are doing or how they responded when you did… whatever it may have been. Write down the things that worked well and the things that weren’t successful and need to be improved upon. Keeping a journal and writing down our observations creates a record of our learning journeys and allows us to look back at where we were, how far we have come, and is a great way to present yourself with the opportunity to look back on your thoughts and ideas from the past. This documentation by the way, is a great thing to bring with you to a job interview. Telling the person who is doing the job interview that you “strongly believe in and practice reflective teaching as part of your growth path in becoming your best teacher version” is a great thing to be able to say… and PROOVE. 

fashion woman notebook pen
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com


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Finally, if you need some art ideas or need to take a break in your classroom, find drawing tutorials on my YouTube Channel, Ms Artastic.


How to Draw a Narwhal

Let’s draw a cute, narwhal with this art lesson! Use whatever mediums or materials that you have and follow along with this tutorial!


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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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Yours Truly,
Kathleen McGiveron (Ms Artastic)


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When we, Art Teachers, allow for professional reflection or reflective teaching, we encourage personal growth in our professional journeys. We can calibrate our instructional & teaching practices and pedagogy. We take the time to find and celebrate successes so that, instead of being negative or staying stuck, or even disallowing personal growth in our profession, we can instantly see all the successes we’ve had in our professional journey and develop a better version of ourselves.
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Ms Artastic

My Name is Kathleen McGiveron and I am Ms Artastic. My WHY is to provide art teachers and teachers with Art Resources, Ideas, tips, and insights to allow them to save time and be THEIR best teacher! I want to create a community through Artastic Nation where we are all inspiring, creating, and learning together. Join Artastic Nations and get ideas so you can get unique and creative art projects, resources, and tutorials for your classroom! I provide art resources for art teachers that are easy and ready-to use for hands-on learning. My art tutorials and resources allow you to plan quickly, encourage creativity, and to teach confidently to your Elementary or Middle School students.

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