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Art Grades!?!

   My first year of teaching I didn't think much of grades for elementary art. I was just trying to survive my first year coming into my new career in JANUARY! Art is unique in every child. Not everyone can sing, and not everyone can draw. How can you grade them? So I graded effort. Though, I wanted my students to see that this class was more than just something "fun", but something worth knowing. I thought long and hard about it. 
   I gained a better focus after stumbling upon an old article that I had copied and pasted without looking at what publication source it came from (sorry). The author of the insert, however, is someone very dear to me. He was one of my college professors, Dr. Lon Nuell. Perhaps some of you Tennessee people have heard of him. He was a major figure for art education in TN and also to the Murfreesboro City School System. He was quoted on his view on grades in elementary art by saying...


First, children's work should not be graded.
Next, if you must grade to satisfy the school or system, consideration 
must be given to the essential facts of the lesson.......the concepts or 
content you taught because you wanted them to develop some basic 
understanding of certain art-related ideas. Grade them on the basis of 
the degree to which they understand (or don't understand the material). 
If you teach a skill, evaluate (grade) on the basis of how well they 
handle that skill, but on the basis of each individual (since they will 
all be unique developmentally at the lower grades, and have varying 
abilities, still at the upper end of the 6th grade).
What you cannot grade is the content of the child's work (unless you 
taught pattern and it was to be included in the work)...but even then 
keep in mind that the child's image or object comes from a developing 
imagination and intelligence which is wholly unique, and which cannot be 
marked with a meaningful grade....that is one that is meaningful to the 
child. - Dr. Lon Nuell


   Dr. Nuell passed away during my senior year right before student teaching. He helped me find my way to art education, and many more times through those tough college years. He is greatly missed among many.
  So from his inspiration and Dr. Sickler-Voigt; who might ring my neck for even wondering what to do about grades when she taught me so well how to create a rubric, I created rubrics.


Here is the sample of the Grade Log students 2nd - 6th keep in their portfolios: (Our school system has adopted the grades for Art as follows: E - Extraordinary S - Satisfactory U - Unsatisfactory)
Art Grade Log
E - Student exceeds lesson objectives
S - Student meets lesson objectives
U - Student approaches, but does not meet lesson objectives
Assignment                                          Grade
Jackson Pollock Painting              E
Name Aliens                                        S+
Wild Wacky Lions                            E

Students record their own grades each time the projects are handed back and place it into the portfolio. Parents can view the portfolios and grade logs anytime they come by. The students are proud to record their grades.


Here is an example of a project rubric for 6th grade's Abstracts


E…….Student exceeds lesson objectives  12 - 9 points
S…….Student meets lesson objectives  8 - 5 points
U……Student approaches but does not meet lesson objectives  5 - 4 points
  
Assignment: Abstract in oil pastel

Objectives
TSW: Create an Abstract work of art by following the directions given from the Abstract Exercise.
Points earned:  3     2     1
TSW:  Outline their marks with white oil pastel for a sharper look.
Points earned:  3     2     1
TSW: Use oil pastels to create more lines, shapes, and colors in their Abstract. 
Points earned:  3     2     1
TSW: Use their best craftsmanship. 
Points earned:  3     2     1
TOTAL POINTS EARNED:              GRADE:            

10 comments:

Julie Durocher said...

I am asked to give grades for art in my 4-6 building. I want to keep it simple and I like the idea of having students record their grade. I have used rubrics in the past, but I am stuck with 30 minute art classes this year which leaves me little time for this type of thing. Thanks for your post because it is helpful to see what other art teachers do.

Lori- funart4kids.blogspot.com said...

Wow...and I was just about ready to go to bed. Well, I need to say- "I hate grades!" I am torn though and am interested in what others think. I hate our new grading system...we need to log grades in the computer now (at least 3 grades every semester for each child- all which are supported by a rubric for 500 kids. You do the math!!!!) And...when the heck am I suppose to get ready for the 7 different classes I see every day? Hummmm? So, all of this paper trail for an end result that marks an O, S, or U on a report card. And what does that really tell a parent any way? I feel it is so disorganized- a total misuse of time...but stay with me here. I do support holding kids accountable. However, in my 14th year, I have certainly changed my old opinions of thinking a "grade" would prove the importance of art. Now, I have adopted portfolios on the side and believe they are the best way to communicate the real progress and work of students to family at home. Although I must do the OSU system with a grimmace to fill the requirements....really, it says nothing!!!! I have adopted these great mini portfolios that students continually add a little lesson or blurb to. It is a work in progress and goes home at the end of the year. It tells parents far more than an "S." I just wish administration would start to support this effort. I would rather spend my time writing in their portfolios...meaningful, personal comments than typing numbers into the computer system that parents never see anyway. Can you tell this topic hits a nerve! I am sorry you have to also "fill" in the blanks for your school. Argh! I will promise to put up a post on my blog that shows the newly started kindergarten portfolios. LOVE THESE! So do the parents! Thanks for opening up this topic. Forgive my rant. Check my blog in a few days for the photos.
funart4kids.blogspot.com

Becca Ruth said...

Julie, 30 minutes is a short amount of time to be able to pass out and record work. I don't blame you. It takes about 5 minutes on a good day!
Lori, Don't worry about the ranting. I'm right with you. Last year we had an E, S, N, and U grading system. Now they have taken out the N. Arg! That's why I quoted my professor. I will not grade a child against another. I will grade them based on their skill level, and their ability to demonstrate that they applied the knowledge learned in the lesson. I do this because I feel it's important for them to see that art does matter in their education. I am also observed and must prove that I do apply a grading system. This has worked best for me. That's why I also use a lot of E+ and S+ and so on. Our grading system allows us to put in points and you can adjust them. We can override and change things as we see fit to.
Now, do I write out a rubric for every single lesson... nope. I should. But the system is fairly set in my mind. I know the criteria of the project and I can easily see if it was met.

Erica said...

Grades ahhhh! Please check out what I posted on my blog we just got a new report card. . . what does your report card look like???

Sandra said...

I just ended my first year of teaching K - 4 art. Most of my energy went into planning lessons that hit our district's curriculum objectives. At the end of the year I wasn't happy with my system for assessment. Following a fellow, experienced art teacher's lead, every assignment was grades with a 4, 3, 2 or 1. Basically, 3 meant an artist met all the objectives and completed the art piece as expected. 4's went above and beyond (usually only 10% of the class or less achieved this score), 2's were not able to produced the piece as expected, and 1's didn't understand or never completed the piece. I like your letter codes and ESPECIALLY the rubrics. I'm on a summer mission to create and plan a more effective grading/accountability system for 2011/2012...not just for the kids but for ME, too!

Sandra said...

I just completed my first year of teaching K-4 art and spent almost all of my energy designing lesson plans. I adopted the system of grading that an experienced colleague had been using for years. It's like yours, a 1-4 scale: 4-exceeds objectives, 3 met all objectives as expected (roughly 85% of the class gets this), 2 wasn't able to fulfill all expected outcomes, 1 didn't understand or never completed assignment. The system is vague, but easy to use and offers some accountability. I love your rubric design. This shows parents exactly what the objectives are. I think that today, with art classes being on the budget chopping blocks all over the place we need to defend what we teach. Rubrics and grades are absolutely necessary.

Sandra said...

I just completed my first year of teaching K-4 art and spent almost all of my energy designing lesson plans. I adopted the system of grading that an experienced colleague had been using for years. It's like yours, a 1-4 scale: 4-exceeds objectives, 3 met all objectives as expected (roughly 85% of the class gets this), 2 wasn't able to fulfill all expected outcomes, 1 didn't understand or never completed assignment. The system is vague, but easy to use and offers some accountability. I love your rubric design. This shows parents exactly what the objectives are. I think that today, with art classes being on the budget chopping blocks all over the place we need to defend what we teach. Rubrics and grades are absolutely necessary.

Sarah M. Blanton said...

Thanks for the insight! Not sure if you still check up on these, but I am starting k-5 next week (it's taken me 3.5 years to get an art job after graduating), and definitely feeling overwhelmed! I'm not sure how they do grades, or PDSA boards, or any of the expectations. I am really looking forward to the art aspect! Have been teaching ESL for the past 2 years, so I am ready for the change to the arts :)

Becca Ruth said...

Hey Sarah,
My art grades have had to change with my changing location in the last couple of years. In 2012 my husband and I moved back home where I taught art Pre-K - 4th grade. There was no art grade for PreK - 2nd. However, I wanted them to see what art grades were like. I never graded on ability, just meeting the criteria and following project directions. I used :( :/ and :) so they could understand. 3rd - 4th received 85, 90, 95, or 100's based on certain criteria. WOW! I'm amazed it took you that long to get a job. As always the most important thing is to establish your rules, goals, and procedures on the first day. Hope that helps.

Trini Mom said...

I have struggled with this issue most of my art teacher life. We as art teachers are held by standards and objectives. Why can we not record students on what they've done. I've had to defend what I do many times and I'm told my kids can't draw. However, if I spend 5 minutes of class talking about line and your kid can't show me he understood he doesn't deserve a 100. My school does percentages. I've been struggling with this question for the past couple of days as its seems to be a question amoung most of the teachers whose kids go to the school. My first project was doing a smoke alarms contest. How does one give a grade on a drawing required by the school for a contest? This year kinder is not required to get a grade but 1 to 5 are. I could do the easiest thing and give everyone 100 but that goes against everything I stand for. I'd like to give out rubrics but I know with everything on my plate I would not be able to keep up. But as I am writing this I am seeing some clarity. With each project choose the objectives I want them to learn and grade based on those objective. I also think I'm going to use the objectives as the project name so parents can refer to the objectives that were taught. What percentage would you give for E S U?

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